Archive for July, 2011

“The only constant in life is change.”

05 Jul

François de la Rochefoucauld

One of the most difficult things for me, is to put my thoughts and feelings into words.  I am not a writer.   My feelings are that if you can write, you should, if you can’t you should talk.  Well, if you have any idea of who I am you know this post will be a bit choppy.  I am the latter of the two.

My cooking career has taken me down some very different roads.  I never thought when in culinary school in 1997 that I would get the chance to work for Jim Grell at the Modern Cafe, meet Mike Philips and get a chance to open my own restaurant.  Nor, did I imagine I would get to work with a man that I never heard of; Jim Denavin with Outstanding in the Field who made me realize how much inspiration can do for a person’s soul. Then there was the national attention in the documentary, “Troubled Waters,” by Larkin McPhee and, “In Search of Food,”on the Ovation Network with Barton Seaver.  I never imagined that I would be talking to people like Andrew Zimmern, and then talking to the folks behind the fundraising efforts for the James Beard Foundation with the Celebrity Chef Tour.  I never even thought for a second I would ever get to do any of that and along the way get to meet so many amazing cooks, chefs, waiters, dishwashers, customers, friends and more importantly the farmers that are my true inspiration with their thankless hours, time and devotion to such a humble way to make a living.  This is starting to sound like an acceptance speech at some awards show now, so I will stop.  But I never imagined any of it.  I just wanted to cook. (P.S.  That was a huge thanks to all those people up there, and there are so many more to mention that have helped me get here.  You know who you are.)

But now, things are different.  I have cooked, and I love cooking to this day.  The craft and the simplicity of it sometimes just blows my mind.  What I desire now in my career is change… to challenge myself in a whole new way.  I love teaching.  I have been teaching in my restaurant, at Tour de Farm, at speaking engagements, at charity events, in all that I do, I feel that I am slowly starting to understand that I have the ability to get people to start to understand the importance of food and helping them have conversations about what is important with food.  Let me be the first to say that I am not always right, nor does the way I do things and the way that I look at food make sense to everyone.  I am ok with that.  But I know some people are not.  I talk about food because I love food.  It is who I am.

So, now that some of you have just read all of that and rolled your eyes, well, you can stop reading, cause you are not going to understand the rest.  If you don’t like what I do, what I have to say, how I make my choices, that is just fine with me.  You can stop reading and move on.  If you feel that you need to comment on my blog, or other blogs anonymously and take cheap shots at what I say or do, well, that is your choice.  I am ok with it and wish you well. (Whew, I have been wanting to say that for a long time).

Here it is.  Yes, I have accepted the job of Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Manager at the Minnesota Valley Country club.  Yes, Corner Table is still open and my amazing kitchen crew of Chad, Thomas, Dan and Kyle are still going to be cooking everyone dinner from now on and doing just as an amazing job as they have done for the last year.  I have to say, I eat their food, and they are damm fine cooks.  Yes, all the great staff at CT is stepping up.  They are a talented bunch of professionals and I would not have accepted this position if I did not believe in each and every one of them to keep CT going on the course that I have started.

My choice to make this move did not come easy.  The underlying thing was the opportunity to work on another level of local and sustainable food. The ability to bring this message and this style of food into this location is really a continuation of what they are already doing at MVCC.  Just to give you an idea,  some of the things that we are working on are establishing a composting program for the kitchen and weighing the pros and cons of doing it ourselves on property.  We are looking at all areas of food, including our staff meals.  We’re figuring out what will the food be like.  I have an idea where we are going, but at the same time, this is a work in progress just as Corner Table was when I started.  Will it be local?  YES.  Will it be sustainable? YES.  Will it have burgers, fries, salads, steaks, chops, fish… sure… will the food on the course reflect this change… YES.

Even now, as I type this after working out there for almost three weeks, I get excited at all the potential and all the ability that we have to share our vision of local and sustainable food to all the members. (By the way, the members and the staff all have been very welcoming to me during this transition time and I thank them for that.)

I had no idea in the beginning of the year when I started talking about Tour de Farm and the idea of getting local food in places that it had not really been known for, that it would mean I was going to go to those places too.  Yes, there are a lot of questions that remain.  There are a lot of things that will be learned along the way.  Yes, I will be working on them. Tweeting and talking about them.  If you are interested in learning more about it, keep listening.  If you really just have a bunch of speculation and “what if”s” to talk about.  Well, go for it.  If you have questions, ask them, and I will try and keep everyone up to date on things, but if you don’t hear from me for a bit, just understand I might be teaching or maybe even planting a garden… and sure as hell doing a lot of cooking.