Staying Sharp: A behind-the-scenes look at the world of chefs & competitions.

Going Whole Hog
beardOn Monday I got my child off to school, prepped for six hours, and then went out to the Greendoor Gourmet in preparation for the Friends of James Beard Foundation event – “Beards for Beard”. I got my food and constructed my menu. It was a busy day.

We went out to Greendoor, to see the property and pick our numbers. We also saw what protein we would get for the appetizer, the side dish and more. When we chose the vegetable for our side dish the options included produce coming off the farm. Winter squash is one of our choices.

greendoorOne thing you have to get smart about is the prep time. Time is against you. I have now spent about eight hours over the past two weeks peeling and cutting winter squash. I understand it’s a good positive outcome, but it’s a pain in the *** to prep. So, I’m going with a sweet potato instead. There’s no prep. I’ll poke ‘em, wrap ‘em in foil and roast them in the fire coals. Done! Then I’ll cut them into wedges. I’ll make a sorghum lime zest butter to put on top with a little sprinkle of salt and top them with toasted pecans. Now I’m producing food for 300 people with very little labor involved and I don’t have to be in the kitchen for 17 hours.

farm-store-imgOne result of going out to Greendoor is that we are now buying food from them (Sweet potatoes, spaghetti squash…). We’ve extended Lockeland to yet another area farm that will help us stay within the season. If you cook within the season, you can serve and work with your neighbors much more easily. As a restaurant we want to support local providers. I’m always looking for ways to increase that part of it. We’re currently at about 50-20-30 (50% local, 20% regional and 30% domestic).

Greendoor gourmet is a gorgeous property that I’m just now really learning about. They have a store on the farm that’s open to the public and sells canned goods of all that comes out of the field. Their preservation kitchen pickles and makes jams and jellies. Nothing goes to waste. The farm has a chef as well.

The event will be held, November 9th. Myself and five other chefs will be competing. Noon-4pm we’ll be roasting our hog, then the doors open and 300 people will be able to come and enjoy.

Danny, Cara and I will be out there. It’s Sunday, so I’m going to include the family. And it’s also only 10 miles from my house—which is perfect because I want my son to be out there during the prep time.

We’re excited to be involved in a James Beard event here in Nashville. This event raises money for the James Beard Scholarship foundation. The proceeds benefit the James Beard house.

Have Knives, Will Travel.
logo-wfcOn November 12, we’ll head out to Vegas for the World Food Championships. The reason we are going is that Danny and I won the Iron Fork 2014. (We didn’t realize the winner got to go until we won). It’s the golden ticket that allows you to be a part of the main challenge in this competition. They have nine categories. It’s going to be a very intense trip. Probably won’t see much of Vegas, unless we get kicked out early.

I just filled out the application to enter the Cheese category. The mathematics of the schedule only allows me to be a part of four of the nine events. I will be working on a beer cheese soup, using our local Yazoo’s Sue beer, which is a smoked porter. That smoky flavor will add nice flavor to the soup. Now we have to figure out how to ship beer to Vegas…which is illegal…but it’s got to be done.

I’ve decided to garnish with some andouille from Porter Road butcher. It’s another way of adding to the local products we’ll be featuring.

We’re also developing a pretzel recipe. A long pretzel rod, a soft-one. A warm pretzel is the perfect accompaniment. I’m not only excited that we’re using a local beer but we’ll be using a local cheese as well. Kathleen, at Bloomy Rind, and I are in discussion about various cheeses. One thing we have to deal with is the meltability of the cheese. The fat content is very important. The lower the fat, the less the cheese melts. We’ll definitely be doing some test runs. Cheese as a dish normally doesn’t take center plate. So the beer cheese soup and pretzel will be our entry. I don’t have to tell them what my entry is. I just show up and cook it.

The first chef challenge is going to be one of knife skills… Which means I also have to get my knives through security. I am having a special case made, a lot like the cases musicians use for their guitars and other instruments. They’ll have us break down chickens and head-on salmon as well as dice onions and potatoes. Doing each of these things correctly moves you onto the next round. Then you move to the mystery basket, which gives you a set number of ingredients. In a limited amount of time you have to produce a certain number of plates.

The next competition is called Signature Dish. If I get to that part of the competition, I will get to our strip. Not only is that our signature dish at Lockeland, it’s mine. If we’re going to stand behind just one dish, that’s it. Just as we chose the Strip as our Music City bite selection.

In order to win the World Food Championships, to get to the final day, I’d have to be in Vegas for six days, which is a long period of time to be gone from my family and the restaurant. But I guess if I can win some money—that’d be worth it.

Cara just wants me to bring her back a Coach purse.

Chef Hal
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