Type of Food – Elevated Spin On New Orleans Style Cuisine
Chef – Hunter Evans
Thank God the waitress highly suggested I order the “Shrimp & Grits” after I told her I was a shrimp and grits snob and have had them in all the best regions. (Best region before this was at Ray’s in Atlanta Georgia)
The Wild Caught Gulf Shrimp were cooked absolutely flawlessly!!!!! I am talking about spot on execution!!!!! So tender, the shrimp would melt in your mouth. Now you may think I am making a big deal about this flawlessly cooked shrimp, but it seriously was. It was cooked so perfectly that if it was cooked any less it would be raw and if it was cooked anymore it would start to be rubbery. Thank you so much Chef for actually giving a shit about what you do, and taking the time to be perfect.
Now onto the sauce, typically I can Figure out exactly what is in a Sauce just buy one bite. This sauce has me mesmerized, there is some kind of acidity in the sauce and it just brings out the perfect butter sensation without being too rich. You will not be expecting this flavor, but it goes so so so perfectly with the dish. A deep brown sauce that is rich and delicious yet acidic and crisp at the same time. There is a slight essence of bbq flavor profile that starts to build but then is tapered off by buttery acidic notes that leaves you with the perfect umami experience.
Chef Hunter Evans takes modern techniques and strong ambition, and pairs that with old time flavor memories from the Deep South of New Orleans culture. It stints from his recollections of his Grandmother’s Elvaretta May Good’s cooking. I think you myself, if only I could have Mrs. Goods Cooking, woowee I bet it was good!
Now onto the team, the other chefs in this kitchen work in unison together. It is a perfect harmony in the workspace, and everybody is either focused, smiling or doing both. It was one of those cool Kitchen’s were you really could not tell who the head chef was,
It seemed like they were their own head chef’s of each department. I love a kitchen like that, a head chef that empowers his/her team.
I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone passing through Jackson, Mississipi.
What a name! I love tacos too, and when I kept seeing my foodie friends posting on social media about a new taco shack in town, I had to see for myself. This particular food shack is close to the Springfield airport so remember when flying in or out, stop by for a treat! But make sure you have plenty of time, because this shack stays busy!
Off of Chestnut and Hwy 44 you will find a taco shack called “I Love Tacos – Taqueria” and be ready for an experience! You walk into a little alcove where a lady greats you and asks what you would like to eat. There is a menu to the left, and a specials board to the right. Along with house made Horchata and an array of Mexican Sodas. I was very impressed that after I ordered my food, they gave me a fancy beeper to let me know when my order was ready, sweet! (you can chill in your car till your food is ready)
I can’t help myself but to get excited when I hear about new food, especially when it is authentic Mexican Food. I grew up on the Border of Texas and Mexico in Brownsville as a youngster and am very spoiled when it comes to good authentic Mexican Food. I order a Pork Tamale, Chicken Sope, Al Pastor Taco, Asada Taco, & a Breakfast Burrito. I might or might not have brought a beer with me to pair with this border town treat. They have a Green Sauce which is out of this world great! This is their mild version of salsa, but it definitely packs a punch. The red sauce is the spicy version, and definitely has some heat to it, but tons of amazing flavors.
I am so excited to tell you about the Al Pastor Taco that I can’t stand it!!! So there is something you need to know about Street Tacos, if they don’t come simple with some fresh cilantro and raw onions and simply a side of fresh lime, it isn’t a real street taco. This in my opinion was the best thing I tasted that day! The seasoned pork was absolutely a firework show in my mouth! I squeezed the fresh lime on top of the hot freshly grilled meat, and dove right in. I did not add any red or green sauce because I wanted to taste the full flavors of what this taco shack was cooking with, and you don’t need anything else on this. Holy Guacamole Batman!!!!! I could taste the strong passion that this cook was trying to express. Not scared to take that sear to the next level, you could tell that they have cooked this dish thousands of times before. That my foodie friends is what makes a true master of their trade, repetition. This is the meat to order if you truly want to be impressed, the “Al Pastor – Seasoned Pork”.
Now lets get into the “Asada Taco” which is the steak version. Now this was a very delicious option as well, but my favorite by far was the pork. The tender little seasoned chunks of beef topped with some fresh lime juice and the red spicy sauce was a match made in heaven! You seriously can’t go wrong with the tacos, as the name says it all. A Modelo Especial would pair brilliantly with this bright taco!
Now it is time to go onto one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, this is a very sacred treat to me, the tamale or as this shack refers as the “Tamal”. I absolutely love tamales! I will have to admit my favorite kind of tamales is a Salvadorian Tamale wrapped in a Banana Leaf because they are so wet and melt in your mouth good, but I also love and appreciate all kinds of tamales. The thing I loved about this particular tamale was how much filling they applied. Not only is there an art to stuffing a tamale, but also a budget to keep in mind. Some places will skimp on filling to save on the bottom line, but not “I love Tacos – Taqueria”, no way! This meaty delicious treat was seasoned perfectly and had some fun chunks of stewed tomatoes that blended so well with the mild Mexican spices. I highly recommend the tamales!
Now I have to be honest, I had the Chicken Sope and it wasn’t my favorite. I don’t know if the oil needed to be changed it was fried in, or what, but it had a distinct twang to it. I would say if I didn’t have the tacos first, I would have eaten every bite of this sope, but since I started with the kings of the show, it was hard to force myself to eat a flavor that wasn’t as superior. Are you like me, and when you have such an amazing flavor on your tongue, you don’t want to alter loosing it for something not as delicious? The chicken and toppings were good, but I just wasn’t a fan of what ever that dough was fried in. I will try the sope again when I return, because I absolutely love these home made treats typically and like I said, it could have been simply that the fry oil needed to be changed. I didn’t get a good pic of this dish, I was so excited about the Al Pastor that I lost my track of thought, hee hee!
I almost forgot, I also got the breakfast burrito. This thing was huge!!!! Chorizo and eggs with potatoes, what a treat! I will let you in on a little secret, don’t get cheese with this burrito. It just doesn’t need it, the chorizo is so rich and delicious, it just melts in your mouth and you would be trying to battle something, that you can never defeat. Don’t ask me what is in chorizo, because I want you to at least try it or continue eating it, lol. It is truly one of my favorite meats on this planet, what an extraordinary blend of fun spices like cloves, vinegar & cumin!!! You can easily come get one of these burritos and that is all you would need to order, for they are phat!!!
The special that day was a Hawaiian Torta which was – Ham, American Cheese, Pineapple, Grilled Onions, Avocado, & Mayonnaise. I am personally a fan of Pineapple on pizza, so why not on a sandwich 🙂 🙂 I didn’t have any room in my belly for anything else, but next time I return, I plan on trying the special of the day, what ever it may be, along with about 10 Al Pasto Tacos!!!!
One of my secret tips for this spot, don’t wear nice shoes!!!!! The parking lot is muddy and pools of water are everywhere. It is after all a taco shack on the outskirts of town, I recommend parking all the way to the left as your approach the shack and try and pull up on the concrete. This will save you from tracking mud and dirt in the car, but then again……..every time you look at that dirt, you will say to yourself……………I love tacos!!!!
I blog about what I love to eat, I want to share my finds with you so you can enjoy them like I do. Life is about the perfect meal…………..then the next one – Chef Paul Allen
As someone who has dedicated his entire life to food, I have one fear and one fear alone; to miss out on a flavor of times past even though it was in reach. I clearly remember the whimsical words that author Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit Magazine named the Best New Restaurant in America in 2018. One of the best parts is that OKC is only a four hour drive from where I live; this is wonderful for this Midwestern Foodie.
Well, it only took 2 years for me to procrastinate and finally make a reservation. Two of my foodie friends from Springfield, Missouri; Chef Drake Tillman, Jack “The Man of Many Faces” McGee and I checked into our Airbnb just bubbling with excitement of what was to come.
We had all heard rumors of what Head Chef Colin Stringer was up to and we were fully on board to receive what he was offering. Talks of colostrum custard, a fermentation master called Paul Wang who gets absolutely crazy and outrageous with his unique masterpieces. Whispers of the best desserts on the planet made by Chef Jeremy Wolf who can turn a person who doesn’t like sweets into a lifelong fan.
We weren’t given a copy of the menu until the end of the meal, but it confirmed what we began to notice as the meal started; Paul Wang and Colin Stringer, a sous chef and the head chef, respectively, were no longer affiliated with Nonesuch. All of the accolades and accomplishments were done by the three of them as a team and now only one of the original three chefs is left, yet there are no stories about either of the two former chefs leaving the restaurant, nor is there any indication by Nonesuch on social media or their website announcing the news. We later discovered their general manager has also left the restaurant, although the service was in no way lacking.
Before we can wrap our heads and mouths around what is happening out comes the most gracious and heavenly way to get us started. A chilled rose water towelette nicely rolled to refresh the senses. I absolutely loved this touch!
Then, out comes the first course and boy are we excited. The Scallion Pancake that looks absolutely beautiful and delicious and everything that we were expecting. Unfortunately, there was no steak knife presented to be able to cut this extremely tough piece of dough. To be fair we were the last seating at 8:30pm but let’s also remember this is only a 22 seat restaurant. Let’s also keep in mind that we are in the middle of an epidemic, but should that make your food quality any less? As we dig deeper in thought, if you are at 50% occupancy now there are only 10 seats available, yet they are operating with the same amount of staff they would have on a typical night. We counted around 6-7 staff at the time we were there. Despite this, my culinary comrades and I push through and try to appreciate the flavors going on, saying silent prayers that we don’t loose a tooth.
Nonesuch NA Pairing – $45
Before we go into the next 9 courses let’s get into something very positive and fun, the NA (non-alcoholic) Pairing. This was well thought out and very well executed, not to mention delicious and was easily the highlight of our journey to Nonesuch. Subtle hints of fermentation and expressive notes of everything lovely that grows from the Oklahoma dirt. The gentleman that was presenting and proudly responsible for these crazy mind bending concoctions was awesome and so entertaining. The definition of the word nonesuch is a person or thing that is regarded as perfect or excellent. I can say the NA Pairing lives up this this definition.
The fermented miso broth had deep umami characteristics that just soared to ultimate heights flowing with the freshness of the local bean. As a farm to table aficionado I appreciate a simple dish like this. It was simple yet elevated with flavor pearls and edible flowers. The flavor pearls lacked flavor and were bland but it was a good idea. The beans were undercooked but I am assuming they wanted you to feel the depth of the fresh bean. This dish was ok, and gave me hope that the meal would get better.
Every two courses we get a new NA pairing and this is exciting! Our steward of liquid treats was really working his magic and has a true passion for making memories through liquid fermentation.
Now the third course I will have to say was one of the best cold chicken dishes I have ever had. The brined & marinated chicken was so full of flavor it would literally pop with juicy flavor crystals as you chewed. The broth was ok, but the chicken was fantastic! It was a gutsy move to serve cold chicken in broth but I will say it worked. You could also tell the chicken was locally raised, due to the flavor you can only achieve from small farms. My only complaint on this dish is I wish there was more chicken.
I will say this dish definitely had a lot of effort put into it and I do appreciate that. Unfortunately the best part was the fresh dill. The asparagus sorbet by itself would have been monotone, but everything together with the insurance of fresh dill made the dish okay.
Let me start off by saying on this particular dish that the 2 year aged country ham was divine! It had perfect crispiness and salt content and the pasta was cooked excellently. If only the flavors could have been more balanced. The sauce needed a bit more salt to tie it all together. The heat of the peppercorn was overbearing and stole the whole show leaving your throat a bit numb. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good simple carbonara but the flavors on this one were simply trying to compete with each other to see who is going to outshine, the peppercorn definitely won that battle.
So this dish is exactly what it says it is, a potato with beurre blanc. I will say that the buerre blanc was rich and creamy and even had this heavenly cloud like texture that dissolved over the entire tongue. The saucier was on point that night, kudos. What happened to this poor lonely purple potato in my Nordic Bowl though? Not much flavor, they tell me it is smoked but I don’t taste any smoke. I cut open the potato to see if any magic fairy of flavor is going to sprinkle it with love but no, it’s just a regular potato. At least let that salt absorb into the cavity, or smoke it more heavily to give me a sense of something new. As a chef and food explorer, I just don’t think it is fair to put a bland potato and some sauce and call it a dish.
As you can see from the picture, this dish was gorgeous! Who wouldn’t be happy with that mosaic masterpiece of culinary art? The herbs popped with joy, but the bread was cold. It would have been so lovely if it was warm, but it wasn’t. It’s the little details that can truly elevate a dish to great heights or cause them to fall flat.
The pork belly was delicious! It melted in your mouth and had the buttery feel that pork belly should. If only it was three times the size! The squash blossom was not stuffed with anything and was literally a raw squash blossom with cold, barely pickled carrots and okra seeds. Maybe I am being too critical at this stage but I am not a huge fan of cold items with my meat. On such a small dish, and with such delicious pork belly, make it a symphony, not just a star of a show with some local items thrown on the plate. I get wanting to cut the fat with something but this didn’t work at all.
So this is the course I have been long awaiting. It has all led to this moment. Can the tea that Andrew Knowlton spoke of be true? Will this alter my life and make up for every other course that has been lacking? I take a bite of the honeysuckle mochi and it is simple and delicious. Nothing to write home to my mother about, but it is good. Now to get to the tea that I have been day dreaming about for years… I am so excited!
Even though everything has been a let down, surely the tea is going to be mesmerizing and blow my mind like Bon Appetit Magazine said it would. I cut my way through the frothy egg whites making my way to the liquid of the culinary Gods. I am almost there, and my heart is racing thinking of the tantalizing feeling I am about to embrace. I am there… my spoon touches the liquid and I slowly raise it to my mouth ready for the firework show to begin. As I taste the tea I try to trick myself into thinking that it must be at least kinda good. Nope, not one thing I can say was good about this tea. It was literally the worst tea I have ever tasted and I don’t even know why it was on the menu. I am sure there was a time when Chef Paul Wang had a story to match the flavor profile of the ever changing tea, and a time that they had foraged the actual ingredients. Well folks, I am sadly here to say, those days are long forgotten and the band has officially broken up at Nonesuch. 😦
The final course is upon us and I am very sad at this point, we are all starving, we know the curtain is closing and we have waited too long to come. If only this salted creme fraiche was mixed with the carbonara, possibly that dish would have at least been good. As you dip the spoon in the dessert and let it hit your palate the salty flavors make your mouth pucker and your mind wonders why they would season the dessert so much and not the savory food.
I normally don’t choose to write about restaurants that I don’t prefer, but this one has to be written about. It is not the same as when it was named the Best New Restaurant in America in 2018 by Bon Appetit Magazine. This is obvious when you compare photos of meals from 2018 or even 2019 and our meal. My prediction is something happened as it always does with partnerships and with the food world. I had to call the restaurant to get the scoop and see if they were actually proud of the food they served us all.
I confirmed that Chef Paul Wang left a year and a half ago and Head Chef Colin Stringer left about 6-8 months ago. I didn’t read any press release stating this, I didn’t read anything about any of this anywhere. So I did some more research scouring the internet and there is nothing! My immediate feeling is frustration, like I was tricked by the restaurant group that owns this establishment. Then my anger quickly turned to sadness, sad that I didn’t ever get to try the food when all three chefs were together doing what they love and having fun with food.
So, basically the chef that focused on breads and desserts is made head chef and is all alone. Yes, now he has 3 times the staff, but not the caliber they were working with in the past. I get it, he still wants to fight the good fight, he wants to take the opportunity to keep the legend of Nonesuch alive. I am sure he works more hours and has built fantastic menus, but it is almost two years later without the band, and it feels he is tired of making 10 course menus week after week. Maybe he is getting burnt out, you can tell he is a good cook, maybe he is just tired of trying.
My final thought, it only costs $110 for 10 courses, which I think is a fair price. We loved the NA pairing and highly recommend this amenity! I can’t recommend the wine pairing. I got the reserve pairing, which was more expensive for $80 and didn’t enjoy any of the wines, it felt like the purveyor of wine was offloading inventory and they got a good deal on them. If you live in the local area, come and enjoy but don’t come hungry, eat an appetizer on the way. If you are from out of town, and are expecting the best new restaurant in America, don’t wast the trip, it won’t live up to your expectations. If the old band ever gets back together please let me know!
As I head out on foot from my hotel situated only blocks away from the infamous Printer’s Alley I feel a glow from the city of Nashville. Keep in mind we are still in the backhand of the Covid epidemic and the city doesn’t feel as busy as usual. Not a lot of cars zooming by, or horns blasting and even the smell seems different. The town feels a bit more peaceful and serine.
So I got a tip from a Facebook friend that I need to check out a small place with big results. I am always game to check out a solid recommendation from a fellow foodie. As you make your way into the alley overhead lights glow of excitement and adventure. The smell of cigarettes start to lift sensations in your body of wild times past of the College glory days and nights that you never wanted to end. The sounds of music and laughter and people on a mission to have a good time and forget about all of the bad going on in the world, even if just for today.
So I make my way to a door that is about to lead me into a portal of a new culinary dimension. I was quickly greeted by the hostess who safely led me to my table right up by this amazing angelic singer who was harmonizing with the piano man. I knew I was off to a good start. The staff was masked up for our safety and took great efforts to make sure all patrons felt as safe as we possibly could.
As I pick up the menu my eye goes straight to Foie Gras and a whisky drink that includes a sassafras infusion and I am in! I will take that and that please as I point to the two best thing on the menu, though I don’t know it at the time.
So f***ing good! This dish just made me food-gasm with literally every bite of the Foie Gras. Perfectly seared and melted in my mouth like butter on a Lamborghini Diablo on a Miami Hot Summers Day! The foie was literally so good, I couldn’t eat the corn that was paired with it. Next time I would order the fois by itself, it literally needs nothing.
So I am a huge fan of raw filet and arugula so I order the carpaccio. Way to much salt, I think the chef got excited about his new salt flakes and went a little cray cray. It is a simple mistake and anyone could make it. I also feel a little too much truffle oil was used. The person that garnished this dish was probably a young and excited chef, nothing wrong with excitement, but you can go to much with such rich ingredients. The arugula salad was Devine, but I am an arugula fan all the way. The bread basket was unique and delicious unexpected treat. It was a light fluffy piece of toast with a raw egg yolk in the middle. The golden toast bar melted in your mouth and the egg would have been so good on the beef, what a fun concept that I will definitely have fun recreating at one of my next private dinners. Thank you team for the effort, I will definitely try again and specify light on the salt. To be fair, the waitress noticed I didn’t eat much and took this item off my bill. She said the chef agreed there was too much salt. Mistake made, chef was aware, problem solved, now on to the next course.
Now on to a dish you don’t see often enough on the menu these days. I am the chef that thrives on the classics but is always open to a new ride. Who doesn’t love organ meat from the thymus gland and pancreas??? If you don’t, it is probably because you haven’t been around an old school chef that has cooked it properly. I still can remember the texture and strong flavors of cognac and reduced veal stock the first time I had them. I remember all the chefs running over when the organ meat came out piping hot of the roasting pan and they all dug in with a spoon to taste of the glory! So of course I dug in as well not having any idea what a sweetbread really was. It melted in my mouth, all senses were thrown out the door and I was left barely able to stand. I can’t be certain, but this memory possibly could have been my first food-gasm ever in my adult career. When the chefs laughed and told me what they were, I truly didn’t care and knew that my life would be forever changed as a chef. Sometimes we have to take big boy steps, to enter the big world of Culinary-ism.
Needless to say, sweetbreads are very dear to my heart and I was almost scared to order for the chance I didn’t want to be let down. Thank God I did order!!!
I took the first bite and was thrust into a land of everything right and where everything was perfect except what I was drinking. I instantly stopped sipping on the whisky trophy drink and frantically looked for my waitress. I held my hand up, like I was in school trying to get the teachers attention, in hopes she would see me, she came over promptly and I simply requested a red wine that tastes as close to butter as possible. She had no idea what I was taking about but we agreed upon a Trevena Paso Robles California Cab for $15 a glass. Yes!!!!!! The only hard part was to not eat all the sweetbreads before the wine arrived. The wine had a buttercup nose that led into a heavy smoke from the barrels it was aged in. This wine was simply delicious and truly made for my dish.
The Hericot Verts were undercooked in my opinion and didn’t need such a heavy sauce. It was like a straight forward plain aioli. The crispy potatoes were cooked a little too crispy but some people probably prefer them that way, but I would have held back slightly and made them not so bitter. The Potato Gelette “Mashed Potatoes” were delicious and perfectly seasoned. There was an aioli surrounding plate, but I suggest to leave it as a garnish. Maybe a dip for the potatoes, but I didn’t really eat the potatoes. But who cares about anything, the star of the show were definitely the sweetbreads and might I say with beautiful presentation.
Now on to my favorite salad in the world. Please keep in mind I am very hard on this particular salad for I have had the best in the world at a young age, long live the Caesar!
The salad was refreshing and they were on point with the cracked pepper service. I would say it was ok, the dressing was a little bland, and lacking in the garlic and lemon flavor and heavy on the anchovy category. I don’t mind heavy anchovy but I like a follow through with spice and a little Worcestershire goes a long way with this Texas boy. Douse a little bit of that Texas staple and kick up the garlic. If you are serving white anchovies I like a whole one for garnish but don’t put a whole salty dark anchovy fry on my salad, my wife won’t kiss me for a week, lol 😝
Now the Cheese Triangle was delicious and reminded me of a compressed Cheez-It and grated cheddar, absolutely scrumptious! I would say, order if you want a salad. I am always in search of the perfect Caesar so I love trying new ones, not my favorite but I don’t hate it. I am spoiled and grew up on the border of Mexico and would go weekly for my fix of the best Caesarian Salad on the planet earth at a border town restaurant called Garcia’s, but that tale is for another day 😉
So now imagine your in New Orleans sitting in a trendy spot that is doing new age super rich decadent foods mixing crazy flavors. That is what this dish represents. Fried Panko fusion meets funnel cake batter, perfectly cooked eggplant. I preferred the thinner slice over the thicker, but who am I to judge? The crawfish was fun and popped excitement in my mouth. They used super small shrimp, but I will say they didn’t taste that bad. I sometimes admit I do judge a shrimp by its size. I am a 1-15 guy, and these were 30-40. The sauce was way over the top rich and I couldn’t finish it, but if you are looking for some bang for your buck order this!!!! Delicious flavors that melded as one. A little too rich for this Texas boys bloodstream, but I am greedy and want to try as many dishes as possible….
Now when God created me, he made something very unique to my body. He gave me two stomachs, one for savory and one for desserts. I can be so full from a meal, but that doesn’t effect my eating of dessert. So we are off to desert-land!!!! After some time of explanation and narrowing down the choices we arrive upon Peanut Butter Pie.
This quadruple peanut butter explosion is now my new best friend and I will protect all she stands for! The top is a peanut butter drizzle, over the top of Butter Cream infused with light peanut butter, over the top of lightly whipped peanut butter cheese cake, over the top of heavy peanut butter cheesecake sitting on top of a nutmeg spiced graham cracker stack! Get back Jack, this is a treat that is worthy of ending this meal with. I was feeling spunky so paired with a Cherry Sour Beer from Belgium……I know………I’m Weird…….and I like it that way!!!!!
This was not the pairing of the century, but I am a sour junky, and a sour junky’s will pair anything with one, just to get the opportunity to drink a new flavor 😉 This sour is not as sour as most but does have a twist and turn or sour patch kids meets cherry-cherry and a little berry.
I will have to say that Executive Chef Gannon M. Leary and his team did a fantastic job out of a 10 foot by 20 foot kitchen and truly made magic for this chef to digest. The front of the house staff and duo of entertainment, you all rocked my world!!! Thank you all for putting your passion, your risk, your heart into making extraordinary memories! #iwillbeback
I claim that today is eat all the carbs you want day!!!! This should be a national holiday 😉 It is so nice to know the owner of your favorite restaurant. I was craving the bread service at Nonna’s Italian Cafe downtown Springfield, Missouri so I called the Owner/Chef Shawn Kraft and asked if he was around. It was 8:30am on a Monday, he cheerfully answers “Of course I am here, the front door is open, let yourself in!” (As I hear pots and pans banging around in the background) So I respond that I am on my way.
A huge smile on his face and a great big bear hug are salutations as the Italian music 🎶 is playing loudly in the kitchen area. Chef Shawn is cleaning up 🧹from a tornado 🌪 that happened the night before. (We live in Missouri, literally a tornado 🌪 came through the previous evening and knocked off his sky vent)
I come in with Lilly Pad (my 17 month old daughter) and he calls her by name and says buongiorno!!! I tell him I am craving his famous bread service, so he pulls out some freshly baked bread, chops some fresh garlic, grates the Parmesan Cheese 🧀 and drizzles Extra Virgin Olive oil on the top. I kindly add to his amazing concoction some salt 🧂 and cracked pepper.
He then fills a shot glass of pressed olive juice and downs it, saying “Good for the soul.” Shawn Kraft is a die hard fan of Italy and even though he lives in the states, in his mind he is always on the coast of Napoli. (He also runs a travel site that does tours through Italy and shows you the ins and outs and you eat 🍽 and drink 🍷 your way across Italy) Website: siitalia.wine
I asked him why, and he says I get a free trip to Italy and at the end of the day I make a couple of bucks. What an awesome way to have an entrepreneurial spirit and take life into your own hands. Like the Frank Sinatra song, “I Do It My Way!”
I take my first bite and it is like heaven, the raw garlic, the quality parmigiano reggiano from the home land, the acidic and spicy Extra Virgin Olive Oil coats the back of your throat and is just like a symphony is playing inside my taste buds. Ahhhhhhh, I have been craving this experience, and no better way than to discuss culinary politics and kitchen drama with the owner while my 17 month old baby girl wanders through the dining room floor. Occasionally she will return like a little bird returning for her nibble of freshly dipped bread in the sauce of the Gods.
Some things in life are simple and extravagant at the same time. It is how we source our ingredients, the surroundings (like the Italian music in the background) and the company you hold.
This was one of my favorite breakfasts in Springfield Missouri and I will always cherish this moment. After some time of catching up he nicely starts to back away slowly into his kitchen where he will spend most of his day and I release him to his office of culinary adventures. He hugs me again and kindly brushes the cheek of my baby girl and just like that we are released back into the real world 🗺.
So I have been Private Cheffing all day for over 12 hours executing Executive Meal Prep for one of my local high end clients. It was late and had been a long day, and I defiantly didn’t want to cook for myself. It is 9:30pm in Springfield Missouri, I ask myself, where am I going to eat this time of the night on a Thursday?
It was cold outside and I wanted a warm atmosphere. Then it strikes me like lightening struck the Clock Tower. (if your not old enough to get this joke, watch “Back To The Future” it will be good for your developing mind 🙂
I remember that my good buddies Dillon Fox & Jimmy Rollins opened a new Jazz Club downtown, & most importantly, I remember they serve food till late into the night. I pull up and get lucky and find a parking spot not too far away from the front door. It is cold and drizzly so I dart across the street and make my way into this 1920’s style Retro Chic Jazz Club.
The lighting is dim (which I love in a late night spot), the place is busy with clients, and the Jazz Trio is jiving. There is a table right up front for 1 and I sit myself right down. I absolutely love live entertainment, and Live Jazz is about as high as you can get on my happy scale.
The server comes up with an empty glass and a pitcher of water, water with no ice in it. I am in love already!!! I really appreciate good tasting water and with the offering of no ice, win and win! I prefer to drink water without ice, it is much more refreshing and helps me drink more of it and lets all admit we could all use a little more water in our lives.
I am hungry, but not too hungry so I start to thumb through the menu. It is very well laid out, simple and to the point on all aspects from Beer that is only $2.50 (not what I would expect at a high end Jazz Bar, but they are catering to their area, and who their people are and I respect that. I also love in their Manifesto it states: “We are here to make you believe in our industry” I absolutely love that, and feel that when I walk in.
I order Pierogies with Potato & Beet Dumplings, Onion Gravy, Fried Cabbage & Mushrooms. It was plated beautifully and was the perfect temperature when served. This dish was $12.00 and I felt it was a great deal for what you get, and especially for the time of evening that it was. (it was about 10pm at this point) Do not think your typical bar food, this is much more elevated and executed with grace from Chef Dustin Fox who happens to also be Dylan Fox’s brother. I paired this with a Katas Tempranillo Wine that was $7 a glass and it was so juicy and exactly what I was expecting. You can get a decent Tempranillo from Spain for a reasonable amount per bottle $12-24 and you get a lot more bang for your buck. These grapes are so juicy because of the hot climate in which they are grown, it gives a special flavor only the Tempranillo Variety can achieve.
My only critique on the Pierogies filled with Pureed Beet & Potato, I would have seasoned the filling a little more, as well as the pastry shell. Don’t get me wrong, this was an amazing dish and prepared very classically but I would have liked a little more seasoning. Just a touch of Sea Salt would have thrown this dish to new heights. The gravy was perfectly executed and the Fried Cabbage was cooked for the perfect amount of time to not make too mushy or too crunchy, a perfect in between texture. I was also very impressed with the presentation, I highly recommend this dish.
I was really craving a bold glass of red, I wouldn’t recommend the pairing with this course, but this was my main dish and I am a sucker for a Tempranillo. I would recommend you have Dylan Fox make you an extraordinary mixed drink that he does so well. I remember the first time I ever had a real Daiquiri (and keep in mind I am a sailor that has sailed through the islands for over 10 years) and it was with Mixologist Dylan Fox at “Barley Wheat & Rye” a posh Whisky Bar that was on the South side of town. If you have never had a “Real Daiquiri” I think you should rush to The Hepcat Downtown Springfield Missouri and get one right now! It is so simple and so delicious: Rum, Lime Juice, and Sugar. When done right it is a game changer to add to your arsenal of go-to cocktails. I recommend you pair a classic Daiquiri with this dish, would be devine.
As I am noshing on my Pierogies (which I am bypassing the fork and eating them by hand because I am enjoying them so much) I don’t know if this is allowed or if I am being cool enough, but they are so good, I really don’t care. As I sip on my Tempranillo, I remember thinking to myself that this is the good life. The sound of smooth Jazz flowing through the nights air, and I am sitting so close I can feel the wind come in and out of the instruments. I close my eyes and think to myself, this is truly “Viben” right here………and I am so digging it. So if you want a vibe like no other, please come check out this hip Jazz Club downtown.
The “Fortified Wines” section catches my eye with the offerings of a Tawny Pork, Multiples of Sherries, (Dylan is a big fan of Sherries) Ruby Port & a Madeira. I approach the bar and ask the legend himself “Dylan Fox” what he would pair with the Vanilla Cheese Cake what came with a J. Reiner Whisky Caramel Sauce. He takes a moment to think and then says “Amontillado Sherry”. I ask him what made him choose that, he replies that it is his favorite Sherry, that is why. (good answer, I think to myself)
So I place the order for Dylan’s Favorite Amontillado Sherry, and the “Something Cheesecake” which happens to be “Vanilla Cheesecake, Cranberry Sauce, Whipped Cream & J. Reiner Whisky Caramel Sauce. They should have changed the name to Graham Cracker Crumb Cheesecake because that was defiantly the star of the show!!! It literally melted in your mouth and you could taste the butter, the bursts of the sugared crunch and the graham just all mixing and melting together in my mouth making the most amazing magic.
I wanted to go ask the chef if he could save me all the scraps of the day that fall off the cheese cake and put them in a bowl and I would be by nightly to pick up my flakes of sweet, sweet culinary bliss. The cheesecake was spot on and nice and light, and not to heavy like some cheesecakes can be. I wouldn’t traditionally order a Cranberry Topping but this was close to Thanksgiving so it fit the theme perfectly. The chef left the cranberries in chunks which I liked and must have cooked them with sugar absorbing most of that bitter power pack that you can some time get from fresh cranberries. These were cooked perfectly, light and bright with a nice sweet undertone. They also whipped their own Sweetened Cream and appreciate that as well. It could have been a little fluffier if you are going to call it Whipped Cream. I recommend getting a “Professional Whipped Cream Dispenser” that uses Co2 Cartridges, you can use real cream and it is real fast and easy to store in fridge. Or just change the name to “Cream Sauce” it was super good!!!
Now lets get to the seduction part of this dish, the J. Reiner Whisky Caramel Sauce. This sauce was cooked down flawlessly and I was so blown away with the after bite. It is that kind of caramel sauce that is almost burnt but isn’t, do you know what I am talking about???? You could feel the texture of the grit and burn, even though it was not there at all, it gives the feel in your mind. This to me was perfectly cooked down Caramel Sauce and it takes balls to do what this chef did. Caramel Sauce can burn so fast when you take it to this level, but if done right, with the perfect technique of cooking, it will come out magnificent. This my food loving friend was cooked magnificently. Chef Fox, please don’t loose your passion for this Sauce, I am coming back for more 😉
I taste it with my sherry and it is a match made in the stars. When I come back in I will pair it with the 10 Year Tawny Port, but that is just because I love a good aged Tawny like I love breathing fresh air. I don’t always order it, but when I do, I like for it to be in an environment like this.
After the meal I make my way back into the kitchen to tell Chef Dustin Fox that his Caramel Sauce sent me into a happy place, a happy place I needed to visit and now am reborn into a better person because of it. Don’t you just love when food can do that to you? For me it resets a clock in my body that lets me be stress free again. It lets me forget about all the problems of the world, lets me forget about any stress that might be on my mind. Takes me to that happy place that only an experience, the perfect smell in the air, the talents of a talented chef and the knowledge of a drink specialist.
If you want to enter that realm, and leave regular day life behind for a short moment in time, the enter “The Hepcat” and let that Vibe take you to that place you need to be.
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We start from love, an intimate act of passion, romance and human nature. When the world opens up to you, it is full of joy and wonder and all you have is your instinct.
You are guided as a precious innocent toddler and start to pick up different techniques as you travel through life. Then the conditioning sets in, and you are instilled with culture and principles or sometimes not guided at all. I see there are many children that pass their parents mentally by the age of 8. Then the child is left to fend for themselves and figure it all out. What kind of conditions lie deep within that child 40 years later? Probably a sense of overbearing, but not by choice, by how that child was raised.
There are those that got the total opposite treatment and were loved so much by their parents they never were exposed to harm or foul. They were given a $100 bill each day for lunch money in elementary school, following on to High School and now is homeless and doesn’t know how to deal with real life problems.
How do we find a balance in life and not be so extreme one way or the other? That is the magic riddle and it is truly up to our conditioning, our influence, our path. What if we look back at our path and see the winding roads, the embrace, the left, the right, the up and very far down………what if we want to elevate and take a new path?
I feel that is where we truly get to develop our destiny. The next step is always the hardest, it is the step of unknown and uncertainty. Think about it, in our %ucked up lives we know the result, we know the outcome, we know exactly what is going to happen when we react the same exact way we have been reacting for the past 20 years! When you do the same things day in and day out, you will continually get the same results. Yet, we crave for a different outcome, we visualize it, we strive to create it, we focus on it but when it comes to real life and we try to live it what happens? It comes out completely different than how we rehearsed it in our minds.
I write the most beautiful love stories in my head, I sing songs to my wife, and dance with her, and romance her daily……..in my head. Seriously, every morning I write love letters, I prance like a little school kid, I envision the most beautiful picnics on the grass and can literally feel the wind upon my face. (But does it ever happen???)
Then I step in the shower, then I start to think about my day. Ohhhhh no……..here comes life. Things I start to think in my head: what proposals for my company do I need to finalize, I need to get my quarterly taxes done, I need to register the RV but I have to get a windshield first, but there is no windshields due to covid, my poor daughter Azzy has Covid, and I can’t even go see her, her mother has covid and she has terrible lungs, I hope she is ok, I wish she had her inhaler, how do I get her one, I wish I knew, I wonder if I paid my whole staff this week, I sure do appreciate my chef, hope he is ok, I will stop and pray for his health, now I am going to pray for my mom, oh how I love my mom, I wish her health was better, which brings me to my dad, I love him so much but he is not doing the best, I will pray for him too, why can’t I be a success like so many of my dear friends, why can’t I love my wife the way I want to, what a jerk I am, I should improve on my father skills, my poor children, how can they ever have a chance going from one house to another, why can I not be like my parents who had children together and stayed married still, I hope my brother is ok, I worry for him, I wish I treated him better in this life, I see my friends that have such good relationships with their brothers, why can’t I, what a jerk I have been to my brother. Ok shower is over (and I take quick showers) and I step out of shower fully depressed and super fragile and not ready to handle life.
My wife or children will enter and unload their problems on me and I break. Seriously what the fuck!!!!! This is me!!!! Mr. Positive go lucky!!!! I am my own worse enemy and I know it. I truly have glorious mind bending amazing thoughts and then in one turn of my mind darkness takes over and there is no more light.
But now here is the kicker, are you ready????? It has probably cost me my family life, marriage and career to find it but there is a way to avoid all of this. Find something that truly makes you happy and never ever stop doing it! Keep learning and progressing and don’t let anyone stand in your way! Be kind to those everywhere and always be look for the positive in everything for you will find it if you look hard enough. Be true to yourself first then be there for others, you will be at the best you can be. Be thankful in everything you are given and never take the smallest thing for granted. Find inner peace through your own spirituality of the God that loves us so very deeply and trust in that beyond anything else. Tell the truth even if it hurts and you don’t want to, it is always better that way. Make time for yourself every single day, you may have to wake up early or stay up late but you must do this. Make time for your partner and love on them even if you don’t want to and encourage them to do what makes them happy even if you don’t understand it. (I have failed miserably at this in my relationships, I am sorry) Call your parents if they are still alive, you will regret it when they are gone. Don’t have a fork up your ass all the time, it hurts.
I am progressing forward to remove that rusty fork that has been stuck for way to long now. I can not believe I have been going through life not realizing we are all different. For some crazy reason I have felt that everyone knows the same things I do, that you think the same way I think. That you feel the same way I feel. What a world I lived in, but I feel so thankful I am on a path to be set free.
I was watching an interesting chef movies last night called PIG starring Nicholas Cage. He said a line in the movie that really stood out. “We don’t get a lot of things to truly care about.” What he meant was, the things in this life that you will get truly care about is small, make sure what ever it is that you love and care about, you go all the way. I know now I truly care about making music and I can’t wait to dive in.
I have a confession to make that I am super duper scared of small talk. Seriously, I have huge anxiety about making small talk with strangers, everyone is shocked when I tell them this but it is the truth. I am working on this and trying to face the battle head on by going to therapy and trying to talk to more strangers about nothing, it’s actually nice.
The reason I do not like to talk to people about nothing, is because I think about so much stuff in my head that I feel like I’m ignoring them. And then I start to feel bad. It sounds silly but it is true. I am trying to calm my thoughts, but there are so many.
I hope together as a society we start to treat each other with love and respect and realize that we are all so vastly different.
Day 10 of 30 of my very own “Take My Life Back Plan” – Geared for chefs, but can be used by anyone.
For those of you that don’t know, I own a high end event company called Allen Event Group. We specialize in super high end events that involve food as the star of the show. As a business owner I want to capture all the events that I can, right? I am ditching that mentality as of today, I don’t want to do all the events I can anymore. I want to do the ones that matter to the client, and to my team.
We did an event last week for a client and they were so very disappointed in our service, to the point that I gave them almost all of their money back. In the beginning they haggled me down on price twice and the day before their event they canceled the stewardess service to save even more money. So now I am less than half of my most inexpensive option that Allen Event Group has and out in the middle of Table Rock Lake in the hot ass sun and all the food we brought is disintegrating into nothingness because there is no stewardess to serve the food, just the over worked chef doing an event he hates doing because of the food choices his boss (me) allowed. (Think corn dogs and chicken nuggets) It was a total disaster and I was the one to blame, not my client, not my chef, not anyone but me!
Of course the client calls in with total disappointment, and I refund the money, and go into a very low spot in my own head and had let my first client down.
Please let me give you advice from my failures in life, do not let the “nay sayers” get to you. I am speaking in general, they are trying to destroy your business, they wake up in the day and think to themselves, how do I get the most out of life while walking all over who ever I have to walk over to get there. If you don’t have someone hating on your awesome video you made, you haven’t reached enough people!!!! Haters are going to hate!!!! It is up to us to surround us with enough positive people to bounce back!!!! #surroundyourself
First off it is your fault for excepting the low end event in the firstplave, second of it is your fault for working with the client that has all the problems in the beginning, and third off why do an event you don’t specialize in? (That would be like a low end event company doing a higher event, it just doesn’t work) My advice, pick your niche and stick with it, and don’t buckle for anyone.
Now let me tell you about an event we did this Sunday at Allen Event Group. It all takes place in Brad Pitt’s favorite lake house on Table Rock Lake near Kimberling City, Missouri. If you would like to book all you have to do is contact http://www.lake123.com and search for Great Elks Lodge.
It is a beautiful mansion built of logs and timbers and very rustic-chic. From the back of the house you can walk right up to the water, or actually zip line, lol. (Seriously, there is a zip line) We have been working on this event for over two months and it is only for 6 guests and cost over $10,000.00
We have a serious team in place consisting of a 5 Star Chef, a Sexy Stewardess, Three Piece Band, Professional Photographer, a Pirotechnician, & his Assistant Mike Boyles.
We literally pulled out all of the stops on this one. The clients called me today to personally thank me and for me to thank the team about how amazing everything was. They told me everything naturally was just flawless. They also told me it was the most expensive birthday they have ever had for their daughter and almost cost as much as the wedding, but they wouldn’t have changed a thing!
The reason it was flawless is because the team knows what they are doing and they are designed for this. When I told them to shop I didn’t tell them to get the cheapest things they could find like most companies out there that are cooking for you this very day. I tell them to get only the finest that the area offers, get the best stemware so when the clients lips touch the crystal it sends them to a spot you can only achieve with the thinnest of lips. (I’m talking about a wineglass with a thin lip, if you know wine, then you know a glass has a lot to do with the experience) I instructed my chef to only get wagyu beef, the best produce and the finest seafoods money can buy!
The reason I paint you this picture is because we specialize in high end events, not low end events. So I do not want to take every event that comes my way, I only want to take the best of the best so that we can do exactly what they want us to do. Sometimes it is hard to learn this lesson, but we must go forward and stay true to our hearts. I encourage you as a business owner, to do what you specialize in, and take nothing less. Your heart will thank you later, and I truly feel so will your pocket books.
Here are some of my favorite pics from the past couple of days:
During this time of self healing, possibly the best thing I have figured out is I simply love to write, but not just like the norm. I love to prepare my mind and ease into the moment. Today I have chosen to write in front of a beautiful pond at Rutledge Wilson Farm Park in Springfield Missouri.
I have to tell you that there have been two sides to this healing process. On one side there has been horrific things happen to me each and every single day. I made notes:
Day 1 – House Basement Flooded – Mold Present – Move Family Out of House
Day 2 – News My Wife Had A Miscarriage
Day 3 – Friend Calls and says I have been exposed to covid
Day 4 – Cops Called on me for parking RV at Doctors Office
Day 5 – offered a tv show series
Day 6 – got offered partnership 75 acres of land
As you can see some pretty traumatic things have happened in the past 4 days but something magical changed on day 5. I started to write the good things that happen instead of the bad things. I will tell you a funny story about one of the bad things, then let’s travel onward to good things.
So on Day 3 I am focused on taking time for friends that matter. I was so inspired to cook for my buddy Rob that we stayed up till around 2am cooking, fellowshipping, being silly and just letting the good times roll. Being so late, I thought it would be a good idea to just go home and get the RV and take it to sleep in the parking lot of my doctors office. My appointment was at 10am and there is hardly a car in site when I typically go there.
At 9am I hear the loudest knock on my RV ever, I ponder to myself, why would Dr Joe knock so loud? Then the knock happens again and shakes the RV from left to right. Wow, this person is excited to see me I think! Now in a rush, I scramble and throw on the closest bathrobe I can find. Of course it is my wife’s bathrobe that is the closest. Now keep in mind my wife is 4 foot 10 inches on a tall day and her robe fits her perfectly.
Once again, the knock begins but this time it is a Fred Flintstone closed hand beating upon the outside wall of my mobile house. I open the door to my RV with the sun shining upon my face ever so brightly to find a uniformed officer of the law. “Could you please tell me what your doing sir,” the cop says aggressively. I explain to him I am waiting to see my doctor. Meanwhile I look around me and every single parking spot is full and I am completely surrounded. Keep in mind my generator is running obtrusively loud, I have been up till after 3am, and I’m in standing in the shortest bathrobe known to existence in front of a cop, and he is standing 3 feet below me looking up. (Hope he enjoyed the view, hee hee)
Just as God has placed me in the moment of truth, he sends an Angel of hope to my rescue! My doctor walks out to take the trash and he spots me. “Hey Pauly, how was your vacation,” Dr Joe asks? At that moment the cop realizes my story matches up. By the end of my conversation with the upstanding officer of the law, we talk about RV life and how he was pondering getting one. I hope that our encounter helps him make that decision and he jumps on one immediately, I would recommend an RV to anybody!
Here are my daily lessons so far clipped out of my iPhone notes. (I am taking notes along the journey)
Day 1 – Taking Time For Friends
Day 2 – Taking Time For Friends
Day 3 – Taking Time For Friends
Day 4 – Self Help – Cranial Sacral – Anger Therapy – Met 50 Cent the Rapper
Day 5 – Me Day – Clean Teeth – decided to not do dispensary in Oklahoma – open to opportunity – viewed beautiful 28,000 3 bedroom house
Day 6 – Me Day – Sleep In, Handle Business – Chill At Rutledge Farm Park & Write –
I have been working on a huge business adventure for the past two years and I am telling you I would be good at it! I absolutely love to farm and I love to make money, so naturally growing Medical Marijuana just made sense right? Well to me it did, so I built a team, obtained a partner, figured out which direction we would go in the market and the next thing to do was to incorporate and pull the trigger.
You may ask what direction I would take, well that is easy, the organic direction! I was going to be the first in America to get my Organic Certification for Medical Marijuana and take the cannabis game to whole new level!!!! Boutique dispensary with A+ Grade Marijuana only! When you walk in we ask how you are doing and what mood you are in. You don’t tell us what you want, we tell you.
This was going to be like my stripper money, I was going to get in and in 10 years get out and my family and I would be set for life. Sounds like a good plan right? Well, I felt a 95% a go, but as I am transitioning through this 30 day plan, I have started to think differently. Besides God, who do I want to impress the most I am just now starting to think to myself? That question is super easy my friends, the only other person I really truly want to impress is my most special princess, my beautiful bride, my queen, my wife. Guess what????? She wouldn’t give a crap if I invented the best strand of Indica or the most killer Sativa or the most mind blowing Hybrid. My wife wouldn’t be there with me at the Stoney Awards when I received grower of the year, there would be no celebration when we reach milestone after milestone. Who am I going to celebrate with, Snoop Dogg & Martha Stewart? Of course I would be, but not with my wife! My wife means so much more than Snoop Dogg or Martha Stewart, I want to celebrate with my wife.
I would’ve been so good at growing, my team would’ve been extraordinary, I can smell it and taste it now. But God has huge massive plans in store for myself and my wife and my family, and now it is in His control. Just as I close that door and called the last person that I needed to tell and let down that we were not going to go forward with Oklahoma, a new door opened in my life the very next day. Guess what I got offered to do………..a TV Series helping people all over America!! Come on, that is literally a dream come true for me and my family. Will it come true, only time will tell, and why not play around with some fun opportunities in life? (I might not get the show now that I have revealed a little secret but truly I couldn’t care less, what a great feeling!!!!!)
What I am saying is to not leave any doors left cracked open that you know are not meant for you. And to bust wide open the ones you know line up with your desires in life.
I am only on day six and I have had somebody reach out that is experiencing some of the same things that I am going through. I guess I am not alone, and there are others like me that need self help so badly. This week if there was one thing I would recommend to all of you, get a massage, take some of the money that you’ve worked so hard for and treat yourself to something. Take yourself out to a movie, go out to dinner, do something nice for yourself, you deserve it.
PS Foodie Rob, thank you for falling directly out of Asgard, hammer in hand, ready to help chisel my life back into formation!!! You get me, you truly get me and you have seriously helpful advice. Thank you for bettering my life!!! Rob has been in my life, but now I am making him a part of my life. I think there is a difference. I challenge you all reading, to truly get to know one of your acquaintances and challenge yourself to make a new friendship this week!
Let me start off by saying I am a chef, one of those chefs that really takes his role in life of being a chef very serious. Like one of those chefs that only talks about food, is always looking for the next restaurant, that is always and I mean always taking pics of my food, and definitely a perfectionist on the food I prepare and prefer to literally do every single aspect of every dish. Now keep in mind, I’m a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America & my background is that of a Yacht Chef where I typically cooked for 12 guests and 6-8 crew members.
I learned to cook for this amount of people seamlessly day in and day out. (And working on yachts, there are not a lot of days off, the crew eats 7 days a week) I remember I would challenge myself and give 45 minutes to prepare a crew dinner of 8 twice a day one season in the Mediterranean. (And I didn’t come with just any meal, it was legit! I had every option available in Europe and it twas divine!!!!)
Always pushing the envelope to make myself better, challenging every chef I could find as our yacht would enter the harbor. I was very pompous at the time and would say, “Hey! Cheffy, let’s dual!!!!” And they would reply, “What are you taking about?” “I want to bring my crew lunch against your crew lunch and see who the winner is!” Always striving to get better, if they did something amazing, I would share thoughts and trade recipes for something they enjoyed of mine. I did this all over the seas of France, Italy & Spain.
Enjoying literally the best foods money could buy with no budget. I actually would spend a massive amount to get the best, why not right? How excessive you may ask? Once I made Thai Rice Soup breakfast for one of the richest men in Thailand. There were 6 guests in his group and the soup cost over 5 thousand euros. (That around $1,000 a person for rice soup!!!!) Why you may ask did it cost that much? Well I was off the coast of the Island of Ischia and Capri (mega rich clientele) and bought the biggest lobster they had and the freshest most obtrusive seafood you have ever seen!!!! The lobster was a mammoth almost the size of half my body! (And yes chefs, I agree that smaller is better in lobsters, but I was going for the wow factor!!!!)
I am on day 2 of a 30 of a “Take Back My Life Plan”
Today’s Lesson was: “Taking Time For Friendship”
Sure on the outside some people seem happy to the rest of the world yet we battle with internal demons.
For some, you will have no idea what I am taking about, but for some of you, you will understand exactly. Being a Chef & Estate Manager for so long, I think that I have literally sculpted my entire way of life out of kitchen & ultra high end service mentality. When I say this, I think I may lead my family the way an Executive Chef or Estate Manager runs his staff.
For some reason I have never realized this? As I think about it, I am glad I was lucky enough never to have to go to war, would I run my family the same way as that???? I can’t honestly answer that question, can you? I don’t only run my family life this way, but every aspect of my life now that I think about it. I am way way OCD on the placement of items, not because I care, but because I was trained to care. You have to understand I was a Yacht Chef for over a decade where every single itty bitty teeny tiny detail was not overlooked. Never would I imagine putting a new roll of toilet paper paper side up, I was trained to install toilet paper where the paper falls over the roll and is super easy to use. (It actually offends me if it is installed any other way, what is wrong with me??? Lol, but I hope at the end of this journey, it doesn’t bother me how the toilet paper is placed, I should be happy for toilet paper.
I could go on and on, but I am realizing to myself that it is time for change. Now you may ask, why am I telling you this? I am telling you this because if I tell my weakness and it helps just one person, then it was worth it. I am especially talking to Yacht Chefs and Chefs in general, we lead such a different life than most.
In my line of work it is not uncommon to work through three different shifts of people, work on 2-3 hours of sleep for 30-40 days in a row, run a crew of fellow cooks & staff (that are mostly crazy monkeys just like me) and expect absolute, nothing less, than blissful perfection!!! That’s it, is that too much to ask for every single second that you show up on my watch shift, perfection? I am used to running a symphony (my crew of crazy cooks) of thinking about not only every single aspect, but thinking also about what could possibly happen wrong?
As a yacht chef I don’t know if a guest that has requested Italian might not also want Japanese or Israeli, or Traditional Spanish or Americanized. But what does Americanized even mean to each client that steps aboard that is paying $175,000 a week, you must be ready for anything. If you don’t have an ingredient, then you must be ready to have it flown in at a moments notice. I am serious, once I had to hire a private jet to fly me 2x 12 packs of Dannon Yogurt Natural into Italian Waters. Yes, it was that important to the client.
That image hasn’t left my mind and when someone asks me for a yogurt, I take them very serious, too serious. I thank God that I have finally realized this. Because now I can actually do something about it.
I go to Life.Church on the Southside of Springfield and this past Sunday I felt my body gravitating there, even through the devil tried hard not to get me there. (I just found out the basement flooded that morning after being gone for two months)
This is the prayer I am going to pray every morning, every day for 30 days and maybe even longer:
God help me walk slowly enough to experience Jesus fully, and love people deeply.
Just by doing this it has helped so very much. I realize I am sprinting through life and trust me, if you do this, something could possibly slow you down and you might not like what it is. I am 42 and my friends my age are dying left and right from heart attacks………42!!!!! That is too damn young!!!!!!!
So I am going to try and do something about it, before life catches up. (Hopefully I am not too late) Which brings me to tonight, I handle cleanup of the mildew and lining that out this morning, and then go check on our commercial properties. On the way, I call my dear friend Larnelle and invite him to lunch at Missouri Mike’s BBQ & More (sorry, no pics, food was too good and I forgot, lol) and we catch up. I figured it was a long shot because it was after 2pm, guess what, I asked and he answered…….sure.
Sometimes I feel in life we want to call a friend to go eat lunch, but then we feel like it will be to hard, or they might say no, so we don’t ask at all, not today. Not only did we go eat lunch, then he asked if I wanted to go to a Video and Photo shoot at Vantage Downtown Springfield Missouri, duhhhhhh????? To follow with Avanzare Italian Dining by Chef Tony Garcia, come on!!!!! What a day in paradise!!!!!! I even ran into my great friend Hansel who I haven’t seen in forever cooking there. PS the huge meatballs are amazing!!!
What I am saying is I could have been depressed, freaked out about my mold issue and had a terrible day, but God had my day planned out the whole time.
If you are dealing with demons in your head, it is ok to admit it, it is ok to get help. I am going to Anger Therapy and absolutely loving it!!!! Not only do my friends and family deserve the best of me, but so do I, and you deserve the best of you to.
I love you, and I’m leaning to love myself again.
PS I plan to write every 1-3 days to let you know how it is going. As of now I am learning to take more time for those that matter to me.
As I take my first step inside Cedar Chandelier’s Cafe, and I am literally teleported back into another dimension. An old Time Gospel Band up on the main stage just strumming, plucking and praising his name. Imagine the Movie “O Brother Where Art Though” and that will paint the best picture.
Now if you grasp the name “Cedar Chandelier’s Cafe” then it tells the whole story right there, but trust me, you won’t be ready for what is about to come. The most beautiful dining room lined in all Cedar and the most gorgeous chandeliers!!!!! Now you may ask, where does the cafe part come in??? That is the best part………as you gaze upon the chandeliers you will start to notice something very unique. They are made out of plastic utensils and only cost $11 each!!!! Seriously, you will never see a better looking chandelier for $11, if you do, send me a pic.
Now let’s get to the food part before you stop reading and miss the opportunity of a lifetime!!! (I would feel so bad) Let’s just say on my social media I had to make a new album entitled “Best Restaurants In America”. Yes it is that good!!!! Now quick background on me……..I’m from Texas, and we Texans know good down south home style food, and this folks, is down south home style food that will get up off the plate and slap you in the face & leave sauce on your chin and you will like it!!! Sorry, I am very very wrong……..you will love it!!!!!
The master mind behind this freaking amazing eatery is Delena Olsen mother of 7, yes I said 7. (And no she is not Amish) Billie Jo 12 , Reuben 10, Truman 9, Lillie 7, Tillie 6, Merica 2 and Henry 1. Then there is her Aunt Cindy Smith who is 64. So let’s just say that this restaurant will be fully staffed no matter what shortage of employees happens in Merica. I have 3 daughters and I feel like a mad man sometimes, Delena please give me parenting lessons!!!! (PS I never for the rest of my life want to hear that you can’t start a restaurant because you have children, I bet you don’t have 7!!!!)
When I asked Delena how this all began this is what she replied, “It’s called Cedar Chandelier’s Cafe. It use to be my little car lot and I turned it into a restaurant for more of a steady income after my husband became disabled. It’s a really fun atmosphere and entertaining. Locals come and jam on Thursday and I have bands on Friday night. I have 7 kids so they all help working or babysitting each other lol . It’s all just country cooking but I work hard to make it good.”
She starts you off with huge pipping hot Homemade Yeast Rolls fresh out of the oven and Cinnamon Butter, and then leads you into a fun roller coaster of deep rooted flavors. (She is only open 2 days a week so plan accordingly)
I was literally drinking the brown gravy, and I ask her what the secret is? She replies………I hate to waist the grease leftover from the burgers, so I use that and the brisket juice. What a clever idea saving the hamburger grease!!!! The flavors of that brown gravy bring me back to a childhood place, and very very happy place. Please don’t expect anything fancy, but do expect some of the best flavors you have ever tasted!
If I was to pick a favorite, I would have to say the smothered pork steak. This was executed to perfection and I would drive across the whole country to get me some of this!!!! Seriously, I was just on the West Coast eating likes it’s going out of style and all I can think of is this Smothered Pork Steak!!!! The meat literally melted in my mouth like meat cotton candy and the brown gravy will change your life!!!!
I had an Aunt Mary Jane who was about 300 pounds on a skinny day and I was absolutely spoiled to her Chicken & Dumplings so it is thoroughly hard to impress me with this dish. Let me tell you straight……Delena serves Homemade Chicken Numpling and it is freaking amazing!!!! It is a mix between and dumpling and a noodle and I am loving it!
Now I am one of those food freaks that you capture when you say the magic word “Smothered” and so I had to order every dish with that word in it, this happens to be the Smothered Chicken & Potatoes. I am telling you, this food is crazy good!!! The chicken melts in your mouth like butter and the potatoes still have the perfect texture. This can be difficult for chefs to pull off. You have the cook time of the actual food, then the rest time of how long it takes you to order and most restaurants serve mushy potatoes, but not Delena Olsen.
Now on google the definition literally states: Southern Cooking = Chicken Fried Steak. I would be more than proud to take Chef Delena Olsen with me to battle you toe to toe with this dish! There is zero over complication in her execution and it is simply perfect! The flavor bomb of this gravy upper cuts your taste buds and if you have saved any yeast rolls then you know what is next! Yep, time to sop up every last bit!!! (Please don’t come here if you don’t eat carbs and your constantly on a diet, this is for us real eaters that like carbs with our carbs)
Typically I don’t go over so many dishes but literally everything was good here!!!!! Do you want to spend the best $2.99 of your life? Then order the “Hobo Beans” and expect to be delighted! No this could be one of those dishes they could possibly change each week. Chef Delena Does not let anything go to waste, so depending on what proteins she use that week, determines what ends up in the hobo beans. They are so so good, brisket was one of the meats that week.
If you have read any of my previous blogs you know I am addicted to desserts. Yes I openly admit it and I am ok with that. I have many times started with dessert at a meal then to end on a dessert at the same setting and not feel guilty in the least. I could literally be so full I cannot eat one more bite of savory food, and then you bring out a good dessert menu and I will literally order two desserts. Well, these desserts here are ever changing and oh so good! I felt for the occasion we should have one of everything and it was a great choice if I do say so myself. I have to say, the “German Chocolate Cake” was my absolute fave, and for $2.99……come on!!!!
We all know every establishment is judged by it’s restrooms, and this one passes with flying colors according to my gorgeous wife Ashley Allen who took a selfie for us to prove it. Thanks babe!
Sometimes in life you just feel like you have known someone forever, that is how I felt when I met Delena. She is just a good person through and through. We sat and chatted and I was lost in her story. I have a lot to learn from her not only as a chef but also as a parent. She was very good with her children and they all were so polite, hard working and intuitive. Her son Rueben especially was intuitive and you could see his passion for life in everything he would do. (I am also pretty sure he was named after the sandwich, as a chef I love it)
Beyond anything, Delena was real and genuine, there was nothing fake about her. (That is hard to come by these days) Another interesting fact about her is that she used to be 334 pounds, and now look at her, absolutely beautiful & stunning!!! (I am allowed to say that, because my wife said the same thing) From the bottom of my heart thank you Delena Olsen for cooking your little heart out and sharing your passion with the rest of us. PS She runs a used car dealership 5 days a week, info below. PSS I hear she can sing too, Delena what can’t you do?
Yes, Ava Missouri is quite a drive out there, but I promise you that if Delena still owns this restaurant, the food will live up to my review! 11 out of 10 stars!!!!
Cedar Chandelier’s Cafe – 1003 N Jefferson St, Ava Missouri 65608
Hours of operation: Thursday & Friday 4-8pm
Phone Number: 417-543-1878
To get the best deal on a used car, you can also call Delena’s Auto: 417-543-9396
Holy Smokes Batman!!!!!! This little Venezuelan eatery/coffee shop/authentic spot is fantastic!!!!! Seriously A1 (no pun intended) including fantastic service. As you walk in you might think this is just a coffee shop, but you are wrong, it is so much more. Yes there is an amazing case of freshly baked goodies (my fave is the Nutella Induced Croissant) and I can’t wait to try them all.
The menu is well diversified, which at first through me off, and I wondered if they specialized in anything at all. Well, they do! The authentic Venezuelan food is off the chain!!!!
All the patrons seemed to be smiling and enjoying what ever they ordered, I would personally order anything off that menu with full confidence in the chef.
This dish the “De Mano” Cheese Cachapa (con Queso de Mano) $9.99 was on the appetizer sampler I ordered and it was so interestingly good! Not super sweet, but fun bursts of corn that injected a flavor bomb of authentic homeland in your mouth. Yes!!!!! Seriously, everything was so over the top good!!!!
Now let’s get into the pretzel looking things called Mandocas. Imagine if Christmas, a pretzel and corn pancakes had a beautiful little baby, that is what these are. So interesting, that it is one of those things you just have to experienced for yourself 🙂
Had a nice Venezuelan beer that paired perfectly, and it was just a fun spot to be. Here is the real deal, for being in Miami, this place was super affordable! A real winner all the way around.
One more thing, the name!!!!! I really loved this part……”7ty One”. Ok, so the “7” represents “Divine Perfection, Abundance, Prosperity & Luck, that would get me to eat there alone!! Now I am blessed with all those things simply by going there 😉 “One” symbolizes “Unity” because that’s what we are…….. (I love this) (we need more of this all over the world) (love)