My Week: A Pig, A Trip and a Bracket

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“Hey baby, I do get tired of this traveling band" -- Hank Williams Jr.

Saturday, 5:30AM alarm goes off and rolling out of the bed ain’t easy…….

I get to work, plug in the speakers and proceed to BLAST my playlist for the day. I'm trying to get PUMPED to roast our first pig for our Beer and BBQ patio Party at Central. Knives sharpened, vegetables diced, beans cooked, rice has started and Biggie Smalls is on the background…

I forgot how much fun it was to roast a whole pig and cook some congri and pickled fixins. We were having us a pig picking…latino style! Hours pass and staff begin to roll in and the mood is exciting. Everyone is in a good mood! I enjoyed meeting so many people and sharing some fine pig and beer with them. There is something quite freeing about getting up really early, taking a whole hog and cooking it in a caja china. After butchering this pig, and leaving nothing and I mean nothing on it, I packed up and went home all greasy, stinky and completely satisfied! It was such a fun time and I’m glad I didn’t have to travel to do an event this time. The road gets tiring! It’s fun and a blessing to have so many opportunities, but it’s good to be home!

“on the road again…..” --Willie Nelson

So that very following Monday, it was road trip time again. I traveled with 2 friends, Chef David Bancroft of Acre and Chef Chris Harrigan of Stone’s Throw, up to Huntsville to meet with the amazing Chef James Boyce of Cotton Row. We arrived in Huntsville and were shown the red carpet treatment, visiting breweries, private tours of downtown Huntsville and the surrounding areas and treated to a great lunch at Chef Boyce’s Commerce Kitchen. Then we headed up to take a private tour of Cotton Row with Chef Boyce. I can’t tell you how inspiring it was to hear Chef tell us about his experiences, both in Las Vegas and New York, and getting the opportunity to work with some of the greats. Chef graciously gave us a tour of his gorgeous restaurant and went into detail about the construction, plans, ideas, and how Cotton Row came to be. I enjoyed our talk. It was awesome to see someone who is so talented and experienced open up and talk to us. It was equally awesome to have Chef ask the three of us our view points, thoughts, ideas and perceptions of the business.

We ended the evening with an intimate chat with some Huntsville foodies. The three of us visiting chefs served as panelists for an open discussion on our professional lives and our take on the rising food scene in Alabama. All while Chef Boyce demonstrated and prepared a phenomenal albacore tuna dish for them. The event was neat and a new style for me! I’ve never been asked to simply show up and talk to people about who I am, where I come from, where I want to go and what Central is all about, without once touching a knife or cooking a single thing! Engaging the crowd was fun and informative but connecting with Chef Boyce was priceless! I look forward to us working together again soon!

“ R.E.S.P.E.C.T... Oh, a little respect! Yeah baby, I want a little respect. Now I get tired, but I keep on tryin'

Runnin' out of foolin', I ain't lyin'. Yes, respect, all I need is respect” -- The one and only Aretha

I return to Montgomery to find myself, and our restaurant, in the running for best spot to eat in Montgomery by a local group of diners. After weeks of “head to head” competition, we got to face off with a local institution here and it was really cool to be considered among the top. This is a funny and yet highly gratifying gesture to us here. We put in some work, a lot of it actually, and it’s great to be a part of a community with such loyal customers. We came in a respectable second in the bracket, and that is a win in and of itself! It’s also great to feed people and have them dine at Central and feel like family. Our diners are very protective of us against all detractors. It was a busy week, a fun week, and a fun time! I enjoyed myself very much and I look forward to some more fun in my dining room!

"The road goes on forever and the party never ends......"-- Robert Earl Keen

-- Chef Leo