Welcome back chef.......

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Food is contextual. I had an epiphany the other day, something so simple made me smile, down my keg beer, slurp the rest of my baked oysters, and not miss a beat....... I'll get back to this particular moment in time, for now, lets have us a proper "blog" intro....

When I was approached about having a "blog", my first reaction was, "Ummmmm, NO!" The opportunity to blatantly speak my mind on any subject is scary and dangerous. I am an opinionated guy and I find myself, just like the million other "self-described"critics, with a myriad of opinions on just about anything. I am often irritated by them and having the opportunity to just let those opinions flow, well its worrisome! (Ask my wife or our Marketing Director!).

I want to chat about food, what I think about it, how I process it, what it means to me and why I obsess over it. However, I don't want to get on a soap box about. After all, as I often tell my team-

"It's just food, don't complicate it, we're not doctors saving lives, we are cooking, make it great, but make it simple."

It's not just a job, it's passion.
This business gets under your skin, you live, breathe, dream and obsess over it. So then there is the conundrum! Take something you love, offer it to the world and hope they like it, for the reasons you love it.

I had the opportunity to get away this past week. Turn it all off, remove myself, get a break, reconnect with my family and have fellowship together. It was RAD! "What did you do?" I cooked 3 square meals a day for my wife and son, made simple delicious food which we all shared together and enjoyed it thoroughly. In my time away, I cooked and loved every minute of it!! Cooking for my wife and son reconnected me to them and to the pleasure of cooking. Something so simple like feeding those you love can be broken down into such complicated and complex ideas, but mainly, its how I was taught to show love.

One of the most memorable meals I had, I did not cook! My wife has a soft spot for raw oysters, she looooves them! I can eat them raw, but would rather have them wood baked. Since we were near a great place for fresh out of the water oysters, we had to make a trip. Carrie is always worried about what I'll eat in a restaurant, whether I'll like it or not, or will they mess my food up. In short, she is the wife of a chef who knows me all too well.

(In my defense, I don't ever complain, certainly don't blog about it or review it on yelp, I don't go on a local site and bash it. I either enjoy it or not, but I don't complicate anyone's life over it)

We were also accompanied by our 5 year old son, and if my palate is discernible, then his is beyond picky. But there we were, our name on the 30-minute plus waiting list, outside having a beer and listening to music on a beautiful afternoon at the "must-have" local oyster place. After being seated, I looked around and the place was everything you would expect from a no frills, no thrills oyster joint; nice service, plastic chairs and tables, self serve beer and bottled drinks in a cooler, hot sauces, roll of paper towels on the counter, plastic menus, maybe 8 items, 3 of which were oysters either raw, baked or steamed and gumbo that I noticed was 'boil in the bag'- (which means store bought, not homemade).

The kitchen, and I use the term loosely because it was one oven, 3 steamers and a dish machine, were all on the other side of the counter and open for all to see. After taking a look at the menu, Carrie gave me a look - knowing I was taking it all in. "You're gonna be OK with this?"

We ordered 6 raw for her, 12 baked for us, and to make sure I was safe, 12 stuffed shrimp for me. I watched the young lady, who was simultaneously our server, kitchen expediter and oyster steamer, prepare our baked oysters- garlic salt, melted butter, and off brand grated Parmesan cheese- unceremoniously shove them into the oven and that's it. She was also munching on a piece of bread, and to be honest, I found it highly entertaining and strangely OK (in my kitchen, I would crush hopes and dreams for eating on the line, not acceptable). When our orders came to the table, Carrie shot me another look, and we ate..... Then it hit me, like a ton of bricks!

Food is contextual, its good, great or bad, but its all about the where and when.
I was enjoying every bit of this meal, I downed my plastic cup worth of keg beer, slurped down my allotted 6 oysters, crushed the simply breaded stuffed shrimp and smiled. They were great, the meal was awesome and I had no complaints.

  • Was it 5 stars? NO! It didn't need to be
  • Was it the most amazing oysters of my life? NO! It didn't need to be.
  • Did it need to impress a chef? NO! They could have cared less.
  • Was it worth coming back for? MAYBE! That's what I found enlightening.

It was all in the context under which I put it in. This meal made me think about what I do, what I obsess about and what I love. It made me think about where my food was going to go, how we were going to get there, and why. This all sounds so very esoteric, I know it.

Food to me is simple, it's fresh, crisp, clean, tasty, personal and pretty.
It's my passion, it's what I love to do, and the talent that God gave me. I try to make it relatable, to the audience around me and to my surroundings, cook what my clients want.

Chances are, me and the "red sauce on calamari is the only way to have calamari, chicken ain't BBQ" self proclaimed food critic guy will never see eye to eye.

Although our opinions differ greatly, he is right. To him, that is the best way, the only way and that is OK. I can tell you I enjoyed those oysters immensely, same as I enjoyed eating at a 5 star fine dining restaurant, it is all in the context.

Chef Leo