Tuesday, June 30, 2009

LUCE'S LANDING

Share Our Strength is an organization sanctioned by the President to fight childhood hunger in America. This last month I had an opportunity to work with Keith Luce. Keith first worked with me at the Greenbrier and then later as a Sous Chef at the White House. For the last few years Keith has been the Executive Chef at the Herbfarm which touts a dizzying array of awards including: AAA's 5 star, Mobil's 4 star, and a National Geographic title that named The Herbfarm as the Number One Destination Restaurant of the Year. I asked Kiyomi, who provides technical assistance for this blog, to talk with Keith. I hope you enjoy the interview:

-What was your relationship like with Walter when you two were working together at the Green Brier and the White House?

Being a young person in the kitchen authority has an interesting set of challenges attached to it. You have to understand I was 20 or 21 years old when I met him. I was a different person mentally. I was a type-A. The only things that were important were my craft and my art. I was 23 when I went to the White House. I think when I was younger I couldn't understand him like I do now. I came from an all European kitchen. My perspective was really skewed. It was the first time I had really worked with an American chef who was lighthearted.

It has been good to reconnect with him. We both have a career behind us and ahead of us and we are more like peers.

-What projects are you working on this summer?

I'm still the acting Executive Chef for the Herbfarm and I'm opening a business on the East Coast. Essentially I am working on a restaurant–farm concept that focuses on the land, farm, and artisanal breadmaking, cheesemaking and some charcueterie.

-Speaking of which, will you be bringing some of your wooly pigs (Mangalitsa pigs) to the new farm?

Yes, I will start raising wooly pigs there.

-Since you've been away from the East Coast for so long, you've had a chance to get used to the West Coast growing season. Is it going to be a lot different there?

In all honesty, the Seattle area is not too unlike the area where I grew up.

- You've grown up on a farm, traveled, and have done lots of different things - now you are coming back to your roots. Do you consider yourself to be a farmer?

The name of the restaurant is called Luce's Landing. This means a lot to me because it sort of alludes to the fact that I am coming back and landing where my roots are. My family has a long history there. There’s a beach at the end of the farm where my original family members landed. That was called Luce's Landing. It is a full circle scenario. In addition, I am working on a book. It will be a cookbook but its also going to tell the story of my realization of what is important to me. It begins with the farm even though I didn't realize it when I was growing up. The last thing I wanted to do was be involved with the farm or food because my grandfather was Italian and he was in the food business. I was traded back and forth between the farm and my grandfather's restaurant. After having gone away and trying to excel at being a chef I realize that some of the most important lessons I learned were on the farm. This drove me back towards the farm. I can't call myself a farmer because I'm not in the field everyday, but I think I am at heart. A big part of my being, and belief system, stems from that and I understand ingredients at a basic level.

-Do you still have a lot of family on the East Coast?

Yes.

-How many family members will be helping you in your new endeavor?

My two sisters and my mother have expressed an interest. I have a rule in my life to not involve my wife for the sake of the marriage. The majority of the help will come from my 2 sisters and my mother.

-Where do you consider home? Is it Luce's Landing?

Yes, there is no question about that. That's where my family is. That's where my heritage is. There's a lifestyle that I can give my son and I can leave behind. Leaving behind a legacy is very important to me. I don't know why, it's not ego. I've been very fortunate to live the life I've lived and most of it is because of this industry. I want to leave something behind in that arena, but I also want to leave something behind for my son so that he understands who his family was and why his father is who he is. It is home in a very big way.


Keith is creating quite the buzz with his new endeavor. If you would like to follow Keith can can find out more information here: Luce's Landing and facebook.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

MEETING DARTH VADER IN GETTYSBURG

It's not often you bump into the real Darth Vader, but I had the honor and pleasure of meeting the man whose voice helped make the dark side of the force a household catch phrase. I met the distinguished James Earl Jones this week at the Gettysburg Festival where he took center stage for a sold out event called A Lincoln Portrait. The program was composed by Aaron Copland in 1942 and was intended to give comfort to our nation during WWII.


Photograph by Bert Danielson, Gettysburg Festival

As you can well imagine, Mr. Jones gave an impeccable performance reciting the inspirational quotes of Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Jones is not only a fine actor, he is a gentleman as well. I was very impressed.


Photograph by Lester Cohen

Another thing that impressed me about James Earl Jones was the fact that as a young boy he did not have any control over the powerful voice he harnesses today. He had a severe stuttering problem that caused him to remark years later, "One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter." Thank goodness his schoolteachers had the insight to help him. They allowed him to read his own poetry aloud to his class. Today, James Earl Jones claims that he still struggles with his speech. He takes great care to think before he speaks. You would never know this by talking with him.

The following is an excerpt from a White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word. James Earl Jones is reading Shakespeare's Othello.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

GETTING TO KNOW THE FIRST FAMILY

Jae C. Hong/ Associated Press/file
Part of getting to know a new President includes a public fascination with what the First Family eats. There is a mix of curiosity – “What goes on in the White House?” and a litmus test – “How much is this family like us?” Just as we are in the process of getting to know a new family, there is also a subconscious thrust to make them more a little like ourselves – “My concerns should now be your concerns.” Mix these ingredients together and you have the makings for discussion and controversy. You can read the latest discussion, including quotes from myself, about the public’s interest with the Obamas’ food habits here: abcnews
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak,File