Vivian Howard explores the south one ingredient at a time in the new PBS series A Chef's Life. She swore she'd never return to small-town North Carolina, but after her parents made a deal with her, she and her husband, "restaurant lifers", left Manhattan to open The Chef & The Farmer in Kinston about six years ago.
If you've traveled through eastern NC, you'll know, there's not much there. Most folks might see parts as they pass by on their way to the beach. But those parts are lovely, indeed. Corn fields, pastures, and charming roadside attractions infuse the show with a rural, authentic feel. Plus, Howard's delightful molasses accent invites viewers to the table and series from the start.
A Chef's Life highlights NC's terroir. In the first episode--devoted to sweet corn--Howard talks to farmers, selects corn for her restaurant, and builds daily menus. Interspersed between these activities, Howard reminisces about growing up in Deep Run, a few miles down the road from Kingston, and the three block parade that everyone in the community comes out for. Note the corn float made from emptied yellow milk containers. Howard muses about raising twins, how she and her husband work together in the kitchen, picking and prepping corn, and tempting children with corn dishes.
Halfway through the corn episode Howard demonstrates how to smoke corn as part of constructing a smoked corn relish. Most folks who watch food shows won't learn new kitchen skills, but you may learn new information about relishes and be compelled to try it for yourself after watching how easy relishes come together. In the south relish making was a means of preserving summer produce. Women canned corn and other veggies that they'd serve months later, thus brightening up drab winter fare.
And then, a fire in the kitchen forces Howard and company to start over.
Always drama in the kitchen. Lots to tune in for, so watch as more episodes air on your local PBS station. I support PBS, by the way (and public radio, too). But didn't receive any renumeration for fanning any flames on this fiiiiiiiiiire. Rolling my eyes.
Didja miss me, a lil bit?