I love to cook almost as much as I love to eat and I try to learn everything I can from the real professionals – I love to sit down with a chef and just chat about his craft.

 This week Chowbelly interviews local private chef, Randy Wilder who was trained at the culinary institute at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, SC – now there’s a spot ripe with culinary sensations!


 The Triangle\'s Premier Private Chef


Chef Wilder has worked in some of the area’s most prestigious kitchens but currently works as a private chef providing private, personal dining events in The Triangle.

 

Chef Wilder, what made you decide to become a professional chef?

 As I was growing up I was always on my mother’s hip watching her cook and asking questions. Eventually she let me help. By middle school I was cooking 3-4 dinners a week for my family. I loved watching cooking TV shows like Julia Child, Jacque Pepin, Yan Can Cook, and The Frugal Gourmet. By the time I was 14 or 15 I had pretty much decided that I loved the craft and that I wanted to be a chef.

 

So where has your career taken you and what are you doing now?

I have been very fortunate to work for some amazing chefs. In Atlanta I worked at Carbo’s Cafe, Blue Ridge Grill, The Abbey, Anthony’s. After moving to Raleigh, I worked for John Toler at Bloomsbury Bistro honing my skills. When he opened The Cosmopolitan in Cary I was offered the position of Chef de Cuisine in charge of daily menu execution and the staff. There I learned that my passion is events with multi-course, wine-paired formats such as the Triangle Wine Experience.  I love the relationship between food and wine. That passion led me to launch my personal chef business that focuses on private, personal, multi-course, wine-paired dinners in private homes.  I provide everything necessary for groups of 6 to 16 – linens, stemware, china, silverware – everything needed to entertain at the highest level without lifting a finger.


Who, in your personal life has influenced your cooking the most?

I have worked with many very talented people over the years. John Toler, chef/owner of Bloomsbury Bistro in Raleigh, has been the greatest influence on me. He has a unique approach and has impeccable standards. I really enjoyed the six years that I worked with him.

 

Do you have a favorite cookbook?

 I love the French Laundry Cookbook – it’s just beautiful. The Joy of Cooking, however, is my all time favorite. It covers it all!

 

What are your three most important cooking tools or gadgets?

 I’m a big fan of a good blender for great soups. You have to have a chinois for straining stocks and sauces, and I’d be lost without my Wustof Grand Prix Santuko.

 

Describe you most memorable meal – where was it, who were you with, why was it memorable?

 A few years back, my wife Tara and I travelled to wine country in California. We had an opportunity to eat at The French Laundry. We ordered a 9-course pre-fixe menu which ended up being about 12 courses! The food was amazing and Anthony Bourdain was taping his show “A Cook’s Tour” there. We got the chance to go into the kitchen and watch for a few minutes. Truly inspiring!

 

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to take it up a level at home and recreate some of the amazing dishes we have in favorite restaurants or see on television?

Try to learn as much as you can about the dish you are preparing. If you want to make something you had at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to call the chef, ask questions. Then try it. And if it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, try again! Practice makes perfect.

 

What would you pursue if you knew you couldn’t fail and money was no object?

If money wasn’t an object I’d love to open a soup-kitchen for the less fortunate where I could offer well-prepared meals with excellent ingredients to warm people’s soul.

 

After speaking with Chef Wilder I really want to run out and take a look at The French Laundry cookbook!  I am really glad I got a chance to talk to Randy – if you have any questions or comments for him let him know by posting a Comment.


Watch for more exciting interviews with Chef’s from your favorite restaurants and beyond!

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honey 

You might know that as I get more interested in using a particular ingredient – in this case, Honey, the prices sky-rocket and it becomes haute cuisine!! The Los Angeles Times has a great write-up about the complexity and depth in the various varieties of Honey!

The decadent dessert pictured above is a Wildflower Honey Shortcake with strawberries and honey-pinenut gelato and is served at Craft in Century City, CA.

Do you have a favourite dish that employs Honey? A favorite restaurant that has something equally as decadent? Let us know in the comments!

~ Chow!

joes.jpg

Last fall I saw a recipe in Gourmet magazine (October 2007) that was an upscale version of the old classic Sloppy Joes. I finally got around to looking at it and decided it might be a good choice for a dinner party we had with friends last weekend.

As usual I couldn’t avoid tinkering with it a bit. The original recipe used ground meat but I thought a truly upscale version would use chunks of steak and perhaps a red wine marinade.  The dish seemed to go over pretty well with our friends and the only change I might make next time would be to really take my time dicing the steak into smaller cubes – pieces about the size of pencil erasers seems just about right!

Sloppy Belly’s

This recipe reminds me of my Mom’s homecooking – I can almost smell the pot of sloppy joes simmering all afternoon just waiting for us kids to come in from the field to eat!  My Mom’s recipe, as funny as it sounds, came from a lunch-lady at my elementary school – it was bright and sassy – just like Mom so many years ago!

Serves 6-8

Ingredients
3# lean steak – use whatever is on sale and try to get the thinnest steaks possible – 1/4″ is perfect!
1 bottle red wine – for marinades I really like Charles Shaw from Trader Joe’s (Also known as “2-buck-Chuck!)
Coarse Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
1 tbls cooking oil
1 tbls unsalted butter
1 large onion, minced
3 14oz. cans of crushed tomatoes – I found a national brand that has fire-roasted, garlic tomatoes – nice flavor to add!
2 tbls chili powder
1 tsp cumin
3 tbls worcestershire sauce
3 tbls brown sugar
2 tbls white vinegar
2 tbls yellow mustard
Kaiser rolls

Preparation:
To begin, the night before dice the meat into small cubes, place in a glass bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour in the red wine. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate as long as you like, but no more than 24hrs.

At time of cooking, drain the beef in a colander and discard the red wine marinade. Place 1 tbls cooking oil into a large, hot skillet and add the beef. Cook on medium-high until browned, set aside. In a large sauce pot add 1 tbls unsalted butter and the minced onion. Cook over medium heat long enough to soften up the onions – they should be just translucent.  Add the beef, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard. Mix through thoroughly and reduce heat to simmer covered as long as you like, stirring occasionally to make sure the flavor profile really comes together.

Toasting the Kaiser rolls really makes me happy – but you can serve these in just about any sort of roll from a hoagie roll to plain ole bread and be just as happy!

According to a Reuters report today, fewer Americans consider themselves daily coffee-drinkers.  It seems like more Americans are drinking what the report considers gourmet coffee (17% up from 14% in a 2007 survey) but overall those who consider themselves daily coffee-drinkers fell from 57% to 55%.  The biggest gap was in the 18-to-24 year old group where consumption fell from 37% in 2007 down to 26% in 2008.

Click here to read the Reuters article

 What do you think? Does this agree with your personal habits? Post a comment and let me know – as for me and mine? We are Starbucks addicts.

Recently my humble little blog here was featured on BlogsWeLuv – I am very honored and hope everybody will go check it out – click here.

*** Announcement ***
OK, by announcing it publicly perhaps it will spur me to get moving – I have been inspired by some new friends to launch Chowbelly-lite!! Stay tuned here to get more information on the countdown to a New Chowbelly!!

A recipe in the Washington Post titled  Pennsylvania Dutch Corn and Potato Chowder got me thinking about a family favorite of ours – I love throwing together hearty soups and chowders on a blustery day!

 

Scott’s Potato Corn Chowder

2 C. Corn
1 lb Smoked Sausage (diced in small 1/4″ chunks)
2 C. Milk
2 C. Heavy Cream
2 Cans Chicken Stock (14oz ea)
6 C. Russet Potatoes (cubed)
1 Stick Butter
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Pepper
½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
½ tsp. Old Bay Seasoning

 

In a hot skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter – add whole corn kernels and sauté until the sugars begin to caramelize and the kernels are slightly browned. In a large, heavy pot, lightly brown the smoked sausage and remove. Add a bit of the chicken stock to deglaze, then add the rest of the chicken stock and potatoes, boil until potatoes are soft and tender to the bite.  Reduce heat to simmer and add in the remaining butter, salt, pepper, cayenne and Old Bay seasoning, corn kernels and smoked sausage. Simmer 10 mins longer to let the flavors infuse.

 

My family loves this hearty chowder on a cold winter or fall evening with big chunks of sourdough bread slathered in real creamery butter!

Rachel, Jack and I have recently started attending gracepoint, a community church in Pittsboro, NC. The people there have been amazing and the worship really helps us find our “grace” point. The Lead Navigator, Terry Dorsey, is an amazingly sweet soul who is akin to a cross between the Energizer Bunny and Zig Ziglar – positive energy defined! 

Earlier this week Rachel had another saliva gland removed (remember last June?) This time it was the larger sub-mandibular gland with an attached cyst the size of a golfball! Poor thing is really in a lot of pain and swollen up like a chipmunk! Our new friends at gracepoint have been wonderful calling to check on us, emailing and bringing us amazing meals that have been truly God-sent! For those of you who know how much I like to cook and eat, you can bet I am looking forward to an opportunity to repay their hospitality!!

If Martha or Connie happen to read this – Thank you so much for the wonderful meals!!