Tag Archives: chef

Get Your Foodie Self to Roots!

A version of this story was also previously published in YES! Weekly. To read it, click here.)

Behold, quality casual fine dining. In Yadkin County. WHERE I GREW UP! It’s not a chain or seafood or a steakhouse or hot dogs and ice cream, which is basically YC. Roots Restaurant at Sanders Ridge Winery opened its doors in April with two young, eager superstar chefs at the helm. And the YC should be thrilled about this. And you should drive to the YC to be thrilled about this too! O

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Hailed as a hidden gem, Roots is located at the vineyard’s grounds in Boonville. Within the gorgeous timber-framed tasting room, Roots is at least the fourth incarnation of the restaurant space in recent years. For whatever reason, previous tenants of the kitchen space haven’t been able to make a go of it. It’s not the easiest place in the world to get to even though it’s only about 25 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem. But folks from Guilford County and beyond have said Roots is well worth the drive. And what a scenic drive it is, with the Yadkin County pasteur land and beautiful rows of corn and tobacco.  It is quite best to make a day of it, tour the wine country and let your final stop be at Roots. In the winter months, a stone hearth fire located in the center of the room will welcome you. A perfect a bite or for a larger function, as it’s available for private events such as weddings receptions and celebrations.

You have seen the work of Chefs Ben Hurst and Brent Andruzzi if you follow your favorite eateries on any social media. Hurst trained Andruzzi at River Birch Lodge and Andruzzi left Willow’s Bistro to take on this new venture. Hurst says he actually was going to open a food truck and use the kitchen as a commissary when owner Cindy Shore approached him about running a full-fledged restaurant there. “I wasn’t sure about it. I hadn’t even managed a business much less started one. And then I asked Brent to come on board.”

Andruzzi said, “no.” 

Andruzzi clarifies it was a kind, apologetic no. But an entire month later, Andruzzi had a change of heart and the no became an enthusiastic, “yes.”

Hurst graduated with two non-culinary degrees but his first job was at River Birch and that’s where he met Andruzzi.  After a few stints in other kitchens, Hurst went to culinary school at Guilford Tech and finally at Johnson and Wales. After searching for his place in the kitchen, Hurst took some time and worked at Harmony Ridge Farm, where he learned the other side of food. “That’s worked out really well. because I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned with me.  Now we have a greenhouse on the hill where we grow a lot of our own vegetables.” Andruzzi grew up cooking with his parents encouraging his creativity in the kitchen by buying him whatever ingredients he wanted. After some time working at Lowes Foods, he also found himself at River Birch under Chef Travis Myers. “Like Ben, I worked at all the different stations.  We learned a lot there. A good foundation was built there.” Andruzzi eventually joined Myers at Willow’s Bistro where his creativity was truly allowed to shine. “When you have that kind of freedom, you learn what works and especially what doesn’t.”

Andruzzi says he’s been gardening too and the fact that Hurst has been farming, that there’s a  greenhouse and farm and the opportunity that exists here was a strong factor in his decision to take a chance and exit his place at Willow’s. “We have freedom to grow whatever we want as well as cook whatever we want, so that’s a bonus.” Roots also sources other local farms when they can.

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Hurst says his goal at Roots is to create dishes that people can’t get at home. “Even as a chef, I when I eat out, I don’t want my experience to be something I can create at home. I want it to be surprising, full of flavor, creative…something you can’t quite replicate in your own kitchen.”

Course One
Duck Two Way Tostadas with duck sauce, radish, scallion, house made pork rinds

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Out of the gate, the chefs immediately showcased their ability to take an upscale protein and make it attainable tapas-style.

Course Two
Pimento cheese stuffed poblano with bacon jam and cilantro scallion cream

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This course may have been close to my favorite dish of the evening simply because it was so different than anything I’ve ever had before. The spicy poblano filled with Sanders Ridge now famous pimento cheese AND bacon jam. Both. Together. Some of us had to clear our throat but the scallion cream cut the heat of the slightly devilish kick from that pepper.. And the people, said “wow.”  The pimento cheese and bacon jam are available for purchase at the winery as well as Cobblestone Farmer’s Market in Winston-Salem.

Palette cleanser
Lemon basil freeze pops

Before the courses emerged, Chef Hurst gave the guests a teaser of what was to come and simply said there would be a surprise in between two of the courses. So these platters full of freezer pops that looked like smaller grown-up versions of the colorful pops we all grew up with were met with delight from each table. The basil complemented the fresh slightly sweet lemony-ness. I kind of felt myself wanting another pop later.  A freezer full of those on a summer day would not be the worst thing.

Course Three
Shortbread herb crusted scallop, greenhouse salad, strawberry vinaigrette, pickled onions

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I’d heard accolades from the scallop dishes so I am glad the chefs decided to feature these on their menu this evening.  If I’m coming back to eat in the future (and I will), I’m getting scallops.

Course Four
Ribeye over basil bread pudding, local mushrooms, fig jam, Fair Share Farm micros

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A very close #2 to my favorite, a beef course will always be a winner in my book and for most carnivores.  The steak was perfectly cooked and the savory bread pudding was so delicious with it.  Note: Roots has a menu item that is called “Deconstructed Beef Wellington”. I imagined the flavor profile is not so different though the execution might be. I’ve been told it’s incredible.  After tasting this dish, I have no doubt.

Course Five
Strawberry and blueberry Shortcake and sugar cookie with homemade ice cream

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A beautiful summery dish with sweet berries, perfect cake and richly textured ice cream rounded out our evening. A great ending.

And then the chefs re-emerged from the kitchen to applause and a standing ovation. Chef’s Tables are always stellar but these young chefs received such praise that it was truly heartwarming.  Hannah Waggoner, of Rural Hall, has been to a number of Chef Table events and she even got the proverbial ball rolling on getting the Roots event off the ground. “My first visit to Roots made my foodie heart happy,” she said.  “All the dishes my table ordered were loaded with flavor, finesse, and beautifully plated! The staff were friendly and accommodating. I knew that Roots would be an excellent location for a Chef’s Table.” Waggoner says she knew it would pay off.  “The guests were not disappointed. Each of the five courses was unique and delicious! It was great to get a taste of some of Roots’ specialty dishes with a few surprises!”

By the way, I’d suggest you follow Roots on Facebook and any other social media and perhaps get on their email list because on Thursday nights, the chefs do a little something different by having a Thursday Supper. And it’s amazing. And if you can get in there for the fried chicken, you’ll send me a thank you letter and maybe, if you really love me and are super thankful, you’ll send me gifts. That’s a how delicious that fried chicken is. Super crispy every inch. See?

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And how’s this for making a name for oneself?  In a reader’s poll,  USA Today’s 10 Best just announced that Roots Restaurant was just named in the top 10 of the best winery restaurants in America. Roots placed 6th. Way to go!  Read about that here. 

If there’s anything I’d say at this point it’s this: Yadkin County, this is your moment. Finally there’s a restaurant in the area that celebrates not only the wine country but the wonderful bounty that the area brings forth. I grew up in Yadkin County and having to go to Winston-Salem for a great meal was a top complaint.  If a restaurant of this caliber can succeed with Yadkin’s and its big city neighbors’ support, it will pave the way for other restaurants like it. Napa wasn’t built in a day. It’s taken 170 years, plus it survived Prohibition and the Great Depression. You might consider the Yadkin Valley winemakers pioneers here. And the restaurant owners want to blaze a trail much like their West Coast counterparts. The talent and deliciousness is there and Roots Restaurant is digging deep and taking a chance on the area’s support.

Wanna go? Roots Restaurant at Sanders Ridge located at 3200 Round Hill Road, Boonville.   Open for dinner Thursday from 5:30-9:00 for Family style supper (check website or Facebook for features). Full service menu Friday & Saturday 5:00-9:00. Full service lunch is available in the tasting room Friday-Sunday 11:00-3:00. The wine bar also has a full menu available from 12:00-5:00. Visit sandersridge.com for info.

Join us at our next Chef’s Table!

Hi, foodies….

I’d say get ready for some wonderful back to back posts about all things food…since my children are spending a few days at their grandmother’s but man…the weather has been so nice that I’ve just been enjoying these beautiful NC mountains and just allowing myself to be.

But I can’t be just chilling and eating and doing laundry so I’m going to get a few posts out …one of the most important is to let you know that we literally have only 11 tickets left to our next Chef’s Table. We’re back at Meridian Restaurant to let Chef Mark Grohman surprise us! I was asked over and over if we’re going back and I’m thrilled to make it happen.

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Here’s a link!  And the deets….

By popular request, the foodies AND YOU are headed back to one of the most fabulous restaurants in Winston-Salem. We’re so happy that Chef Mark Grohman is on board for yet another triadfoodies Chef’s Table at his amazing Meridian Restaurant.

Chef Mark’s passion for local ingredients is second to none. And his mantra is: “If I’m able to make it myself, I always will.” Meaning he makes his sausage, his pasta, his desserts…. His restaurant, while being upscale, is inviting and vibrant with a bird’s eye view of the culianary wonders taking place in the kitchen, plus a lovely view of the Brookstown area of Winston-Salem. Chef will be preparing multiple courses of surprises and flavor combinations that you will talk about for months. How do we know? Because we always talk about his dishes, ages later and 15 months after our first Chef’s Table with Mark, the chatter is still going strong. You’d have to see social media for proof!

Here’s how it works:

Reserve with a ticket here and you’ll join us at our table on Tuesday, June 26 at 7:00. A reminder of our pricing: Your ticket price of $30 INCLUDES your multi-course dinner as well as tax and gratuity associated with the meal. Beverage (and gratuity for the purchase of beverages) are not included in the ticket price. Please take care of your server on any beverage service. Seating will be limited.

Food restrictions? Let me know ahead of time and I’ll pass it along to the chef.

We’ll see you on June 26!

 

A look back at our Chef’s Table at Trade Street Diner

You can find this article in my column in YES! Weekly here.

The little eatery might be called diner, but it’s a far cry from what you might envision. Trade Street Diner was the venue for the latest Chef’s Table. It’s always fun when the owner picks a “slow night” for the event. And then the place gets packed with us and walk-in patrons who then got into the fun a little as plates of surprise courses whirled by.

Trade Street Diner opened last fall in Sweet Potatoes former residence at 529 North Trade Street by two well-respected chefs and businessmen, John Tharp and Freddy Lee. Click here to see my review right after they opened. Lee has been in the restaurant industry for years and opened the beloved Bernardin’s with his brother in the 90’s and since then a second Bernardin’s location in Charlotte, Bleu Restaurant and Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse. Tharp was chef at Bleu for ten years after relocating from New York. After a number of years working together, they partnered up to buy Town Centre Diner in Wallburg and last year decided to go a little higher end when the space in the Arts District came along.  Tharp says both are diners, but the word diner is about all they share in common. “It’s a modern take on a diner. We give people a little more than what they expect. Town Centre is a family concept, breakfast, lunch and dinner. More homestyle choices and priced accordingly, with meat and two or three. Whereas, Trade Street is a little more eclectic and higher end but simplistic in its approach.” Tharp says they took the concept and inspiration from Poole’s Diner in Raleigh. “We felt like Winston-Salem needed something like that. Something very approachable with mid-range prices. You can came two or three times a week, have a glass of wine, have a salad or mac & cheese, or share an appetizer, hang with friends or have a nice date.” 

What the diners experienced at Trade Street Diner was something of a departure from the regular menu.  This fully showed how Chef John Tharp was intent on celebrating the flavors of the season but also demonstrated his creative side. Anyone who’s attended a Chef’s Table knows that there’s never a menu ahead of time (and often none at all, which is encouraged) and the guests are sort of at the chef’s whim. It does no good to “cheat” and check out the restaurant’s online menu. You may or may not see that item in front of you at the tasting. And so it was last week, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see these dishes in some form when you choose to visit this inviting diner.

Amuse Bouche

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We love getting a little palate teaser before the rest of the courses rolled out. This Asian inspired  had a nice little kick of wasabi oil, enough that our table mate, Melissa, felt the need to alert us. But the wasabi walloped us a bit in the very best way.

Course 1

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Ceviche

A selection of fresh fish sautéed scallops. It was a beauty. Fresh seafood lovers, this dish is for you.

Course 2

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House-made goat cheese ravioli with pea puree and tomato fondue

This light little ravioli was a true hit at my table. Tharp is a big believer in making his own pasta and though it’s not on the menu very often at the diner, the flavors of spring in this little dish made us wish we could go back for some more. Plus the look of it just said “spring.”

Course 3

Course 3

Seared Scallops with Crispy Potatoes

The course is pretty self-explanatory with seared scallops and potatoes with a bit of mushrooms. The creamy sauce was a perfect consistency and added a lovely richness and coziness to the seafood component. 

Course 4

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Filet with Red Pepper Sauce and Parsnip Puree

The filet lets you catch a glimpse of the steak you might order at Trade Street on any given night. The red pepper sauce was bright and flavorful and added a bright pop of color.

Dessert Course

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Triple Berry Cake with Dark Chocolate Mousse

If the mousse is ever on the menu at Trade Street Diner, we suggest you order it. It’s perfectly creamy and rich and this dessert paired ever so perfectly with the diner’s freshly brewed coffee.

Tharp has been in the restaurant industry since he was 14 years old, working his way up from bussing tables and ultimately went to culinary school at Johnston & Wales.  “I’ve never wanted to do anything else, “ he says. After working in Charleston, Tharp decided to broaden his view of restaurants and moved to New York, where he was a sous chef at Tribeca Grill. “It really opened my mind because every plate had to be correct. There’s no room for error, which is typical of New York.” Tharp says laid the groundwork for his focus today. “We have to make sure it’s the best at all times. We try for every dish to be as perfect as it can be.”

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The menu at Trade Street Diner is set up to change often. Tharp says, “We want the menu to be special enough that the customer keeps coming back. It’s great concept to live by because it keeps me and it keeps the kitchen pushing to be better.” He adds, “We want to elevate the common food like a hushpuppy, and that reinforces what we’re really trying to do here. We want our guest to think, ‘Wow, what’s coming next because this is exceeding our expectations.’”

After speaking with Tharp, it’s clear this chef has some very interesting ideas for the dining scene in Winston-Salem. He’s also has goals to travel more to add breadth to his culinary skills.  I really truly wish I could tell you some of his ideas but we need to keep it mum. Just follow along for the fun ride here at this foodie channel. 

“Some chefs are fortunate to travel to Asia and Europe to learn about spices and concepts and that’s something I’d like to do in the next five years or so, to travel often and learn about cultures and the food and put my own interpretation on it. Food is food the world around typically it’s all been thought of. So new flavor combinations or ways to invoke a memory are what makes a restaurant different.”

May marks the two-year anniversary of Chef’s Table. What started out as small group of local food lovers gathering together for an evening of surprise plates has continued with larger gatherings, new friendships and sell-out foodie events where we get to learn more about that chef and be surprised by what he or she is working on. Cheers to supporting our area chefs and restaurants and the local goodness they embrace. And we JUST announced our next Chef’s Table..as we head back to Meridian Restaurant, where we visited March 2017. So many people wanted to go back, how could we say no?  Get tix here! 

To hear my podcast featuring Chef John Tharp, listen to “At the Table with Triadfoodies” on the Triad Podcast Network. triadpodcast.com

Wanna go? Trade Street Diner is located at 529 North Trade Street, Winston-Salem. tradestreetdinerws.com  Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, Brunch and dinner on Sunday.

Get your tickets to our next Chef’s Table!

Hi, foodies! I wanted to let you know we have another Chef’s Table coming up in a little over two weeks. Get your tickets ASAP as they will go fast. As of this posting, we have 7 tickets remaining.  We’re headed back to Winston-Salem this time to one of my new favorite restaurants, Trade Street Diner.  Here’s the Eventbrite listing. Get tickets here. 

We’re back and so ready to spring into a colorful and vibrant season of Chef’s Tables featuring the area’s most talented chefs. This month, we’re so excited to be headed back to Winston-Salem where Chef’s Freddy Lee and John Tharp and their team at Trade Street Diner will tantalize our tastebuds with multiple courses.

Roasted Pork & Crispy Head

You know Chef Lee as chef at the renowned Bernardin’s at the Zevely House in the West End as well as his partnership at Cowboy Braziilian Steakhouse and Bleu.  Chef Tharp’s restaurant, Towne Centre Diner, in Wallburg, has been called a hidden treasure. If you’ve been to either of these restaurants, then you know the talent these two chefs possess. They’ve partnered up to bring us yet another wonderful eatery in downtown Winston-Salem.

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Trade Street Diner blazed on the scene in 2017 and Freddy and John have wowed their guests with their creative take on diner-inspired ingredients with a creative twist. And seriously, that truffled salmon with mushrooms pictured above is the BEST salmon I’ve ever eaten. Read about our experience at Trade Street Diner in my review for YES! Weekly.  We can’t wait for your to try what Freddy, John and their culinary team have planned. What’s on the menu? Well, that’s half the fun. We let the chefs surprise us.! What’s never a surprise is how much each Chef’s Table guest is delighted with the food and atmosphere as we fellowship together.

Here’s how it works:

Reserve with a ticket here and you’ll join us at our table on Tuesday, April 24 at 7:00. A reminder of our pricing: Your ticket price of $30 INCLUDES your multi-course dinner as well as tax and gratuity associated with the meal. Beverage (and gratuity for the purchase of beverages) are not included in the ticket price. Please take care of your server on any beverage service. Seating will be extremely limited.

We’ll see you on April 24!

** Follow us on Facebook for the latest details and get in on the chatter by tagging @tradestreetdiner and #triadfoodiesChefsTable on Facebook and Instagram.

Please notify me at Kristi@triadfoodies.com if you have any food sensitivity or if the chef needs to be aware of any concerns.

 

Foodie B’Eat: Chefs For Hire

This article was previously featured in my food column in YES! Weekly.  Be sure to check out YES! for the latest happenings around town. 

Sometimes you can take the chef away from restaurant kitchen but you can’t take the kitchen away from the chef.

Chefs for hire are becoming increasingly popular these days. It’s no longer a perk for celebrities or the wealthy. Today, it’s becoming more accessible than ever and for the skilled chef, quite ideal for those who don’t want to be burdened by restaurant hours. For the customer who can afford it, it provides a much-needed convenience, freeing you of all the prep and clean-up.

There’s a difference between a private chef and a personal chef.  A private chef works for a singular client, sometimes full-time and sometimes multiple meals a day. Some private chefs are hired for short spurts of time as well.  A personal chef may cook for several different clients in their homes, providing fully-cooked meals and meals prepped in advance. All work diligently to provide a service that is as budget-friendly as possible.

Lynn Wells, owner of Thyme Well Spent Personal Chef Services in Greensboro, is a personal chef. Wells worked for 21 years in the Nutrition Department at Moses Cone Hospital in various culinary management positions. She has multiple clients and travels to their home to prepare their meals. “Everything is prepared from scratch and cooked in the client’s home. Meals are packaged per my client’s request and stored either in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on their schedule, preference and freshness. I include heating instructions with all meals. I do the grocery shopping the morning of a cook day and often times go to more than one location to shop. I want to get the best and freshest ingredients and always buy local whenever possible.”  Wells says she certainly understands that the expense of hiring a personal chef can be a concern, but… “There is no doubt, this is a luxury service. My first client didn’t cook and she and her husband either ordered take out or ate out every night.  Within two weeks, she noticed a difference in savings. The most important difference was in flavor and how the food was prepared, fresh and made with love.” She adds, “The biggest savings that clients have commented on is they no longer have food going bad in the refrigerator. They would purchase fresh produce, vegetables and meats from the store or farmer’s market with the best intentions, then they get home and not want to cook it.”

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Chef Lynn Wells (photo cred: Todd Turner Photography)

Wells’ schedule now includes weekly clients, some once-a-month clients, biweekly, bimonthly, etc. “Everyone is scheduled in advance for the same day during the initial consultation. That ensures them consistency and it helps me plan my schedule.”  thymewellspentpersonalchef.com 

Darren Atkins of il Centro in Burlington started his private chef/full-service catering in September 2016 and last year opened a store front in Burlington to provide daily provisions like antipasti, salumi, fresh pasta and specialty Italian accoutrements with local North Carolina ingredients. He says, “It’s inspired by the alimentari or food stores/farm grocers all throughout Florence and Tuscany.”  Atkins provides a full-service private chef experience to your home or location.  “We definitely want to cater to the foodie. I am very hands-on with customers and committed to providing them with themes for dynamic experience.”  Budget depends on the client needs and is available to Burlington, Greensboro, High Point, Chapel Hill, Durham and possibly beyond.But And since meal prep and meals to go is becoming ever so popular, il Centro provides a Dinner Delivered series where customers can order from a weekly meal plan and have scratch-made dinners for two delivered to their door for $25. The store in Burlington is open Tuesday-Saturday 11:30-6:00.

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Chef Darren Atkins (photo courtesy of Atkins)

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Nikki Miller Ka, of Winston-Salem, has worked in numerous capacities as a chef. She says she started cooking for a family as a private chef in 2011, “It was literally a dream come true. It combined all my favorite things…planning, cooking, shopping and meeting people. I couldn’t believe my reputation preceded me and that these people wanted to pay me for to cook for them on a regular basis.” Miller-Ka says now, as a private chef, she enjoys being hired to chef a class or party per week. “Generally I cater small dinner parties and conduct private cooking classes in people’s homes.” A fee is set based on the number of guests for a cooking class or party. “I send out a menu of options for their event. I meet with the client for kitchen consultation so we can plan logistics and finalize the menu. Day of, I show up with complementary beer and/or wine, an apron, cutting board and knife for each participant during cooking classes.” And best yet, “I clean up. You get leftovers. I go home.” Miller-Ka also provides a grocery shopping service with 10+ recipes that clients can cook at home. niksnacksblog.com 

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Chef Nikki Miller-Ka (photo courtesty of Miller-Ka)

The newest chef-for-hire is popular chef Dion Sprenkle and his new Table ‘0, which offers a personalized in-home dining experience.  “The name comes from our most desired VIP table in the Chef Dion Sprenkle restaurant in Lexington that closed in 2016.”  Sprenkle says from that location, the customer could see him cooking in the kitchen and be close to the staff. “The guest felt like an instant family member and part of the action. The Table would be booked weeks in advance.” Sprenkle says since closing the restaurant, many of his fans missed his cuisine and having access to The Table.

“I decided to become a Chef for Hire with the help of my boss, my wife Jeanette.  She handles all marketing, decorations, set-up, and serves the meal.  Together we create a one-of-a-kind, personalized dining experience in our client’s home. It was primarily to connect with our friends, family and former restaurant customers. And now we create wonderful intimate menus for families, friends and sometimes for corporate gatherings.”

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Chef Dion Sprenkle  (photo courtesy of Sprenkle)

For most chefs for hire,  it’s the connection with her clients that keeps drives their passion. As Wells told me, “Being in someone’s home is very personal and sacred to me. This profession demands respect and I consider what I do an honor. It’s very humbling to have a family or individual put their trust in me to prepare fresh meals that will make their lives easier, less stressful and most importantly, provide them more time to spend on more important things other than meal planning, shopping, and cooking. There is a connection that happens where I learn about their lives, their habits, and why they’ve sought someone to cook for them.” Wells adds that she hopes the experience for her clients goes beyond the convenience, and hopefully deliciousness, of it all.  “I live, eat, and breathe food. Everything I learn, I try to pass on to my clients in some form or fashion. If anything, it recharges my battery to do what I do. I want meal time to be a pleasant experience for my clients and this career gives me an open canvass for my creativity and enthusiasm with food. This industry is an ever changing revolving door of opportunities and I can’t wait to see what’s next!”

Me neither, chefs! I think it’s so cool that you’ve found a way to do what you love on your own schedule.  Be sure to check one of these chefs out if you ever decide to treat yourself and your family. I’ve found that after I’ve shopped and prepped for a dinner at my house for a large group, I could’ve almost hired someone to do the work for me.

Have you ever hired a chef?