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.
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!
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.
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.
A selection of fresh fish sautéed scallops. It was a beauty. Fresh seafood lovers, this dish is for you.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.”
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?
To see this article in YES Weekly, click here. Featured in the 2/28 edition.
Something special happened on the evening of February 19. Gone was Valentine’s Day, but love was certainly in the air. The love of food and fellowship. Thus, the story of another Chef’s Table. This one, featuring Chef Chris Russell of B. Christopher’s Steakhouse. It could’ve been made special by the fact that the 40-seat dinner sold out in two days flat. It could’ve been made special by the fact that Chef Russell added four more seats that sold out in ten minutes to accommodate a waiting list. But what made it most memorable and extraordinary was the sheer delight in the camaraderie of Russell’s guests, some who’d never stepped foot in his restaurant. And that’s what Chef’s Tables are all about. To introduce you to a chef, get to know him or her a little better and to dive in and try a restaurant that maybe you just haven’t gotten around to yet. Oh, and it’s to also have a little fun. And by the chatter in the room, I feel pretty certain that folks were having a great time.
Established in 2000, B. Christopher’s American Steakhouse was a popular restaurant in Burlington and enjoyed business there for nearly 15 years before Russell relocated to downtown Greensboro four and a half years ago. I’d just eaten there for the first time last August and reviewed it here on Page 8 after a wonderful experience. It was then we all agreed that this steakhouse, which was about much more than just steak, was a natural fit for a Chef’s Table. Russell spent part of his growing up years in Burlington and attending Elon College before he began his culinary journey. He says his first love as a chef has been roasting and grilling proteins but he’s enjoyed and going in many other directions over his 30-year professional career. “Lately, I don’t think about what I cook or how I’m cooking necessarily, but why I’m cooking and putting this on a plate,” he says. Russell says today he’s taking a more artistic approach. “Not to be too serious about it because it is just nutrients that people need, but like any artist, I want people to see what I’m up to. Hopefully people will see the care in it, whether it’s the knife skills or vegetable cuts, the layers and depth of flavor. Our palates works in a linear way and a bite may catch you one way and by the time you finish the it may taste another way.”
Chef prepared four courses, each featuring a different key component from Shellfish to Sweet. Shout out to my girl, Ericca Smith for taking photos of the courses. She’s a great photog.
Citrus/ Thai chile / mango / ginger / rice vinegar / mint / oil
Grilled Pear Salad
Greens / pears / candied walnuts / blue cheese / mustard vinaigrette / caramelized onions / balsamic
45-day Dry Aged Ribeye
Horseradish potatoes / roasted roma tomatoes / foyot sauce
Flourless Chocolate Torte / raspberry coulis
Each course was thoughtfully prepared and I heard more than one person say that the salad was the best they’d ever had. I, for one, love a great steak. And Russell’s ribeye was simple, yet beautifully presented. I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever enjoyed a flourless chocolate torte, but our dessert that evening was very creamy and very rich and really delicious.
Speaking of his cooking style, Russell told me, “I like clean approachable ingredients that people are familiar with and I like to sneak in some that people aren’t and that’s also fun.” Russell’s approachability extends far beyond just his food in the kitchen. After welcoming the guests at the Chef’s Table and retreating to the kitchen to get some courses out, Russell made it a point to come out and speak to each guest, often taking a seat at their table to enjoy some conversation. Chef’s Table “alum” Meg Lohuis, of Greensboro said, “Not only was the food phenomenal, but it was awesome that Chris was as involved with the group as he was. It was great chatting with him. It really struck me how personable he was.”
Russell has also been a mentor for many young chefs in the area, most notably, Chef Kris Fuller of the widely regarded Crafted restaurants in Winston-Salem and Greensboro. “When I met her as a teenager, I knew she had more get up and go in her pinky than most people had in their entire body, so it’s wonderful what she’s done and today I get inspiration from her and she and her family are very good friends.” Fuller recalls the day she walked into his restaurant and he took her under his wing, “Chris and his brother Eric were so kind and patient with me as just a kid in high school trying to figure out if my passion for cooking meant that this should be my career path. I didn’t know it then, but I know now that my time with them was very important in me pursuing this career. And all these years later, it’s great to have had worked under them and to still have a relationship with Chris to this day.”
Russell says he considers it a great accomplishment that he has been able to serve as a mentor for many sous chefs and others in his restaurant that he’s seen leave to achieve their own dreams. “It is one of the greatest feelings that one can have, when you can mentor or inspire a person in a way that they go on and do great things. I want to take what I’ve learned and give that to someone else. It should be the natural way of the world, to pass on our knowledge so that others can move on and do better. I take a lot of pride in that.”
Wanna go? B. Christopher’s American Steakhouse is located at 201 North Elm Street, Greensboro. bchristophers.com