This past weekend, we had the real treat of hosting James Beard and IACP award winning authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg in three shop locations in three separate cities. Described a decade ago as “the brightest young author team on the culinary scene today” (NPR) and subsequently as “culinary historians,” “cultural anthropologists” and even “the Jane Goodalls of the chef world” (Food & Wine Radio Network) for chronicling the contemporary food revolution and the advent of today’s era of celebrity chefs, Dornenburg and Page have been characterized as “incisive, hip” (Publishers Weekly) writers whose books are “extremely popular among, and indeed essential to, professional chefs” (WOR Radio).
We had ample opportunity to chat with the authors about a variety of subjects. We lamented the passing of time and the fact that Julia Child, once the brightest of stars in the culinary world, was not the same icon to the current generation as she was to ours. However, Karen and Andrew themselves serve as mentors to many of the current generation. In many ways they serve a parallel role to this generation that Julia did to older generations. They inspire, they help people figure out flavors, they teach, guide and encourage aspiring chefs to follow their dreams and to be creative. In this manner we think of them as almost a version of Julia Child, of course a younger version! Our Geneva neighbor chef, Jeremy Lycan , of the three star restaurant Niche , supported that concept when he told us their book, Culinary Artistry, was his inspiration. He was almost star struck when we brought them over to his restaurant after our event.
Our first event, held in Milwaukee on Thursday evening, was a smashing success. Very few of the authors that regularly pass through Chicago have any interest in making the short jaunt to Milwaukee, so we were extremely please that Karen and Andrew were amenable. Obviously Milwaukee is a small town that can’t compare to the big cities like New York and Chicago in depth of four star or ethnic restaurants but we have a bevy of talented chefs and foodies in our town. We begged our customers to prove us “culinary worthy” and they did us proud. We even ran out of their latest book The Flavor Bible because my partner did not foresee us selling that many books in Milwaukee. (We had lots more books back in Chicago!) Thank you to the Milwaukee Public Market for hosting us and Jill Nickerson and her staff of terrific culinary student volunteers for their delicious tastings.
On Friday, our Old Town shop had over 120 folks signed up, which is frightening, considering the size of our shop! Our own Spice House chefs, Tracy Turoczy and Kevin Bozis put together an astonishing array of flavors in the spirit of the Flavor Bible. Parsnip apple soup with apple chips and Ceylon cinnamon infused oil. Pumpkin pesto??! Lot of other great dishes. Our French Pastry school Graduate prepared all of our sweet dishes, including a fantastic anniversary cake for the Geneva shop?s one year anniversary.
On Saturday Karen and Andrew started the day by speaking for our favorite foodie group, theCulinary Historians of Chicago . This was followed by their speaking engagement and luncheon for our favorite dining group, ChicaGourmets . After a traffic jam filled two hour ride, they arrived at Geneva. This shop had even gone so far as to pair different wines with each dish we were serving. Another great turnout for our authors. So as you can imagine any more time spent with us was probably overwhelming at this point but we dragged them down the street to Niche for just a quick appetizer and a celebratory glass of wine. It was so worth it to have a starry eyed crew take care of us. The chef told us the entire kitchen staff felt the same way about how much inspiration they derived from their books. We enjoyed the delicious complimentary soup the chef sent out, our salads and appetizers were fantastic. The crab cakes had an amazing sauce flavored with aleppo pepper. I believe when chefs are passionate about their craft, they can?t just let you go without serving you some of their highlights. Jeremy sent some delicious barbecue rubbed pork slices , beautifully and creatively spiced on a bed of cheese grits with apple-pickled red onion slaw and honey mulato chile sauce. We rolled back to the shop and bid Andrew and Karen farewell for now. I could not help but wonder if after this whole long weekend series of events, they now might have felt a lot more like the OLDER version of today’s Julia Child!
We thank Karen and Andrew for their time and their dedication to their craft. If you want to add some really inspired flavor pairings to your culinary repatoir, please pick up a copy of The Flavor Bible.