Spotlight Sunday… Greener Partners

This week we talked about the work we do in our lives, and the legacy that we leave behind. Some people, projects and organizations we come across serve as examples to us of the kind of legacy we feel make the world a better place. This Sunday we are able to spotlight one such example… Greener Partners

What is Greener Partners?
Greener Partners is a registered 501(c) non-profit organization.

What is the mission of Greener Partners?
Greener Partners connects communities through food, farms, and education.
Through our projects and programs we seek to increase and strengthen public access to fresh, seasonal and local food.
Train new farmers in resilient farming techniques and to achieve success in the growing local food economy.
Educate people of all ages about the origins of their food and empower them to create healthy communities.

What exactly does Greener Partners do, how do they accomplish that?
At Greener Partners, we believe local food is the best kind — where those who eat it feel connection to the soil it’s grown in and the people who cultivate it. In imagining a better food system, Greener Partners operates community Farm Hubs as resources for local produce and for education — as well as inspiration — about food and farming. Our farmers grow vegetables, herbs and fruit for our own Farm Market, Community Supported Agriculture members and to sell at area farmers’ markets. Our education programs engage kids, both on our farms and in area schools, through programs like The SOL Food Project and Farm field trips. To cross generations, we offer workshops for adults and families on the “lost arts” of our agricultural and cultural past that still are relevant and useful in our lives today.
With a diverse range of projects throughout the Philadelphia region, we seek to make local food accessible by offering multiple ways of experiencing fresh, local food in our communities. Through our First Generation Farmer Program we are training the next generation of farmers to possess diverse skills for cultivating a better food system.

farmexplorerThis is Greener Partners Farm Explorer truck. We have two trucks which travel more than 6500 miles each year to over 60 schools in the Philadelphia region, bursting with fresh vegetables for the kids to harvest, smell, touch and taste

greenerpartners

This is Longview Farm in Collegeville, where we grow food for about 300 families in a local subscription form (CSA) as well as for our education programs and for donation to food banks. Our two farms have provided more than 8000 pounds of fresh produce this year to low-income families. Longview Farm has a market open to the public and is just wrapping up a stellar apple picking season

For more information about the Greener Partners team, their partners, projects, or upcoming events you can visit http://www.greenerpartners.org

You can also find Greener Partners on Facebook and Instagram.

Greener Partners also has a blog you can read here.

‘Reader’s Best of Philly’ 2015 Edition

bestofpollHey friends! Whether local or reading from afar, we trust that some of you are probably familiar with Philadelphia Magazine. Every year, Philadelphia Magazine does its Best of Philly issue. Packed with the top choices in categories ranging from Best Playground to Best Beer Selection, it has become a go to guide for visitors and locals, and a coveted prize among local businesses and business owners.
This week One Unified will be doing our very own version of Best of Philly 2015! Yes, we were Inspired by Philadelphia Magazine’s annual rankings, but most of all we were inspired by you! We love you. We trust you. And we want to hear what you have to say. So, we’re giving One Unified readers a chance to have your voices (and choices) heard. Tomorrow (Tuesday August 18th, 2015) we’ll roll out 2 ballots where you can make your selections from a list of potential winners, or you can add in your own favorite, should we neglect to mention it (we’re ever so sorry!)
You’ll get to cast your votes all week long as we prepare to crown our Philly faves, in everything from museums to munchies. Don’t miss the opportunity to tell us where we can score the best cheesesteak in town (Everyone knows it’s Pats. No, it’s Gino’s! No way, it’s Jim’s….)
So be on the lookout for those links to vote starting tomorrow! You can find them here on our home page or on our Facebook page. Don’t let us make our list without you. Be a part of the first annual One Unified reader’s Best of Philly!

Today’s Delicious Summer Poll

Best of the Best: Leneghan’s Crusader Inn

Originally posted on December 4, 2014 as part of our spotlight on local small businesses, our story about Leneghan’s Crusader Inn, and interview with Patty Leneghan, was the 6th most viewed post we have published. Check it out along with all of the other small businesses in our archives here.

Open for Business: Leneghan’s Crusader Inn

Our week-long spotlight on local businesses continues today with Patty Leneghan of Leneghan’s Crusader Inn. All that holiday shopping can be exhausting! You need a place to recover with a bite to eat and a drink! Come check out this local staple. And in case you missed it, see our interviews with our previously highlighted businesses Pat’s Music and Infinity Jewelers (both of Mayfair).

lennies3HOW LONG HAS LENEGHANS BEEN IN BUSINESS?
“Since 1994 here on Frankford Ave., 1992 on Red Lion rd (Sandmeyer Ln.) and 1987 on Frankford ave. (relocated to Tyson and Brous).”

ARE YOU THE PROPRIETOR OF ALL 3 LOCATIONS?
“No, just this one. My father in law had started the business when he came over from Ireland. He worked at a few bars and saved up enough money and bought his first bar. So he had the boys working for them and then the boys went out on their own and bought Red Lion Rd. and then this place. Then they separated in ’96, me and Tony got this place, Kevin and Maureen got Red Lion rd. And the other brother is out of the business now.”

THAT’S PRETTY COOL TO STILL HAVE A FAMILY BUSINESS, LET ALONE A CHAIN!
“Yeah, we’re still around and he’s (father-in-law) still around!”

WHAT DO YOU THINK KEEPS YOU IN BUSINESS?
“I think we have a lot of loyal customers that have been around for a long time. Some customers that come in here have been here since we opened the doors 20 years ago. I think that really helps. Although the neighborhood is changing, we still have a good group of people who still keep us afloat.”

lennies2WHAT OBSTACLES WOULD YOU SAY YOU’VE HAD OVER THE YEARS?
“Just the change in clientele, the neighborhood. We’ve pretty much had a lot of the same employees. Employees that have worked for us for a long time. We don’t go through a lot of them. So, yes, the biggest obstacle is the neighborhood.”

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE THAT WAS LOOKING TO START THE SAME TYPE OF BUSINESS?
“Buy outside of the city of Philadelphia. They’re tough with the taxes. Like, they charge a 10% tax on every drink that’s supposed to go to the school district. Which we know it’s not going there. That’s our profit there, it would be our profit, but now we pay it out. The bar business isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago, even 10 years ago.”

TAXES GOING TO THE SCHOOL DISTRICT? REALLY!? THAT’S WORKED OUT WELL.
“Yeah, that’s what we have fought for a lot of years. We could never get any answers. And then it ended up costing all of us bar owners so much money to keep fighting it, we stopped and just started paying (the tax).”

DO YOU RUN ANY SPECIALS?
“We do run specials at certain times. $2 shots of wild turkey, $1 Jell-O shots. We always have $.80 PBR mugs.

*ANY SPECIALS FOR ONE UNIFIED READERS?*
“Anyone that mentions One, Unified will get a free drink (good one time only).”

LASTLY, WHY DO YOU THINK YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE SO LOYAL?
“I think because my employees are very good and because they like me and my husband. They’ve gotten to know us over the years. The customers will even rat on some of the employees. That’s gotta say something. I think we’re like one big family. It’s a family atmosphere. Some people don’t have that at home. It’s kind of nice that you get it here.”

Leneghan’s Crusader Inn is located at:
7412 Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19136
Visit them on Facebook at Leneghans Crusader Inn

lennies1

*The free drink offer mentioned in the article was part of our original post from December 2014 and no longer applies*

A Would-be Cupcake Queen Slows Down to Spend More Time Being a Mom.

cupcakesWHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING?
I work in human resources.

AND YOU LIKE TO COOK?
I’d say it’s a hobby or an interest of mine, yes.

WHEN DID YOU START COOKING?
I’ve been around the kitchen my whole life with my grandmother. When I was a kid I used to watch cooking shows instead of Saturday morning cartoons.

WAS IT YOUR GRANDMOTHER WHO TAUGHT YOU TO COOK?
Yes, my grandmother. she used to say “I’m not always going to be around; someone in this family needs to learn this stuff”

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING THAT SHE WOULD MAKE?
Pizelles

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING THAT YOU MAKE?
In general I usually revert to Italian food, but I like trying new recipes and techniques pretty often. I enjoy going to a restaurant and eating and then trying to recreate it at home.

cupcakes2maureencupcakes3WHAT’S SOMETHING YOU’RE ALWAYS ASKED TO MAKE?
From my husband: baked ziti or taco dip (he’s not a fancy guy). From everyone else: cupcakes (or more specifically, my frosting). I bake!

SPEAKING OF BAKING, YOUR CUPCAKES ARE SOMETHING OF A LEGEND, DO FAMILY AND FRIENDS ALWAYS ASK YOU TO BAKE FOR BIRTHDAY PARTIES AND SUCH?
I used to be the baker, but my oven is older than dirt so I don’t do it as much as I’d like

DO YOU HAVE A WEBSITE OR BLOG OR ANYTHING FOR YOUR BAKED GOODS?
I used to but not anymore! Too time consuming. The toddler life doesn’t lend well to that.
(Maureen used to have a blog called The Devil Wears Pastry and a page called Cupcakes by Maureen!)

maureen2DO YOU HAVE ANY ASPIRATIONS FOR A FULL TIME CAREER CHANGE INTO SOMETHING HANDS ON IN THE CULINARY ARENA SOMEDAY?
I used to, but I don’t want the hours. I work in staffing in the food business, so hiring chefs is good enough for me!

WHAT ABOUT A COMPETITION SHOW? LIKE CUPCAKE WARS OR CHOPPED OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
Nothing on Food Network. I used to love Food Network, but now it’s too gimmicky and not as challenging. I don’t want to watch someone open a bunch of cans and call it dinner; I can do that myself.

WHAT ABOUT A COMPETITION THAT’S NOT ON TV LIKE , THE PILLSBURY BAKEOFF OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
Possibly, but again time is never on my side!

maureen1YOU COMPILED ALL OF YOUR GRANDMOM’S OLD RECIPES AND HAD IT MADE INTO A COOKBOOK. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DO THAT?
I thought it would be nice for us to have one place to be our go-to for Grandma’s best recipes. We don’t have a lot of them, might as well keep them together.

SO ARE YOU GOING TO SHARE ANY OF THE HER SECRETS WITH US? TELL US WHAT’S IN THOSE PIZELLES THAT MAKES THEM SO SPECIAL?
If I told you, I’d have to kill you! They’re just between me and her. Who says I didn’t leave out an ingredient or two? (Sorry, ma!)

GRANDMOM’S PIZELLE RECIPE:
(Makes about 100 cookies and you need a pizelle iron to make them the correct way)
12 eggs beaten
3 cups of white sugar
6 sticks of butter or margarine
6 cups of flour
4 Tsp of baking powder
2 Tsp of vanilla extract
1 small bottle of anise extract.
(If you wish to use anisette liqueur, substitute 1-2 tbsps of liquor for every tsp of anise extract)

Mix the ingredients in above order, eggs first until fluffy. Sugar and margarine. Add flour and baking powder in slowly. Vanilla and anise last. Use iron to form and bake the cookies. Don’t burn them!

O’Boy Organic: Helping Families Get a Healthy Organic Start.

TrinaO'BoyleGrowing up in Michigan, this blogger and business owner traded in a childhood of comfort food classics to build a business and lifestyle brand based on light, healthy, organic fare for the whole family.

WHAT IS IT THAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING?
I provide cooking classes for parents and children. I’m a jack of all trades really. I do the classes, and I offer a personal baby chef service as well.

WHAT EXACTLY IS A BABY CHEF SERVICE?
If you are a parent who wants to feed your baby the best homemade food possible but might not have the time to do it yourself, you can hire me and I do it for you. Everything made is organic, in season, and prepared just for that particular client.

AND WHAT IS THE NAME OF YOUR BUSINESS?
O’Boy Organic.

CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ORGANIC FOOD?
I’ve been into healthy food and healthy eating since I was about 18. I started out just not eating red meat. Then we moved from Michigan to South Florida. Living in Michigan we didn’t have the means, or just didn’t really know about eating healthier. We never really had a meal that didn’t have some kind of meat protein. But then when I moved, I wound up living with a girl who was vegetarian, and she showed me different recipes and ways to eat better, and I stopped eating meat altogether when I was 25. I always liked knowing where my food came from. I liked reading books about food and where it came from, and about our food system, and the treatment of animals and things like that.

SO AS A KID GROWING UP IN MICHIGAN WHAT WAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD LIKE? WHAT MEMORIES DO YOU HAVE OF FOOD AS A KID?
I grew up in a house where my mom cooked basically every meal during the week. We would have themes. A pasta night, a casserole night, taco night, you know, nothing fancy. We never had anything out of the ordinary really, always a meat, a starch, a vegetable, that type of meal. My dad’s mom, my grandmom, was Polish and we would go to her house and she would always have like a 7 course meal waiting for you every time you went over. We laugh about it now, but we used to say, if you weren’t stuffed and drunk by the time you left there, there was a problem. She’d stuff us with food, and you’d leave with food. My dad learned from his mother and he’d make us some of our more interesting meals on the weekends. He’d experiment and play around with food a little more. I think that’s where I learned how to cook. I think that’s where my love of food began, helping my grandmom, being in the kitchen making stuff like peirogies, and then helping my dad in the kitchen.

SO WAS THERE SOMETHING IN PARTICULAR THAT HAPPENED FOR YOU TO MAKE THAT SWITCH FROM THOSE RICH COMFORT FOODS, THOSE POLISH STAPLES, TO THE LIGHTER, MORE NATURAL ORGANIC FARE THAT YOU COOK WITH TODAY?
In high school there was movie that we watched, a documentary, it was about the food system, about how animals were treated. Something about it just spoke to me and I thought, “how could this be happening?” And I found myself thinking that I couldn’t be a part of that. And I started reading more about those things. Then after high school I really started to educate myself and that’s really where my journey began- into eating healthier and learning where my food comes from.

YOU’RE MARRIED WITH 2 CHILDREN, CORRECT?
Yes. Two children. Two boys. Ages 9 and 7. They were both born on the same day, that’s a little fun fact.

SO I GUESS THE KIDS ARE ACCUSTOMED TO EATING THIS WAY. I ASSUME THEY WERE BROUGHT UP WITH A HEALTHY ORGANIC COOKING AND EATING LIFESTYLE?
They have. It was nice because when I met my husband, he was eating poultry, but he was already not eating red meat and he was into eating healthier food and was experimenting with a different type of eating lifestyle. So he was very supportive when I’d make something like lentil loaf instead of meat loaf. And so it was just a kind of natural progression for me. Obviously I feel like if I am eating healthy as an adult, then we want our kids to be eating healthy too. From the beginning I knew I wanted my babies to have good organic food. Someone had given me a care package and it had organic baby food in it. Back then the only organic baby food was the jars of Earth’s Best. So we gave it a try. When he started eating it, of course I wanted to taste it, to try what he was eating. So, I think it was bananas he had, and I tried it and it didn’t even really taste like a banana. It didn’t look like what a nice ripe banana would look like if it was mashed. I tried something else, peas I think, and it just didn’t taste like fresh food. So I decided I was just going to make my own food. I went to the bookstore and did a bunch of research on it. I found this amazing book called ‘The Super Baby Food Book’, and it really became my bible. I loved it. I was teaching full-time then, so on a Saturday or Sunday I would spend a couple of hours getting organic food and making it. I’d go the farmer’s market or Whole Foods. Back then most conventional markets didn’t really have organics, so you really needed to go to a specialty store or farmers market to get your fruits and vegetables. But I’d go and get it and spend a couple of hours in the kitchen, I’d make it and freeze it little cubes, and it was really perfect.

SO HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA TO TURN THAT INTO A BUSINESS?
Well, after moving to the Philadelphia area, I stopped teaching and I was a stay at home mom with my two boys. For about a year and a half, I was just raising them. I wasn’t really doing anything else outside the home. A friend of mine was working for an organic food company in New York City, doing grassroots marketing in the Philly area. She didn’t want to do it anymore and she thought I’d be perfect for it. So, I started working for them. I was doing basic promotions and sales, and as that job progressed I started doing cooking classes for them, developing recipes and eventually online marketing for that company. Throughout that time my skill set became more of a marketer than a teacher. But I still had that teaching background, that background in education. My husband and a friend of ours kind of pushed me into it. They told me I was doing all these great things for this one company and maybe I should really start doing it for myself. So that’s where the idea of going into business for myself came from, and the idea for O’Boy Organic.

WHAT TYPE OF SERVICES DOES O’ BOY ORGANIC PROVIDE AND IF SOMEONE WERE INTERESTED IN YOUR SERVICES WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST WAY TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU FOR THAT?
Well I have a website, http://www.oboyorganic.com, and all of my contact information is there. I’m on social media. All of my social media is on there. Basically, if you are on our website you can click through and see what we do. It’s really easy, very self-explanatory. It gives a description of each of the services that I provide. From kid’s cooking classes, parties for kids, parent classes, personal baby chef services, they can get in touch with me by phone or email with any questions and I can further explain the services, and we can find out how I can help them.

WHERE ARE YOU BASED OUT OF?
Drexel Hill, PA. Which is right outside of Philadelphia.

YOUR KIDS ARE 7 AND 9. IS THERE A ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY ON JUNK FOOD IN YOUR HOUSE?
No, there isn’t. I mean it’s very rare. If we’re going to have junk food (except now because my husband just bought 5 boxes of Girl Scout cookies) it doesn’t happen very often, and it’s always in moderation. If they want cookies or they’re looking for something sweet, I’ll make it myself for the most part.

SO DO YOUR KIDS EVER COME HOME AND SAY STUFF LIKE, “JOHNNY HAD DORITOS TODAY, WHY CANT I HAVE DORITOS?”
Absolutely. They say that a lot. It happens. Usually it’s with my oldest, who has said something just like that (with Doritos) actually. I said to him, “look I have something that is a better alternative and it tastes juts like Doritos, so we’ll buy it and you can try it.” He tried it and said, “you know you’re right Mom, this does taste like Doritos.” So, I just let him know that it can taste good but it does’t have all of the junk in it. My oldest now asks a lot of questions and he’ll ask me, “well, what is the junk that you don’t want me to have?” And I’ll go over it with him, over the artificial colors, and the preservatives, and what’s in it and I’ll explain to him why I don’t want them to have it. I’ll take him with me to the grocery store and let him make choices, I’ll let him pick things that he wants, but things that I approve of. We read labels, he knows what to look for. Cereal for example, I’ll tell them they can pick out their own cereal, but it can only have so many grams of sugar. So they’ll look at the boxes and see what they have to choose from and come up with something. They’re really good with it. But they’ve grown up with it. It’s not like something I am suddenly changing on them. They’ve had it like this since day one. But, they do get treats. On Sunday, my older son was my assistant for a cooking class and we were driving past a Rita’s (Water Ice) and he asked if we could get one. So, I told him if it was still open when we were done, we’d go and get one as a treat for him being my assistant. And we did, and it was open. We both got a Rita’s and it was a nice little date for us. It was special. I mean he doesn’t get that all the time, but I’m not one to say no all the time either.

DO YOU THINK THERE’S A BACKLASH TO THAT? DO YOU THINK WHEN THEY ARE OLD ENOUGH TO REALLY MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES THEY’RE JUST GONNA GO JUNK FOOD CRAZY? OR DO YOU THINK THAT YOU’VE IMPARTED ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE TO THEM THAT THEY WILL MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION BASED ON WHAT YOU’VE TAUGHT THEM ABOUT FOOD?
I hope so. I think when they’re not with mom and dad, they’re always going to try to do stuff that they know mom and dad might not approve of. They just had a Valentine’s Day party at school and my one son ate a lot of junk food. He came home and said, “my stomach hurts.” He felt really sick for a long time. Suddenly he was very aware of why he was feeling like that. I told him it was okay once in a while, but understand that if you eat too much of it, this is what it is going to do to your body. I think too as they get older and the more they learn and understand, they will be more likely to be healthy eaters and want those healthier foods.

I FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO ASK YOU, GIVEN WHAT YOU DO AND ALL OF THIS TALK ABOUT HEALTHY FOOD, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON GMO’S AND THE LABELING OF GMO’S? (GMO stands for genetically modified organism. It is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food.)
I KNOW IT IS A VERY CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE RIGHT NOW.
I feel like we have a right to know what’s in our food. I feel like it’s my job, if someone doesn’t know, to educate them about it. That’s one reason I started the O’Boy Organic blog. I feel like if I can have a voice, and share information than I can educate others about it. Education is so important. If you don’t know about it, about what it does, and what’s in our food system, you can’t do anything about it. It’s astonishing what we put into our bodies. Some companies, General Mills for example, will make different foods for different companies and they’ll leave out certain ingredients. But they don’t do that for the United States. In other countries it’s labeled when it has GMO ingredients, but in this country we don’t do that (label). I think it’s a power issue, a political issue, a money issue. A lot of people make a lot of money from those things. Thanks to this grassroots movement over the last few years, we’re just starting to hear more about it and you’re seeing more about it. Then also people are buying more organic foods now. They’re not going to McDonald’s, and to other fast food places as much. Profits are being lost by those places because people want to know what’s in their food and they want what is best for their family.

SO WHAT DO YOU SAY TO ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO SAY THEY’D LIKE TO MAKE THESE CHANGES BUT FEEL THEY CAN’T BECAUSE IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE?
I tell them that if they do certain things, they can definitely afford it. We’re a family of 4 and I’d say 95% of our food is organic and our weekly budget is $150.00. We pretty much stay within that budget. It’s mainly because of menu planning. So I give people suggestions like that. We use real food. We avoid pre-packaged food. It’s more expensive because you’re paying for the convenience. I tell them to use what you have first. Use what is in your house to plan your menus and you’ll save money that way. Now, most conventional grocery stores (mine is Giant), all have their own brand of organics and it’s cheaper. You can go to places like Costco to get your meats in bulk. You need to look at what you’re buying and how you’re feeding your family on a weekly basis. It can be done.

DO YOU HAVE A RECIPE THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS? MAYBE SOMETHING TRADITIONAL THAT YOU’VE BEEN ABLE TO PUT A HEALTHY SPIN ON?
Here’s a link to an easy printable recipe for a healthy rice krispie treat makeover: Rice Krispie Treats You can see more about what Trina does and the services her company offers at www.oboyorganic.com

Food That Rocks: A Love of Food Turns Into a Career Feeding Some of Your Favorite Recording Artists

 

imageWe’re talking about food and cooking and you have a great love of cooking. When did you first start loving it?
I have always loved food. I never grew up being taught how to cook. One of my earliest jobs was at a hoagie spot. So having the opportunity to be creative in what I made for myself is probably when I found out I could make what I enjoy the most.

Do you cook for a living?
Yes, I have gotten back into the food business after a long hiatus. I currently do some work with a catering company whose largest customer is a local concert promoter. We cook for many tours that come through our city.

That must be fun! What does that entail?
Well we feed the people traveling with the artists. We also feed local crews that do not travel with the tour. We are responsible for having breakfast up and ready to go when the first trucks start to pull into the venue. We provide a dining room with a buffet line. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is provided for all that are associated with the tour. We are responsible for filling all the requests that are listed in the typical tour rider. Our head chef sends a menu to the tour several days prior to a show to be reviewed. They will approve the menu and provide us with special dietary needs of any tour personnel. My primary role, as one of the chefs, is to cook all the items for the buffet lines. We also provide meals for the artists as well. It is rare for the artists to eat in the dining room with all the rest of the background musicians/dancers and other tour personnel. Most commonly we are instructed to provide a special meal at a specific time. Our Dressing room coordinator is most commonly the person that speaks directly with the tour manager and assistants to have all the small details worked out. As the catering company we’re generally first in and last out. Our job is not finished until the last bus and truck is loaded and on to the next stop. The job is fun. But it is also very, very long day. There is one aspect that is a constant and that is you can always expect something to change during the course of the day. As much as you try to set a plan in action, you know that a curveball of some kind is on the horizon. That’s part of what makes the job so fun at times but equally as stressful at other times. There is nothing like a day winding down and knowing that it has been a success. That feeling at the end of the night as I catch a song or two on the way out and I see nothing but smiles on all the faces. The crowd into the show. The bands performing. That guy who was super nice at the carving station who turns out to be the drummer or the sax player or something like that. Those times are some of the best times. And the long hours and travel could not happen without the loving support of my wife.

imageDo you get to get creative when cooking for artists or the people associated with the tour, that you’re feeding? Do you have to follow specific recipes?
Cooking by nature, in my mind, is creative. When given enough time, we certainly let the creativity fly. Most artists want basic food more often than not. The most common dish we are asked to make is plain old grilled chicken. I can’t say I blame them. They are under tremendous pressure to put on a top-notch performance.
As for recipes, once the head chef makes up the menu and it is approved by the tour, we go about putting those dishes together. The dishes don’t have to be the exact, same from night to night as most restaurants. We have a dish to make and our goal is to make everyone that we make that night look and taste great.

Beings that you work with feeding people, do you enjoy cooking when you’re not working?
I enjoy cooking. There are nights that I don’t enjoy cooking, and on those nights we order pizza or cheesesteaks or some of the typical things we all order when we don’t feel like cooking. What I enjoy is going into a Farmers Market and letting the ingredients call out to me. Most times I am making dinner at home, I end up doing it on the fly. I rarely go food shopping, planning meals out way in advance. If I get a craving for something I would rather fulfill that craving then say, put it on the shopping list for next week or whatever.

Is there favorite thing you like to make?
I really enjoy grilling. When we are cooking for the tours that come through, there are times I could be grilling for hours upon hours. What I really enjoy is the pace we work. Our day is a series of deadlines on show days.
I can remember a day, during one of the larger festivals we do, where we planned on serving 165 for lunch, 30 mins in, we were told that the number was incorrect. 250 was now our new total for lunch. When it was all said and done we ended up serving 341. The team was rushing like mad to procure ingredients to make it happen. So we made it through the lunch rush that was literally several hours long. We look up at the clock and lo and behold its 3:45, dinner is due up at 5. We look at each other and realize we have nothing to show for dinner. Those type of deadlines are part of what makes this kind of work so exhilarating for me. So going back to the recipe question. Auto pilot takes over. We get tons of compliments from the tours that come through. They say we have some of the best catering around. I cannot compare what we do with the other catering companies, but I know we put a herculean effort together to put together a product to be proud of.
But at home I enjoy making lasagna and I make a mean banana bread (recipe for banana bread shared below).

Banana bread recipe:
Be sure to use very ripe bananas in this recipe even black bananas are fine. The more ripe the bananas are the sweeter the bread will be.
I will usually use a loaf pan that is 8.5 x 4.5″

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda1/2 teaspoon of salt
6 large very ripe bananas (peeled)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts toasted and chopped coarse. (pecans work well too)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray pan with vegetable oil spray. Whisk flour baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.

2. Place five bananas in separate bowl, cover tightly, and microwave until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about five minutes. Transfer bananas to a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. (you should have 1/2 to 3/4 cup liquid).

3. Transfer liquid to medium sauce pan and cook over medium high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about five minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher into mostly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4. Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients and stir until just combined, with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape the batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into 1/4 inch thick slices.  Shingle banana slices on top of loaf in two rows, leaving 1-1/2 inch wide space down center to ensure and even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55-75 minutes. Let loaf cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and let cool for one hour before serving.
image