Food Traveler Magazine Winter 2016 - Page 102

hard, but good lord do we have a good time doing what we do. Every work day is literally living the dream for me. FT: Out of all of the places you’ve traveled to on the show so far, which place stuck out the most? Why? AK: GOOD QUESTION! It’s so hard to single one out, but there is a place that always comes to mind first when this type of question is presented: Luella’s Southern Kitchen in Chicago. Yes, it was some of the best soul food I have ever had and yes, Chef Darnell Reed’s culinary training helped give the right polish to those ubiquitous fried dishes we know all too well. But it was Darnell’s story that got me. He was the first person in his family to graduate high school, and he first went into trade tech and then scored a cooking internship at the Palmer House, and then from there went to culinary 100 FoodTraveler l Winter 2016 school. It all happened because the right people saw his potential and kept pushing him forward. When he recalls an instructor from culinary school, it is with a sincere reverence. He is more appreciative than your typical foodie fan boy dreaming to be a chef. Maybe it’s because the chips he had stacked against him growing up in the Southside of Chicago, that he had a whole different point of view on what it means to “make it.” And this dude has made it. He has triumphed. FT: How much do local ingredients matter to you? What is the benefit of having a meal that is truly made fresh? AK: Flavor is what matters. Tasting the experience of “farm to table” or “eating local” is what matters. As consumers, it is easy to get caught up in labels. I think it’s important to understand where your food comes from, why it costs what it does and most important - taste and compare supermarket foods and farmer’s market foods. Appreciate what is behind the word “local.” The other day I was at a fancy supermarket that I go to occasionally for select foods and I bought some local tomatoes grown in Marfa, Texas. That night I made some of the best burgers ever. Now those tomatoes aren’t available year round and even if they were, I couldn’t afford them all the time. But I will make the effort to get them when I feel like making special burgers. And that kind of recognition is important to me. But eating kobe beef and tomatoes grown by hipster farmers in Brooklyn every day? Maybe in the next life.