A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Chef John Foster: Aw, pumpkins already; seasons wane but summer’s vegetable variety will be missed

I saw my first pumpkin of the season in a neighbor’s front yard and the realization hit me that fall is coming. One of my farmers delivered an order to me this weekend with the warning that they would probably not have any more squash and zucchini this season. Sitting out on my porch this morning at 5 a.m. you could hear the clock tick, and the wheel slowly turn. Into one season and out of...

Chef John Foster: Slow down, stop, reset; embrace the career or walk away? As a chef, find the balance

There comes a time, in every school quarter, when the culinary students slow, and then stop. Some reset, some stagger through, and some never get started again. It’s the same thing in every school, but in a technical school such as culinary, it can mean the difference between embracing the career or walking away. Sometimes it’s the ability and the willingness to soldier on, to slog through the...

Chef John Foster: Trying all kinds of options for making the most of watermelon and cantaloupe

I’ve never been much for the watermelon, cantaloupe buzz. It starts to build this time of year, like the cicadas in my magnolia tree, but by most standards, it doesn’t last as long as most summer produce. People are passionate about it, and the advent of the melon season sure does stir people up. Don’t get me wrong, I do love watermelon and cantaloupe, mostly for the refreshing nature...

Chef John Foster: Peaches, peaches, peaches — grilled, roasted, baked poached (and fresh) are great

I blame it on the canned peaches of my childhood, the soft grey masses of syrupy, sugary fruit that tasted of metal and stale water. With the texture of dense, soggy bread and the viscosity of 10W40, there was an overwhelming feeling of queasiness every time I heard a can being opened and slid into a bowl, like a gator sliding back into the swamp. When my mother canned fresh peaches, the results were...

Chef John Foster: Some creative, tasty options for using all that basil you are growing in your garden

If your garden is like mine, your basil is at this point more of a bush than a plant! Mine started producing early and hasn’t let up. After a brief lull in the very hottest part of the late spring, I thought we might get burnt. But basil is incredibly resilient and like most near weeds it’s hard to kill. From the constant kitchen use at The Sage Rabbit to quarts of pesto for a menu item, you...

Chef John Foster: Revisiting the ‘incredible, edible egg;’ why they belong in balanced, healthy diet

It was at one time “the incredible edible egg,” a multi-purpose package of nutrition and energy. Capable of singlehandedly replacing everything you might choose for breakfast with a single magic bullet of goodness and light. This notion, of course, was ripe for a takedown, nothing could be this perfect. And so, like most icons it has suffered some setbacks over the years, going underground...

Chef John Foster: An amazing experience in Spain, enjoying the people, the scenery, the fantastic food

Spain, was mind-blowing, a trip of a lifetime for me. Prime location in the Basque region, two must-see locations in Bilbao and San Sebastian. From the Guggenheim Museum to the gilt-edged romanticism of a seaport city, it was in many ways eye-opening. It was also a much-needed break and an anniversary with the one person in the world who probably appreciated it more than I did: my wife of 30 years....

Chef John Foster: Seasons press on and so do chefs, the most creative are trained as craftsmen and artists

The sun turns over again and the seasons press on. It’s summer, officially on the 21st of June, but it felt like it on and off since April. The garden sensed it long ago, and some vegetables have just disappeared for the year, waiting until the weather, and the time is right again. Chefs move on as well, sometimes beating the bushes this time of year for the first of the summer vegetables to...

Chef John Foster: Bourdain’s sudden death a cause for self-reflection, his legacy filled with purpose

I’ve been asked several times in the last week to comment on the passing of Anthony Bourdain. The morning the news broke I was far too stunned to say anything, and as the week progressed and the tributes poured in, I struggled to find the words to adequately express myself. It was only after some serious self-reflection that I discovered the reason for my reticence; Chef Bourdain’s life...

Chef John Foster: ‘Convenience over quality’ debate mixes in cost, availability, and even climate

There are subtle changes this time of year, things dropping in and out without a lot of fanfare and hype. The speed at which some of these products go through the market is astonishing, and makes it that much more intimidating to try and buy and eat local. Just when I’m used to getting my asparagus, it’s gone from the market. It would be so much easier if it’s there when I need it....

Chef John Foster: It’s finals time for student chefs learning balance between risk-taking, technique

Practical finals are here, with students bent over their tables frantically working away on knife cuts, sauce work, and plate designs. This is when culinary school gets “real” for most of the kids, their first taste of trial under fire when they must make decisions that affect their grades. And believe me, grades are important to some because they determine ranking, scholarships and a...

Chef John Foster: Yummmm, nothing like fresh summer strawberries to tempt the tastebuds

The image of the strawberry, bright red, plump and glistening with morning dew permeates early summer like a beacon. It says welcome to the warm weather, the summer vacation of mind and body, a sigh of relief that the cold grey weather has finally gone. The first of many berries that will grace our tables this season it holds a place of dominance that few other fruits can. With the exception of the...

Chef John Foster: Summer deluge hits markets, take advantage while you can, especially asparagus

The spigots have been cranked wide open, and the summer deluge has begun to hit the markets and then my restaurant tables. Multiple items that were just a whisper last week arrive almost daily at my kitchen door and the loading dock of the school. Greens, fresh herbs, strawberries, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, leeks and green garlic are now all ably represented on menus around the city. If you’re...

Chef John Foster: Now serving local tomatoes, remarkably, and they are full of flavor and texture

It never ceases to amaze me when every spring for several years now, I’m serving local tomatoes in the same week that I’m planting tomatoes in my garden. Remarkable really when you think about how long our growing seasons have stretched, even in the last few years. While these tomatoes are not as full and ripe as the ones in July and August, they are a burst of color and a flavorful addition...

Chef John Foster: What chefs really want and what chefs get when they choose a culinary career

Imagine if you could, an empty table, clear of food, utensils, plates and napkins. A bare table made by hand, highly polished with light and dark swirls running through the reclaimed wood. Now shift gears to an empty prep table in a small intimate kitchen. Gleaming stainless steel, highly polished by years of prep work, wiping down and more prep work. Overhead lights that are just bright enough, and...

Chef John Foster: We love our pasta — in all forms, but we should try risotto for its versatility and taste

We love our pasta, in just about any conceivable way possible to serve it. It doesn’t even matter that for some pasta has become off limits as gluten allergies continue to rise. Those people seek out alternatives, whether it be rice noodles or sweet potato, even lentils! For those who don’t have to worry about gluten, the choices can be almost staggering and include all semolina, whole wheat,...

Chef John Foster: Mushrooms, mushrooms — so many ways to make them a special part of your meal

The dichotomy of mushrooms always presents an appealing dilemma to me. On the one hand, you have the reverential tones of the aficionados who adore the umami properties of the fungi. On the other, you have the person who innately fears the unknown quality of the plant and manifests that suspicion in their distaste for the texture and flavor of all but the tamest examples. How as a chef do you reconcile...

Chef John Foster: behold the elusive ramp; a kitchen delight that is here and gone in the blink of an eye

It’s quite possible that by the time this column is read, the subject of the column will be no longer available. As changeable as the spring weather, and as elusive as a sunny day in spring, the ramp is for a brief moment the most important food item of the new season. That last statement might be a bit of hyperbole, but in my kitchens, the arrival and departure of the ramp, within the space...

Chef John Foster: Hearts racing, patios open, weather warms; great time to be chef as tool box fills

It’s as if someone turned on the faucet and everything started to flow. In the space of one week, the farmers I deal with have doubled their offerings and opened my menu up to the possibility of transforming the seasons. Mushrooms, spinach, baby kale, green garlic, green onions, fresh herbs all practically non-existent a few weeks ago, now flooding into my kitchen along with the remnants of...

Chef John Foster: Appreciate the early spring crops, embrace mushrooms (nature’s sponges) of all kinds

Ramps, morels, fiddlehead ferns, if these items aren’t familiar to you, you need to get out more, literally! Nothing says spring quite like a big bunch of crisp, garlicky ramps, tossed in a pasta like broccoli rabe, but with a kick. Morels, those cone shaped sponges that elicit high emotion between mushroom foragers are the very model of a finicky spring vegetable, here today and gone the...