A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

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: 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: 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: 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...

Chef John Foster: Just a little delayed through a puff of white, but spring menu is within glorious sight

It was here for an instant, and then, “poof” in a puff of white it was gone again. Officially, spring is here, but just in the lower case, as we suffer snow, sleet and 30-degree temperatures. I shouldn’t be surprised, Phil did say six more weeks, so we should be close. It’s this time of year when my thoughts turn to menu changes and new products. Keeneland starts in several weeks,...

Chef John Foster: Get ready for your St. Patrick’s Day feast; here are some Irish cuisine options for you

It is time once again to turn our thoughts to green beer, soggy corned beef and cabbage, and dense soda bread. Not because we must, but because this is what generally represents the best (sic) of Irish cuisine. The best? Really? I can do almost no research and tell you this is absolutely not the case. Living for a short time in the late eighties, in the Irish section of the Bronx, I was introduced...

Chef John Foster: Great menu-planning comes down to one mantra — keep moving ahead with purpose

Moving ahead, always moving ahead, that way it’s hard for someone or something to catch you! It’s also the way most good kitchens function, whether at home or in a professional setting. There are restaurants that pride themselves on longevity, and within that formula, lies the strength of most successful businesses: consistency. But let me first say that consistency has broad interpretations...

Chef John Foster: ‘Greens time’ — spinach, kale a welcome addition to any meal, if timing is right

Greens are the subject of great debate this time of year. At the first sign of a thaw, or if the soil never really freezes, greens seem to pop up at will. Additionally, the sprout itself has become a sought-after item as kale and spinach sprouts are appearing on more menus as garnish and even highlights of healthy eating.  From the early spring to almost the depths of winter, greens...

Chef John Foster: Change is in the air — and the kitchen; thinking greens and noodle bowls

Don’t tell me that it hasn’t crossed your mind. Seventy degrees, light wind, warm sunshine, could it really be? For me it’s also a slight uptick in my correspondence with local growers. Seeds are being germinated, high tunnels and hot houses are being filled, all in preparation for the spring. But it’s being done with a sense of renewed optimism bordering on urgency,...

Chef John Foster: Enjoy a special night out of course, but make family dinner your favorite routine

I would call it a lazy Sunday, but there is work to do. Meals have to be planned, food shopped for, and dinners are cooked and put away. In an ideal world, where you’re busy all the time,it’s a no brainer to plan ahead. It does take some time, and energy to be this organized, but the alternative isn’t pretty or cheap. As much as I’d like you dining at The Sage...

Chef John Foster: The mighty parsnip, a versatile root vegetable that’s both healthy, and delicious

Behold, the mighty parsnip! No, wait, that’s not right. Consider the gentle parsnip…No still not the tone I want to set. People, eat your parsnips, not only are they good for you, they’re delicious! There, that’s the proper introduction to a very sticky subject; root vegetables in general, and the parsnip in particular. Last week it was beets, this week parsnips, sometimes...

Chef John Foster: Redemption of the beet — at least partially — still doesn’t put it in ‘sexy’ category . . .

Mention beets to a certain generation and you might get a knowing look of longing. A newer generation might stare quizzically at you, confused as to why you’re referencing their technology in the same sentence as roasting and slicing. The generation in between, my generation, will probably wrinkle their noses in disdain, bordering on disgust. We are the boiled beet generation, the...

Chef John Foster: Kentucky weather wavers but there’s plenty of winter to go, so here’s to eating right

It happens every winter, without fail. Kentucky January magically becomes Kentucky April with temperatures in the 60’s, high winds, and plenty of rain. Wait for it though, the ice season is right around the corner. I guess its Mother Nature’s way of getting people to look at their seed catalogs, thinking perhaps that they might be able to get some planting done in March! Please...

Chef John Foster: Cassoulet, a French dish from Toulouse region, is history lesson, memorable meal

Make no mistake about it, we are in the deep freeze, the darkest part of winter. There are no holiday parties and bell ringing in this month, only day after day of single digit temperatures, and snow days we will be making up well into June. It’s times like these that food becomes more than just sustenance, more than just a way to pack on a few pounds to ward off the weather. If you’re...