A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Chef John Foster: Time for reflection, recollection on why writing about cooking is rewarding, inspirational

Every year comes down to the end, a flurry of holiday celebrations, family gatherings and food. In the quiet moments between the rush there is also time for reflection and a bit of recollection. New Year’s Eve interrupts, but also reinforces that pause, making it just a little more poignant. For some, the beginning of a new chapter is far more immediate than a look back; they race ahead into...

Chef John Foster: Ginger is more useful than you think — from gingerbread to syrups, soups to sauces

Did you know that Queen Elizabeth the first was the genesis of the gingerbread man? She commissioned that little “cakes” flavored with a heavy dose of ginger were to be made in the likeness of her familiars, (probably not to scale). This is one of the many fascinating facts that I found in my research about ginger, which included the cloudy origins, the many imposters, and the ongoing English...

Chef John Foster: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire — but can you figure how to make them taste good

I’ve always been a curious person, probably what makes it easy for me to be a cook. I’m always asking questions. The simple ones range from how it tastes, to what would I use this for? The tougher ones are about background and heritage, searching through my own family history or some obscure recipe book from the 1940s. Recently, in one of those journeys, I came across the classic Christmas carol...

Chef John Foster: Use the apple, of course, but take a moment to consider the pear, the forgotten fall fruit

The mention of fall and winter fruit conjures images of apples, pumpkins and cranberries. Fruit vibrant in both color and flavor, and well suited to the dishes that provide warmth and comfort at a family get-together or a chilly night at home. Of the three, apples are probably the most utilized during these seasons, not only for their flavor and texture but their versatility as well. Spanning the...

Chef John Foster: Holidays are hectic, make it easier on yourself by using leftovers wisely (eat well too)

Pay no attention to the hype surrounding the holidays, turn your phone off, light the holiday candles, and curl up with a warm bowl of soup and a good book. That used to be the way to decompress, but with 24-hour access, the need and the urge to interact is incredibly strong. Beginning even before Thanksgiving, and extending through January 1, there is very little downtime. Short of hibernation,...

Chef John Foster: Holidays are coming, holidays are coming! No one’s really ready, so keep it simple

The holidays are coming fast and furious for the next month and a half, and I’m not ready. I like that I’m not ready because it adds an element of suspense to the next few weeks, but it does wreak havoc at home. We’re heading north for Thanksgiving, back to New York to see my wife’s parents and some of my family as well. We’ve offered to cook Thanksgiving dinner, which puts even more pressure...

Chef John Foster: As empty nesters, eating habits change — more veggies, more variety, eating out

At last, peace in the house. Both boys gone to make their way in the world, leaving us (without counting 1 dog and 5 cats) empty nesters. That word evokes such images, propels thoughts to places best reserved for later in life. But it does impact what, and how we eat even to the point of changing the dynamic of our pantry and refrigerator. Having two young men over 6’ 3” and closing in on 200...

Chef John Foster: Really, Christmas is coming; so is another way of cooking, eating, finding ‘comfort’

Christmas is coming!! No really, it is. I heard my first Christmas music this week and some of my neighbors still have their decorations up from last year. You want more proof? Black Friday sales which used to be advertised for the day after Thanksgiving are now the subject of a race to see who has enough hutzpah to announce theirs before Thanksgiving. I’m not talking the night before, but a month...

Chef John Foster: So you want to be a professional cook — and then comes the culinary midterms

Culinary midterms arrived this week, darkening the mood of the students, just in time for Halloween. To say that some of my students were not prepared is an understatement and should rightfully be attributed to my lack of delivering a real-world wake-up call these first few weeks of class. We tend to ease them into each quarter whether it’s their first or their last, which for an Advanced Techniques...

Chef John Foster: Apples, apples, apples — so many ways to use and enjoy this great fruit

Last week I wrote about the strange and wonderful tidbits you can find in the corners and crevices of the farmers’ markets around town. It’s just such an adventure that keeps drawing me back each week to see what else might have popped up. But there is also a practical reason for my weekly visits and that is to stock a farm to table restaurant for 5 days of service. I will admit that most...

Chef John Foster: Don’t just wonder about the strange things you see at the market, try them

Ever wonder about some of the strange things you see at the market? The odd little basket of this or that that never fills a table, because very few people will even know what it is much less purchase it. The colors are different, the shape is strange, sometimes the smell drives people away. Your farmer will know what it is, may even attach some sentimental value to it. They won’t grow it to feel...

Chef John Foster: Pumpkins are coming, pumpkins are coming! Mostly not excited, but let’s try soup

The pumpkins are coming and with them all sorts of recipe and menu ideas to incorporate pumpkin into your October events. No other food item elicits such a specific response as pumpkin and October. I suppose a close second would be turkey and November, but that bird owns only 1 or two days, pumpkins are eternally and annoyingly October. I bet you even have the month highlighted in orange sharpie not...

Chef John Foster: Life moves on with change of seasons and so come chilies, stews, and roasts

And just like that the gateway to the summer slams shut. No, it goes out not with a whimper but in a deluge of rain and dark clouds, spiraling from 60-degree weather and falling leaves to 85 and mosquitoes. Keeneland waits at the end of the week, and beyond that, there is already talk of Black Friday and the new year ahead. It all seems to change without our even noticing. Just a few weeks ago I...

Chef John Foster: Cooking is art and will always need a human touch, despite advent of cooking robots

I just finished reading an article about robots making food and I must confess that I’m a bit freaked out. I like the idea of consistency as much as the next chef or restaurateur but the thought of gleaming, sleek machines pumping out food at an accelerated rate with very little human involvement blurs the lines of the creative process. Someone has to set the concept, something could do the heavy...

Chef John Foster: Having two jobs (teaching, owning a restaurant) means work is always on the mind

As I write this, Sullivan University is on break. I find myself at a loss for what to do as my work often dictates what I do with myself when I’m on break. I know I’ll be at work in the restaurant tonight, but what to do with the rest of my day? The answer is complex, and multilayered, nothing as simple as lying in bed until noon eating bonbons (not that I ever did that!). And yes, the answer...

Chef John Foster: Late summer, early fall offer the perfect opportunity to kick up the heat in the kitchen

Hard to remember that a few weeks ago I was writing about cooler weather and the change of seasons. It’s hot and steamy, and not much fun to eat and cook in. The bugs have been much worse than in the past so grilling out has become a test of our willpower versus theirs. We’re a little late for gazpacho. Chilled melon soup has run its course. You can still get watermelon, and cantaloupe, but less...

Chef John Foster: Rain, rain, rain — puts a wet twist to farm-to-table eating, but we have to adjust

The rains have been coming fast and furious for days now, somewhat against what most August weather is like in Kentucky. Usually, around this time of year, the sprinklers are going non-stop and the farmers are struggling to maintain their thirsty fields through extensive irrigation. Not so this year as most of what I hear is an exasperated plea for some dry weather to harvest in, or at the very least...

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...