A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

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 Foster: On college trip with son, we discovered while food can be great — service really matters

It isn’t often that I get a chance to sit and observe from the other side of the kitchen door. Most of my life and career has been spent in a kitchen or a classroom, playing an active role in the process of making and serving food to the general public. Even in my other food-related activities, like writing this column or helping out in a community garden, it is an action taken, not observed...

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: 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...

John Foster: Losing your way happens, find your center by focusing on what’s right in front of you

Things are a bit unsettled right now. The summer season seems to have accelerated, we’re back in school, and I can’t seem to get my head around events like Burger Week, closely followed by Restaurant Week. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be busy, I can’t stand too much puttering around, (probably not a good sign for my golden years to come) I like to be active and engaged. Sometimes...

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: 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...