Next Episode of A Chef's Life is
A Chef's Life is a Peabody and Emmy award-winning docu-series that plunges audiences into the kitchen of a high-end restaurant located in the low country of eastern North Carolina. It follows the trials and travails of Chef Vivian Howard and her husband, Ben Knight, and their farm-to-table restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, exploring both traditional and modern applications of quintessential Southern ingredients. Vivian's skill in the kitchen is an equal match for the charismatic personality, radiating behind her crystal grey eyes. Much more dynamic than a typical cooking show, A Chef's Life is a character-driven documentary and cooking series that premiered nationally on PBS stations in September 2013.
After a year recovering from a restaurant fire and re-opening Chef and the Farmer, Vivian and Ben go all-in to open a burger/oyster bar called The Boiler Room. Vivian boils over with the stress of staffing adjustments, testing new menu concepts, and the enormous task of putting 500 pounds of blueberries to good use.
Vivian & Ben head to the beach for their annual summer vacation with the Howard family. A bit of friendly competition with her older sisters stews as she tries her hand at Frogmore Stew. She visits a fish camp & learns the heads & tails of fresh shrimp. Back in Kinston, as Vivian & Ben prepare to open their second restaurant, the Boiler Room, controversy brews over the bun for the burgers.
Burgers. Oysters. Beer. Hallelujah! Vivian and Ben are on the cusp of opening their new restaurant, the Boiler Room, and they are facing a new challenge: how to make a veggie burger stand out. Vivian waxes romantic about the beloved butter bean and chooses it as the star of her new burger, but quickly learns that the butter bean is a straight up diva when it comes to growing conditions.
Vivian, Ben and the entire Chef and the Farmer staff hustle to complete the mammoth preparations necessary for her big luncheon at the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium in Oxford, Mississippi. Vivian uses the women in her life as inspiration for her menu, honoring those who have made her the woman she has become. As preparations get underway, the sheer math of this moment is astounding: 4 courses for 400 food writers and Southern food enthusiasts, totaling 1600 plates.
Excitement turns into heightened emotion and real nerves for Vivian as she faces one challenge after another in the prep kitchen before her big SFA luncheon. Vivian is glad to have Chef Jason Vincent to lend some street cred. Rice almost brings Vivian to her breaking point but everyone pulls together for the big event and her parents join her on stage for an emotional and watershed moment for her.
Vivian returns from Mississippi to the fall harvest and travels to an heirloom apple tree collector, Creighton Lee Calhoun, the Johnny Appleseed of the Southern apple, who grows 800 varieties in the rolling hills of North Carolina's Piedmont. Vivian tries her hand at drying apples and her neighbor schools her on a sweet Southern snack called Applejack.
Vivian presents a few of the many ways fish makes its appearance in Southern cooking, from dried mullet roe to a friendly fish stew competition with Warren Brothers' buddies. Vivian gets schooled on the rules of a good Eastern NC fish stew: Make it a social event. Use whole hog bacon. Resist your urge to stir! And most importantly, start crackin' eggs and don't forget a side of white bread!
It's November ya'll and that means it's busy at Chef & the Farmer. Vivian is feeling the stress of both work and home as she juggles running the restaurant after suspending her sous chef and preparing for her own Thanksgiving feast. She & Mrs. Scarlett head to Mrs. Scarlett's family farm where they source their pecans & have a run in with Uncle Dwight's wild boar.
Vivian is determined to showcase the sexiness of the turnip. Warren and Lilly show Vivian how to cook the tender, silky Hakurei turnip. Vivian features her winter rolls with pickled turnips at a charity dinner with James Beard award-winner Ashley Christiansen and other notable chefs from the region. She frets over whether her roll is sexy enough to stand up to the opulent surroundings, amidst such distinguished company. Despite her misgivings, the roll is a head turner and Vivian manages to make some new friends.
Late winter brings "run-up" turnip greens, which Vivian sees as central to her approach to southern food, capturing both the spirit & the letter of what Chef & the Farmer is all about. Miss Scarlett helps out by procuring greens from a local produce stand, and discussing the how-to of buying & cooking good turnips to satisfy her "southern people". She quietly disapproves of Vivian's cooking method, but both women eagerly sip the refined potlikker. That evening, Vivian downs a "cocktail for courage" as she awaits the arrival of Ben and Karen Barker, her culinary heroes.
As Vivian waits for Spring's vegetables to appear, she pauses to appreciate chicken's endless capacity as an ingredient. The restaurant's new best-seller is a whole chicken, pounded and stuffed with broccoli salad, a method that takes a free-range bird much further than it can ordinarily go. Meanwhile, her effort to deconstruct chicken salad, a Southern favorite, turns out better in theory.
Vivian hunts for ramps—an Appalachian wild leek—with renowned bacon purveyor Alan Benton near his home in the Tennessee countryside. The restaurant world goes wild over ramps, after a winter of few fresh vegetables. Vivian's "ramp dealer" brings her his freshest stash, foraged from the North Carolina mountains. Theo and Flo show off a piglet and a baby goat at the ag show.
Vivian finally makes good on a promise to cook for a friend's supper club, and she seizes the moment to experiment with an egg dish that she hopes to wow New York City's James Beard House crowd in a few weeks. She visits with her egg producer and learns the ins and outs of egg varieties, from chickens to ducks to guineas to partridges.
Ben and the kitchen team pack up the van and hit the road for New York. A month of planning and preparation peak as Vivian's invitation to cook at the prestigious James Beard House becomes a reality. Back in New York, she reflects on the beginning of her journey as a professional chef. Warren Brothers, his wife Jane, and other friends for Kinston bring their particular brand of Eastern NC charm.
Vivian Howard (Host)
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