THE SECRET LIFE OF LILITH IV By Colette Dumas Got out of work, picked up Nina, did some shopping, went home and got dressed for my gig with the Goat Rodeo, if you’re not familiar, it’s a group that is best known for mixing Bluegrass and Classical music, because this is such a difficult thing to do, when done correctly, it is called a Goat Rodeo. I was asked to stand in for Edgar Meyer on bass; he’s a genius, so I was honored, of all the bass players in all of the gin joints, anyway, Yo-Yo Ma is the group’s cello player and while I’m not the easily impressed type, Yo-Yo Ma brings music into something akin to a forth dimension, the notes that he plays drip with a richness and soul that make one feel as though the sound is a divine language unto itself. The place, well that’s a bit of a story—about an hour south of Wichita is the small town of Winfield, Kansas. Winfield is best known for hosting the world’s largest Bluegrass Festival, usually about the third week of September. I could, and will write a blog about the festival itself one day, as I never miss it, but there is another well known, yet unknown, Winfield story, entity, mystery, enigma, riddle—the Chef’s Table and of course, the great Chef himself—Chef Stan. The Chef’s Table, which is only open to the public, sometimes, simply put, makes some of the best tasting things a person will ever eat. Continue reading
He’s back! I mean I’m back, there’s going to be a Season 2!!!
Chef’s Table, Main Street, Winfield, Kansas, the year in review and what a year it has been—certainly worth a look back. The Chef’s Table, like most restaurants, was a dream, long before the food was being made. The dream / concept was to bring French Country and Norman Rockwell America, together into a dining experience, in which, the entire environment made patrons feel as though they were with the Chefs as their food was being prepared, or more simply put, in the kitchen, without actually having to be in the kitchen. Of course, for this experience to be as authentic as possible, I (Chef Stan) decided that the first Chef’s Table needed to rise out of the Heartland of America, so after a 4,000 mile drive about, I decided that Small Town, Main Street, U.S.A aka Winfield, Kansas, was as good a spot as any for the first Chef’s Table by Chef Stan!
Now Chef Stan, that would be me, is neither an architect, nor contractor, thus the title Chef Stan, but I did know that the Chef’s Table in Winfield needed to be a large open space with, with lots of brick on the outside and wood on the inside. I also knew that there needed to be multiple cooking and dining environments. To this end, we were able to create the first, which we call the café and pantry. The concept of the café and pantry being, casual / affordable fine dining—patrons order at the counter and we bring them their food. I should mention that the pantry, really is our pantry, stocked with more than a 100 types of olive oil and balsamic vinegars, and at least a 150 different spices, all of which we use and offer for sale. With respect to fine dining, it’s no simple task to elevate soups and sandwiches to this category, but I think that we have—in a big way. And our Onion Quiche Lemon Tart combo, is simply one of the best meals in the world!
The menu started off simply enough. I replicated the Mexican Grilled Cheese I had become known for as far back as my days at the Daily Brew, but I added a new Grilled Cheese, the Caprese Sandwich, which we now call the Italian Grilled Cheese, fresh, in the water, mozzarella, vine ripened tomato, fresh basil, olive oil, smoked sea salt—game changer on the Panini grill! The Egg Salad Sandwich, just like my mom used to make it! A new take on my old Tuna Salad Sandwich, still Panini grilled, but I substituted extra virgin olive oil for the mayo and apples and capers in place of relish. Add some red onion, seasonings and a baby artichoke on top—well, I’ve never had a better tuna salad sandwich. When it came to our popular Smoked Salmon Sandwich, it took some courage to end its being made on a bagel, but the move to our own handmade ciabatta roll paid off—a great sandwich, became a perfect sandwich! And then the hits just kept coming, Salami topped with fire-roasted red peppers and peperoncini’s, Corned Beef / nothing else needed, it’s that awesome, and the TLT / Turkey, Lettuce, Tomato. And on and on.. Continue reading
So how did Stan Lerner become Chef Stan and what the heck is www.reallybaked.com??? It goes something like this. As a child I dreamed of being a great novelist, I liked the idea of becoming a business tycoon of some kind, and I was also content with just going into my father’s automotive business—hey when you’re a kid all options are on the table. And because my family was seriously into food, I started to think about this as a business by my early teens.
Did I work in the food business during the early years? A little, I was a busboy at UCLA. Did I become a business tycoon? Strangely, yes, and while it hampered my work in the kitchen, it did give me the resources to eat at some of the best restaurants in the world. Somewhere during this time of my life I owned a couple of restaurants and a very serious restaurant / nightclub. Novelist? Yep, did that too and I was pretty good at it, but that’s another blog…
A few years have gone by now, since I returned to the kitchen. The comeback began at a little coffee spot called the Daily Brew, I had a cheap chef knife and a borrowed soup cooker; it turned out folks liked my soups. At the urging of an old high school friend, who had been working as a Chef for many years, I took over Chella’s, made some really great Mexican food, and then transformed this whacky spot into the Eastside Chippery. In the beginning it was just Melissa, the cashier / waitress, and myself…I added a burger to the menu as our daily special and Melissa wrote it on the chalkboard sign as “Special Chef Stan Burger”. Why she wrote it like this, I don’t know, it should have just said Chef’s Special, but as of that day, because of that one little sign, people started calling me Chef Stan. And that’s how I became Chef Stan.
As Chef Stan, I brought my cooking and baking to the Iron Gate Inn, The Pollard, Hygge Bakery, 7 Restaurant, and of course, the place that I now call home, Chef’s Table. But as part of my vision for where I am now, which happens to be way out in the countryside of Kansas, I wanted to do a whole bunch of Amish style, scratch baking, or more simply put, I only use a wooden spoon or my hands—no mixers. And I called this subset of real food, Really Baked. Continue reading
Have you been enjoying the Chef’s Table YouTube Channel? Great! Here are the next two episodes!
In Episode Three, we witness how chefs really cook when customers aren’t watching. Chef Stan listens to ‘Let Her Go’ by Passenger as he preps some tomato soup. What happens during prep time will surely make you laugh.
In Episode Four, Chef Stan is being spied on again. This time, it’s while he does his morning workout. The life of a chef is a busy one, so a trip to the gym isn’t always the easiest option. Instead, you must improvise. Chef Stan has perfected the art of the Chef’s Secret Workout.
Watch as Chef Stan adventures into Small Town USA and hilarity ensues!!!
Having spent seven months in Kansas and Oklahoma inn keeping, cooking and writing I knew in my heart that it was time to come back to Los Angeles, if for no other reason, to celebrate my birthday with friends and family. And then in an unusual twist of life, even by my standard, an old friend offered me one of the coolest jobs on the planet – of course I said yes, and back in LA I am. The fact that I had just moved my Chef Stan cooking enterprise to Guthrie Oklahoma, while no problem for my new job, a definite challenge for Chef Stan to cook in the Midwest while taking care of business on the Coast. But not to worry, I have friends and they have restaurants and who doesn’t need some Soup by Chef Stan?
As it turned out, my first conversation with my buddy Rasmus Lee, the owner of the renowned Downtown Hygge Bakery (1106 South Hope, Hope & 11th) was the only one that I needed to have, Soup by Chef Stan was coming to Downtown. And over the last few weeks that I have been making Soup by Chef Stan at Hygge I have had the joy of cooking for old friends and the uber joy of turning still more folks on to what I do – cook great food for people!!! Yeah I know, I just called my own food great, but by this I mean that I put a lot of love into what I do and it’s the love that goes into food that turns good food into great food – all the school in the world can’t give a chef heart, a chef has to find this ingredient for himself.
Sometimes when people who don’t know what I do, ask me what I do, I smile and think to myself that this is going to sound kind of crazy – even to me. Continue reading
Those who travel know this truth: there a few spots on earth that one comes across during his or her journey, that are their own—a vortex, if you will, to a better mindset, an inner peace, a higher existence. And then there are spots that encompass all of the aforementioned, but are not just unique to the individual; they indeed do exist for us all. I felt this feeling as my car traveled down the road toward the Iron Gate Inn, first as I entered the small town of Winfield and then as I pulled up to the front of Iron Gate.
The beautiful lawn, the billowing old trees, the towering columns and that incredible wrap around porch, were more than a hint of the magic, which lay just beyond the door. And indeed, the moment I entered the grand, old house, the feeling was magical. A spirit of transcendence immediately engulfed I and I felt as though I myself lived in a better time—a synthesis of the best of the past, present and the future. I felt like I had entered the world of J.P. Baden, a world where anything was possible—even greatness.
Of course Iron Gate was built by the legendary businessman J.P. Baden more than a 125-years-ago. Mr. Baden had immigrated to America at the age of 15 and moved to Winfield ten years later to build his fortune. It began as a mercantile venture to bring an abundance of fair priced goods to the town and then quickly evolved into a packinghouse that would supply eggs, butter, milk and flour to the entire country. To put Mr. Baden’s business into a contemporary perspective, the Baden packinghouse was three football fields wide by one football field deep and on any given day it shipped 14,000 pounds of butter among its many other products. Continue reading
As I sit in one of my favorite coffee houses, somewhere in a small town in Kansas, my mind drifts to the last year in which I performed my services as Chef Stan, The Iron Chef, of Montebello’s Eastside Chippery. Of all the roles I have played, master criminal, art dealer, visual artist, night club owner, clothing designer, movie producer and all the variations there of, I can honestly say that Chef Stan and the Eastside Chippery may have been the most challenging. And perhaps the most rewarding.
Usually at this point I would recap some of my thoughts from the blogs Eastside Chippery Part I and Part II, but frankly I’m not much in the mood to look back—I’ll save that for the book. Suffice it to say that a little over a year ago I wound up taking over a really bad Mexican food restaurant in my hometown of Montebello. And this restaurant, against all odds, turned out to be both an incredible fiasco and success simultaneously during the same year. This being said, I’d like to share some of the deeper thoughts and emotions that I experienced during the course of being Chef Stan of the Eastside Chippery.
In many ways I am the ultimate of ordinary and yet there is a very unusual spark here and there that has for all of my life made me different. I say this now because it’s always had an effect and or influence on how things I’ve been involved in have turned out. It’s also the reason that people throughout my life have had such strong reactions toward me. In short, I’ve been blessed to have been the recipient of kindness and teaching by people of much greater accomplishment than myself and I have also been hated by people who have perceived insult or mistreatment, which in fact may have occurred, but certainly to no degree that merited, in some cases, unadulterated malice.
For 45 years or so, there was a part of me that just wanted to be normal. However, in my heart there was an even greater desire to be special. And over the last year at the Eastside Chippery I came to realize that both were vanity and the source of much of what had become frustrating and emotionally painful to me. One might ask, hadn’t you heard the words of King Solomon? And the answer is, yes, I had heard the words “Vanity of vanities…” but hearing and understanding do not necessarily equate to harkening. As I stood in the kitchen cooking and washing dishes sometimes for 32 hour stretches at a time, my heart, for lack of better words, began to soften and the vanity to dissipate. Continue reading
The challenge of writing a blog about one’s own enterprise is the temptation to self-promote, or, to express grievances perhaps best not codified in the written word. In my blog Eastside Chippery Part One I admit to some self-promotion, but for the most part feel that the conversation managed to stay solidly focused on the philosophical purpose that motivated this writer to launch a restaurant endeavor in the worst economic environment in the modern history of our country. And I did note in Part One that having owned restaurants in the past, I did, and apparently still do have some prowess with respect to the culinary arts. So what more is there to say? I’ve stated previously my motivations, but I would fill remiss if I did not at the very least wordsmith up a few thought about the lessons I’ve learned. Fancy speech aside, I’ve been in the trenches for nine months now, I’ve made and served approximately 25,000 meals, and I’ve had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with real people in the real world—here are some of my thoughts:
The Economy: in the past people have been the victims of a bad economy. This is not the case today. Today, it is the economy that is the victim of people and or a culture that has produced a massive number of individuals who want to gain material wealth through no effort of their own. This is the type of person that signed a mortgage document, knowing that they would not make the payment if their property didn’t continue to go up in value. It’s the young Mexican girl I gave a job to that rather than provide a social security number and accept a check for her work, has taken the Eastside Chippery to the labor board claiming that she was denied lunch 53 straight days in a row—this would allow her to collect a significant penalty under California labor law. Really??? 53 in a row! Really???
The Customer Isn’t Always Right: out of the 25,000 or so happy people we’ve served there have been a few, less than ten I would say, that have expressed their opinions as to how we should properly conduct our business. One woman insisted that we should serve our Chef Stan Burger with cheese. Continue reading