SOUP BY CHEF STAN

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

THE YEAR GONE BY

I had gone back to my hometown to work hard and try to find myself again, which turned out to be more of a beginning than end.

On a whim I opened a place for people to eat, and realized that it was I, I still needed to meet.

“Look how happy you make people,” this was said to I, and then came that thought from the sky.

I’ve spent my whole life seeking fortune and fame, but not enough of either came.

Because there never is enough.

Why not just spend your time feeding people and making them happy?

So my penitence and personal protest transformed to purpose, and the I that had gone missing began to surface.

And in my quest to do things right, the employees and landlord did not delight.

The place where I cooked was both loved and hated, people who had not met me said I was not so nice, in the mirror it is they who should look twice.

I thought small town America might be different, so in my free time I drove around, in hope of finding some gentler ground. Continue reading

THE GREAT DEPRESSION OF 2012

I woke up that morning, a few months ago, I’m not sure what the day or date was then—the importance of days or dates are no longer.

I don’t know why it came as such a surprise to so many people, in reality the European Union had failed when it bailed out its first member, but Spain and Italy were the final blows, which never needed to come, the EU should have ended at Ireland.

If there are economist in the future, or a United States for that matter, they’ll want to look back at the failure of the European Union, the national strike in China and the revolution in Saudi Arabia as the perfect storm that brought the Great Depression of 2012 to shore and now what appears to be the end of the world as we have known it. But just as they were wrong in the past, as this is now self-evident, this too would be a wrong-minded conclusion. And with riots in the cities, millions of Americans dying of starvation, and the Capitol burned to the ground, I don’t want to say I told people so, but I did write extensively on the topic for more than a decade; time will tell who did and did not heed my advice…

As I write this account, both for my own satisfaction as a writer, writers write, and as a history for future generations I sit in my home surrounded by more than a thousand acres of my own land. I have often been asked if, after a lifetime of the extravagances of the city, I did not suffer culture shock from living in such seclusion? Truth-be-told, for all of the excesses of my youth, I have always been a man of simple taste, preferring hard work, to mindless leisure. And nature has always struck me with awe. However, it would be disingenuous to say that the place, which I call home, is void of the necessities of culture. Like the storehouses I have filled with many lifetimes worth of food, I have supplied my home proper, with every type of musical instrument, thousands of books, records and movies—digital and hardcopy’s of all. I even went so far as to build not only a grand ballroom, but a theatre for plays and an outdoor amphitheatre, so Shakespeare may still be recited under the stars.

Also, it should be noted; that while I built what I simply named “The Farm”, as previously described, I lived in a small town, which gave me ample time to adjust to the pace of rustic life. In a very real way, I weaned myself off of the night and day continuum of social interaction I had been accustomed to all of the days of my life. Although I have enjoyed every minute of it, sad and cold is how I would describe the early part of my journey into solitude, but as time has advanced I find more moments of happy serenity in the hours of the day. I can offer this insight, I feel the least alone while tending to my farm or in the time that it takes to make my bread and churn the butter. I laugh aloud for a moment, because of the paradox presented by the occupation of my day—I feel the least alone when making bread, yet because I am capable of making more bread in a day than I can eat in a month, my own bounty is cause for concern, while at the very same moment in time the masses, who are far from lonely, starve. And this leads us to the discussion of producers and consumers, of which I wrote of for many years.

As the new century approached (2000) I was far more concerned about a shift in the core values of our nation than a computer glitch, known as Y2K. I wrote: code can be changed by the simple act of adding a zero, but a profound shift in the paradigm of the values that built our country, well, that could very conceivably cause a fracture of the foundation of our world, a defect that will lead to collapse. Continue reading

IRON GATE AND THE OPERA STARS

The reasons I put my life on hold in Los Angeles and moved to Winfield Kansas are many, but the one of which I write about now, is perhaps the most interesting, at least to myself.

What would the world be like if society dedicated itself not to the purely personal accumulation of wealth, but rather the personal accumulation of wealth through individual efforts, which make society better? What if the bottom line wasn’t a number on a ledger, but an unequaled experience of excellence, having been provided? What if one lived a dignified and comfortable life, while at the same time creating a better world for others? In a sense a philosophical protest against a culture that looks to something other than individual effort, accepts mediocrity, a culture with a sense of entitlement, entitlement to what, they do not know…

I took over Iron Gate because it was built by a man who understood that his own fortune was only as valuable as the community in which he lived. I perceived the value of Iron Gate, not as some wood hammered together sitting on a tract of land, but as a place that represented a man and a time in which great individuals did great things for their communities. However, all individuals were expected to strive for their own personal greatness at their respective pursuits. There was no desire for a nanny state and there were no coattails to ride. Often, men born to advantage struck out on their own, to make their own way in the world.

From the moment I first set foot into Iron Gate, I hoped that it would be a place where people could come and stay and rediscover that feeling of what made America the greatest country the world has ever known. I wanted Iron Gate to be a place where people could come and recharge themselves with the positive energy that it takes to do great things. And I even imagined it being a place, where people could come and stay and do more than recharge—they could stay and create. And to this end, no expense would ever be spared. Iron Gate would be a place where the most is done for the least, an oasis, in a culture that now often desires to give the least for the most.

Now imagine a little country radio station, KSOK, that gets the notion that it should bring one of the world’s best tenors to small town America for a night at the opera. That tenor, would be Dominique Moralez. Continue reading

IRON GATE ALL HALLOWS EVE

As I sat and pondered All Hallows Eve, a dark cloud descended on my soul, mournful sorrow its only goal. And then the ghost of my porch stood silently and stared, urging me to ponder further if I dared. So I searched the deepest reaches of my mind, waiting for this skeleton jackal to opine. Finally this pirate long dead spoke, “The remedy to your doom and gloom is a party on this particular date, that would be a party at Iron Gate.”

“Yes, a Halloween Party!” I shouted out to nobody at all. Then dreamed of the days past at The Monsters Ball.

Few days to the fright of night, few days til Poe’s delight. Do you hear Iron Gate calling, do you feel yourself falling, falling into your doomed fate, Halloween night at Iron Gate?

To men of analytical persuasion does Halloween make sense? To men of genius tis a night of recompense. Why? Because genius is found in the imagination, dark a place as it may be, you’ll need to come to Iron Gate to speak more of this with me!

True it is of sightings of apparitions at the house with gates of iron, “And thou art dead as young and fair,” haunts the words of Great Lord Byron. Will the spirit of this noble poet join our Mr. Poe? Attendance at All Hallows Eve at Iron Gate, is the only way to know. To know about love lost, at such a cost, that souls are left to wander, sad, sad it is a Halloween to squander.

The rooms have been occupied and we have served food and libations galore, but all who can count, know it well that it’s only hours til the night that we adore. Now there are those who want something for nothing, America’s truly great foe, so if kids want candy at Iron Gate, they’re going to listen to Mr. Poe!!! ha, ha, ha, ha!!! Continue reading

RICHARDSON AUDITORIUM BETTER THAN EVER

I’m pleased to say that the Richardson Auditorium / Richardson Performing Arts Center, Southwestern College and the town of Winfield, Kansas have decided to NOT participate in the decline of America. Saturday night, the great auditorium, which resides in the great building on the hill, overlooking the entire Walnut Valley, reopened. Having undergone an almost three million dollar renovation Richardson has been transformed into a performance art venue, which to my ear, seems to have the best acoustics to be found, not just in the state of Kansas, but very possibly the entire Midwestern region.

To rededicate the stage Southwestern College President Dick Merriman presided over the always-enjoyable ribbon cutting ceremony. I love these nostalgic traditions. And the campus minister offered a nice prayer to the Lord. As the four hundred plus people in attendance offered a prayer for the occasion, I wondered how many knew that sundown concluded the tenth day of the Hebrew month of Tishri, the day when the fate of all is sealed. I decided not to inquire, because an intentional selection of this day would be very impressive, but the unintentional selection of this day is even more so—

The performance, called Kaleidoscope, consisted of a mix of music performed by the South Kansas Symphony, A Cappella Choir, SC Singers and a truly beautiful violin solo by Leora K. (Martin) Kline. Conductors Daniel Stevens and David Gardner could not have performed their respective duties with any greater class or musical fluidity—yes, the music simply flowed. On several occasions during the performance my mind wandered back to Los Angeles, I was sitting in the Disney Concert Hall and Gustavo Dudamel was conducting Shakespeare & Tchaikovsky, such a beautiful flow it all was, from one great musical experience to another. Continue reading

LIFE THE POEM

Life began simple enough, a family, friends and just enough stuff. We’d spend summers at the beach, swim in the ocean, and building a sandcastle was a powerful notion.  I usually walked on the beach as the sunset in the sky, the wind of change bringing a tear to my eye.

At night I would pray for my friends, family and myself to be blessed in the Lord’s light, not much of a task for the creator’s might. Good health, long life, peace and prosperity for all of which I did pray, a small boy with much to the Lord to say. And my prayers the Lord did hear, I’m forever grateful my soul he brought near.

In the double digits girls and things I did become aware, both the cause of so much despair. It seemed that girls were attracted more to the surface than to the deep, I could not imagine then the depths I would creep. I sat on a roof and said aloud, I’ll give people what they want, a decision my whole life doth it haunt.

One day I drove home in my new fancy car and smiled as heads turned from afar. That’s right look at me I thought, and admire what I have, and what you have not. And the girls did beg for a ride, truly both good and evil rise with the tide.

As these early years passed on by, I’d lie in the grass and gaze up at the sky. I dreamed of being a man of great wealth, but not for my own account, no it was for the cause of good for which I would mount. I also dreamed of being a wordsmith, because the pen has more might than the sword and to this day of this dream I have never been bored.

I stood in the vast living room of my suite at The Plaza and declared to a girl that I was bigger than life; from heaven above these words bring great strife. I was an outlaw then, I had lost my way, hard to imagine being that man today. Now in America the law encompasses every moment and every action, an ugly scar on the face of freedom’s attraction.

A few more years passed on by and I once again looked up at the sky. I asked the Lord my maker for another chance, on the path of the righteous for my feet to advance. And make no mistake brothers, sisters, and friends; there are great trials and tribulations to making amends.

I’ve done much business now over the years, some to applause and some to jeers. My advice: in business be rich or poor, for mediocrity is no place to endure. Walk on the left or walk on the right, because it is the middle of the road which is the place of great plight. Continue reading

THE GIRL DOWN BY THE MILL

A short story by Award Winning author Stan Lerner:

 I was a person of means and considerable talent, when I left the city of my birth. To some this may sound like the words of a man lacking for humility, but suffice it to say that my many character flaws are more humbling to my soul than the wearing of rags and walking with my head bowed low. And although there are many nuances to humility it can generally be said that humility at its very core is simply the understanding that all comes from God. A man of means could have worked every hour of every day and accumulated nothing if for it not being God’s will, that he wax rich. And conversely it is true that a man may have done little to upset his restive state and yet still have been blessed by great wealth. Of course I could go on with numerous examples, but a short story is often more appreciated. I declare now that everything that I have is from God and everything that I do not have I am not deserving of because I am a sinner…And there is this one thing that I have, that for the life of me I cannot know what I have done to deserve, that would be the girl that I met down by the mill.

Some journeys take the adventurous at heart to the ends of the earth. And other journeys take the adventures of the heart much past the point of death. You see it is safer to climb the highest mountain than to know one’s own heart, in fact it was coming to know my own heart that drove me to the brink of an angry existence, which is tantamount to death. The poor are dead for they have no choices, but the angry have chosen death because anger is simply the purest form of idolatry. How often I can recount seeing the faces of idolatrous worshipers on fire with some misplaced passion. All of this being recounted, I should explain more completely that I was to walk both paths before leaving the place of my birth to find a place to call home.

As a young man my pursuit of wealth knew no bounds, so voracious was my appetite for money, even to this very day, I am not able to conceive of an amount that would have satisfied my lust. Upon concluding that material wealth alone would not satiate the beast within, I turned to fame, but not the despicable fame of those who are famous for being famous, which is an existence lower than that of the shellfish, which exist on the consumption of the fesses of other fish. No, only the fame derived from great accomplishment would do. Physical accomplishment of the aforementioned adventurer was of little interest; I had climbed high peaks and won many a worthless trophy and medal. What peak hadn’t already been climbed—a question this is not. And while no man could ever obtain the knowledge of all things, as King Solomon had, Albert Einstein had made it relatively clear that the final frontier, that which is the genius of imagination, is infinite. Never ending genius, therefore the never-ending titillation of a greedy man such as I. So to this endeavor I put myself—the honor achieved by presenting that, which is imagined into the written word.

And yes, like wealth before it, I did also gain honorable fame, an oxymoron if ever there was…I will say this, that like death I wish no man discomfort, but for those who despised me for my wealth, my fame as a wordsmith was all too much. And I did chuckle at the expense of these fools, so disquieted by another’s success they were, when all know that my success was only possible by the miserable failure of succumbing to vanity. I did indeed almost fail my way to the top, yet the Lord found mercy on my soul and spared me this final tragedy. “Can a man such as I really start over somewhere?” I asked, as I drove down the road with no particular destination in mind. “Or will I just roam the wilderness of life?” Continue reading

ON THE PORCH

Many years ago I sat on a porch and rocked, writing a poem about being Grand Again, words of a man that called a hotel on Mackinac Island a friend, but more than this a beginning and end.

Last night I sat on the porch of Iron Gate and rocked, visited by a friend, and of God we talked. Some young people stopped in to say hi, causing me to think of those days gone by. One read Grand Again aloud, and there I sat in the crowd, thinking how fortunate we were all to be at Iron Gate, a grand place to which I came late.

But better to come late than not at all, a thought which is meant to make men like I to stand tall. And isn’t it said to our last breath we can repent, perhaps it is I for which this is meant. I have regrets, and I fear for those who do not, because without regret repentance is not.

I spoke to the young people about the great man that built Iron Gate, and explained that my coming was indeed a matter of fate. Continue reading

THE IRON GATE INN

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

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