Tag Archives: stan lerner

CHEF’S TABLE By Chef Stan

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

BLUEGRASS

Some years ago, I traveled around and I happened upon a little town.

Winfield, Kansas was its name, and Bluegrass Music had brought it fame.

You see when Country Music from Appalacia is fused with Jazz, then you see what the music has.

It has soul, it has a life that transcends and no one can see where the Bluegrass ends.

To Winfield folks come from all around, just to hear that Bluegrass sound.

Thousands, maybe ten’s of thousands, camped out in nature among the stages, often forgoing a week of wages, because some things have no price.

The formal name of this event, is the Walnut Valley Festival, but everyone from somewhere else just calls it Winfield, and the people of Winfield just call it Bluegrass, and after all what’s in a name, it doesn’t matter having achieved true fame.

My first experience at Bluegrass I sat at a campfire and then I walked around, following along with some people from town—they seemed more interested in drinking than listening to music.

They say you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, true of most people I have come to think.

I don’t know which night it was, but it had stormed and it was cold, yet Matt, Skyler and I, sat in the wet bleachers under a dark night sky.

Tommy Emanuel played, I had never heard anything like it, and I’ve heard a lot, and I’ve seen a lot, and I’m always thankful for what I’ve got, and that evening I can say, I got Bluegrass.

A couple of years gone by, I found myself making my way to Bluegrass with a wedding cake in hand—I had baked it for a friend with a Bluegrass band.

Good old Barry Patton had decided to get married to Rene on Stage Five, on these experiences I truly thrive.

You see I’m of the belief that life is for living and to get the most out of living, you have to be giving.

So I gave my friends a cake.

Another year gone by and I was blessed to have my sister and Kasey encamp at my home, which happens to be a place of food and hospitality, really the nicest reality for those of the artistic mentality, such as I.

And to those who think as I think, there’s nothing as cool as those on the brink, the brink of greatness.

Helen Avakian, sat at my place and stood at this brink, which of course made me think, “Helen, why don’t you play here tomorrow for the Music Crawl?” Well she played and two days later she won it all—the International Fingerstyle Championship, the first woman to do so, and I don’t like to tell people I told you so, but I told you so…

The night at Bluegrass with my sister was a magical night, there’s nothing like your own people to make you feel right.

We stopped by the Picking Parlor to here some picking, and the guy on the banjo was world class kicking.

On Stage One, we caught John McCutcheon and Steel Wheels, you just have to do this to know how it feels.

On Stage Two we listened to The Greencards and Socks in the Frying Pan—not so hard to be a fan.

We ended the night with Detour, the air had a chill, but this did not distract from their skill and skill they did have.

We walked away from all of these goings on, late in the night, knowing that in the Universe something was right.

And right is friends, family, good food, good music, all mixed into a better humanity…

You see when Country Music from Appalachia is fused with Jazz, then you see what the music has.

It has soul, it has a life that transcends, and no one can see where the Bluegrass ends.

 

REALLY BAKED by Chef Stan

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

THE COWLEY COUNTY FAIR

THE COWLEY COUNTY FAIR

By Stan Lerner

There was something in the air, something that I feel compelled to share, I’m speaking now of the County Fair.

You see I am a man of middle age, seemingly past the County Fair stage, but I did not grow up doing such things, my perspective is that of one raised in the city, dirty, grey and all too gritty.

A memorable line, a hook, I should put one here, so people do hear, what I’m about to say, funny how things work this way:

The wind blows the wheat fields, causing a gentle motion, as beautiful a sight as any ocean.

Back and forth, to and fro, stand at the break and watch it grow.

And it is in this land that you will find Cowley County, a place much blessed with beautiful bounty.

Did I just learn that there was something called a County Fair? Why would it take a half of a lifetime to get to one? But who doesn’t have things undone?

Maybe this is why my father said he believed in keeping life small, because from this place there’s nowhere to fall.

A year gone by now, I moved from a big place, to a small place, at least that’s how it appears on the matter’s face.

But I’ve learned in the last year that big is small, this is not discovered in a crystal ball—but by living life.

And the small life, the real life, the good life, well it turned out to be larger than I could have ever conceived, it is this life that the Lord is more easily perceived. The quiet, the calm allows one to contemplate Gd.

The Ranch Rodeo, night one, who would have thought that wild cow milking was fun? Three cowboys, one cow on the run, and a bottle to fill, fifteen seconds and team Buford was king of the hill.

Night two, the Demolition Derby, the definition of fun going topsy-turvy! Continue reading

WHEN DEATH IS BEHIND YOU

WHEN DEATH IS BEHIND YOU

“Go check out Pratt, it’s a good place to do business,” the owner of the Inn, had said.

The visit was a short one, weather had interceded and now I did not see the land I had come to love the varied colors of. My eyes could only stare into the rearview mirror at the monstrous cloud, veiled in the drops of rain, dark and gray spinning behind. The road that I traveled upon was straight, straight in front of me. The same could not be said, of the road of life that had brought this moment to be, it had been filled with twists and turns, steep declines, followed by ascents to heights that most should not go—for the air is thin at the great altitudes of life and can cause one to lose the sense for what is and is not real.

The noise from the radio blared. This tone is one that penetrates the ears and stabs at the brain, with an icepick like sharpness. Again and again, the horrible tone screeched and the prerecorded voice warned to take shelter. But on the highway from Pratt to Wichita, there was no shelter. I thought about the flimsiness of our human composition as this warning was repeated. “We are able to build a shelter that can withstand this giant funnel pelting my car with hail, but it takes time, a lot of time, something that you do not have…”

A live voice emanated through the speakers of the truck. “A category 5 tornado has touched down outside of Pratt and is traveling east down Highway 54, at 50 miles per hour.” I looked down at the speedometer, I was doing 70, but the funnel was gaining. “I think it’s going faster than fifty,” I said aloud to the radio, “but of course not the first time you’ve been wrong about the weather…Like this morning when you said this storm wouldn’t get here until 4:00, which would have given me plenty of time…” The voice. “You must find shelter underground, there is no chance of survival above ground if you are in the path of this storm. Again, there is zero possibility of surviving this storm if you are not in a storm shelter, do not delay seeking shelter for any reason, your life is what’s most important, get underground now.” Then more of the shrill squelch… Continue reading

THE NIGHT

The night is cold, dark and bleak, and there are hours to go before I sleep.

Gone, gone away is freedom’s light, empowering the perverse to their own delight.

But the time has come for them to die a terrible death, the time has come for their last breath.

Who first? I think about this as I pace, who first is to lose their face.

I ponder the landlord, the lawyer, the banker, the politician, who first to my knife’s fruition…

The night is cold, dark and bleak, and there are hours to go before I sleep.

The Landlord, mostly an inherited man, a man who gains wealth by another’s hand.

But the worst of this type, actually believes he is Lord and it is this man we can no longer afford.

So over his gate I climbed and into his house I did walk, and smiled at the splendor meant to make others gawk.

Soon it would be covered with red, soon this temple of doom would be a place of dread. The wife, the son, the daughter, the Man, I cut and peeled off their face according to plan.

The night is cold, dark and bleak, and there are hours to go before I sleep.

The Lawyer, is there one that won’t burn in Hell? Maybe one, the scriptures tell.

With so many of these to cogitate on, I decide who would not see the dawn.

A despicable little man, who lies as he breathes, and at the point of my blade he knelt on his knees.

“This is mad, I was just doing my job,” these were the words that he sobbed.

And he did sob, as the sharp steel cut his throat, no more would this creature gloat.

The night is cold, dark, and bleak and there are hours to go before I sleep.

The Banker, the man who takes from the poor and gives to the rich, then laughs in our face and says, “Ain’t that a bitch.”

Yes, Master Of The Universe, Man of Wall Street, it is my blade the you will soon meet.

And there he was taking a walk in the night, and on 5th Avenue he discovered his plight.

First I ran the bodyguard through in the middle, why him you ask, because the hired gun of the evil is part of the task.

The banker shrunk into the gutter, part of the trash, part of the clutter.

“I have money, a lot of money, I’ll pay for my life.” I stared at this pathetic being down in the street. “You exist for a number in an account and for this you must account. You are an abortion, you were born dead.” And then I put the blade, into his head.

The night is cold, dark, and bleak, and there are hours to go before I sleep.

Oh Politician, you are the ultimate betrayer, it is time for you to meet your anarchist slayer.

So many reasons for you to die, perhaps even more than the stars in the sky.

But really it is the promises that you break, it is for this most of all, your life we must take.

Who first? The man that calls himself the lawmaker, who is known by all to be the lawbreaker.

This loathsome whore gorges his belly full of ill gotten gain, while delighting at heart, of the hard workingman’s pain.

I found this devil asleep in a luxury hotel, so I raised my knife to send him to Hell.

Wait! No! This is too good for such feces, he must be an example for the rest of his species.

I returned that very night with knife, rope and gas can, everything necessary to put an end to this man.

I stabbed him, and he awoke screaming, “You can’t do this to me!” “I can, and soon you will burn, and swing from a tree”

Swinging, he kicked and hoped to detach, but there was no escaping my match.

The night is cold, dark, and bleak and there are hours to go before I sleep.

I pace back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, contemplating how many more of these evil oppressors must I purge, how many to put an end to this scourge?

All of them! Their blood must run like a river through the land…And until then, the knife is in hand.

 

DRINKING LAM

Foreword: On Feb 1st 2013 Elisa Lam (21) went missing from the Cecil Hotel, 19 days later her dead body was found in the hotel’s rooftop water cistern. To date the authorities have offered no answers, the story that follows, is what downtownster believes may have happened to Elisa Lam.

It was the kind of morning that most do not care for in the city known for its good weather. Overcast, no, more than overcast, dark with a chill in the air, the type of morning that one would expect to hear that something horrible had happened…

A storyteller am I, however it has been a long while since I have taken to the keypad, not because the world has, suddenly in our lifetime, become mundane, rather with my own personal aging has come the understanding that there truly is nothing new under the sun. To write now, is to not slice into the essence of humanity as it once was, this frontier has been thoroughly explored, yet context does change and with it, perception. And it is within the realm of new context that a storyteller can possibly offer some insightful or entertaining new perception. So why not tell a story? I did not venture to find something to tell of, it ventured to find me.

And so it goes:

I awake early, though I am not a morning person, to begin my routine before others, for lack of a more polite way of saying it, get in my way. This is a short story of the terrible variety, which does not concern me directly, so I see no need for my own personal dimensions to unfold slowly or in great detail—I’ve had an interesting life, most of which has taken place in and around Downtown Los Angeles.

The coffee I raised to my lips was a blonde roast, which is better than the house blend Starbucks always has to offer. It’s strange that a chain of coffee houses, synonymous with the over corporatization of an entire country should be mentioned in a story one would hope might last for the ages, but it too plays a role in establishing new context. In the past a story such as this would begin in an establishment owned by a character of some-sort, who surely would be part of a community, but there is little sense of community in 21st Century America.

And while many desperately seek privacy from friends and family, they live out a personal reality show in the realm of social media—much of it filled with lies and delusions of grandiosity. The anonymity offered by a city as large as Los Angeles, attracts the most extreme of this type—their end is often financial, moral or physical demise…

“Do you mind if I join you?” asked the attractive, twenty-something-year-old.

I glanced around the space and beheld an abundance of empty tables, which leads one to an obvious conclusion of specific intent. I gestured to the empty chair and she sat.

“You start early.” She smiled.

I wanted to not like her. It’s a funny thing about men of my age, after a lifetime of living ruled by feelings toward women; we break our chains and move on. Not that we come to hate the opposite sex, in fact I would say quite the opposite, we come to see them as a being, for better or worse. And it this very naked state, when a woman stands before a man not blinded by sensuality, that can be perceived so incorrectly. In my youth many a woman asked to be desired for who they really were, but knowing that I was hopelessly unable to see as such, the true nature of this statement was simply one of having power over another. “You can’t know me, because you are weak.” So why not like this attractive girl who sat in front of me? Without knowing her true nature what was there to like? And because of her appearance, as with all women of her type, I asked of myself to not be fair. I moved the line back, to be sure that she would have to prove herself as a person, something more than the causation of a chemical reaction within my body.

I didn’t return the smile, but answered, “I don’t sleep well, when I have things to do.” I paused to contemplate for a moment what an attractive, young, well dressed, woman would want with me so randomly. And concluded that this was not random. “Do I know you?”

She shook her head. “You don’t, but I know you.” She smiled the smile of the self-assured. “Your book “Criminal”, it’s required reading for anyone who wants to take the detective’s exam.”

I nodded. “Did you pass?”

“Yes, I passed…I’m Detective Patrick, I work for the Los Angeles Police Department.”

A slight smile crossed my face. “Really?”

“So you’re a chef now-a-days?” She stated more than asked.

“True story,” I answered.

“I hear you’re very good, my captain eats at your place—garlic chicken I think.”

“Another true story,” I confirmed. “But it’s not my place anymore, you would know that, I imagine.”

Detective Patrick leaned forward, her face feigning some concern. “I heard something to that effect, what happened?”

“Bad partners, of the vile to be around type, so I ended our arrangement.” I paused. “By that I meant, that I ended it nicely, not with them in the deep fryer or anything…”

“Why don’t you write anymore?” She asked.

“I wouldn’t say that I don’t write anymore. I think I’ll write again, I mean I plan to, I’ve just been taking some time off…More than I thought I would actually, but I have a lot of new ideas.”

“Are you going to write another crime story?” she asked, seemingly genuinely pleased that I intended to write again.

I shook my head. “I don’t think so. The world has enough ugliness for everyone to see, it doesn’t need me to tell its story…I want to write something that raises people up, there’s plenty of beauty out there, I’ve seen it, that’s what I want to write about…”

“When we were told to read your book, I was skeptical, slash, young and arrogant. I couldn’t imagine a bad guy that’s smarter than a good guy. But I get it now…Can I ask you a personal question that I have no business asking?”

“Are you going to ask me if I’ve really changed?” I asked, preemptively.

She nodded with a smile. “You’ve heard this one before?”

“Once or twice,” I quipped.

“Have you?” she asked, returning to a tone of propriety.

“I’ve changed. And I haven’t.”

The detective’s face sagged a bit at being confronted with this truth. “That’s not exactly reassuring.”

“As it shouldn’t be.” I shrugged. “I mind my own business, I’m not out there hurting anybody. I try to stay busy doing good things.”

“And if someone were to run into you in a dark alley?” She noticed my face lighted up.

I laughed. “The trick is to avoid dark alleys, detective.”

She sighed. “Well that’s not going to be possible today, I need your help.”

Detective Patrick at this point had caught my fancy. “What could you and the LAPD need help with, from me?”

The detective took a moment to think about what she was going to say and how to say it and then with no back-story, she simply said, “There’s been a murder.” Continue reading

STAN LERNER aka Chef STAN 2012

As 2012 came to an end, I couldn’t help but to wonder if writing about one’s self, as I am about to do, is worthy of anyone’s attention, even my own. For most of my life, my ego drove a steadfast belief that I had something to say to the world, something that people should hear. I even came to believe that there might be value to be found in my shortest musings over current events. I do not believe these things to be true any longer. Now, if and when I write, I only do so because it is what I do; I cook, I write, I breathe, I sleep, all things that I do, not one more important or less than any of the others. Do I hope that people enjoy the fruits of my labor, of course I do. And over the last few years, I have found this to be a real happiness…

It was a cold January morning, 17 degrees if I recall, when I left Guthrie Oklahoma and headed for my childhood home in California. Continue reading

BYE BYE AMERICAN PIE

A few weeks ago an attractive young bartender at a nice new Italian restaurant here in Downtown LA said to me, “Well if I do have kids, it’ll just be one, because in today’s Modern Economy I have to figure on having to be able to support myself and a child. So, I wouldn’t want to take on more responsibility than I can handle on my own.”

Modern Economy? What is the Modern Economy and when did it start? I asked myself.

Well the Modern Economy seems to have started with the election of President Obama. I say this because I have come to realize that the Modern Economy is not about economics at all, the term is simply used to describe the state of our current social condition.

You see if you like President Obama and plan on voting for him again, you believe that his administration has created three million jobs.

If you like Mitt Romney and plan on voting for him, you believe that President Obama has lost six million jobs.

The reality: nine million jobs were lost, three million jobs were gained and there is still six million jobs gone missing.

And it is this ludicrous argument among Americans that defines the Modern Economy. Ludicrous? Yes, ludicrous indeed, because the number that truly matters is the size of the workforce, defined as those people CAPABLE of working rather than those SEEKING work. More simply put, 63% of Americans capable of working are actually counted in the Modern Economy workforce. Of this 63% my research shows that only 43% can actually be considered fully employed.

What does all this mean? Well, it means that in a country of three hundred and fifty million people there’s only around one hundred and thirty six million people that care to work and of this group only about one hundred and ten million are actually working. The conclusion, which we can now all easily reach, is that one hundred and ten million Americans are supporting themselves and another two hundred and forty million people. The fact that one third of our country is supporting the other two thirds is far beyond an economic problem, it is a social calamity.

HEAR WHAT I’M SAYING WELL!!! Continue reading

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