Big news! I have a brand new show, think regular guy talking politics and current events, from Small Town USA / Main Street. See you on Sundays!
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.
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
Watch as Chef Stan adventures into Small Town USA and hilarity ensues!!!
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
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
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
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
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
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