A chef is not an artist, but a craftsman. This of course applies to both male and female chefs. Do not call us craftspeople—this PC expression implies we are mindlessly weaving baskets in some socialist utopia. We as craftsmen are always hyper-focused on the project at hand. You could even call us artisans. An artisan is by definition a person who is skilled at a trade or craft, one usually done by hand in a traditional manner. Sounds like a chef to me.
A true artisan not only takes an immense amount of pride in what he produces, but can often wax eloquently on the process itself. This is one of the reasons why farmers markets are so enjoyable. Though not all farmers are artisans, I have found that the more specialized a farmer is, the more passionate he is about his product, making them the artisans of their industry. Our Fernandina Beach Market Place displays many proofs of this theory. Many stands sell produce and offer a large variety of items year ’round. The downside? They’re co-ops and thus are not necessarily selling what they grow themselves. That doesn’t stop me from buying these items, of course, but it’s the stuff they grow themselves that really keeps things exciting.
Take the eggs I buy from one farm. The farmer raises the chickens herself and, boy, is she proud of the eggs. When I asked her one Saturday why there weren’t any green eggs that day, she told me a story of how the chickens who laid those green eggs must have gone on strike. No one could doubt that these chickens and their eggs are her pride and joy. I think she would have talked of these birds for hours if we’d had time.
At another produce stand, the farmers personally grow all the offerings. This makes them the only truly seasonal farm at the market. One of their many unique offerings is fresh garlic. In the early spring, they offer the scapes. As explained to me by the beaming farmer, these are the flowering part of the garlic plant. He explained that you can slice the stems and use them as if they were scallions, but with a much pronounced garlic flavor. A couple of weeks ago, he was selling the actual garlic bulbs without the scapes. So I bought some and confited them in olive oil. They were the perfect accouterments to Chef Up killer baba ganoush, which I proudly share, one artisan to another.
Chef Bill’s Roasted Garlic Baba Ganoush
- 2 medium eggplant, cut in half length-wise
- 1 head roasted garlic
- 1/2 cup tahini paste
- 2 tbsp. citrus confit (preserved lemon), diced
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. Za’atar spice
- 1/8 tsp. chipotle powder
- 1 oz. olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped herbs
- S&P to taste
- Grill the eggplant flesh side down on medium low until nearly tender, turn and finish on the skin side.
- Scrape the eggplant into a food processer, squeeze in the garlic, add tahini and pulse a few times.
- Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until nearly smooth.
- Adjust the seasoning, place in a bowl and drizzle olive oil over the top, then sprinkle with additional Za’atar spice.
Until we cook again,
Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of The Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at firstname.lastname@example.org to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!