Mary Had a Big Hunger

Even though the weather of late feels like February, the calendar tells us that it’s springtime in Northeast Florida. No, spring hasn’t quite sprung yet temperature-wise, but c’est la vie, I’m ready for spring cuisine just the same, especially if it features lamb.

I’m usually fairly oblivious to celebrities, especially movie or TV stars. Still, it was cool to see Chef Jacques Pépin strolling down the street in front of my cooking school. I also enjoy being stopped on the streets of Fernandina Beach by either former customers or people who’ve seen me on TV (usually HGTV). Even more fun is when I go to a restaurant and hear a voice call out “Chef!” This actually happens kinda frequently. My family likes to tell stories of this restaurant or that where I ignored and abandoned them to go off with the cooks, chef or staff.

Just last week, I was checking out Rue Saint Marc-I’d heard they had a respectable in-house charcuterie program and I’m a sucker for housemade pâté, terrines and sausages-when lo and behold, I hear the familiar call of “Chef!” This time, it was the sous-chef Jeremy. Chef Jeremy, a former student of mine, was responsible for the outstanding pork and cherry pâté I was in the process of inhaling, and also the lamb sausage on the Mediterranean flatbread I devoured. Both were so delectable I can’t stop thinking about them. Chef Jeremy should be proud. It’s obvious he learned well from his garde manger teacher: ME! Yes, over the years I have taught a huge number of the culinary talent in the 904. You’re welcome!

While lamb does make for a killer sausage-like the one Chef Jeremy made for me-sausage is only one of billions of ways to prepare this slightly gamey, grassy, rich, juicy, umami bomb of a meat. The most common cuts of lamb available in grocery stores are lamb racks or legs. These are easy to prepare, with just a little seasoning and then roasting or grilling. But don’t be afraid to stray away from the tried-and-true. No, sir. Be brave, be bold, be willing to Chef-Up your lamb prep.

Here’s a little recipe to get you thinking about and maybe having lamb. Next week, we’ll continue with our lamb adventure. In the meantime, I think I’ll head to Black Sheep and have something amazingly delicious prepared by yet another one of my former students, Chef Chason. Again, you’re welcome.

Chef Bill’s Lamb Spice


  • 1 cup coffee
  • 1 tbsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. ground allspice
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. sumac
  • Salt to taste, olive oil as needed
  • 2 lamb racks


1. Mix all ingredients except lamb in a bowl.

2. Rub the lamb racks liberally with olive oil, then sprinkle a good amount of spice blend over the racks and rub into the flesh. Save remaining spice in a sealed container.

3. Let the lamb rest in the refrigerator for several hours before cooking. Use remaining spice as desired during cooking process.


Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at [email protected], for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!