Thursday, January 07, 2010

My new column at Basil Magazine

Recently, I began writing a column for a great online magazine called "Basil Magazine". Being a huge proponent for eating local and supporting the local economy, I thought I'd run with this theme and start a column based on my passions. For some reason, the editors at this magazine thought it necessary to edit it a little bit. I suppose they didn't have enough space on the page or what. Visit monthly at and look under the "Live" heading.

For those of you that are following along, here is an "exclusive" look at my original first column;

Seasonality and eating local
Chef Bradley Labarre CEC

As a first time contributor to this fine digital media publication, I would like to take a brief moment to introduce myself. For me, I like to know a little bit about the person who wrote what I am engrossed in, it helps me paint the vivid picture in my minds eye.

Well, lets start at the beginning, shall we? I was born at a very early age 38 years ago of two food loving parents and the time of 12 channels, UHF and the clicker. Of “Dinner is served promptly at 5:30” together with the entire family. Of Atari 2600 video games, rotary dial phones with no call waiting, no cell phones and going OUTSIDE to play until the street lights came on. Boy, have times changed since then!

Seems like yesterday I was standing on a kitchen chair rolling cookie dough with my mom while Julia Child was playing on public TV in the background! I knew I wanted to be a chef since as far back as I can remember. When I was twelve, while delivering the morning paper (yes, I'm also from a time when work ethics started early), there was this small diner in the neighborhood that was making greasy spoon stuff at 5:00 am for the blue collar mill workers. The smell of bacon and eggs frying inside that little place that wafted up my nose used to make my mouth water! I used to watch the grill cook through the frosty window working his fingers to the bone in there making stuff so fast it would make my head spin! It was very impressive to me and I knew that, one day, I would do that for a living, just like Martin Yan and Julia on TV! Well, when I turned 13, I walked in and asked if I could have a job. The owner, Lorette, filter-less cigarette in her wrinkled lips, said with a raspy voice, “Are you old enough to work?” Well, not knowing how old that was supposed to be and thinking about the 3 paper routes I just finished delivering, I said confidently, “Yes, of course”. Well, by the weekend, I was scrubbing pots and pans and cutting french fries downstairs in the dank basement of this place thinking, “I have arrived!” That moment set off a chain of events that brings me here to you, my eager reader. 25 years of flipping burgers, 18 hour days, country clubs, a few bad decisions, fine dining restaurants, alcoholism and the corporate chef scene, I survived to tell the tale. Currently, I am the executive chef at a country club in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. My menus consist of mainly locally produced items and seasonality. My column will consist of that with recipes and some helpful information that I hope you will be able to use.

Now that we are slightly acquainted, lets talk about food! That's why you're here, right?

So, as I sit here at my laptop, it's raining and cold outside. Nasty weather. Days like this make me think of warm comfy things. Beef stew in the family crock pot, a cup of black coffee, “Hot Now” donuts from Krispy Kream, apple cider, my fat cat and most of all, soup. During this time of year with all this great stuff out there in season at the farmers market, I find myself leaning towards hard squashes, greens, apples and venison. All of this stuff makes great soup! Good thing about that is that you can make a lot in advance and freeze it to enjoy until spring.

If you hadn't had the pleasure of visiting your local farmers market, please do. It's a treat. You get to meet the people that actually picked the stuff out of the ground or raised the pigs, beef or chicken. Putting a face to what we buy is a great thing. Buying local is not only more nutritious and better tasting, but it's great for the local economy and the environment. Think about how much fuel it takes to get a crappy hockey-puck tomato from across the country of from another continent. It's crazy to think. To make matters worse, in most cases, the items we are buying out of season from other places have been genetically altered to withstand travel and resist disease so they can increase production. Out of season produce is more like luggage than food, if you think about it! Eat an heirloom tomato right off the vine in the summer and you will know exactly what I mean.

I'm not saying I don't buy maple syrup or avocados because I live in a state that doesn't produce those things, I'm just saying that, when creating menus, writing recipes or feeding the family, I try to use things from where I know the story and from as close to home as possible. For me, I don't eat strawberries in December or put apples on my menus in May. They don't taste that great, to begin with, and they would have to come from a third world country to boot! It just doesn't make much sense to me.

As we progress further in our reader/ columnist relationship, my plans are to share with you seasonal recipes as well as tips and tricks to take advantage of your farmers market bounty year round. I will visit my local farmers markets and share with you my findings and what's in season in my area. Also, since I love to travel so much to learn more about what everyone else is doing in the industry, there will be some stories about that as well. I'll dabble in a little bit of everything and, hopefully, you will return for more fun-filled information in the future.

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