Thursday, November 17, 2011

There's a new chef in town

Though Chef Kevin Campbell, above, has a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Colorado State University, he claims to be largely self-taught as a chef... and what a chef he is! His appreciation of the best quality ingredients and his deft creativity in the kitchen all spring from one basic inspiration: he loves to eat. He came from one of those classic Southern families where cooking and eating were celebrated among life's greatest pleasures.

Kevin hosted a dinner for the local Catamount Institute at Ranch Foods Direct that was delicious and seasonal from beginning to end, with some wonderful little surprises along the way. He served butternut acorn squash soup (with mushroom Jack cheese and truffle oil) in rustic canning jars to start. As a "nest" for his tender roasted vegetables, he created a bed of what he calls "dirt:" an earthy crunchy combo of dried mushrooms, whole wheat bread crumbs, sesame, hemp and flex seeds studded with broccoli sprouts and arugula. He infused the warm mashed potatoes with beef marrow. Another ingenious addition was the farm fresh egg, soft-boiled, battered and fried to resemble a hush-puppy. Cutting into it released the golden yoke, which was intended to gently cascade over the top of the sliced prime rib roast for his decadent version of steak-and-eggs. (Whoa!) The caramel toffee apple pie to end was a typical autumn classic that was anything but ordinary.

Wow, this young chef is amazing; he's one to watch. And another thing: he's nice! Mild-mannered, humble, polite: a rarity in this age of celebrities, pundits and out-sized egos.