Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 at
By Columnist Chef Cole, Owner Cafe’ Rue, Beltsville, MD
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness or in my case good food. The pursuit of the American dream consumes most young people in my generation. You go to college, graduate, intern somewhere, and start working toward obtaining pieces of the American dream – a home with the white picket fence, the perfect spouse, and 2.5 children. I wish someone would explain how one gives birth to .5 of a child. I was in full pursuit of my happiness with a successful career as a sales account manager for a Fortune 500 IT Company. My seven-year career took me to three states and was the catalyst to me fulfilling the second part of my dream; meeting my beautiful wife.
Rewind to February (2012), and the economic downturn quickly turned my dream upside down. Life has a funny way of changing your trajectory and priorities. When my career ended I quickly found myself faced with the choice of looking for another sales job or embarking into the unknown and following my wife’s advice to pursue my love of food.
Where do I begin with explaining my fascination with food and all things epicurean? My earliest childhood memories revolve around the sweet aroma of my mom baking. Many of my friends consider me the classic foodie, the go-to guy for preparing meals for friends, standing in long lines for the newest food craze, and studying multiple food blogs and recipe books until I am able to recreate dishes from my favorite restaurants. My career taught me that I was excellent at sales but the question remained – could I turn my hobby into a profitable business? Little did I know that my endeavor to be a food entrepreneur would test my faith, my commitment to hard work, and my resiliency.
This two-year journey into food has taught me that life is very similar to cooking. Cooking is an “Art” – partly standard technique and a pinch of inspiration or dash of innovation. When grandma would make pancakes from scratch, crispy fried chicken, or better yet, hot-water cornbread there were no measuring spoons for the main ingredients. It is true that sticking to a regimented recipe will mostly produce consistent results. However, similar to scat or improvisational jazz, it’s the remix of musical elements that creates masterpieces.
The same principles apply to cooking. Loosening the chains and substituting coconut oil in a recipe that calls for butter, or using buttermilk in place of heavy cream can create a new level of complexity to Alfredo sauce. What I have learned is that my life and my passion for food are all about self-directed learning and exploration. The best-laid plans and recipes often require tweaking. The next time you use a recipe, simply see the recipe as a map to your ideal destination, but remember there are multiple routes to the same location.
For my first column I am sharing with you the first recipe that I learned as a young child. Years later this recipe continues to be a holiday favorite.
1 box Cinnamon Sugar Graham Crackers
2 sticks Unsalted Butter
1 pound of Pecan Pieces
2 cups Brown Sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper
3. Place graham crackers cinnamon side down on baking sheet
4. Melt butter in medium sized saucepan (Do not boil)
5. Stir in brown sugar until fully dissolved
6. Add pecans to mixture, making sure all are fully coated
7. Pour mixture over graham crackers making sure it is fully covered
8. Place in oven for 7-10 min, or until brown sugar begins to boil
9. Let cool for 1 hour
10. Cut and serve
Beltsville Cook Well. Chat again soon! Chef Cole
Cafe’ Rue Restaurant & Catering
11120 Baltimore Ave.
Beltsville MD, 20705
Praline photo credit.