A Chef’s Life: Season 2
Watch Saturdays at 2pm beginning March 28, 2015 on WMHT TV.
In the second season of this Peabody Award-winning series, Vivian Howard, proprietor of Chef and the Farmer restaurant, explores Southern cuisine with a chef’s modern sensibilities. As Vivian and husband Ben Knight introduce viewers to the farmers and cooks of the American South, they also celebrate their twins’ third birthday and open a second restaurant, the Boiler Room.
Blueberries and Boiling Over | Saturday, March 28, 2015 at 2pm
After a year recovering from a restaurant fire and re-opening Chef and the Farmer, Vivian and Ben open a burger/oyster bar called the Boiler Room. Vivian boils over with the stress of staffing adjustments, testing new menu concepts and the task of putting 500 pounds of blueberries to good use. She dons a hairnet and bubbles with excitement at the sight of her blueberry BBQ sauce hitting the assembly line. The staff of Chef and the Farmer finally lets off some steam with a growler cocktail and a blueberry BBQ water park extravaganza.
Shrimp Sells | Saturday, April 4, 2015 at 2pm
Vivian and Ben head to the beach for their annual summer vacation with the Howard family. Vivian turns up the heat with a bit of friendly competition with her older sisters. Frogmore stew, cooked outside at the beach, of course. She visits a fish camp and learns the heads and tails of fresh shrimp. Back in Kinston, the devil is in the details as Vivian and Ben prepare to open their second restaurant, the Boiler Room, and controversy brews over the bun for the burgers.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T the Butterbean | Saturday, April 11, 2015 at 2pm
Burgers. Oysters. Beer. Vivian and Ben are on the cusp of opening their new restaurant, the Boiler Room, and they’re facing a new challenge: how to make a veggie burger stand out. Vivian chooses the beloved butterbean as the star of her new burger, but quickly learns that the bean is a straight up diva — the Aretha Franklin of the legume family — when it comes to growing conditions. After a wet spring, Warren’s patch is abysmal, but with the help of onions and gouda, eggplant and garlic, Vivian’s butterbean burger is the talk of opening night.
Don't Tom Thumb Your Nose at Me! Part 1 | Saturday, April 18, 2015 at 2pm
Vivian, Ben and the entire Chef and the Farmer staff hustle to complete the preparations necessary for her luncheon at the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium in Oxford, Mississippi. At the center of her generation-spanning meal is the Tom Thumb, a pungent and rich sausage stuffed into a pig’s appendix. As preparations get underway, the sheer math of the moment is astounding: four courses for 400 food writers and Southern food enthusiasts — 1,600 plates in the span of 90 minutes. Vivian greets this honor with terror and sheer force of will, leaving a long prep day with a sense of pride and excitement.
Don't Tom Thumb Your Nose at Me! Part 2 | Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 2pm
The excitement of the night before turns into heightened emotion and real nerves for Vivian as she faces one challenge after another in the prep kitchen before the SFA luncheon. Wondering at the sanity of this undertaking, she’s glad to have Chef Jason Vincent to lend some street cred to the whole endeavor. Rice almost brings Vivian to her breaking point, but everyone pulls together for the big event and her parents join her on stage for an emotional and watershed moment.
Apples | Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 2pm
As Vivian returns from her Mississippi trip, she confronts her long absence from the dinner service at Chef and the Farmer. She visits an heirloom apple tree collector, Creighton Leigh, the Johnny Appleseed of the southern apple, who grows 800 varieties in the rolling hills of North Carolina’s Piedmont. Savory and sweet heirloom apples make an appearance on the menu. Vivian, Ben, Theo and Flo don boots and grab shovels to plant their own southern apple tree on their Deep Run property.
The Fish Episode, Y'all | Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 2pm
Vivian presents a few of the many ways fish makes its appearance in southern cooking. She learns the rules of a good Eastern North Carolina fish stew: Make it a social event. Use whole hog bacon. Resist your urge to stir! And most important, start crackin’ eggs and don’t forget a side of white bread. Vivian goes to the source of all things seafood with a fishing trip with Ms. Lillie and Mary on beautiful Emerald Isle.
Obviously, It's Pecans | Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 2pm
It’s November, y’all, and that means it’s busy at Chef and the Farmer. Vivian is feeling the stress of running the restaurant after suspending her sous chef and preparing for her own Thanksgiving feast. She and Ms. Scarlett head to Ms. Scarlett’s family farm where they source their pecans and have a run-in with Uncle Dwight’s wild boar. On Thanksgiving, dozens of people assemble in Ben and Vivian’s Deep Run home. The only thing missing is the Thanksgiving turkey. As Ben puts it, “Sometimes you eat the turkey. Sometimes the turkey eats you.”
Turnips - The Roots | Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 2pm
Rainy winters can yield some dull vegetable varieties, few more unglamorous than the turnip. Nevertheless, Vivian is determined to showcase this root vegetable. She features her winter rolls with pickled turnips at a charity dinner with James Beard Award-winner Ashley Christiansen and other notable chefs from the region. She frets over whether her roll is sexy enough to stand up to the opulent surroundings, amidst such distinguished company. Despite her misgivings, the roll is a head turner and Vivian manages to make some new friends.
Turnips - The Greens
Late winter brings “run-up” turnip greens, which Vivian sees as central to her approach to Southern food, capturing both the spirit and the letter of what Chef and the Farmer is all about. Ms. Scarlett helps out by procuring greens from a local produce stand, washing them four times and discussing the how-to of buying and cooking good turnips to satisfy her “Southern people.” Vivian downs a “cocktail for courage” as she awaits the arrival of Ben and Karen Barker, her culinary heroes. Her nerves are for naught — the Barkers are her big fans.
As Vivian waits for spring’s vegetables to appear, she pauses to appreciate chicken’s endless capacity as an ingredient. The restaurant’s new best-seller is a whole chicken, pounded and stuffed with broccoli salad. An old family friend fries a chicken the old-fashioned way, served with a side of banana sandwiches. Spring brings the twins’ birthday, and Vivian can’t help but go over the top with celebrations, including the Cadillac of chicken coops to house Theo and Flo’s new baby chicks.
Ramp-ing Up to Spring
Vivian hunts for ramps — Appalachian wild leeks — with renowned bacon purveyor Alan Benton near his home in the Tennessee countryside. Vivian’s “ramp dealer” brings her his freshest stash, foraged from the North Carolina mountains. Proud grandparents watch as Theo and Flo show off a piglet and a baby goat at the county agriculture show. Vivian uses ramps like a spring onion, making a compound butter and pimped grits, and serving up grilled ramps, pickled ramps and sautéed ramps at a dinner party.
Eggs a Dozen Ways
Vivian finally makes good on a promise to cook for a friend’s supper club, and she seizes the moment to experiment with an egg dish that she hopes will wow New York City’s James Beard House crowd. She visits with her egg producer and learns the ins and outs of egg varieties, from chickens to ducks to guineas to partridges. She takes us through how to boil an egg and shares Miss Scarlett’s secrets for a southern party staple: the perfect deviled egg. In the restaurant, Vivian anxiously prepares for her gala James Beard Foundation dinner, a new kind of debut in the food world.
Eggs Two Dozen Ways
A month of planning and preparation peaks as Vivian’s invitation to cook at the prestigious James Beard House becomes a reality. Warren Brothers, his wife, Jane, and other friends from Kinston bring their particular brand of Eastern North Carolina charm, making everyone feel at right at home. As Warren and company charm the pants off the fancy food writers and television critics, Vivian frets about perfectly cracking 85 eggs for each plate. But before she can get there, the deep fryer breaks, bringing the Beard House a lot closer to hell’s kitchen.