Learn to walk first, then make paella

Chef notes: “It’s not just about the food, it's about the local individuals who prepare it,” says Denny Trantham, Grove Park Inn’s executive chef.

Denny Trantham, executive chef at the Grove Park Inn, was raised in Haywood County, so it should really come as no surprise that when Xpress asks him if he thinks that bacon in everything should cease to be big in 2012, he counters with the opposite sentiment: "Country ham and smoked bacon live forever!" 

Under his direction, the Grove Park Inn will focus even more on locally sourced meats, seafood and produce this year: "Overall sustainability as a culinary theme that, in return, can be quantified from a business model aspect," he says. What does that mean? "Pickled bounty in quart- and half-gallon mason jars that will assist in extending the bounty while showcasing Southern culinary ingenuity.” I think we can all get behind more pickles this year, right?

Trantham, for his part, would like to see diners generate a little bit of patience and understanding. “Sometimes our general public thinks that a button can be pushed that will generate a four-course gourmet meal for $3.99.” And ever the advocate of all things Southern, Trantham says that he’d like to see “folks that can appreciate Southern-food culture for more than fried chicken and sweet tea, embracing the Appalachian way of life as a model of progression beyond the hillbilly.”

He’d also like to see chefs acting more like mentors and less like stars. “Reaching further with our culinary and cultural education to ensure that we never give up being people-developers [is important],” he says. “It’s not just about the food, it's about the local individuals who prepare it.”

That goes hand in hand with banishing the trend of trying to fly before learning to walk. One must learn basic auto mechanics before building a race car, Trantham says, and it’s up to chefs to (patiently) teach their staff that the devil is in the details when it comes to cooking. “Taking the time to share with individuals in our profession the logic behind the rationale will illustrate the example much more efficiently than barking it at them,” he says. “In my opinion, we must regain the rudiments of basic culinary concepts and knowledge before other facets of the industry are to be explored. Let's learn how to prepare and understand a traditional paella along with its cultural roots, before we take paella and turn it into junkyard.”

“Following tradition and striving for consistency, in my opinion, allows a much deeper respect and understanding for our craft than following Hollywood shows with names like Stewed or Hacked,” he continues. “Many people can cook professionally, but to cultivate their team and grow the multiple dynamic personalities in order to facilitate togetherness, humbleness and precision while singing from the same same hymnal consistently for each and every guest, that's priceless.”

— Learn more about the restaurants at the Grove Park Inn by visiting http://www.groveparkinn.com.

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