The current special America's Heartland issue of Saveur magazine was born a couple of year's ago when editor-in-chief James Oseland was in Tulsa for a book event.
The result is an issue of the New York-based food magazine that spotlight's the Drummond Ranch near Hominy, as well as Jonathon Stranger and Russ “Don't Call Me Parsons” Johnson's Ludivine.
Oseland, who is a judge on the current season of “Top Chef Masters” hadn't been to Oklahoma in a number of years before that last trip, but what not too many people know is Oklahoma is a place he once lived.
“When I was in fifth and sixth grade, I lived between Piedmont and Yukon in a suburban housing addition that was about 30 seconds old,” Oseland said.
That housing addition was, and is, Surrey Hills.
“It was more empty lots than houses back then,” he said.
Oseland, 50, explained his father traveled a lot selling office products, and the family moved around quite a bit. He said his trip to Tulsa reminded of his time in Oklahoma and what struck him as a culinary tradition long-rooted in home-cooking.
“One thing that impresses me, but doesn't necessarily surprise me, about Oklahoma cuisine is how fantastically homegrown it is,” he said. “I don't think there are any pedantic lessons to be learned (from the East or West Coasts) that Oklahoma chefs can't figure out on their own.”
Because Oseland has a past with Oklahoma, he said he wasn't surprised at what they unearthed.
“The breadth of the food wasn't a surprise,” he said. “But I have to say the other Saveur editors ... saw Oklahoma as a flyover state with no clear picture of what the cuisine might be. I think they assumed it would be sort of elementary.”
The issue isn't dedicated solely to Oklahoma, though Oseland said our state had enough to offer to fill an entire magazine. He also said Saveur is not done with Oklahoma.
“There's a lot more to cover in Oklahoma,” he said. “Not only what's going on professionally, but in Oklahoma you will find a pretty uninterrupted line of great home cooks.”
Oseland said during his few years here, he remembered visiting the iconic Hickory House barbecue restaurant where a young Rick Bayless worked with his family.
“I went to three state fairs while I lived in Oklahoma, and the highlight of each was we would get to go to the Hickory House afterwards,” he said. “It was very close by as I recall.”
He's right — it couldn't have been more than 10 minutes in those days.
Oseland, who is the author of the James Beard Cookbook Award-winning “Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore,” took from Oklahoma a fascination in one subject unrelated to food: weather.
“I read about Gary England retiring,” he said. “When I was living in Oklahoma, Gary woke in me a fascination for meteorology that left me completely addicted to Oklahoma weather.”
The special issue of Saveur is available in bookstores and on newsstands until the last week in September.
The Oklahoma Restaurant Association's annual convention and expo came and went last week. On top of a chance to see what food trends may or may not find their way to local restaurants, the event includes the Oswalt Culinary Cook-Off. Seven judges, including yours truly, crowned Stephen Schmidt, of La Baguette Bistro, as this year's champion, narrowly defeating Ian Wagner of Southern Nazarene University.
Schmidt had 60 minutes to prepare a meal using items from a mystery basket, including live Dungeness crab, octopus and giant squid. His performance at the two-day event earned him a $3,000 cash prize, a trophy and gift certificates. He was assisted by Bethany Deramo, a culinary arts student at Oklahoma State University, who earned a $500 cash prize, a medal and gift certificates.
Wagner's second-place finish earned him $1,500, a trophy and gift certificates, and his student assistant, Barry Jarvis, of The Culinary Institute of Platt College in Tulsa, won a $250 cash prize, a medal, and gift certificates. Chef Kyle Cowan, of the Renaissance Hotel in Oklahoma City, placed third and took home a cash prize of $750, a trophy and gift certificates; Cowan's student assistant, Oliver Garcia, of Oklahoma State University, earned $125, a medal, and gift certificates.
Turmoil at Tamazul
Matthew Kenney's third attempt at making something of his restaurant space in Classen Curve is off to a dubious start.
Three weeks ago I wrote a story about his new Mexican restaurant Tamazul, describing it as a restaurant built to evolve. Little did I know that evolution was on the fast-track. Two days after the story was published, executive chef Ryan Parrott was let go. Sous chef Chris McKenna was pink-slipped two weeks later.