on television has come of age. Chefs now belong to a hallowed profession
and the great ones enjoy well-earned celebrity status. Atlanta headquartered
Turner South, one member of the vast Turner empire that spawned CNN and
the Superstation, made the momentous decision to offer in its fall menu
a regular food show and call it Home Plate. It debuts this
month and features one of the hottest Chefs today, Marvin Woods, the renowned
cookbook author who has a culinary career second to none.
The show, headed by esteemed Turner South Executive
Producer Mike Thomas supported by his talented Turner crew, was constructed
for the premiere slots during seven steamy days at Viking Culinary Institute
on Atlantas fabled Peachtree Street. Chef Woods youthful appearance
and good-naturedness somehow masks 20 years of gourmet food preparation
at some of the countrys most acclaimed restaurants including The
Sea Grill at Rockefeller Center, Café Beulah in New York and Savannah
and a stint at The National Hotel in South Beach. Throughout each experience,
his reputation for infusing international flair and new flavors to traditional
Southern dishes broadened his already huge fan base.
studio stage for Home Plate showcases Marvin Woods before
the kitchen counter, along with state of the art implements and accessories,
plus fresh ingredients to prepare his to-die-for signature dishes: Southern-Exposed
Fried Chickenits marinated in buttermilk, fried after battering
in a spiced up flour mixture, then baked for a crispy, greaseless result.
Then theres his light and satisfying Gumbo, Bourbon-Soaked Pork
Chops, Barbequed Short Ribs and SoutherSummer Ratatouille. Each dish is
expertly presented through the artistic genius of renowned food stylist
Virginia Willis and her talented staff.
Woods is an effective ambassador for the flavor filled world called the
Low Country, an eighty square mile area surrounding Charleston and Savannah.
He has become the unofficial and universally respected spokesperson for
the essentially African cooking styles, which include influences from
Spain, France and the Caribbean. These combine to make up one of the most
intriguing regional cuisines which Chef Woods has brilliantly synthesized
in his recipes and cooking demonstrations. With such originality,
Home Plate is a sure bet to become a winner.
Magnifying Woods' entertaining stage presence, Home Plate
features a guest alongside the Chef during each show. Usually they are
restaurant owners, cookbook authors, or, in my case, food and wine writers
who know the terrain, accents and palates where Marvin Woods gleaned the
foundation for his recipes. I did two joyous September shows with Chef
Woods and spent studio time chatting with his wife, Petra and young Chris,
a precocious fourth grader. They are the kind of folks you want as next-door
Low Country Cooking, (William Morrow/Harper Collins) contains 125
of Chef Woods recipes for Southern Cooking, and is much more than
another great cookbook. We are good story tellers here in the South,
the Chef told his television audience one afternoon in Atlanta, and
theres drama in the origin of things like okra and how slaves got
it into the south. Woods shares many historical tidbits on the origin
of dishes and the naming of ingredients. He emphasizes the importance
of African-American cooks in Southern life and heritage. His eloquence
assured the success of the cookbook, and took Chef Woods on a yearlong
Woods also knows the history of rice, the omnipresent ingredient in Low-Country
cooking. Rice, he observed, has been grown in Africa
for centuries and slaves introduced it into the coastal South. It was
so lucrative that it was called Carolina Gold. He added
that one of his goals through the television show forum is to bring
a fresh approach to old favorites as well as creating new ones.
Home Plate by presenting Chef Woods fresh approach to
one of Americas finest cuisines, is already receiving critical acclaim.
I asked what more does a young man, who, in addition to his television
fame, has twice been a featured Chef at The James Beard House, plan for
the future? Im going to open my restaurant soon, he
revealed. Diners will be excited.
Ill be there often, particularly when I crave some Crab and Shrimp
Pilau and Five-Greens Rice, finished with Praline Bread Pudding. Marvin
Woods is my kind of chef.
Some more exceptional Chefs
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the handcrafted cheeses of Sweet Grass Dairy . . .
or . . .
. . wines from North Georgia's Three Sisters Vineyard.