Archive for May, 2011

Behind every successful chef…

Lantern's Andrea Reusing and Miguel Torres (Photo by Takaaki Iwabu

When you send your “compliments to the cook,” don’t forget the sous chef. Andrea Weigl, award-winning food writer for the News and Observer, has written a fabulous feature about the cooks in the kitchen who make some of the Triangle’s best chefs shine.  Andrea Reusing (Lantern) relies on Miguel Torres.  Amy Tornquist (Watts Grocery) turns to Sunny Gerhart. Ben Barker (Magnolia Grill) has Amanda Forsyth, and Walter Royal (Angus Barn) is backed by both  Jimmy Alfano and Jim Long. You can read all about these super sous chefs in the full story, or savor this morsel below about Miguel Torres. He began his career in his mother’s restaurant in Guanajuato, Mexico, then started over in NC as a dishwasher:

“Miguel Torres, 31, came to the United States from Mexico at the age of 18, knowing very little English, and with only an uncle’s promise of a dishwashing job at a Chapel Hill restaurant…..

“Six months after Torres arrived in Chapel Hill, chef Bret Jennings took over the restaurant, turning it into Elaine’s on Franklin. Torres climbed the fine-dining kitchen’s hierarchy: dishwasher, prep cook, line cook.

“When Lantern opened across the street in late 2001, Torres got a second job there working as a pastry assistant. Torres worked 80 hours a week, splitting his time between Elaine’s and Lantern. Eventually, Reusing offered Torres more money to come work for her full time and he left Elaine’s.

“Along the way, Torres realized food could be more than just a livelihood. He was inspired by the fact that Reusing was so successful despite never having gone to culinary school. He says he thought: ‘I can do this.’  [Claro, si se puede!]

“Three years ago, he was made Lantern’s chef de cuisine. This year, Reusing won Best Chef of the Southeast from the James Beard Foundation, which not only reflects her skill but the ability of her staff – and especially Torres – to execute her food.”

Follow @andreaweigl on Twitter.

May 27, 2011 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

Cicada cacophony

By Dee Reid

I woke to a vaguely familiar white noise.  Not unlike the monotonous hum of high-speed rush-hour traffic. Or what it might sound like if all of the neighbors fired up their leaf blowers at the same time. But this was Saturday; rush hour was long gone. We live in the woods on the edge of a small town.  And few of our neighbors wield leaf blowers.

I opened the back door and recoiled at the racket:  Who had the nerve to disturb the peace of our rural paradise? Could you guys turn down the volume, please?

Then I remembered: It was time for the 13-year cicadas to return.  Magicicadas, Brood XIX to be precise.

Actually they have been here all along and they mean us no harm. Their crazed parents mated in 1998, amidst a cacophony that we at first thought meant bull dozers were heading down our driveway. Their eggs were deposited, and the little ones have been incubating inconspicuously as “nymphs” ever since.

Brood XIX apparently got the memo over the week-end that it was time to claw out of their holes, bust free of their shells, find their own mates, and, well, get it on — all part of the mysterious cycle of their mysterious existence.  In their case: Have babies, then die.

Puzzle solved, we got on with our day, noting the skeletal casings of insect-shaped “cocoons” everywhere — deck, patio, porches, yard, driveway, garden. Check. They even crawled through the clay surface of a backyard tennis court in town.

We marveled at the decibels. I heard them in the morning while biking to the market in Pittsboro. I could still hear them back at our place after lunch even while Brian was mowing the pasture.

Soon the hum of their mating call faded into the background of our rural routine. We forgot they were there, just as we had while they hibernated politely underground for more than a decade.

After a family dinner our eldest granddaughter — Ryan, 5 — suggested a game of outdoor hide-and-seek. She and I would find a perfect hiding place and wait to be discovered.

Ryan and I raced to the giant beech tree about 50 feet from the patio. Just as we were ready to tuck our bodies against the tree’s far side, we noticed the bark seemed to be moving. Oh dear. Hundreds of cicadas were dragging their crispy tan shells up the tree. Holy locusts. They were evacuating a hole at the base of the trunk, teeming out like a rowdy arena crowd following a soccer match.  (Indeed this crowd was almost as noisy as the South African fans at the World Cup last summer, and they’re just getting cranked up.)

We looked up. Shadows on every single leaf revealed twitchy cicadas perched for the mating dance.  We looked around — most of the other trees were also completely infested by this population explosion.

Soon insects were dropping at  our feet. We knelt to inspect these strange creatures: orange beady eyes, giant wings. Fierce determination.

We found ourselves on the lot of a science-fiction movie: Night of the Living Dead meets Them.

But instead of being frightened, Ryan was fascinated.  “They’re everywhere,” she laughed.

Yep. They’re back, big time. And these pre-teen bugs are ready to boogie. Anybody seen my earplugs?

–Learn more and check out a video here.

May 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm 2 comments

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