March 8, 2012
Denise Simmons, Corporate Chef
I’ve been thinking a lot about heroes lately. The first item that brought heroes to mind was a letter from CIA advancement announcing that they’re honoring the pioneers of American Cuisine at their 2012 leadership awards. All six chefs being honored deserve the recognition & accolades. I know less about Dean Fearing, Larry Fagione & Jasper White then I do the other three.
The three I do know have long been role models for me. Alice Waters is hero enough to me for being the first famous female chef (besides Julia, of course!). But her dedication to local and organic farming and sustainable food is tremendous. I don’t believe we’d be any where near where we are today in the sustainability world if it wasn’t for Alice and the education she’s given us all.
Wolfgang brought California cuisine into the mainstream. He made it OK to break outside Escoffier’s box of classic French technique and pairings. He made it cool to take Alice’s local ingredients and fuse them into something we’d never seen before. Fusion cuisine is where it is today because Wolfgang had the vision to devote himself to it decades ago.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet Paul Prudhomme a couple of times. He’s a down to earth, humble man who, though he’s an amazing chef in his own right, isn’t afraid to take cooking classes from local chefs so he can learn about regional cuisine and the indigenous ingredients that are so a part of it. If it weren’t for Paul, I don’t thing anyone outside ‘Loosiana’ would know what gumbo, etouffe, dirty rice and po’boys are.
The fourth hero I’m going to talk about is my dad. I said at the beginning of this blog that I’ve been thinking a lot about heroes. Dad has been nominated for a humanitarian award through Lewis Gale hospital, where he volunteers in the physical therapy department. He is where I get my strength and determination. Anytime I start to feel sorry for myself, for whatever reason, I have only to think of him. He was in an accident when he was 18 that left him paralysed from the waist down. Not only has his impairment NEVER stopped him, I believe it’s made him that much more determined to do whatever he wants to do, on his terms with a smile on his face. He is, in my opinion, an excellent example of attitude determining altitude. Which is what I think all heroes have in common, whether you’re a chef, a dad or a businessman.