Authors: Allison Vines-Rushing
Copyright © 2012 by Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing
Photographs copyright © 2012 by Ed Anderson
Ten Speed Press and the Ten Speed Press colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Southern comfort : a new take on the recipes we grew up with /
Allison Vines-Rushing, Slade Rushing.
Summary: “The much-anticipated debut cookbook from two of the most admired and innovative young chefs in the South, with 100 recipes featuring their refined, classically-inspired takes on the traditional Southern food they grew up with”— Provided by publisher.
1. Cooking, American—Southern style. I. Rushing, Slade. II. Title.
Prop Styling by Angie Mosier
HIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO
THE SWEETEST LITTLE DISH WE HAVE EVER CREATED
E MET IN THE KITCHEN OF A RESTAURANT
called Gerard’s Downtown in New Orleans. It was the fall of 2000, we were both cooks and we fell in love. Six months later, we purchased two one-way tickets to New York City on the City of New Orleans train and away we went. We each landed jobs and rented a tiny one-room basement apartment in Brooklyn complete with a patch of dirt in the back. We planted a garden and felt like the two luckiest people on Earth.
Working in New York was more mentally and physically exhausting than we had imagined, but our Southern stubbornness prevented us from giving up. We also had our little Brooklyn refuge, where on late nights after work (Slade was at March and I was at Ducasse), wine revived our tired bodies, and we created dishes and wrote menus sprinkled with comforting memories from home. Funny how soon those ideas would come in handy. After only a few years in New York, we became head chefs of a tiny restaurant in the East Village called Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar.
Finding ourselves at Jack’s was serendipitous to say the least. At the time, Slade was
chef de cuisine
at a little
French restaurant in the Flatiron District called Fleur de Sel, and I had just left Ducasse to take a break from the stress and plan our wedding. I applied for a job as a barista at the recently opened Blue Goose Café, armed with a ridiculous résumé that included all of my restaurant experience from the last ten years—starting with Kenny Roger’s Roasters in Coral Springs, Florida, and ending with Alain Ducasse. Jack Lamb, the owner of the Blue Goose, checked out my résumé and said he wanted to hire me as the chef of a new restaurant he was opening. I was a bit taken aback, but saying no was never my strong suit. I said yes, but told him I was getting married in August—to which he replied, “Then we will open the restaurant in September.” I immediately called Slade to tell him I had gotten a job, but as a chef. He asked me if I had lost my mind.
On the opening night of Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar (which was also my twenty-eighth birthday), Slade took the night off from Fleur de Sel to cook by my side. A few months later, on Valentine’s Day of 2004, he joined me as the co-chef at Jack’s. There, our menus were riffs on classic New Orleans dishes, mingled with French-inspired soul food. Customers walked through the kitchen to get into the upstairs dining room, while we scrubbed our own pots and pans in a little sink after we served each table. Our tiny seven by seven-foot kitchen with a Sub-Zero fridge and four-burner stove was about as far away from a commercial restaurant kitchen as you could get. There was no walk-in cooler and no real prep space to speak of, so we packed the small fridge every day before service and emptied it out before the end of the night. The spiral staircase in the middle of the kitchen became our cooling rack. It was a job no chef in their right mind would agree to take on, but lucky for us we did and we made it work. Pretty soon the customers walking through the unconventional kitchen were chefs like David Bouley, Jeremiah Towers, Alain Ducasse, Eric Ripert, François Payard, and many others. Lines formed outside to wait for tables. We realized that something special was going on.
But too quickly, it all got much bigger than us. The media attention was constant and hugely flattering—and, well, tricky. All of the positive press resulted in customers’ increasing expectations, plus our egos grew, things became complicated with our boss, and the honeymoon was definitely over for our brand-new marriage. We decided to get the hell out of town. The article in the
New York Times
read “Two Rising Stars Opt Out of Manhattan.” What a way to go.
We unpacked our bags in Abita Springs, right outside of New Orleans, three months before the most disastrous hurricane ever hit this area. Our family had bought us an amazing, dreamy property, which would become our first restaurant, Longbranch. We had the “we made it in New York, we can make it anywhere” attitude. And then all hell broke loose. A week before the restaurant was set to open, we packed up our truck to evacuate before Katrina hit. We took a couple of changes of clothes, beer, foie gras and sweetbreads that we didn’t want to go bad, and two dogs that weren’t ours. We headed to Tylertown, Mississippi, and didn’t return home for over a week. Even in Mississippi we were not completely out of Katrina’s path, and the power was not restored there until after we had headed back home. Luckily, Slade’s sister Kim had a natural spring well in her backyard, so we rigged up a shower
where we could also wash dishes and clothes. To keep ourselves busy, we raided all the freezers on our street and then cooked friends, family, and neighbors three meals a day on a gas grill.