Meet Chef Tim Love. He is 37 years old, straight, and a Scorpio from Ft. Worth, TX . . .at least that's what his publicist wrote on his MySpace page. He also wears his trademark cowboy hat in place of a traditional toque. You gotta love a man who leaves his hat on . . .seriously.
His interests are listed as cooking, his wife and kids, Western culture and the Fort Worth Stockyards where he has two restaurants and one bar: The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro his flagship, The White Elephant Saloon his live music and bar venue and The Love Shack his funky cool burger joint that is connected to The White Elephant Saloon next door. He is also a self-taught Chef.
He opened another Lonesome Dove restaurant in The Flatiron District of New York City in 2006, but closed it in 2007 due to underwhelming performance. New Yorkers wouldn't understand a Texas boy's cookin' anyway, besides they see too much faux Western to know the real deal if it hit them on the head. Trust me, Chef Tim Love is the real deal.
"The Fort Worth chef-entrepreneur confirmed recently that he has also sold his west Fort Worth steakhouse, Duce, to Chicago-area chef Efrain Benitez, who most recently was the chef at Tuscany in Chicago's Oak Brook area."
This concept, Duce, was a martini bar with suede couches and funky, modern food. Frankly, coming from a good old Texas boy, the food coming out of the kitchen here from Chef Love was really impressive, even sexy . . .but didn't seem to touch the heart and soul of who he is.
Love also said he is developing a fresh food-to-go concept with Z Market at the company's Dallas/Fort Worth Airport locations. I have read about many nationally know Chefs are doing airport deals right now. Very hot, especially after 9/11. (Received a press release a week after this post confirming that Chef Love's Z Market had it's Grand Opening on May 19, 2008 at Terminal B, Gate 30 at DFW Airport.)
"Chef Tim Love also won his challenge on Iron Chef, the Food Network show that pits visiting chefs against the show's panel of resident chefs. Chef Love competed against Masaharu Morimoto with the mystery ingredient chiles."
"Chef Love opened his menu with a chile-infused margarita, followed by a surf-and-turf course, and a chocolate-chile cheesecake accompanied by a trio of teas that wowed judge Jeffrey Steingarten."
"Morimoto confessed up front that he wasn't familiar with chiles, but still managed to lose by only one point."
"Savvy viewers might wonder why Love didn't compete against chef Bobby Flay, whose strength in Southwestern cuisine makes him the more obvious foe but who is rumored to have rejected Love's request for a match-up. (A Food Network spokesman says he can't confirm that rumor.)"
"Love and his two assistant chefs wore cowboy hats and repeatedly interrupted the hour-long cooking contest with shots of Tuaca, the vanilla-flavored liqueur served at Duce." Any man that can do shots of Tuaca and still maintain his masculinity . . .is my kind of man.
Honestly, I am in love with Chef Love. . .here's why . . .he's cute, he's from Texas and he is a forager and believer in using local ingredients as his press release describes below:
"In 2003 Love celebrated the late James Beard’s 100th birthday with his first annual trail drive. Traveling with horses and camera crew from Fort Worth to New York City, and then riding up on horseback to farmers’ markets along the trail to select local ingredients, Love’s Trail Drive culminated with a gala dinner at the James Beard House that featured all the products he picked up on the trip north. More than 30 million people followed Love’s trail drive as it was featured in various print publications and NBC’s “The Today Show.”
"In 2004 Love embarked on his second annual trail drive. This time, the trail moved to the West in honor of Love’s participation in the American Express Celebrity Chef Tour, an annual charity event featuring celebrated chefs. This unique philanthropic dining adventure was captured by the Food Network in a documentary, “Cowboys on the Trail,” and was nominated for a James Beard Award."
For me, I'm impressed with the guts it took to pull off something like this in preparation for the James Beard dinner. If you are going to cook for some of the finest foodies in the country, of course you would want the food to be spectacular . . .but food you foraged on your way to the dinner is something else, all together. Watching these videos, I also decided to become a James Beard member . . .with access to discount tickets to events, email updates, etc.
The image in both of these videos that sets my heart all a flutter for Chef Love, is seeing him in the woods on this trail drive with his cowboy hat on and his pant legs rolled up as he is stopping to forage something from a creek bed that he planned to use in his dinner. My bodily reaction to watching this strapping young man physically pull something from the ground with his bare hands that he plans to feed me with touches me in some really profoundly prehistoric and primal way. You would really have to trust that this man knows what he is doing to allow him to do something like this for you. I trust Chef Love, trust me, I do.
As I watched this video . . .over and over and over again, I realized that I needed to figure out a Spring foraging experience that I could do as a newbie to the scene. Something not too dangerous or poisonous, but something where I would feel confident that if I did manage to find it, I would know for sure what it was, and I would feel confident eating it.
My opportunity came in the form of a hunter friend who casually mentioned that he loved coming to our neighborhood during the very short morel mushroom season and foraging for morels. Apparently, my backyard is a hot spot for foragers. Who knew? Then I had a conversation with Chef Marshall Roth and he said this time of year always reminded him of foraging for ramps in Europe with a Chef he worked for over there when he was a young lad. He said they were like a cross between a leek and garlic. Then, Chef Ted Habiger was the icing on my foraging cake . . .when he served me a wild nettle soup as part of a tasting menu at Room 39. He said a farmer friend had brought to him and asked him if he could do anything with it. He knew just what to do with the poisonous stinging nettle leaves. The result was an interesting soup that tasted like a cross between asparagus and spinach with a very mild, "green" taste.
So morels and ramps were my goal, as I set out last weekend on my first foraging experience with my family in our neighborhood. Before I walked in the footsteps of Chef Tim Love and others, I did my research . . .reading websites, watching You Tube videos and dressing appropriately (Basically, like a trash collector in the park, complete with a long stick . . .although I wore my brown Juicy sweatpants, as shown in this picture . . .because God knows where else I would wear them except foraging. Right?)
I learned how important proper dressing was when I pulled three ticks off my son's privates later that night at bath-time after he spent the day following me into the woods in shorts.
The ramps were the easiest to find as they grew like crazy in every field in our neighborhood. But morels, proved to be a challenge and after hacking my way through every thicket of forest in my neighborhood and peeking under every downed Elm tree I could find, I finally gave up after a 3 hour search. I came home with an exhausted child and a nice handful ramps.
Of course, I emailed this hunter friend to see if he had any tips on exactly where he had his luck, and in return he sent me a picture of him holding a 4 lbs. morel that he had just found on his own hunting trip that day. Thanks a lot, friend.
I set to work cleaning and trimming my precious ramps to hold them in my vegetable drawer. I was surprised by the strong onion/garlic scent they gave off during cleaning. Reminding me more of garlic, than of leek. I washed my hands for days trying to eliminate the smell from them. My son, smelled my hands and just said: "You smell like food, Momma." Indeed. I have used the ramps in several things this week. A weekend breakfast of scrambled eggs, a white wine and garlic cream sauce and I even threw some into a mid-week stir fry.
So, I applaud you, Chef Tim Love . . .for blazing your own trail onto our American culinary scene and for your ability to capture our hearts and our imagination with your passion for really wonderful and exciting food using local ingredients. Just keep doing it your way, buddy, and make us catch up to you.
And if you ever stop in Kansas and need someone to carry your foraging basket, feel free to give me a call. I know this really great neighborhood in Kansas City that is supposed to have the best stash of morel mushrooms and this Foodie would definitely make the time in her busy schedule for you.