American Culinary Federation Halloween Chef’s Table Featuring Chef John Schopp

We are full of joy and gratitude sharing this spectacular meal with our friends.  Roanoke has another star in the city in the Al Pollard Culinary Institute, and all the beautiful and talented humans that make it shine bright. Many thanks to Chef Schopp, Chef Ziegler, Chef Moran and all the culinary students who worked diligently to make this meal a reality. 

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Chef John Schopp, Chef Greg Moran and Chef Jim Ziesler members of the American Culinary Federation

My husband, Mike, and I won the live auction for a chef’s table featuring Chef John Schopp at the annual Derby Day Gala at Rockledge held every May in Roanoke. With our busy schedules we finally found a window of opportunity to enjoy a fun evening at home with some of our friends and the finest food that the Roanoke Valley has to offer.

The American Culinary Federation of Southwest Virginia delights guests with two food and beverage driven fundraising events each year. The annual Al Pollard Memorial Golf Tournament and chefs’ cooking competition held every September at Roanoke Country Club, and the Derby DayGala hosted by Dr(s) Nancy and Kevin Dye at their beautiful home, Rockledge, on Mill Mountain. Both events benefit students of the Al Pollard Culinary Institute with scholarships, as well as funds to compete in culinary competitions on the national level within the ACF.

When Chef Schopp suggested Halloween as a possible date, we jumped at the opportunity. In 2016, Chef Schopp competed on the Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship. Having gently stalked this amazing chef for decades, both online and IRL, we’re well aware of his talents.  l try to attend any event featuring his catering business, Center Stage Catering. I have had the pleasure of dining at his chef’s table on more than one occasion, so knowing his creativity, I did not want to give him any limitations on number of courses, types of food, or themes.

What arrived at my home Tuesday at 4:30pm, October 31, 2017 was a carefully invented, meticulously planned and implemented symphony of culinary art with Chef Schopp as the lead conductor.  Chef Schopp designed entirely new dishes for my dinner! Working from a general theme of Fall, the following dishes knocked our socks off.

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Autumn Musings; 14 brand new dishes made by Chef John C. Schopp, CFC,CEPC, CCA
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Chef Schopp front and center. His two wingmen for this ACF fundraiser, Chef James Zeisler, Sr. CEC, CCA, CDM,CFPP.  Chef Z is a Graduate of the University of Florida and Johnson & Wales. He is the Department Chairman at the Al Pollard Culinary Institute.  Chef Greg Moran, also an instructor at the Al Pollard Culinary Institute

Amuse Bouche

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Festive friends enjoy Turkish spiced acorn squash with pepita
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New England charcuterie plates are placed in strategic gathering areas in my home for our guests to enjoy as they like. Housemade sausage with pickled red onions, housemade mustard, gherkins and spiced pecans

 

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Hammer and Forge La Cabaza de Fuego. Figs and cheese with a unique apple butter puree

 

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Chef Greg Moran passes an amazing seared saffron scallop, glazed with a vanilla white raisin lacquer. Cocktail portion of evening in full swing
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Chef John Schopp lives in Franklin County, the moonshine capital of the world. He treated us to a flight of Vanilla Pineapple Brandy. I was careful to ask him about his infusing technique, and not sourcing. It’s on a need to know basis

Pasta

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This is what handmade, fresh pappardelle pasta looks like before he dresses it…paper thin and tender to the bite. It is a labor of love to make pasta like this
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Hazelnut pappardelle with buttered bread crumbs, cooked egg yolk, manchego, lemon, parsley,  and butter.  For the record, I thought my dinner guest, Yvette, was going to explode in her seat! Anyone who makes their own pasta knows how much time and attention is needed to pull off perfect pasta. Served family style with the salad, I was able to send her home with some leftovers

From the Field

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baby lettuces, shaved radish with grapefruit white balsamic and robust olive oil from Chile (Olivito on 419) and micro plained manchego.

 

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Escar-Foe

 

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This is definitely the most creative way I have ever eaten pork! Chef Schopp combined his own Housemade winter spice-cured bacon AND sorghum braised pork belly served on buttered stoneground grits, apple garlic soubise, and parsley and ham ‘Snail Foam.’ My husband lost his mind over this one! Just when you think it can’t get any better, Chef Schopp brings us a tasting of spiced micro beer to accompany it
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Winter spice cured bacon…this could have stood on its own. Absolutely delicious.

Seafood 

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Coriander-crusted ahi tuna served rare with butternut squash silk. I kind of remember going into the kitchen to open some white wine for this course 🙂

Meat & Potato

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Ras-el-hanout ribeye. This has a special rub made by Chef Ted Polfelt, also an ACF member and instructor at the school. It made my house smell incredible. I watched Chef Morgan sear this in duck fat when they first arrived. It roasted in my oven creating the most manly potpourri imaginable. Served with potatoes anna, and garlic aioli
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Passing through my kitchen earlier, the three chefs spoke in shorthand, cut jokes, and moved in unison. They were so calm and well organized. I would hear a little timer go off every now and again. It was a treat to see this level of professionalism working together. I can tell they are like brothers, and enjoyed the camaraderie of this performance.  Just the number of sauces and garnishes would have overwhelmed most cooks. They made everything look effortless and had a blast working together
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Ras-el-hanout ribeye with duck fat, potatoes anna, garlic aioli…yeah, that is bearnaise… My husband told me he watched Chef Schopp work on that sauce for about a half an hour. He would stir it continuously with a whisk and check the consistency until it was perfect. Crusted bread, also made by the culinary students to accompany this course.

Pre-dessert Morphing

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Wine spiced apple encased in foie caramel cream with fried winter herb salad and toast
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I paired this goose liver caramel spiced apple with a 40 year old Noval Tawny Port, a special gift from our friend Dr. Walid Azzo of Bluefield, WV.   Decadent!!!

But wait, there is more!!!

Sweet Amuse

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Snickerdoodle palmier
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Macadamia buttermilk ice cream with macadamia nuts, crystal ginger, and pineapple
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Roasted cashew tart with with cornmeal short dough

 

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Anise sea salt caramel suckers with fresh raspberries and dehydrated spiced apples

 

 

 

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Rick James was our playlist inspired by my friend David’s costume. The kitchen loves funk!

We are full of joy and gratitude sharing this spectacular meal with our friends.  Roanoke has another star in the city in the Al Pollard Culinary Institute, and all the beautiful and talented humans that make it shine bright. Many thanks to Chef Schopp, Chef Ziegler, Chef Moran and all the culinary students who worked diligently to make this meal a reality.

If you would like to contribute the the scholarship fund, please contact the American Culinary Federation, Southwest Virginia Chapter. Also, keep an eye out for opportunities to bid on chef’s tables at local events, but be prepared that we will be there bidding, again!

 

 

 

Last Call…Metro!

It is impossible for me to think that the restaurant failed for any food or service failures.

 

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Every seat is at the Chefs’ table in Metro!

Dear Andy,

I’m sorry. It’s me. It’s definitely not you. You did all the right things. Every day open and waiting to delight guests with new and exciting dishes, plated in always different and beautiful ways. You showed up. You shined bright.

I feel like there has been a death in my family. I have this overwhelming sadness. I try to not ruminate as there are many layers to think about with the closing of my family’s favorite restaurant. It had been a second home to me for just over fifteen years.

I know things have been tough for the past couple of years. Many people are wondering what happened? How could such a fine restaurant with a dedicated following shutter its doors? I would guess that if I asked you what happened, I might get a different answer depending on the typical weekly calamities…downtown flooding, streets closed for parades, high overhead,  expensive table linens (Frette, I noticed), long meals with clients who have short attention spans, increased food costs, the unsightly dumpster parked in front of your restaurant for endless months while the building next door underwent renovations. The regular need for sandbags and early closing every time it rained hard. Humidity from all the water in the ancient basement doing a number on your HVAC system.  You endured many years of intense stress with changing palates, competition from the next new restaurant that garners all the attention for the few extra dollars that so many people manage. Constant festivals are both a boon on some days and a bust on others. Closed streets and full parking garages. None of these things ever stopped you. You always powered through.

It is impossible for me to think that the restaurant failed for any food or service failures. The contempt that some people spew on pages like Yelp, Open Table, and Facebook is disturbing. You, my friend, were never offering a factory food model that so many are willing to eat. Pre-made frozen desserts are a quick and easy solution for other establishments. You were not that type of purveyor…ever.  In fact, to the untrained eye, it might appear that you placed a burger on your menu just to appease the unsophisticated palate of guests who may have been talked into going to a “sushi place.” Not so…you always understood there were days that people just need a burger, or a steak for that matter.

 

 

 

Metro! wasn’t just a place to grab a quick bite and move on. This special place was like my second living room. In the early years, it was my every weekend watering hole for my single social life. You provided me a safe and friendly place to meet people before social media changed the way we engage with each other. I never forgot the night you gave me the heads up on a guy that was chatting me up. You let me know he was a bad apple. You looked out for me.

Metro! was my go-to place to entertain physicians as a medical sales rep. Also, it was the only place in my mind for a girlfriends’ night out. Once remarried, it quickly become a place to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays.  As our kids left the nest and returned for short and sweet visits, it was always assumed we would go see Andy while they were in town. When they were old enough to drink, they wanted to have their first adult beverages with us at Metro! Now as empty nesters, Metro! was in heavy rotation for our cherished date nights. And is it where we often entertain visiting physicians while we try to convince future fellows and partners that Roanoke is a cool place to live and work.

 

 

 

We are in shock and disbelief at the closing of your innovative restaurant.  You made it through so many tough times. You weathered the 2008 stock market collapse. You made it though marketing reforms which essentially stopped all medical marketing dinners, once a steady source of revenue. You blazed the trail for fine dining in Downtown.

The last three Januaries, my husband Mike wanted to do the Dry January challenge. This is a month where we challenge ourselves to give up alcohol for the health benefits, and to ensure that we still can. January is notoriously slow for restaurants, people overindulge from Halloween to New Years, then do a 180 in January to reset physically and financially, and to give the liver a break. The last 90 days, my husband and I have been eating low carb…I’m sorry Andy.  I know that you always offer healthy choices including low carb, but my willpower to be in your living room without one of your craft cocktails is something I just couldn’t do and stick to my weight loss plan. I’m weak. Again, it was me, not you.

As we collectively scratch our heads on how this restaurant could close, the answer is simple. We didn’t show up for you. I know that each person will have a different perspective and even if I asked you three days in a row, I would probably get some different scenarios, but really it is basic. You would still be running your family business if we showed up.

Instead of pointing out all the inequities of being a small business owner in a challenging and ever-changing economy, I would like to help you remember all the things you did right.

First off, I loved the fact that I could be an adult in Roanoke. You gave me a place to get dressed up and turn out with friends, clients, and family. You provided an atmosphere that was sophisticated, not stuffy. Your food was always the focus and never an afterthought. Your attention to detail was superb. The drama of having a perfectly plated meal was impressive. Even up to the bitter end, you continued to innovate. You kept me guessing and dreaming. You inspired me to be a better cook at home.

Your passion for the freshest ingredients and innovative ways to prepare them was the main difference among your peers. Just provisioning the place would be a full-time task. Bacon was cured in-house. Bloody Mary mix, also fresh. That delicious half-sour dill pickle you spent years perfecting, atop the perfect grassfed beef burger…this is what separated you from others. I’m guessing it was hard to keep up with all those vendors.

I’m still in shock about how quickly people just want to make a quick judgment so they can file away the reason a restaurant closed, and move on to the next thing.  There are textbook ways to do a grand opening; there are no textbook ways to end a business.

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Girls night out. Nothing but love for you, my friend.

Our perceptions are the lens through which we experience life and the world around us.  The uninformed on social media point to a common scenario, saying it is typical for a restauranteur to just shut the doors and leave a note. How simple-minded to imagine that is was an easy decision for you. You carefully arranged for other restauranteurs to meet with employees, and had job offers waiting for all of them on Sunday afternoon. The fact that your competitors are also your friends is a testament to the way you ran your business.

If others are quick to believe that you had bad intentions for your employees, then they weren’t regulars. Besides making phenominal cuisine daily, you were also a tenured restauranteur. Over your lifetime, you learned how to run a successful business from your parents. This is in your blood.  I was speaking with one of your longtime employees just this morning. Dexter, a former server, who climbed his way to management within a couple of years. Dexter quickly rattled off a dozen things that you did for your staff.  Dexter was respectful of your management style. He said you grew your own managers. You never hired outside managers to come into the team. You always promoted servers to assistant managers and then to managers as they developed the high level of customer service that you expected. Dexter appreciated your willingness to train staff members to DJ if they were interested, and give them a Thursday night shift to have the experience of getting a crowd on the dance floor. You always had a theme for the staff each year for Halloween costumes and a contest just for them. Dexter told me that one year the staff was ask to dress as their favorite superhero. He won with his Ghostrider  costume, and was thrilled to be given a bottle of Dom Perignon as his prize.

As you are well aware, the nature of a restaurant is an ever-changing staff. One staff member relationship really stood out to Dexter. He said that when Chef Tom was working in the kitchen, it was a beautiful thing to watch. He said that ‘Tom and Andy worked together like a father and son.” When Chef Tom discovered he had cancer, it was his dying wish to continue working, right up to the bitter end. Andy, you followed his wishes and made that happen for him.  For years you kept Chef Tom’s name listed as sous chef on the menu–long after he had passed away.  Many highly-trained chefs helped you over the years. You became a regular mentor for many who were studying and working through our local Al Pollard Culinary School. You are a respected peer among local chefs.

Speaking of menus, can we talk about how frequently you changed yours? There were always a few dishes on the list that the regulars would not let go out of rotation, but there was also always something new to the season, or just new to Roanoke.

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I love the tradition you shared with your daughter, Emma. You always placed a Hello Kitty for her somewhere on the menu.
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Emma is a talented artist that pitched in with your side walk menus.

You were the first to offer Wagyu beef in Roanoke. Remember that stint of mini dessert flights? Just three or four bites, enough to satisfy most sweet tooths after a special meal. I remember you offered the dozen desert choices on an iPad. That was a cool new way to use technology, until a dinner guest used the tablet to search for adult materials, then when it was handed to the next table, a family, those naughty images came back. Sometimes we can’t have nice things here. Looking back further, remember when you did tableside fondue with the craft breads, house cured meats, local veggies and those adorable little fiddlehead ferns. I do. I know I annoyed you by begging you to bring it back, but that was so ten years ago. You have long moved on to master the next new technique. How about when more recently, you offered binchotan grilled food? This Japanese style of cooking uses special wood that had to be imported from Japan. Having affordable quick bites of Japanese street food was a special treat for Roanoke.

It will be a drastic change for your family that has fought hard week in and week out to put their special stamp on fine dining in Roanoke. I know you will adjust. I am deeply saddened that we could not sustain your presence in downtown.

The Wolfe Family loves you and your family, this will not change. Thank you for a fabulous fifteen years. It was awesome.

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Random treat sent out by one of our favorite bartenders, Jackie. She could hear my girlfriend and I discussing her new status as a widow, seeing the tone of our girls night headed South, she intuitively cheered us up. You always surrounded yourself with employees with high EQ.

 

 

 

Chef Fabien Beaufour visits Primland

Balance would also describe Chef Beaufour’s final platted product. Six courses with expertly paired wine flights, brought about a genuine harmony among the twelve guests seated at this chef’s table.

 

The stars always shine brighter at Primland 

I was honored with a seat at Primland’s chef’s table this weekend. As a regular guest at this unique, ultra-luxurious 12,000 acre resort, I have dined with many of the great chefs that have called this kitchen home over the past several years. But, this was a very special chef’s table. Chef Fabien Beaufour is the executive chef at the sister resort, Domaine des Etangs in Massignac, France. He was invited to showcase his formidable skills for a select few members of the Primland Resort. True to the nature of this exclusive membership, seats at this table were not available to the general public.

Domaine des Etangs, an 11th-century castle within the pristine, remote Charente Limousine region of France. Formerly, a retreat for the Primat family, the castle has been thoroughly transformed to exceed the standards of the most discerning travelers while remaining true to the vision of the property, as a natural preserve. It is this harmony between old and new, that is the foundation of the property, and it is carried out through every detail in an effort to bring about balance and wellness for its guests. I had the pleasure to meet with Chef Beaufour in the spa the day after this amazing meal. A spa lover himself, Chef Beaufour shared with me his belief that most great spas also have incredible food. He believes that mind and body must be nourished properly to achieve balance in life. His goal is to create an optimal state of wellbeing for the guest. He does this by managing the entire process from farm to table. Organic food grown on property is respectfully managed in a way that does not harm the land while keeping an eye on the long-term health of this pristine 2,400 acre preserve. It is this deep respect for balance that guides him in planning, planting, growing, harvesting, and preparation of his dishes.

Balance would also describe Chef Beaufour’s final plated product. Six courses with expertly paired wine flights, brought about a genuine harmony among the twelve guests seated at this chef’s table.

 

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Lobster cappucino and cauliflower bavaroise paired with
2012 Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc
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River trout, braised artichoke with coconut paired with
2014 Hofgut Falkenstein Niedermenniger Sonnenberg Rielsling Spatlese trocken
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Foie gras parfait, tangerine and toast, on the menu at Domaine des Etangs
2005 Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Moelleux Premiere Trie
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Smoked carrots, tabbouleh with ginger
1983 Ch. Cantemerle
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Roasted lobster with butternut and lemon verbena sabayon
2011 PaulPernot Puligny-Montrachet Clos des Folatieres
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Venison saddle, pears and black trumpet mushroom
2010 Mullineux Schist Syrah (en magnum)
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Classic Grand Marnier souffle paired with
Grand Marnier

 

Guests of Domaine des Etangs are invited to explore the gardens, pick produce that is pleasing to them, and bring it in to Chef Beaufour to prepare for them. It is this connection with nature that also feeds the soul and achieves the desired state of wellbeing and balance.

 

 

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I look forward to my visit to Domaine des Etangs later this year. To learn more about my time at Primland you might enjoy these posts: Inspired Mountain Magic   Pinnacle Cottages and Paddling    How to make a gingerbread treehouse

 

I was a guest of Primland for this special dinner. All opinions are my own. This is my life.