…and Trey makes three

Euphoria, the Greenville, SC food, wine, and music festival is coming up in a week and a half (September 21-24).  And today we have come to an end of our chef chats.

This week Chef Trey Bell is under the culinary microscope.  Chef Trey is a Columbia SC native who has spent time in the kitchen of Wylie Dufresne.  Chef Dufresne is famous for spearheading the molecular gastronomy phenomena.  Currently, Chef Bell can be found in his Greensboro eatery LaRue Elm paying homage to Southern cuisine.  In August, he opened RueBar which uses unique, artisanal components.

What follows are my questions and his verbatim answers.

1.) For your tomato sandwich: Duke’s, Hellmann’s or homemade?  What kind of bread?  Dukes, Cheapest white bread I can buy – Wonder bread2.) What is your “Can’t wait to get your hands on” seasonal ingredient, and what’s your favorite treatment?  Chanterelles; Confit & jar them and serve on toast

3.) What is your guilty pleasure?  Mcrib, big mac, large diet coke and a large French fry

4.) What do you make when you get home from La Rue and it’s late, and you’re hungry?  Shin black ramen noodles with a raw egg cracked in

5.) What five tools can you not live without?  Tourne knife, circulator, combi-oven, deep fryer and food dehydrator6.) What five ingredients can you not cook without?  Salt, butter, garlic, shallots, olive oil

7.) What is one dish that a novice cook should learn for entertaining that’s easy, impressive, and inexpensive?  (Any recipe you care to share will be highly appreciated)

Frittata:                                                                                                                                          Chanterelles, San Marzano tomatoes, poke greens, eggs & cream and gruyere

8.) What in the culinary world angers or disappoints you?  Terms like mixology and farm-to-table … because they’re so misrepresented9.) What in the culinary world pleases you and gives you hope for the future?  Influx of small producers that we’re seeing more and more of… a lot of farmers are more interested in old, heirloom varietals…

10.) What’s your birthday dinner?  Oysters & bourbon on the coast in SC (Feb birthday so oysters are still so good at this time) – my SC birthday dinner

11.) What do you take on a picnic?  Epoisse, Spanish red wine (tempranillo or rioja), crusty bread

12.)  What food trend or ingredient are you totally and completely over?  Kale13.) What is the best way for passionate but not affluent people to discover fine dining?  Pour over cookbooks in a book store – new stuff by Phaedon (new Nordic cuisine, Peruvian cuisine)

14.) You worked with Wylie Dufresne, who by anybody’s yardstick is an imaginative, innovative chef.  What’s the most ambitious, mad scientist idea you’ve had, have you tried it, and if so how did it work out?  We made a layered terrine out of pigs’ ears… sous vide them and packed into terrine mold… sliced cross cut and fried one side and served with toast points/crostini… it was absolutely ridiculous! Served at LaRue Elm upon opening… we may even have a photo!15.) What is one thing about you that nobody would ever guess?  I rebuild typewriters and old brass blade fans… I know how to restore them and Brittany Spears TOXIC is a top 10 favorite song and I’ve seen the movie CLUELESS more than any other movie

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I have.  Despite the different personalities, philosophies, and even geographic locations, these chefs, and almost all chefs have two necessary traits in common.

Creativity and generosity.Thanks for your time.

Don’t let the cheese stand alone

Petey likes it simple; very basic, with no fanciness.  He’d be quietly satisfied if it was the same way every single time.

Sometimes simple is ok, but I really like to mix things up; today one way, tomorrow, another.  With me, variety is the spice of life.

I’m just talking grilled cheese here, folks.

An episode of “Chopped” on Food Network got me to thinking about grilled cheese.  A contestant decided to make a chicken pot pie grilled cheese sandwich.

Then she commenced to making a giant, gloppy mess of the whole thing.

She made chicken pot pie filling.  Then she cut some slices of brioche bread.  She filled it with pot pie stuff, slapped on a slice of cheese, and threw it, unbuttered, onto a ridged grill pan.

It didn’t brown, got stuck to the grill, and leaked all over.  She ended up shoveling it into a bowl and serving it to the judges like that,

Shockingly, she was chopped.

If she had really wanted to make a chicken pot pie grilled cheese, there were actually two ways that probably would’ve worked.  She should have made a very thick filling.  Then assembled it by using one slice of cheese on each slice of bread, spreading a layer of filling between them, and browning and crisping it in a non-stick pan.

Or alternatively, made two thin-ish grilled cheese sandwiches, cutting each in the shape of a gratin dish, and using them as the top and bottom crust of a traditional pot pie.

She would not have gotten chopped.

Even though a grilled cheese seems like the epitome of simple, it’s also simple to make a bad one.  You can burn it, over or under melt the cheese, or make it into an oil slick.  But with a few tips, a delicious, well-made sandwich is mere minutes away.

Break out your well-seasoned cast iron frying pan (or a heavy non-stick skillet), and set it on the burner at about medium-low.  Smear a very thin layer of mayo on one slice of bread.  The egg in the mayo will give the bread an almost French toast-like surface.  Place the bread mayo side down onto the heated skillet.  Layer on the cheese and any other fillings, starting and finishing with the cheese so it will act as a glue.

Put another thin layer of mayo on the other slice of bread and place on top, mayo side up.  Put a lid on the pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes.  Uncover pan, check and flip if the bottom slice of bread is browned and the cheese has started to melt.  Flip and cook until the other side is browned and crispy.

Remove and let sit for a couple minutes then slice and serve.

If you’re Petey, you pick Velveeta on Wonder Bread.


Here are a few ideas if you’d like to shake things up:

The Kid likes fried green tomatoes, bacon and pimento cheese on a hearty homemade white made with a touch of cornmeal.  Or crazy sharp cheddar on chewy, mouth-puckering sourdough.

I like caramelized onion and goat cheese on French baguette. And also sautéed mushrooms, short ribs and Laughing Cow on Hawaiian bread.

So here’s my advice: go to the fancy cheese store, and buy some new interesting types.  Then go to a good bakery and get a couple loaves of funky breads.  Visit the produce department, and pick up some guest stars.

Then go into your kitchen and have a grilled cheese party.  No RSVP required.

Thanks for your time.