[tabi] Re: Silver Bistro chef must 'cook from smell'

  • From: "Denyece Roberts, MSW" <droberts@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 7 Jul 2011 08:36:07 -0400

Nice story!

-----Original Message-----
From: Allison and Chip Orange [mailto:acorange@xxxxxxxxxxx] 
Sent: Wednesday, July 06, 2011 8:34 PM
To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [tabi] Silver Bistro chef must 'cook from smell'

Allie found this article in today's Democrat:

Silver Bistro chef must 'cook from smell'

Don White lost much of his vision, but his keen cooking powers launched him
downtown eatery, slot on TV
By Janie Nelson . Special to the Democrat . Published: July 06. 2011 2:00AM

Don White has known good times as a chef. The Maine native learned his craft
in small
restaurants throughout Europe while working as an artist. He's rubbed elbows
celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Gordon Ramsey. He was the chef in
a retirement
community for millionaires in Los Gatos, Calif.
He's also known bad times. In March 2001 the master chef, who now runs the
Bistro restaurant in the Claude Pepper Building, had open-heart surgery. He
an aneurysm, which left him completely blind for six months. Some of his
sight has
returned, but not enough for him to count on his sight when de-boning a fish
or removing
a pot of simmering stock from the stove.
"The way I see is like when you were a kid and swimming under water and open
eyes," White said. "I can see, but not details."
He also lost some of his fine motor skills, which means he can whip up a
but not write his name. He developed diabetes. His life was on a downward
"I couldn't get unemployment," said While, who will soon turn 60. "I
couldn't get
anything." At one point after moving to Tallahassee, he said, he was kicked
out of
his house and lived under a tree.
Passion plus skills
His luck changed when he chanced upon the Vision World Foundation, which
the television show "Cooking Without Looking," the first cooking program for
visually impaired that will soon be featured on the Cooking Channel (Comast
122). White is now one of three co-hosts.
In his audition for the show he made shrimp and grits.
"He gave out samples, and people cut in line three times," said Renee
founder and president of the foundation.
When shooting a show in Miami, Rentmeester said, White blindfolded the chef
the Hotel Betsy, a posh boutique hotel on South Beach, and taught him how to
an onion.
"The chef was so nervous," she remembered. Luckily everyone came out with
intact and onions perfectly prepared.
But it takes more than cooking skills to make a TV chef.
You have to be entertaining and knowledgeable. Anyone who spends 5 minutes
with Don
White knows he's both.
He's ebullient and funny. He's passionate, about both cooking and equal
for people with disabilities.
"About 87 percent of blind people do not work because people say, 'For
you're blind, what makes you think you can do the job?'" White said, his
showing as his face reddens.
White knows he can do his job and do it well, and he said it hasn't been
to change the way he does things.
"You cook from sound," White said. "You cook from smell. There is a certain
when you know something is done."
He recalled a story from his training in Europe, when a chef, in a prescient
blindfolded him and made him cook a whole meal.
"My whole perception of cooking opened up like a flower," he said. "It put
in place.
"Before you use herbs, you have to chew them," he explained. "Then you have
to chew
them with the food to see what it tastes like."
Grits to garlic
Since March, White, with the help of his brother David, has been serving
and lunch from the airy atrium in the Claude Pepper Building.
The state Division of Blind Services provides the restaurant, which is open
to the
public, and the large professional kitchen from which White creates
specialties such
as pancake poppers that have become a favorite on his breakfast menu. For
less than
$2, diners can have one of his cat-claw biscuits with bacon, the top seller,
a cup of coffee. Of course, other breakfast staples, such as eggs "any way
you want
them" and grits cooked to creamy perfection are ready for the asking.
The lunch menu - nothing over $6 - features an array of sandwiches, plus a
sandwich of the day and a hot entree.
One day last week, as the sandwich special, White butterflied a chicken
breast and
pounded it out till it was of even thickness. He topped the chicken with
cheese and began rolling it up. Just before he reached the end, he put down
two pieces
of bacon, lengthwise and finished rolling.
"The bacon holds it together," he said. He then cooked the rollup on the
grill and
served it in a hotdog bun.
For the entree, he made his chicken stew with vegetables and garlic.
"I cook the chicken raw and pull it off the bone," he said. "Some people
would open
a can, but that's not me."
Friday is seafood day at the Bistro. The entree consists of a piece or two
of fish
(catfish or cod), a crab cake ("better than Emeril's") and shrimp. Alongside
fries and coleslaw kicked up with horseradish.
White is hoping to get his rotisserie up and running soon so that he can
sell roasted
chicken, ribs and briskets for take-out.
He also wants to begin catering and has high hopes for his new TV show,
which will
feature some episodes shot from his downtown Tallahassee restaurant.
"We want to have guests on the show," said producer Rentmeester. "We want to
recipes and special tips to help people get around the kitchen."
White certainly knows how to do that, and more. He can get people excited
about eating.
"Food oozes from people," he enthused, "the love and the passion - it
satisfies people's
emotional needs and gives them something to look forward to."
State workers can surely use a dose of that these days.

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