Hi! I’m Ken Kenworthy, here to present a blog that will inform and inspire everyday cooks to enhance their culinary experiences—to hopefully answer questions, build confidence, and look at new ways of doing things in the kitchen.
After my college graduation, on a whim, I landed a job as a short-order cook and fell in love. I will never forget my first shift on the grill. The aroma of sizzling onions, peppers, and ham being folded into a Western omelet is a sensory memory that was a defining moment for me. I was blown away by the pleasure of cooking. I had to keep going.
I spent the next 28 years in the kitchen. After graduating from the CIA, I entered the Hilton Hotels training program and rose through the ranks with tours in New York, Atlanta, Myrtle Beach, and a sabbatical year in Muenster, West Germany. My initial goal—to become Executive Chef in charge of my own kitchen—became a reality at the Meadowlands Hilton in New Jersey. Finally, the years of sixteen-hour days, six days a week, had been rewarded!
But with so much time and energy devoted to administrative tasks, I found myself missing the satisfaction of daily hands-on production. So I said goodbye to the corporate world and set out on my own, putting out a shingle in Connecticut for private, off-premise catering. Here I had complete control of sales, purchasing, and production of every event—be it a dinner party for eight or a fundraising gala for 600. It was here that I realized the value of all the training and knowledge I had acquired. Yes, with a little improvising and imagination, it was possible to recreate professional-grade food in a home setting. Movers and shakers soon took notice—including the governor of the state—and my business thrived for over a decade. And, in the process, I was having a ball!
The time eventually arrived when my body said “No more!” to the physical demands of the food business, and I moved on to teach Latin at the high school level. But a passion for food and the joy of cooking remained intact–a central part of my identity. And surprisingly, there were some very real benefits. With food now a hobby instead of a business, time spent in the kitchen became more carefree. Since I was no longer under the constant pressure of deadlines, dinner at seven could drift to 7:15, and no one complained! No longer chained to a bottom line, I had the option to splurge on pricey ingredients if they presented themselves, and improvise accordingly. And I have to admit that being on the other side of social gatherings–as a participant, not on duty–has been a lot more fun.
Why write a blog? Well, for one thing, friends are always asking me for advice: What’s the best way to cook my turkey? Gravy?! How much salmon should I buy for eight people? What knives should I get? Why didn’t my recipe work this time, when it did last week? I have always gotten a lot of satisfaction from taking the mystery out of cooking, and I’m heartened by people’s gratitude for a professional perspective. Cooking is, after all, a kind of “uncommon” common sense–which often comes into clearer focus with a little help from a friend.
Hi, I’m Pat Wilk! I am recently retired after 25 years of teaching AP English and writing in a large suburban high school in northern New Jersey, and now, I’m living in New England, in a little house at the edge of a college campus. In 12 minutes, I can walk to a good independent movie theater, and a coffee shop with great pastries, wonderful local art on the walls, and perfect cappuccino. I don’t spend my weekends grading a sickeningly huge stack of essays anymore. Finally, I can concentrate on what’s really important—food.
Actually, I told all of my New Jersey friends that I was going to become a writer. At my retirement dinner, I got a lot of writing gifts—a pen that can write upside down or under water, a book titled Write like Hemingway. In my past life, I published a few inconsequential poems, and a little paperback about collecting and restoring antique cars (that’s what my dad did all of his life). I’ve worked as a part-time reporter for three different daily newspapers. I have a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, and an Ed.D. in English Education. So I have enough knowledge to be writing something, for sure. However, what I’m actually doing here is raising a tiny flock of backyard chickens, creating a 40-foot square raised-bed vegetable garden and a mini-orchard of five newly-planted apple trees, volunteering at a little local dairy farm that makes award-winning cheese from the raw milk of its grass-fed cows, and cooking. Still, I love words—more than anything else in the world. Except maybe food. Both of them are just so satisfying. This year, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to write. I sold an article about cheese-making to our local independent newspaper. I called it, “Say Cheese.”
My favorite memories of childhood involve food. I don’t remember a single birthday party, but I remember picking blueberries at the top of a mountain, running my hands through the plastic pail of them that I held in my lap on the way home, and waiting for Mom’s pie to come out of the oven. I don’t know what color my bedroom walls were, but I remember going out on a small motor boat with my Aunt Sophie in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and pulling up her lobster traps, knowing that everyone would have their own lobster that night—even the kids. I don’t know the names of most of my teachers, but I remember the smell of the simmering marinara when I walked into my grandfather’s pizza shop after school. It was right across the street from the elementary school, and when I headed into the back room, ripped open a hot roll, laid some anchovies dripping with olive oil in there, and opened a curvy green glass bottle of cold Coca-Cola from the red metal vending machine, I forgot all of the problems of third grade.
Food keeps appearing in my writing when I’m trying to write about something else. Usually, partway through the piece, I realize it’s actually about food. Is this a problem?
I add a few new titles to my cookbook collection every year, subscribe to two food magazines, have an expanding collection of three-hole punched recipes in three-ring binders, admire four or five celebrity chefs. Still, whenever I cook, I take a deep breath and hope for the best. When I work, I always follow a recipe exactly, measure precisely, and worry about whether the descriptions at various steps in the process accurately match my results. I want the food I make to be delicious, interesting, memorable, and satisfying. But usually the reality falls somewhat short of that goal. Is it me, or is it the recipe?
When I met Ken Kenworthy, and learned that he had spent most of his life working as a professional chef, I was excited. The first time he walked into my house, he immediately strolled over to my knife block, tested the edges with his thumb as we were talking, and began sharpening my blades. I had so many questions. Cooking seemed to be our favorite topic of conversation.
Thank you for reading; I’m glad you found us. I hope the combination of experiences we bring to this project will help you to bring a professional skill set into an everyday kitchen. We expect to have a lot of fun, and we’d be delighted to have you join us—because good food always ups the quality of a day.
Here are the girls and I. More about them later.