October 19, 2011
Written by: Vince McConeghy
The hiss of the dentist's drill striking deeper into cavity, ready to rupture a nerve, reminded me that there are tasks and duties far worse than suffering the offense of modern dental science.
Consider the plight of a cook book writer.
Consider what Christa Glennie Seychew has had to endure in producing Nickel City Chef Cookbook & DVD, a look back narrative of her culinary series that begins its fourth season in 2012.
First, Seychew had to envision Nickel City Chef and sell it. She did so, like so many shoe-string operators in our area, by force of will and collaboration. Second, she had to endure and grow it by absorbing all the bumps and bruises of a concept that reached beyond the familiar, and massage enough egos and cash flow to grow the franchise.
Now she has framed that experience in her book, a scene-by-scene retelling of how Nickel City Chef came to be: the actors, the dialogue, the plot points, the twists and the reveals.
It is gorgeous.
The beauty remains in the painstaking portrayal of the local farm community and its increasing integration into the local food service industry.
That was Seychew's first major achievement and her editorial decision to highlight these farmer/producers first in each ensuing chapter serves the book well. By doing so, Seychew methodically makes her case for Western New York agriculture.
Then there are the recipes, culled from each competing Chef's offerings and presented in a manner that does not dumb-down the subject manner to Nickel City's consumer audience. These are professional grade recipes. One can only imagine the effort that went into distilling the labyrinth of Chef-driven recipes into consumer form.
For example, can we verify if there are 10 coriander seeds and 10 cumin seeds in Chef Steven Gedra's Maple Crusted Venison? No, but we trust the author's voice enough, and recognize that the author knows that someone reading this recipe will actually count out those ingredients and follow it to the letter, so that in all probability there are exactly 10 of each.
And this is the crux of the Seychew's big lift in the book - while the industry often relies on ratios, percentages and sparse descriptors to communicate knowledge and technique of preparations, there can be none of that when producing a consumer cookbook. It's an entirely different animal and it is every bit as mind-numbing and detail-oriented as the most demanding of prep exercises.
It is, in fact, a bitch. Seychew does not let up until the very last punctuation mark.
The image at the back of the book posits a side profile of the Author almost on the run, turning her head back to smile, as if a job for thousands just went out of her kitchen. Only she knows the mistakes and the flaws but to the audience it is flawless.
It's out there. And yet we get the sense, thumbing back and reflecting on the story of Nickel City Chef, that there are better things to come.
The official book launch for Nickel City Chef Cookbook and DVD takes place next Tuesday evening at 5:30 pm at Artisan Kitchens and Baths. The industry is welcomed.