Episode 1: Sweet Corn & Expensive Tea | A Chef's Life | PBS Food

A Chef’s Life, Episode 1: Sweet Corn & Expensive Tea

In A Chef’s Life, go inside the life of chef Vivian Howard, who, with her husband Ben Knight, left the big city to open a fine dining restaurant in small-town eastern North Carolina. Each episode follows Howard out of the kitchen and into cornfields, strawberry patches and hog farms as she hunts down the ingredients that inspire her seasonal menus. Using a chef’s modern sensibilities, she explores Southern cuisine, past and present — one ingredient at a time. A celebration of true farm to table food, the series combines the action and drama of a high-pressure business with the joys and stresses of family life.

Episode Preview

Chef Vivian and her husband Ben leave New York to open a restaurant in her small North Carolina hometown. Vivian revisits the Southern tradition of “putting up” corn and shares her method for making smoked corn relish. As the episode concludes, a devastating setback threatens their new life.


Vivian’s Cooking Demo


Vivian’s Featured Recipe

Grilled Corn with Ginger Bacon Butter

Grilled Corn with Ginger Bacon Butter

As if grilled sweet corn wasn't already delicious! Add this zesty ginger bacon butter from Chef Vivian Howard for an added kick. This recipe appears in the "Sweet Corn & Expensive Tea" episode of A Chef's Life, featuring chef Vivian Howard.



  • 1/2 lb salted butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup bacon fat
  • 1/3 cup grated ginger (use a microplane)
  • 3 garlic cloves (grated on the microplane)
  • zest of 3 limes (taken off with a microplane)
  • juice of 3 limes
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Fresh corn (in the husk)


  1. For the Butter: Combine all seven ingredients in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until it is evenly blended. Using a spatula, turn the butter onto wax or parchment paper and mold it into a log. Chill.
  2. For the Corn: Shuck the corn removing all of the husk and silk. Preheat a grill (charcoal creates better flavor). Brush the corn on all sides with olive oil. Using tongs grill the corn on all sides until golden in some spots. The corn may pop so be careful. Once it looks delicious, transfer the corn to a platter, season it with a little salt and rub it all over with the ginger bacon butter.


Once corn has been picked, it is extremely important to keep it cool. Don’t waste anytime transferring ears to your refrigerator to avoid starchy, dry kernels. Look for bright green, moist looking husks. If the husks have started to dry or turn brown, it means you are dealing with corn that’s been out of the field for a while. The following pair particularly well with corn: basil, cilantro, thyme, garlic, ginger, leeks, lemon, lime, butter, chilis, bacon, tomatoes, feta cheese fried fish, spice rubbed and grilled pork or beef.


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