Episode 8: A Road Trip for Rice | A Chef's Life | PBS Food

A Chef’s Life, Episode 8: A Road Trip for Rice

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.

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Vivian travels to Columbia, South Carolina, to meet with Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills and learns about Carolina Heirloom Rice growing in fields on the Savannah River. Glenn explains Anson Mills’ efforts to save heirloom grains and discusses the importance of ingredient biodiversity. Glenn’s passion inspires Vivian to host a “rice dinner” at Chef & the Farmer, where each course centers around this grain. Scarlett, Vivian’s mom, schools her daughter on how to make the Chicken and Rice she grew up eating.


Vivian’s Cooking Demo


Vivian’s Featured Recipe

Crispy Rice with Leeks, Ginger and Garlic



  • 1 cup cooked white rice
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. grapeseed (or other neutral flavored oil)
  • 1 Tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. thinly sliced garlic
  • pinch chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup leeks, white part only, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds


  1. To cook the rice.
    If we serve rice in the restaurant we almost always cook it ahead of time and chill it down quickly to maintain the integrity of the grain. In these instances, we cook rice like pasta. Begin with a medium to large pot of boiling salted water. Add your rice, making sure you have way more water than needed to cook the rice. As the rice cooks, set up a cookie or baking pan next to your boiling rice. Once the rice is just barely done, drain it in a colander, run cold water over it and spread the rice out in a thin layer on your baking sheet. This will stop the cooking process and ensure you have perfect individual grains of rice. Drizzle a little grapeseed or other vegetable oil over the rice, tossing it with a spoon or your hands to ensure the oil coats every grain. Pop the baking sheet uncovered in the refrigerator to cool thoroughly and dry out for a minimum of an hour.
  2. To crisp and flavor the rice
    In a medium sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil and the butter until the butter is foaming. Add the ginger and allow that to begin to sizzle. Add your rice and press it into a thin layer over the surface area of the entire pan. Once you’ve pressed the rice out, leave it there, resisting the urge to shake or stir. To the top of the rice, add your garlic, chili flakes, and a little salt. After about 5 minutes, check the bottom of your rice and assuming it has started to take on a little color and crispy texture, stir in all those ingredients. Allow the other side the opportunity to take on a little color and texture as well. The leeks and garlic should soften but not take on much, if any, color. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt.


This is really a technique that is ideal for transforming leftover rice into something new and special. You can go wild using anything you have in your refrigerator to jazz it up, but I love to serve this under an over-easy egg with lots of soft herbs, like basil, cilantro, and chervil strewn around.

Yield: 2 servings


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