raisins and olives,
you either you love 'em or you hate 'em.
I however have been able to convert many a grit hater
with my creamy, decadent, comforting,
stone ground game changers.
I'm Vivian and I'm a chef.
My husband Ben and I were working
for some of the best chefs in New York City
when my parents offered to help us
open our own restaurant.
Of course, there was a catch.
We had to open this restaurant in Eastern North Carolina,
where I grew up and said I would never return.
Avett Brothers perform "Will You Return"
So this is my life.
Raising twins, living in the house I grew up in,
and exploring the south, one ingredient at a time.
Previously on A Chef's Life...
The kitchen is pre-much demolished.
We're basically having to start over.
It turns out it took over a month just to clean the building
much less rebuild the kitchen and dining room.
If things go as planned we'll be opening in about three weeks.
I know, I know, I'm just saying that I feel pressure.
To some degree that's why I'm saying it's just not worth it.
So what we need to do tomorrow
is make a half sheet pan of grits.
I wouldn't really finish them with any milk.
I would put some cheese in there
and have them really highly seasoned.
Take a half sheet pan and pour your grits in there.
Chill it and then we're going to cut it out,
bread it and fry it.
(smoke detector noise)
We're going to open next week...
(smoke detector noise)
This is actually a test that's mandatory
when you do a final building inspection...
(smoke detector noise)
It's Tuesday morning, exactly one week from the day
we plan to reopen and we've got a lot that needs to happen.
We're trying to move into the kitchen.
I'm getting all kinds of deliveries today.
Just making sure we have all our ducks in a row.
The health inspector is coming today.
The building inspector is coming today.
Two of the great things that are coming out of this
actually are two new pieces of equipment we're getting
and that I have long coveted.
We're getting something called a plancho,
which is similar to a griddle and a wood-burning oven.
This is where our pizza oven,
DoughPro wood-burning oven, is going to go.
The oven is a huge piece of equipment.
It's 3,000 pounds.
There are a lot of surprises that are coming up
and tension is high.
Ben is a maniac.
How much time have I spent on this today?
For every like baby step we get forward the last week,
it's like bam!
We knew it was all coming to this sort of head.
I mean this is not a surprise.
I hope you're having a good day because for every minute
I'm here it gets worse again.
I just hope that it gets a little bit easier.
Hey I don't know what to do.
I think we should get outta here.
Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben don't.
My question is why were six people standing and watching
and no one said anything but the ceiling tile guy?
I said something too.
I didn't notice it.
She said something to me.
I noticed it.
Who put something in it and turned it on, Ben?
Ben told me me to clean it.
Right, Ben told you so Ben is responsible.
I'm so tired of being blamed for everything.
I wanted to say...
You are like a ray of sunshine.
I brought you some flowers.
Thank you, thank you.
I assume I'm buying them though.
When we caught on fire in January
I was using produce from several different farms
and we just kinda cut that all off instantly.
And so now I need to cut it all back on instantly
and I expect to get...
I guess there's no better way to say it,
but special treatment from all my local farmers again.
I can eat this chamomile?
Yeah, yeah it's perfectly edible but I don't know
that is tastes very good.
I just like the smell.
I was thinking we would infuse some bourbon
or something with it
and then this would make a perfect little garnish
on a cocktail.
In fact I think we should make one for Ben right now!
(smoke detector noise)
The health inspector's here now.
Okay, I'm going to check that out.
During normal business when the health inspector shows up
it's sheer terror.
So, what's up?
So we're going to walk through
and you tell me what we need to do.
And I'll just explain the flow...
(smoke detector noise)
The temperature for hot water in dish machines
the surface temperature of utensils has to reach about 160
and that lets us know
that the hot water is coming out at about 180.
Was it cool?
I'm not bragging, but I think it looks really good in here.
Don't you think?
Yes, it's really pretty.
I'm fishing for a compliment.
I was listening but I was working.
I'm pretty sure you're going to need a light back here.
You've got to have 50 footcandles of light
for work surfaces.
What you've got under those lights it's very bright
but then look at how it drops down to 14.
What if we put more of those?
I would say you need like one in each of the little panels.
That should do it.
Are we going to have to add some more to open?
Yeah you will.
Ben's gonna freak out when I tell him this.
I almost want you to tell him.
I'll tell him.
You need 50 footcandles of light at your work surfaces
and I measure with a light meter
and you're not meeting that at all those work surfaces.
I'll show you.
However we can add more.
So we are going to need one there
and and in every ceiling tile above a work surface.
It's not the end of the world.
It's pretty bad.
When you say it's not the end of the world
I've gotta order all these.
We're not gonna have these in.
It's funny because we went through this whole month
of this light bulb thing
and Ben had done all these calculations
and he came home and had this drawing
and I just totally go to another place
when people talk about stuff like that.
Maybe I should've listened more.
When you think about Southern food
one of maybe four ingredients that comes to mind is grits...
or are grits.
I'm not sure what the correct English is!
What is a grit?
Grits are dried corn that have been ground
to be the proper consistency to then absorb whatever liquid
you're cooking them in.
They along with pork were the main two staples
of the southern diet of the 18th century.
For the past four or so years we've been buying grits
from Old Guilford Mill near Greensboro, North Carolina.
The grits come in this really cute little yellow bag
and it has a picture of a mill
on the front with the water wheel.
I kind of doubted that the grits were actually milled
in this place,
but come to find out they are.
Amy this is Vivian.
I'm Vivian Howard.
-Nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
Thank you for having us here today.
Oh you're welcome.
I'm so glad you came.
We actually use your grits in Eastern North Carolina
at our restaurant.
Good, I'm glad.
One of the things we're going to reopen
with is a section on the menu called Pimp My Grits.
Just a few questions.
Could you tell me what it is
that makes stone ground grits unique?
It's simple because you're taking a grain and we clean it
and then we just grind it.
We don't add to it and we don't take away from it,
we just leave it the way it is
and I think that's what makes it so good.
Well, I can't wait to see the action.
Good, we'll get started.
It picks the corn up out of the bin that's here in the floor.
This is the way this is always been done?
Then it goes upstairs to a big bin and down this shoot.
The vertical stones they stand up
and one is still and one moves and grinds it.
It goes up this pipe by air into the sifter.
We call that the Hula Girl because it dances around
and sifts out the bran.
In this bowl you have the grits?
Here is corn meal.
Feel the difference?
Yes, it's much finer.
So when you adjust the stone
that determines how coarse or fine?
You don't want those stones to be too close together.
That's how old mills used to burn down
because they would have their stones set too tightly.
It's like hittin' two flints together.
You make a fire.
How long has this mill been around?
We have people who used to come on their grandfather's wagon
to the mill, drop their corn off
and then they would hang out and it was like a social place.
And I have customers who remember that.
Well, I was a big fan before and I'm a much bigger fan now
and I'll go back and educate my staff more about your product
and the grits we're going to be serving...
or the grits we're going to be pimping!
I don't think he's going to do it.
I'll see you tonight.
Are you leaving, too?
No, I was just kidding.
Oh my God.
The time following the fire was awesome because I got to see
what it was kind of like to be a stay-at-home mom.
So these past two weeks when we have been gearing up to reopen
have been really difficult leaving at 8:30 AM
and coming home at 10:30 PM
and not seeing them at all.
The unfortunate thing is that my life
is gonna be a lot more like these past two weeks
than the past three and a half months.
So I am a little upset about that.
Today is Thursday.
We hope to open on Tuesday.
We've got big plans for today.
We're supposed to get the wood-burning oven.
The health inspector came back yesterday
and gave us the go-ahead.
We have a permit but no inspection.
She'll come back later and surprise us.
You can't put in another one in can you?
I'm just kidding.
We're bringing the whole kitchen staff together for a meeting
to lay out the way things are going to be.
So I just wanted to say to everybody welcome back.
We have decided to promote Adam to sous chef.
Justice and Adam will be sharing that position.
I feel like this is gonna work.
I think that this fire obviously was shocking
and really emotional for me and I'm sure for y'all
so I want us to take this opportunity
and understand that this is a special place
and we're all really lucky to work here, okay.
So your long vacation is over.
I also hope to finally get in the kitchen
and actually cook something.
I haven't made anything but a mojito in my new space
so am anxious to see if I still have my touch.
I think it must just take the plancho
a really long time to heat up.
I'm trying to turn on the plancho
and I'm looking up on my iPad how to use the poncho.
Why is that sauce so thick?
My thought process for this was like just strawberries
maybe quartered or sliced with a little sugar.
And not the strawberry sauce?
I want it to leach into here
you know like strawberry shortcake.
There's probably nothing more quintessentially southern
than the grit.
At the restaurant we use grits for any number of things.
They make a wonderful canvas,
but no matter what the end result
we're gonna start with one part grits to four parts liquid.
And we generally use milk.
So here I have one cup of grits
to four cups of milk.
What I have here is a pot of water on the bottom
and just a bowl with my grits and milk on top.
I'm going to get that heat up
and let it cook for about an hour.
Every now and then I'll go and whisk a little bit
and it's really as simple as that.
One of my takes on grits is a version of something
I used to eat as a kid.
Every Saturday morning my mom would make plain ol' bland grits
and I would add cheddar cheese to them
and then crumble sausage in them.
So I love the combination of cheddar cheese and sausage.
So what we're gonna make today is a baked cheese grit
with a sausage pepper and mushroom ragu.
Here I have some cooked seasoned grits.
By that I mean they have cooked for about an hour
and have absorbed all the milk
and I've seasoned them with salt and pepper.
I'm simply gonna spoon grits about halfway up
and cover this whole thing in sharp white cheddar cheese.
When I was a kid I had bland American cheese.
This would've really made my grits a lot better.
To make this ragu we're gonna start
by heating up a little bit of vegetable oil in a pan.
We're going to brown some country style sausage
and try to break it into as small little pieces as possible.
Once it's brown we're going to actually take the sausage
out of the pan but reserve that fat that's left in there
for cooking the rest of our vegetables.
I'm going to start with my mushrooms
so that I can get a little bit of caramelization on them.
take different amounts of times to cook
and that's why we're starting with the mushrooms
so they can start browning and release their liquid.
The next thing we're going to add are our bell peppers
and our spring onions or scallions
to give a little oniony flavor to this ragu.
You also want to make sure that you season with each addition.
If you season in the very beginning and then in very end
everything in between is just going to taste like it
has salt on top of it and not incorporated into it.
We'll let this cook for 10 minutes
after which point we'll add our tomatoes.
The tomatoes are what's gonna bring this together
and make it saucy and make it seem like a ragu.
As the tomatoes cook I'm going to add some white wine
and finally a little chopped garlic.
We'll bring this up to a hard simmer
and let it cook for about 20 minutes.
My grits have been baking in the oven.
Let's check 'em.
All I need to do now is top it with some of my sausage,
pepper, and mushroom ragu
and I have an updated memory from my childhood.
It takes me back to Saturday morning cartoons,
Saved By The Bell, Pee-Wee Herman.
We can put Pimp My Grits here or we can put it here.
Did you see this little AF?
What is that?
That's for "after fire."
I like that.
I like that, too.
It's Monday, the day before the restaurant is supposed to open
and we are doing a trial run tonight
with a bunch of our staff and my family.
They are going to come in and order like customers
and we're gonna see if we can pull this off.
We have this new computer system
and there seems to be a lot of kinks to be worked out.
This is aggravatin'!
It's not workin'.
Half this stuff is not in here
and it's not workin' like it's supposed to
and we've got 100 people for tomorrow night.
It should be fun.
Is yours frozen?
Before service today we're gonna have a meeting
with the wait staff and talk to them
about the major menu changes.
I know everybody is nervous, I am anyway,
but it's gonna be fine.
And you know tonight I don't want everybody
who comes in here to order a ribeye.
The whole point is for us to work on plating our dishes
and perfecting them.
One section that I do want to talk about
that I'm a little concerned about
how it's going to be received
by our customers base is this Pimp My Grits section.
See I can't even say what it without laughing a little bit!
So when someone says... when my mom comes in here...
and says what exactly what is Pimp My Grits,
what are your going to say to her?
Scarlett, we're bringing sexy back with your grits!
I would say it's Chef's way or Vivian's way
of taking a humble ingredient and elevating it
and all four of these are really well composed dishes
and Ms. Howard, I think you should pimp your grits!
And we still haven't lit a fire in our wood-burning oven.
I hope to do that in just a few minutes.
I'm planning on being able to cook in it
and we're going to wing it.
Alright here goes nothing, really!
You need to start that in the middle of the oven is
what it said on the video.
There's really a lot of pressure to light this fire!
Once we get this burning we're gonna push it in that corner.
Which I just learned from Ben.
I'm so happy he was able to tell me.
It's the fire corner.
Do you have any butterflies
or are you anxious at all about hopping back in tomorrow?
You know once we get open we have an experienced staff
and everyone, I think there will just be a great sense of relief.
What this place looked like four months ago on January 7th
you know the first few weeks surrounding that
I think a lot of us felt like we didn't know
if this day would ever come.
There was just so much work to do
and I'm really just very proud of my staff
and very proud of my wife
and very excited about tomorrow.
What temperature are you up to?
It's hot, yeah!
It tastes like cough syrup to me.
I think the honey is overwhelming it.
The chamomile should be the star.
I would make a real simple like chamomile soda.
You know what I mean?
How do you feel, Ben?
Thankfully nobody's paying for anything tonight.
I could feel worse though.
Did you take a pill, a happy pill?
Hey it's mommy!
Where it says Pimp My Grits ?
Yes, absolutely so you get your grits four different ways.
I think you should get something else besides the steak.
I was going to do grits and country ham.
Oh come on step outside your box just a little bit!
Nobody wanted to try the Pimp My Grits,
maybe for the babies?
If you think that's good for the babies, yes.
I think that's a great idea for the babies.
I know Chef Vivian would like that.
You don't want seafood?
It has to be chicken or beef.
You're just gonna give me a run for my money aren't you?
I can handle it.
So we're plating a ribeye med well,
two pheasants, grits with pimento, a pheasant
and a romaine.
So your potato,
followed by a ribeye medium.
Wait, that's not right.
Okay I need to see Betsy and I need to see Susan.
No one's ringing in anything the same.
The POS system is very hard to understand.
I don't believe that the guy who sold it to us
and was supposed to program it
has held up his end of the bargain.
We've been telling him for over a month
that this is more complicated than a Ruby Tuesday's
or some stupid alehouse like he normally programs.
Very hot, but good
I've found that our biggest critics are actually our servers
so whenever they try the food tonight
I'll be able to instantly tell what they think.
So what have y'all thought so far?
I can take it.
The ham is really salty.
That dish is super salty.
We'll treat the ham grit tomorrow.
Y'all know how hard this is for me takin' all this.
The first thing she said is I can take it!
I can't act like a child right now!
Alright where do you want to start?
The biggest issue with service right now is the POS.
The computer system.
Tomorrow we cannot go into service like that.
I cannot read any of the tickets.
I feel like we made a bad decision.
I'm always like oh it will be fine, it'll be fine.
I'm just dreading...
I can fix the food but I'm dreading this.
If it's like that we are going to crash and burn tomorrow.
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