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Friday, January 20, 2012

Meet Chef Megan Garrelts, Co-Author of Bluestem: The Cookbook

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM

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What is your philosophy in the kitchen?

I think first and foremost, have fun. Our job is a hard one, and entertaining and cooking for people can be challenging. We want to keep it a family unit. Outside of our true family, we work elbow to elbow every day. With that comes the consistency with keeping staffing around. We have a low turnover to help customers have a good experience seeing familiar faces and food that stays the same. We try to stay seasonal, local and as straightforward as we can be while staying true to our region as best as we can. The cookbook helped us hone in on our food identity and define that in our own terms.

Who in your life has been most influential in terms of cooking? Do you have a personal culinary hero?

Richard Leach and Gale Gand. I worked for Richard at Park Avenue doing pastry when I was very young, green and scared. His food was amazing and he was hyper-organized. He fit that mold of that pastry chef I always envisioned myself working for. Gale taught me how to be whimsical and taught Colby and I how to market ourselves. She was on a Food Network show when we worked for her. I learned that being a chef isn't one sided -- it's so many other things.

How is the Bluestem: The Cookbook organized?

Seasonally, starting with spring. There is an intro to each season so people who don't live in the Midwest can know what to expect from the Midwest. Winters are cold and snowy. Spring is bright and cheery. Tornadoes and downpours can ruin crops. We provide a snapshot of each season in our region from light to heavy with seasonal wine notes. We start with the menu, set up like our true menu with amuse, cold, hot, pasta, fish and meats, then desserts and petit fours, designed to create a three-, four-, five- or ten-course dinner at home.

Or you can simply just choose one. It shows the guest how we conceive menus at the restaurant. There's a cookbook use manual to help home cooks who want to think and use the book like a chef. We molded the book for our peers as well as home cooks and, of course, our customers so they can have a piece of us when they leave.

What is your best piece of advice for home cooks?

Make sure you have the right equipment and right ingredients. Pour yourself a glass of wine and make sure the people you're cooking for love to eat. Take your time, enjoy yourself and make sure your company is doing the same. Don't take yourself too seriously.

What's next for you and Colby? Word has it that you opening a second restaurant in Kansas City in 2012.

We are fundraising right now for a new restaurant called Native 34 and are hoping for a late spring or early summer opening. It's going to be a more casual concept than Bluestem featuring true regional cuisine on the Kansas side. We're excited to continue growing and build our brand. We have a lot of ideas we want to share with people.

For information on how to pick up a copy of Bluestem: The Cookbook and to learn more about Bluestem restaurant, visit Bluestem online.

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