Thursday, December 23, 2010
From cop to cook
By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
w/ 2 pics and 4 recipes
Iolans are familiar with the face of Brian Donovan. For more than 10 years, he served as a city police officer.
A year ago, Donovan embarked upon a career change: All indications suggest it was the right move.
Since January, Donovan has been a student at the Art Institute of Kansas City, pursuing a degree in culinary arts.
Recently, he was granted two scholarships toward that endeavor — $1,000 from The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association and $1,500 from the American Institute of Wine and Food in Wichita. Donovan said receiving both scholarships was a surprise.
The transformation from cop to cook and eventually, chef, was not completely off the cuff, Donovan said. He had been trained to cook in the National Guard.
There, he said, cooking was “basic” — and “in bulk.”
Donovan would prepare meals for “up to 300 or 400” soldiers. There wasn’t much creativity, though. From oven-baked chicken to pot roast, he said, “The guard dictates the menu.”
Donovan mastered the art of bulk buying and food preparation in the Guard, skills that transferred well to the buffet of The New Greenery, where he now works and feeds “about 150 a day between 2 p.m. and closing,” Donovan said.
In his last year as a police officer, Donovan said he began musing about returning to school.
“I still had G.I. Bill money,” garnered through his years as a Marine, from 1986-96, and as a Guardsman from 1997-2008.
Internet research led him to Kansas City, where he crams a week’s worth of classes into two days to accommodate his work and family life.
“I have a very supportive family,” he said of wife, Tina, and sons Chase and Nick Lampe. “Sunday is family day,” he said — and the only day he is not either at work or in class.
By Sunday night, Donovan is on the road to Overland Park, preparing for two days in the Art Institute’s culinary kitchens.
In the program, which will take him 18 months to complete, he is learning pastry baking, American Regional foods, European cooking and World menus — “mostly Mediterranean and Middle East,” he noted. Come January, it’s foods of France, Germany and Italy, he said.
As an Iolan, Donovan’s experience of global flavors was limited before culinary school, he said.
One food he has come to appreciate is lamb.
“I never had lamb before and I’ve really taken a passion to cooking it,” he said. It is a versatile meat that can be prepared in a wealth of ways.
“Sauces have been fun,” he added. “I really enjoy — although it’s hard to make — hollandaise.” Even his instructor, executive chef Steve Venne, can have trouble with the delicate whipped egg-and-butter sauce, he said.
One sauce that shined for Donovan was “a merlot sauce. We did it with our lamb. Oh my goodness, it was so good.” Before that sauce, Donovan had never cooked with wine, he said.
As in the military, Donovan said, “we are not allowed to alter a recipe” in culinary school. That changes in lab work, though, where teams of four must create their own menus, he said.
A recent class competition involved creating a Christmas canape menu.
“The assignment was for each of us to come up with a hot and cold appetizer and an amuse-bouche” — a bite-sized palate cleanser, he said. “It’s always just a single taste,” he said of the ‘happy mouth’ dish. “Just something to highlight the palate and say ‘Oh, yes, I’m here to eat!’”
Donovan selected a cold cucumber-dill soup served in shot glasses for his amuse-bouche. For his canape, he developed a pancetta with pineapple tidbit.
“I wanted to go with ‘What can I do with my leftover Christmas food?’,” he said of his choice. The pancetta in the recipe is easily replaced with shaved ham or turkey, he said.
“I’M HAVING a totally good time,” Donovan said of his new venture. “I’m doing something I love.”
And he’s not the only one at the school who did a career about face, he said.
“I’m really surprised by the number of people who already have degrees” who are in the program, he said. One of his classmates is a pharmacist.
Donovan’s ultimate goal is to be certified as a chef — an additional process beyond culinary training — and to open his own restaurant.
And, he said, in some ways, “law enforcement and food service are kind of the same,” in both, “you are taking care of people.”
Editor’s Note: With Donovan’s approval, recipes have been modified to reflect locally available ingredients
3 slices white bread, crust removed
4 ounces ham, turkey, or smoked turkey, shaved
cinnamon-honey butter (see below)
Cut each bread slice into four uniform squares. Lightly butter and toast in a 400 degree oven.
Spread with honey butter, top with shaved ham and a pineapple piece.
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
3 Tblsp. honey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Whip butter, honey, cinnamon and lemon juice until light and thoroughly blended. Can also be used on toast or bagels as a breakfast treat.
1 loaf French bread, sliced into at least 10 slices
4 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, shredded (1 cup shreds)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 green onion, chopped
Place bread slices on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 400 for 8-9 minutes until lightly browned.
In a large bowl, fold together mayonnaise, almonds, bacon, onion, salt and cheese.
Spread on toasted bread. Bake an additional 7 minutes, until cheese melts.
Sprinkle with additional almonds, if desired.
10 shrimp, peeled and de-veined
10 buttery crackers
cocktail sauce (follows)
cream cheese, softened
Heat olive oil in a pan and saute shrimp until done, about four minutes. Cool.
Spread crackers with cream cheese. Top with dab of cocktail sauce, a shrimp and snip of dill.
4 ounces ketchup
1 Tblsp. prepared horseradish
lemon juice to taste
Blend all ingredients. Use as dip or on canapes.
Chilled cucumber-dill soup
1 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 Tblsp. fresh or 1 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Cook cucumber, onion and broth in a small saucepan until veggies soften. Transfer to blender or food processor. Add cream and dill. Puree.
Pour into shot glasses (about 1-2 Tblsp. each). Sprinkle with pepper and salt (optional).
Fill a serving tray with crushed ice. Arrange glasses among ice. Serve.