The Reductor Curse.


Photograph by Matt Hocking

I’m in the process of working with a talented designer and brand manager right now on a new logo. It is a frustrating process. I’m sure more for her than it is for me. The fact that she has a tea business (OMG-it’s-so-good-go-buy-some-right-now*) on the side bodes well for her continued sanity. Mine is still in question.

I love brands and branding. They have long fascinated me and I have long understood that the most powerful brands are often the simplest. Nike made great running shoes, LLBean was high quality outdoor equipment. Jonathan Bardzik, not so much.

From the moment I first started cooking in front of audiences seven years ago, the idea of reducing what I do to a single focus or a single audience was difficult. Something in my gut rebelled against the idea of being just the farm-fresh, farm market food guy, or somehow paring away members of the diverse audiences I saw at Eastern Market – from low-income, multi-generational families to soccer moms and dads to college students – standing shoulder to shoulder while I cooked, asking questions, laughing at the same (terrible) jokes and enjoying the same food.

Photograph by Jenny Lehman

Our society has become reductive. We like simple categorization and two word descriptions, which has never been a good fit for me. I think it’s why I have pushed back on every suggestion (and there have been many) that I pursue a TV show like Next Food Network Star. I don’t know who I am in three words or less.

I love farm-fresh seasonal ingredients. They taste better, yes, but also represent a context and connection that makes everything more meaningful. Just like the salad bowl I used last night. My Mom bought it for me when I took her to Marshall’s for the first time. It’s a pretty bowl, but the connection is what makes it truly special.

So, I like fresh food. I love connections. And I love bringing people joy – both the simple joy of a delicious bite of food, and the deeper joys of a life well-lived.

Back to that logo…how to reduce storyteller, cook, keynote speaker, author and bringer of joy into a single image? I don’t know. I am going to leave that to Elise and her amazing tea. But I will keep encouraging myself and everyone else to live and be fully and completely themselves. You don’t need to reduce your work, your passions, your beliefs down to simple two word descriptors. You’re so much more than that. We all are.

*Elise’s business is Pearl Fine Teas and they are amazing. As is she.

Grilled Lemon Chicken

Serves 4

Grilled chicken is one of my cousin, Mike Jasinski’s, favorite dishes. He was the inspiration for this dish, the context that makes it special. I made it with him last summer at the home he and his wife Sarah had bought earlier that year. Mike is a great griller so he grilled the chicken and I made the marinade/sauce. It was a delicious evening that saw fingers swiped through the sauce left on the plates and serving platter. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemons zested and juiced
  • 2 tbsTamari soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbs sweet paprika
  • White pepper
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Photograph by Matt Hocking

Directions:

  • In a medium bowl combine lemon zest and juice, soy sauce, olive oil, garlic, sugar and paprika. Season with salt and a generous amount of fresh ground white pepper.
    Place chicken thighs in a freezer bag, pour in marinade and seal. Marinade in the refrigerator for up to two hours.
  • Drain chicken, reserving marinade. Skewer chicken thighs by piercing them in multiple places and bunching them onto skewers.
  • Meanwhile, place marinade in a small saucepan over med-high heat. Reduce to a thin syrup.
  • Grill chicken over med-high heat until cooked through, about 10 min per side. Brush with glaze and cook 1 min longer per side.

Leave a Reply