Lovers’ Delights

Creator of Slow Foods Cooking
movement to visit Yew Dell

Internationally know chef to host
romantic foods cooking class

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CRESTWOOD, Ky. (February 2011) – Kentucky is a state known for its tradition of southern hospitality, but few restaurants remain that offer historic dishes. In an effort to preserve traditional cooking, chef Mark Williams has followed his hunch that many people want to connect with and support local chefs, farmers and food producers.
Williams has a sensitive pallet for fine food and beverages. As Corporate Executive Chef for the Brown-Forman Corp., he whips up all sorts of culinary creations daily at the Bourbon Street Café, the private dining room for Brown-Forman in Louisville.
He is responsible for writing recipes and designing menus relying upon a portfolio of some of the finest alcoholic beverages in the world including Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey, Tuaca liqueurs, Southern Comfort, Woodford Reserve, Sonoma-Cutrer and Korbel Champagne. His recipes have been published in magazines, cookbooks and online.

Mark Williams

Photo provided

Brown-Forman chef
Mark Williams
received culinary
training in Atlanta.

As well as fulfilling his duties as Corporate Executive Chef, Williams began and continues to maintain an organic and biodynamic garden at Brown-Forman. It consists of more than 400 half-sized bourbon, whisky and wine barrels, and two greenhouses. All plant selections are heirloom varieties and everything is grown from seeds in the barrels and then used in dishes at the Bourbon Street Café.
Williams is also credited with founding the Slow Food Bluegrass convivium, which is part of the Slow Food international movement to support sustainable local food while celebrating traditional regional cuisine. As a Slow Food regional governor for five southern states, he will be bringing his cooking talents to Oldham County for a two-hour cooking class at Yew Dell Gardens in Crestwood.
Williams will present Slow Food Cooking for Lovers from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 13. “Three different meal courses will be presented, all having to do with romantic food,” said Siofra Rucker, Director of Marketing and Development for Yew Dell Gardens.
Slow food cooking is a popular trend spreading throughout the country, said Rucker. “It’s the opposite of the way we have been eating. It’s seasonal and more like the way your grandmother cooked.”
This cooking method “fits with our mission,” said Rucker, of providing more garden-centered activities. Theodore Klein, original owner of the Yew Dell Gardens property, grew a large garden. “The more we can improve people’s love of the environment, the better,” she said.
This is not the first time Williams has visited Yew Dell Gardens. His culinary skills have allowed him to travel France, Italy, South Africa and New Zealand. He even worked in Auckland, New Zealand as a chef during the America’s Cup Yacht Races.
Growing up in the South in the midst of a family of restaurateurs and farmers, it seemed natural for Williams to make a career for himself as a chef. His formal culinary training began with an American Culinary Federation apprenticeship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. While there, he gained added experience by cooking at the Georgia Governor’s Mansion.
Williams attended Georgia State University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Administration.
His reputation as an expert chef grew and he joined the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group in Atlanta as the chef at The Fish Market in Lenox Square. As a testament to his talent, the restaurant received five Best of Atlanta awards while he worked there.
Williams also spent time in Napa Valley, Calif., as the sous chef at the School for American Chefs at Beringer Vineyards under Madeline Kamman. Kamman is an award-winning cookbook author and PBS TV series host. He then became chef-in-residence at Sonoma-Cutrer Winery in addition to catering events for Napa Valley clients.
Currently, Williams is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and the Southern Foodways Alliance. He is a founding member of the Napa Valley Culinary Alliance, and serves on the board of advisors for Partners for Family Farms and Sullivan University National Center for Hospitality.
His creations have enabled him to receive invitations to create meals for many notable individuals, including former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Newt Gingrich, sports legends Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer, and a variety of music and movie celebrities.
Rucker said the best thing about Williams’s program at Yew Dell Gardens is that “you don’t have to be a great cook to enjoy it.” If there is enough interest, Yew Dell hopes to hold a cooking series throughout the year featuring other chefs.
Also planned for the summer is a Farm to Table Dinner, utilizing the produce of local farmers. The Kline family used to have similar dinners, said Rucker.

• Reservations are required for Slow Cooking Food for Lovers. Cost is $20 for Yew Dell Gardens members and $25 for non-members. For more information please contact Siofra Rucker at (502) 241-4788 or visit www.YewDellGardens.org.

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