Hungry for more: A dream come true in the kitchen

  • Sunday, March 2, 2014

Two weeks ago I wrote a column about taking Emma, my 7-year-old foodie, to lunch at Oxford's City Grocery. Emma loves some “fancy food,” and while we were there, she charmed her way into the heart of our server, Jennifer, and eventually into the kitchen to get her first behind-the-scenes look at a professional kitchen.

After the column ran in the various newspapers I write for, I posted the article to my blog (www.RobinsChicks.com) and shared it on Facebook, and then things started getting really exciting.

One of my Facebook friends recognized our server, Jennifer, and posted the article on Jennifer's Facebook account, which led to Jennifer sending me a really sweet email. Jennifer was so excited about the article that she shared it with her mother and her sister.

Jennifer's mom really liked the column, so she sent me a really sweet email as well. But Jennifer's sister, Jessica, upped the ante and tweeted the article to John Currence, the head chef and owner of City Grocery.

I received a tweet from him that read: “Thanks Emma, for my favorite review in 22 years. Come back sometime and we'll cook together.”

I responded to John via Twitter and said: “I'm Emma's mom & the author of the column. She would DIE. You say when and we'll be there.”

I'll be honest. I didn't expect to hear from him again. I thought it was nice that he responded, but I didn't really see a James Beard Award-Winning Chef making time to cook with a 7-year-old. I was wrong.

He tweeted back: “Let's talk. This has warmed my heart more than I can say.”

At this point Emma didn't even know that I had written about our lunch for my column, so I sat down with her and explained everything that had transpired on social media in just a few days. She went nuts. (You can watch a video of her reaction on www.RobinsChicks.com).

The next day I got an email from John and his assistant to set up a time for her to come back. He wanted to know what size she was so he could get her a chef's coat (my heart melted a little) and wanted to know her food preferences so he could plan a menu.

I called her into the room and typed as she talked: “Honest to God, the kid will eat anything. She loves salads and was totally peeved today that there were no healthy choices at her school Valentine's party and actually said, 'You'd think somebody could at least bring fruit or something!'”

She says she doesn't like tomatoes, squash or zucchini, or spicy peppers.

She loves: greens, turnip greens, onions (sauteed, she says) chicken, sushi (couldn't make this stuff up, I'm just taking notes), all fruit. She says steak is her favorite meat. Her eyes are glazing over the longer she talks about this.

She said she's always wondered about sweetbreads. (Are you crying yet?)

FYI, we Googled “sweetbreads” and she wasn't wondering anymore.

She LOVES fish.

She says, “I just want to feel like a real chef in a real restaurant, cooking real food for lots of people.” (Guess this is her mission statement.) “Because I'll feel like I'm really helping them.”

She says, “Ask him if we can do appetizers, an entree and dessert. And tell him I like LOTS of food and really fancy food.”

I'm afraid that John Currence has raised the Valentine's bar so high for Emma that no one will ever be able to compete.

Robin O'Bryant is an author, humorist and speaker. Her latest book is “Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves.” Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter and visit her blog at www.RobinsChicks.com.

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