Chow Town

Confessions of an accidental chef

I had no interest in cooking.

My mother, a dutiful not passionate cook herself, never gave me kitchen chores as a gift or a punishment.

And my dad had a dime store, for heaven’s sake. With a lunch counter. If I wanted something to eat, I slipped up on a chair at the marble counter and ordered.

For someone who has had her life so wound around food for the last 30 years, I was indifferent to the subject in my youth.

But life took one of its many unexpected twists and I found myself a teenage bride. I had no experience with any domestic duties. It did not take me long to figure out that there was a much more satisfying payoff for cooking a good dinner than doing the laundry.

My family liked my food and that made me try harder. The bridge club was very impressed with my rice ring and all the neighborhood families came for eggnog and homemade cookies at Christmas. So I learned that food could ease your position in the community, give you a place at the table, so to speak.

In my college days, food became an income producer for me.

I had my first job as a server at a fancy continental restaurant on the Plaza, Putsch’s 210. And when I graduated, no one was more surprised than I was that my first job was the back stage catering for a regional rock ’n’ roll promoter.

Dozens of cases of beer, cola, and wine were iced and drunk. Tables of expensive snacks were laid out, but usually not eaten until after the show, when the crews demolished all the leftovers.

It was a heady time and I was back stage with the bands. Bruce Springsteen was nice and Kiss was not. I learned that bringing the food usually guaranteed a warm welcome.

And so I continued to “bring the food” by doing years of catering.

Then came Café Lulu, my creative masterpiece. And as is the case quite often, creative success does not equal financial success. But something strange had happened to me. When Café Lulu closed, I found that I could not bear the idea of

not

being involved in the world of food anymore.

College had trained me to write, so I pitched an idea to the Kansas City Star for a column called The Marriage of Food and Wine.

From that column, I started receiving other story assignments: how coffee was becoming the next big thing, the history of chocolate and a piece about a new sub-genre of novels, the culinary mystery.

And so, I wrote one.

Nine culinary novels and one cookbook followed. I had discovered another aspect of this food world I was in. And then, I found another, the world of a private chef. It was more heady stuff — an island off the coast of Maine, private planes bringing special delights from New York City, learning the pleasure of working with Mainers and their lobsters.

And now, after seven years on the East Coast, I’m back in Kansas City.

There is so much more I want to know about food. I want to grow my own tomatoes, maybe learn to butcher a pig, or make a wedding cake. I’ve only scratched the surface. I hope you’ll come along on this part of the adventure with me. Food binds us all together, in the best way.

Where do you want food to take you?

Lou Jane Temple’s road to food has been a long and winding one — a rock ’n’ roll caterer back stage to the stars, her own Kansas City-based catering company, Cafe Lulu, then as a food writer, novelist and private chef. She has had nine culinary mysteries and one cookbook published.

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