Celebrated chefs ‘Relish’ chance to ready SW Florida for show

Chef Brian Morris of Relish magazine didn’t have a lot of time to chat while he was in Naples earlier this week. After flying in from Tennessee late Monday afternoon, he had an hour to spare before meeting fellow visionary chef Steven Petusevsky, of Whole Foods Market Cookbook fame, for an early bite.

Then, on Tuesday, Morris had an early morning television appearance, afternoon cooking demonstration and another appearance at the Naples Daily News.

But with the Relish Magazine Cooking Show quickly approaching on Sept. 29-30 at Germain Arena, what the chef did have to say was a mouthful.

He spoke with the Naples Daily News about Relish’s mission to keep cooking fun, inspiring home cooks and his predictions for upcoming trends in the wild world of food.

Naples Daily News:We have to ask: What one thing must you have in your kitchen?

Chef Brian Morris: I love to cook with the season so I don’t carry much of a standing inventory. But there is no better flavor amplifier than salt. Not having it is like Slash (the guitarist of the former Guns and Roses) coming to play at your birthday party with no amp, or going to an art museum with lights off. It wouldn’t be that exciting.

NDN: It’s been a rough couple of years for food magazines, yet Relish is still extremely popular. What do people crave for food topics?

Morris: Relish is distributed through newspapers every month in about 900 papers. A lot of the publications you’ve seen go away are the beef Wellingtons of the business and that message is sort of antiquated. Through digital media we’re fortunate to be able to interact with many of our readers.

And we’re focusing on a return to simplicity. People are starting to appreciate that the food is the star, locally grown by someone who cared and lovingly prepared. Readers crave DIY — growing a garden, raising a chicken, field to table. With solid fundamentals and knowing how to treat those ingredients properly, you can be a more effective problem solver in the kitchen. We’re all about putting tools in your culinary tool belt because the end result will be more fun with food, which is always our goal.

NDN: Tell us about “Chef in Your Pocket” and how it became a digital sensation.

Morris: Chef in Your Pocket is like a culinary support group and it happened by accident. Each Tuesday on our Relish Facebook wall, we ask readers to share their culinary questions and we answer. Readers cook, send in photos and we celebrate those dishes together as an online culinary community. One of our weekly question askers eventually said “Wow this is like having a chef in your pocket!”

I love teaching and sharing and seeing those light bulbs going on for people and Chef in Your Pocket is an extension of what we’re about at Relish in that you’re not communicating with a faceless company — we’re right there with you in real time.

NDN: What do you predict is the next big ingredient?

Morris: In a global way, local is the next big ingredient. But more specifically, sweet potatoes are picking up steam for health benefits and flavor. Also, sumac as the next trendy sour berry — it’s like lemon with 10 times the complexity.

I am really excited about miracle fruit (which can be grown locally in Naples). It’s not new per se, but it’s making a splash with folks who want to enjoy sweet flavors but can’t have the sugar, such as diabetics. I think it will allow people to reclaim and rediscover foods that have been untouchable.

Also look for more ethnic and Caribbean spices, nutmeg and allspice, and Latin spices such as pimenton de la vera.

NDN: What do you predict is the next big trend in cuisine?

Morris: People who are a lot smarter than me predict Korean as the next big thing.

I’m passionate about chefs becoming empowered to do one thing and do it well. Food trucks make it possible for chefs who don’t have the budget to open a huge restaurant to have a food truck and have the means to provide amazing food. At Relish we’re most excited about people getting back in the kitchen and back around the dinner table.

NDN: What will the home cook be cooking five years from now?

Morris: The home cook will not be transformed by food manufacturing or technology, but by the fundamentals and continuing to learn techniques. As a society we will often follow the GPS right into in the middle of the ocean and we forget to look around and learn. Ultimately cooking is science, so the more you can understand what’s happening with ingredients the more fun you’ll have, and that is the future.

NDN: Tell us about the upcoming Relish cooking show here with the Women Today Expo in September.

Morris: We can’t wait to come back to Southwest Florida. We only do 20-25 shows a year and it’s unlike any other cooking show like this on the planet. Food is fun, and the show features music, lots of comedy, dancing. You can expect people in the community on stage and you’ll leave with a keepsake cookbook. It’s full on theatrical media with sound and effects, so we hope you like to dance.

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