Chef Vivian Howard with cast at supper.

Don't Tom Thumb Your Nose at Me! Part 1

Vivian, Ben and the entire Chef and the Farmer staff hustle to complete the preparations necessary for her luncheon at the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium in Oxford, Mississippi. At the center of her generation-spanning meal is the Tom Thumb, a pungent and rich sausage stuffed into a pig's appendix. As preparations get underway, the sheer math of the moment is astounding: four courses for 400 food writers and Southern food enthusiasts - 1,600 plates in the span of 90 minutes. Vivian greets this honor with terror and sheer force of will, leaving a long prep day with a sense of pride and excitement.

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Turnips - The Roots

Rainy winters can yield some dull vegetable varieties, few more unglamorous than the turnip. Nevertheless, Vivian is determined to showcase this root vegetable. She features her winter rolls with pickled turnips at a charity dinner with James Beard Award-winner Ashley Christiansen and other notable chefs from the region. She frets over whether her roll is sexy enough to stand up to the opulent surroundings, amidst such distinguished company. Despite her misgivings, the roll is a head turner and Vivian manages to make some new friends.

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Obviously, It's Pecans

It's November, y'all, and that means it's busy at Chef and the Farmer. Vivian is feeling the stress of running the restaurant after suspending her sous chef and preparing for her own Thanksgiving feast. She and Ms. Scarlett head to Ms. Scarlett's family farm where they source their pecans and have a run-in with Uncle Dwight's wild boar. On Thanksgiving, dozens of people assemble in Ben and Vivian's Deep Run home. The only thing missing is the Thanksgiving turkey. As Ben puts it, "Sometimes you eat the turkey. Sometimes the turkey eats you. "

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Turnips - The Greens

Late winter brings "run-up" turnip greens, which Vivian sees as central to her approach to Southern food, capturing both the spirit and the letter of what Chef and the Farmer is all about. Ms. Scarlett helps out by procuring greens from a local produce stand, washing them four times and discussing the how-to of buying and cooking good turnips to satisfy her "Southern people." Vivian downs a "cocktail for courage" as she awaits the arrival of Ben and Karen Barker, her culinary heroes. Her nerves are for naught - the Barkers are her big fans.

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Chicken Lickin

As Vivian waits for spring's vegetables to appear, she pauses to appreciate chicken's endless capacity as an ingredient. The restaurant's new best-seller is a whole chicken, pounded and stuffed with broccoli salad. An old family friend fries a chicken the old-fashioned way, served with a side of banana sandwiches. Spring brings the twins' birthday, and Vivian can't help but go over the top with celebrations, including the Cadillac of chicken coops to house Theo and Flo's new baby chicks.

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Ramp-Ing Up to Spring

Vivian hunts for ramps - Appalachian wild leeks - with renowned bacon purveyor Alan Benton near his home in the Tennessee countryside. Vivian's "ramp dealer" brings her his freshest stash, foraged from the North Carolina mountains. Proud grandparents watch as Theo and Flo show off a piglet and a baby goat at the county agriculture show. Vivian uses ramps like a spring onion, making a compound butter and pimped grits, and serving up grilled ramps, pickled ramps and sauteed ramps at a dinner party.

  • 2020-11-22T07:00:00-08:00
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Eggs A Dozen Ways

Vivian finally makes good on a promise to cook for a friend's supper club, and she seizes the moment to experiment with an egg dish that she hopes will wow New York City's James Beard House crowd. She visits with her egg producer and learns the ins and outs of egg varieties, from chickens to ducks to guineas to partridges. She takes us through how to boil an egg and shares Miss Scarlett's secrets for a southern party staple: the perfect deviled egg. In the restaurant, Vivian anxiously prepares for her gala James Beard Foundation dinner, a new kind of debut in the food world.

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