Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Five Star Farewell

They are saying farewell to a legend at Cincinnati State's Midwest Culinary Institute.

Hi, it's Sheila.
I have eaten food prepared by World Master Chef John Kinsella many times, but I have never dined the way I did last night.

Ric and I were invited to one of Chef's farewell dinners at MCI. You may not recognize John's name, but it is recognized all over the world. He has trained some of the finest chefs working in the restaurant industry, a great many of them here in Cincinnati. A writer for the website says, "John Kinsella has more letters behind his name than Vanna White. A Certified Master Chef (CMC), Certified Culinary Educator (CCE), and a member of the American Academy of Chefs (AAC)."

John has won numerous awards, including a medal from the Queen of England (and yes, he's cooked for her too!). Chef Kinsella was awarded the Her Majesty Armed Forces Combined Services medal in 2001 for services to the culinary profession. Just this spring, his MCI students traveled to an international competition for culinary schools and brought home gold medals. In 1988, his radio show "Everybody's Cooking" received a James Beard House nomination for the "Best National Radio Show on Food."

Chef has worked all over the world - he's a native of Ireland - but he chose to put down roots in Cincinnati. Back in the 70's, Cincinnati had three five-star French restaurants, including his Gourmet Room in the Terrace Park Hotel. Cincinnati Magazine Food Editor Donna Covrett wrote last fall that Cincinnati was second only to New York in its concentration of fine dining restaurants. At that time, Chef Georges Haidon was the genius behind Cincinnati's famous Maisonette, and last night, Kinsella and the students at MCI prepared an absolutely unbelievable five-course tribute to his friend. It was pretty special to see them together, and to see talented kitchen stars from our city all in the same place. The Oriental Wok's Guy and Susanna Wong-Burgess, former Top Chef contestant and Pastry Chef Megan Ketover and her boss, Chef Todd Kelly of Orchids at the Hilton Netherland were there along with Cincinnati State's President, Dr. O'Dell Owens, and about 70 others.

Look, I'm not a food writer, so there's no way I can put into words how wonderful the food looked and tasted, but we started with Pate Foie Gras, moved on to the best Lobster Bisque I've ever tasted, and dined on sole stuffed with shrimp and crayfish, tenderloin of beer, pheasant breast, and more. The sauces were sinful - just so delicious! The evening ended with Maisonette desserts and lots of tributes from John to his students, his talented friends, and his wife Jean. The two of them are planning a trip to their native Ireland to celebrate his retirement. I asked Chef Todd Kelly for his thoughts. He said he loved the progression of the foods, and was reminded "the classics never go away."

The night was a gift, just like his many years here in Cincinnati. Think of the influence he has had on dining - and on people - here. John likes to tell the story about the former student who came back years later and told him how much he hated Chef Kinsella when he was in school there, but realized later how well he was trained. But Megan Ketover tells a different story - of a kind, caring mentor who gave her the confidence she needed to keep striving for her dream to be a pastry chef. I've never seen Kinsella in the kitchen, but Rob and I have welcomed him to our studios many times over the years. I love the way he tells stories, and I love his love for cooking. He is warm and fatherly and always ready with a big bear hug, and I stole a couple more last night before I sneaked away for my early bedtime.

Thank you, John, for sharing your passion with us!

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