Notes on Chef Amadeus

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Wok Me, Amadeus: A local chef takes his “Southern Passion” to the Food Network

With minimal fanfare and almost no institutional support, Northeast Florida has quickly developed one of the more interesting culinary scenes in the southeast today, with a wide variety of styles and flavors to serve ravenous local appetites. As with other industries, there are also many people from this area plying their trade all over this country. Chef Amadeus is one of them. Born in 1967, the Ribault High graduate recently returned home after an extended engagement in Seattle, home of other notable Duval transplants like Rachel Shimp, Kat Vellos, Ty Harris and Tiger Parker.

Amadeus is among the contestants on “The Extreme Chef”, the latest offering served up by the Food Network, the Marilyn Chambers of what the critics now deride so marketably as “Food Porn”. His episode airs Thursday night, July 28. Hosted by Marsh Mohktari, “Extreme Chef” takes the shopworn gimmick of a cooking competition to, well, extremes. Contestants must prepare their dishes using not only unpredictable and often unwieldy combinations of ingredients, but they must contend with ridiculous ill-suited implements like sporks and Swiss Army knives. They also cook outdoors, in scorching sun with swirling clouds of dust, wildlife and such. The specter of sudden, spectacular failure is amplified under conditions where failure is likely.

While host Mokhtari is not a professional chef himself, he brings broad-based skills to the outdoor table. Born inBritainin 1975, Mokhtari spent his first six years inIran, and later majored in medical physics at Newcastle; he also played rugby for the Newcastle Falcons and American footy for the UK national team. After years doing corporate work in the City ofLondon, he took an abrupt but inspired turn (facilitated by the “Matrix” series) into broadcasting, creating shows like “Death Road” for History Channel and “Perilous Journeys” for National Geographic Channel. He also acted on “Alias”, “Passions”, “Young & the Restless” and “CSI: Miami”.

A lifetime’s experience in the kitchens of restaurants around this country make chefs experts at thriving under unrelenting pressure, and Amadeus comes ready for the task. While “Extreme Chef” marks Amadeus’ national TV debut, he’s no stranger to broadcasting. He hosts the “Southern Passion Lounge” podcast every Wednesday at 4pm on BlogTalkRadio.com, with back episodes archived on-site. The show, which started last December, focuses on his three favorite activities in life—cooking, travel, and golf.

His palette seems to run toward a fusion of traditional southern-style cooking and the Asian influences so prevalent on the west coast. His food is robust and flavorful, but healthy. Hard-core carnivores can dine side-by-side with vegans at his table, and barely notice the other. A look at his Facebook page offers hints of how he rolls, with dishes like meatballs and broccoli with Chow Fun, seared duck with boysenberry glaze and dirty rice, almond-crusted risotto balls with Puttanesca sauce, veggie chowder make with soy milk and oatmeal flour, mushrooms stuffed with halibut, shrimp strudel, salmon au gratin and something called “Shrimp Rhapsody”, right alongside the collards, fried chicken and dirty rice that one would expect from a Duval man; desserts include stuffed strawberries, and Bananas Foster martinis.

His “Southern Passion Spices” are salt-free blends, available in flavors like “Dos Maria” (named after his mother and grandmother), “Chino5” (which can be used on everything from grilled meats and in desserts), and the flagship “Lil’ Bump”. He’ll be bringing all this together when his first cookbook is released in 2012. Amadeus offers private sessions, while devoting some of his free time to teaching new cooks. Through it all, one gets the sense that he truly enjoys his work. “Extreme Chef” is helping him take his southern passion to wider audiences; they better be hungry!

amadeus@chefamadeus.com; chefamadeus@gmail.com

sheltonhull@gmail.com; July 21, 2011

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