Nate Barfield, chef De Cuisine of Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans, was the second guest chef to visit the Gulf Shores High School Culinary Arts program for their Guest Chef Series.
“I’m going to start by doing something your teacher has probably told you not to do and I am going to burn this pot of sugar for the glaze,” Barfield said to the classroom of laughing students.
Barfield, a native of Monroeville, Ala., spent the afternoon speaking with students and introducing them to some new and unusual flavors. During the students FOCUS period, Burfield made a dish with crispy pig ears and a spicy sauce served in a lettuce wrap. Students and teachers were cautious but curious. Everyone that tried the dish was pleasantly surprised how much they enjoyed the crunchy and spicy pig ears.
During the demo, students and teachers asked questions and listened to Barfield’s story.
Barfield attended the University of Alabama and started working in kitchens out of necessity. “I went to the University of Alabama, graduated, and needed a job so I started cooking. I learned I shouldn’t have gone to the University of Alabama. I should have just become a cook. That is why I am here. I am excited about this program. If I had a program like this as a kid, I would have saved myself a whole lot of money,” said Barfield.
“Looking back at if from the outside, a high school student has no idea what is in the world and what’s going on. It’s important for the teachers and the guidance counselors to tell students they don’t have to go to college. You can go to culinary school or a trade school. That goes for the children struggling to pass their classes to the children that make all A’s and go to University of Alabama on a full academic scholarship like I did. For me, the expectations were that because I make good grades that I should go to college.”
During Chef Madsen’s Dual Enrollment CUA 125 class, Barfield made their menu staple, Fried bologna sandwich. A few students mentioned their disdain for bologna, but this was not Oscar Meyer brand. Turkey and the Wolf sources their bologna from Leighann’s in New Orleans where it is made in-house.
Turkey and the Wolf has a list of awards and accolades a whole page long including 2019 James Beard Award Semifinalist: Best chef South and 2017 James Beard Award Semifinalist: Best New Restaurant.
“When we are in busy season, there will be a line out the door for four hours and we will feed about 500 people a day. One time we did $8,000 of business in four hours selling $10 sandwiches,” as Barfield made the statement you could see the children working out that math in their heads.
“Just a little sandwich shop with a bunch of people that used to hang out at a bar and talk about opening a sandwich shop. We start from a place of ‘let’s have a good time’ and if we are enjoying ourselves then we will make food people will enjoy,” Barfield said.
During the demo, students watched as Barfield made the mustard used on the sandwich which he explained was more like a mustard custard using eggs and cooked on a double boiler. After the sandwiches were assembled, complete with salt and vinegar chips, the students and visiting teachers enjoyed the crunchy take on a classic sandwich. Everyone enjoyed the sandwich so much, there were no leftovers for passing teachers that followed their nose to the kitchen.
Barfield left the students with one final life lesson.
“If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are working at a restaurant and you think to yourself ‘man this really isn’t worth it’ there are literally millions of cooking jobs or other restaurant jobs,” he said.