[gentle acoustic guitar music] - More than any other ingredient, tomatoes tell you who they are and where they came from.
I can tell just by looking at a tomato whether it was pi cked early and ripened indoors and whether or not it spent time on a refrigerated truck.
I can also look at a tomato and tell if it was ripened in the field and never refrigerated.
And when I look at that tomato, I know it's going to be one darn tasty tomato.
♪ ♪ - ♪ One, two, three, four ♪ - I'm Vivian, and I'm a chef.
My husband, Ben, and I were working for some of the best chefs in New York City, when my parents offered to help us open our own restaurant.
Of course, there was a catch.
We had to open this restaurant in eastern North Carolina, where I grew up and said I would never return.
[The Avett Brothers' "Will You Return"] - ♪ I wish you'd see yourself ♪ ♪ As beautiful as I see you ♪ ♪ Why can't you see yourself ♪ ♪ As beautiful as I see you ♪ - So this is my life: raising twins, living on my parents' farm, and exploring the South, one ingredient at a time.
[upbeat rock music] Previously on "A Chef's Life," We have a chef de cuisine who's starting.
The last year for me has been a testament to that saying, "Be careful what you wish for."
For some time now, I've wanted a competent, talented person to take ownership over Chef & the Farmer's kitchen in the same way that I have.
Now we found that person.
- Hopefully, I mean, you can trust me or Jess as a real team in the kitchen.
- And for pretty much as long as I can remember, I've wanted to write a book.
Now I've written one, and I'm seeing that there's a lot more to writing a book than just writing a book.
- We're gonna want you to do media.
- I think the idea of building a tour around Southern cities and restaurants... - I'm prepared to do whatever it is y'all want me to do.
Until I say I don't want to do that.
And for pretty much all of our 30s, Ben and I have worked to run a successful restaurant.
Now that restaurant is turning ten.
♪ ♪ - Hi.
I'm Kim Adams.
I'm their very first employee.
I started at Chef & the Farmer even before the kitchen was ready.
She pretty much told me that I was gonna be the baker, because, um, she hated to bake.
It has been a great ten years, and I hope I can continue for ten more years maybe.
[soft laugh] Um.
[upbeat acoustic guitar music] ♪ ♪ - So what's the panel thing tonight?
- I'm not really sure.
But I'm moderating it, so I gotta figure it out.
- Yeah, that's why I'm nervous.
- She's been here since day one.
I remember when I hired her, she was really nervous.
And she said, "You know, I just don't know "that "this is a good idea because what if y'all don't make it?"
- [soft laugh] - Yeah.
- [laughs] - You weren't gonna hire me.
Remember, I told you that story?
- 'Cause she didn't like anything.
- She told me that we were gonna make chicken samosas and cilantro yogurt.
And I hate cilantro-- at the time.
So I was looking at her like, "Okay, this is gonna be gross."
So she went back and told Ben, she was like, "I don't think we need to hire her."
- Yeah, I was worried about what Kim liked and what she didn't like.
Until I started trying to hire other people.
Then I realized that Kim was a hard worker.
She knew how to hold a knife.
And so I decided that her distaste for almost everything I was cooking really didn't matter that much.
[laughter] ♪ ♪ When it gets hot here, people automatically start looking for tomatoes.
But in early June, the reality is tomatoes are not ripe.
But sometimes I think if I want something bad enough, it'll just appear.
Maybe I can ripen the tomato with my brain waves.
So I'm afraid I've jumped the gun.
Here we go again.
[laughs] All right, so today is, uh, Chef & the Farmer's ten year anniversary.
And we're having a blast-from-the-past celebration upstairs.
We're doing some of our cr owd favorites over the years.
Part of that, we're doing a bread plate that speaks to our old tomato sandwich.
But unfortunately, I'm working with this.
But I'm gonna roast these really slowly in the oven and blend them with some olive oil and some lemon zest.
You know, when we first opened this restaurant, I really had no idea what I was doing.
And one of the things we did the first summer we were open was I made this pesto cheesecake.
And I, uh, very carefully iced it with a blend of slow-roasted tomatoes.
And I was so dang proud of that cheesecake.
And--[laughs]-- people liked it.
And so we're gonna serve that tonight.
And so these, although they're not wonderful, they'll be fine for this preparation.
They, however, will not be fine for that bread plate.
I still have some people scouting out some farmers' markets in the region to see if we can get any Cherokee Purples, but if not, we'll make it work.
'Cause that's what we do.
Um, I haven't really been here at all this summer.
We have lots of new people, lots of new dishes.
And--I don't know.
It's a weird-- kind of weird feeling.
People always ask me, like, "How do you do all this stuff?
"How do you run the restaurant; write a book; be a mom; be a wife?"
Well, the answer is I don't do all that stuff.
I, for the past two years, have been writing a book and trying to be a good mom.
I have not been tending to the kitchen at my restaurant in a way that feels right in here.
I've been talking about and working on this book for close to three years now, but after turning it in, it turns out there was just a whole lot more work to do and I was not at all done with it.
So it's ironic and bittersweet to me that on our restaurant's tenth anniversary, I'm... barely a part of things.
[sniffs] Need to get control of myself.
[gentle acoustic guitar music] ♪ ♪ What I'm trying to do with these tomatoes is dry them out slowly in the oven.
And in an effort to speed that along, I'm taking out all the seeds.
So what's gonna happen is that these are gonna reduce themselves to the essence of tomato, however imperfect these tomatoes may be.
Just a little bit of olive oil, just to get them going.
These are not perfect, but this is a technique that will really bring out the best flavor in the tomatoes that you have, even if they're from the grocery store.
Um, of course, you're not gonna have any of the bright bursts of acidity and sweetness that you would get with a fresh tomato.
But once these are roasted and I blend them up in the food processor, they're gonna be very tasty.
♪ ♪ I'm gonna cook them at about 250.
This will take probably about two hours to get them where I want them.
Thank you so much, Shirlette.
All right, bye.
So a friend of mine from Durham is coming tonight, and I've had her-- she's stopping at the farmers' market and is bringing me 25 pounds of German Johnsons.
She was asking the woman who's selling them to her whether they're ripe.
But if I were selling them for $3 a pound, I'd say they were ripe too.
- "Oh, they're perfect."
- [laughs] So we'll see what she brings.
[upbeat acoustic guitar music] ♪ ♪ So Warren, do you have any tomatoes now?
- Yes, I do.
- I can--I can say I do.
- Where is the tomato patch?
- Well, we've got two, actually.
If you want to go walk through the hoop house over here.
- You have not got on sensible shoes again.
- Well, I don't--I mean-- - But you did fine.
- What are you supposed to wear?
You don't even have on shoes.
- I don't--you need them darn cowboy boots.
You'll see in there.
- [laughs] What is-- there's nothing here-- what in the world?
- There it is.
- Better not be snakes in here.
- Lilly won't even come in here.
Lilly said... - Oh, my gosh.
- And if she does, she just stays around the edge.
This is a--a disaster, but there's some beautiful tomatoes.
[laughs] The tomato plants, we didn't cage them, and they just fell over.
See 'em in there?
- Oh, yeah.
- Do you know what kind they are?
- Are they... - I think these are Brandywines.
These things are green and red and yellow inside, like a little kaleidoscope.
- Well, I've never seen anything like this.
[laughs] - Thank you.
This is the wild approach to raising tomatoes.
See those Sun Golds over there?
- Oh, yeah.
So, now, Sun Gold is a hybrid.
I want to explain what the difference between an heirloom and a hybrid is.
You gonna have to do it.
I can't do it.
- You're the farmer.
- I know, but I don't know the diff-- I just know a hybrid is something like-- you can take a hybrid seed and save it-- - You save the hybrid seed... - All heirlooms-- - You won't necessarily get another Sun Gold.
- All heirlooms are what they call open pollinated, which means you can save the seed on the farm.
A hybrid, you can't do that.
- Right, because they've taken-- - In a very controlled environment.
- In a very controlled environment, they've taken two different tomatoes, bred them, and you get that every time you do it.
- But you can't take that.
- But if you take the baby and plant seeds, I mean, you'll get some Sun Gold-looking tomatoes, but there'll be some other stuff in there too.
But that is not the same as a GMO.
- No, it is not.
That's just somebody working with Mother Nature to make it better.
- And--and breeding them.
[gentle music] - All right, so maybe we should go see the tomato plants that are standing up.
- Think we should.
Here we go.
♪ ♪ Vivian said she understood why you didn't want to go in the hoop house.
- I ain't going in there.
- You can't even pay me a million dollars.
- It's changed, though.
It's walked down now.
You can see.
- I don't care.
- [laughs] - Do not care.
♪ ♪ - So your mom-- I'm--I'm assuming y'all grew tomatoes?
Or was it your dad?
- Yeah, yeah, he did most of the gardening, and Mama-- - She did the... - You know, busy in the kitchen.
Great-grandma, I mean, she used to come about mid-July and stay through mid-August.
- They just came.
- That's all they did.
- And, well, Mama says, she was so glad to see her leave, she didn't know what to do.
[laughs] - Well, you know, I'm sure that it was a lot of work.
And like you said, she was glad to see her go.
But it sounds kind of romantic to me.
- It does.
- You know?
- It's times gone by.
People don't--you know, whole families don't get together to do that.
- But I think that's what is romantic about it.
Or it's that we don't come together and do anything... - Right.
- Together, as a family.
So what would she do with the canned tomatoes?
- That's a good question.
We loved the stew-- just, like, stewed down and have them on rice.
- Yeah, you know, a lot of times you'll take the tomatoes in the jar, stew them with, um, onions, and maybe some bacon fat... - Yeah.
- And then you thicken it with leftover cornbread or bread.
- But I grew up having tomatoes and rice.
- I think Lilly and Miss Mary are gonna make tomatoes and rice as well as, um, something that's called, like, chicken, tomatoes, and macaroni.
Do you know about that?
But I can't wait to try some.
♪ ♪ - Do I look at you or do I look straight?
I've been told I do good impressions of people at work, but I'd like to keep my job.
You want to see a Kim?
If you're her assistant, you gotta watch out, if you're Kim's assistant.
This is Kim's line.
She'll be like, "Are you sure you want to do that that way?"
One of my favorite Ben moments was we--we had a sample of bread on the pass, and he just starts killing it 'cause he's hungry.
And he's like, "This bread, "such a great chew.
This is just such a great chew.
Did you try this?
It's got a great crust."
And then Vivian.
Everybody knows Vivian's.
Mallory does it really good too.
So this is Chef.
And that's all she does.
- In just a minute, I'm gonna take these tomatoes that I've kind of dehydrated.
And this is my pesto cheesecake.
I guess it's still tasty, but I feel like it's a really dated presentation.
So I'm gonna chop up my dehydrated tomatoes and kind of ice the outside of the cheesecake.
[upbeat guitar music] ♪ ♪ Lordy, sometimes it's painful to look at your professional self from ten years ago.
I mean, basil cheesecake with tomato icing?
[laughs] So this is those tomatoes blended with lemon zest and garlic oil.
And this will essentially be a spread.
Not the prettiest color in the world inside, but it's actually very tasty.
♪ ♪ - Hello.
- I come bearing minor gifts.
- Let's see what we got.
Oh, they look good.
They are ripe.
- Thank you.
- You're welcome.
- Now that's a tomato.
♪ ♪ - I feel like this is the first event we've ever done.
♪ ♪ - All right, so I have been slicing these tomatoes and just seasoning them with salt and pepper and a little bit of sugar.
And then I took all those cherry tomatoes, quartered them with some basil and some cherry vinegar, salt and pepper.
So this is gonna be my components for my bread plate.
♪ ♪ [indistinct talking] And she wants to be a chef.
- Aw, is she here?
She's at B1 and B2.
[indistinct chatter] - Hey.
How are you?
- [inaudible] - I'm Vivian.
So do you like to cook?
- So what are you having tonight?
- We had the Tom Thumb.
- [gasps] You had the Tom Thumb?
- Did you like it?
- You did?
- [soft laugh] - Aw.
That's so-- that makes me so happy.
You want to take a picture?
One, two, three.
[upbeat music] ♪ ♪ - Hey, how are you?
- Doing great, how are you?
- I'm good, I'm fine.
- So Vivian is gonna do a panel right after dinner with, like, John and Kim and Beth.
She's gonna moderate.
Should be fun.
- We've got a good group coming in the door.
I would probably just go ahead and drop some samosas.
- Have any of these samosas gone up?
- She got a little bit more right there.
- Pretty close.
- What about potato bacon cakes?
- We need to get those potato bacon cakes like, up there like ten minutes ago.
- How are you gonna grab these hot things?
- In restaurants, some things never change.
I mean, this feeling of everything is an emergency, it's the same feeling I had ten years ago.
Potato bacon cake... - Oh.
- With crème fraiche and chive.
- Thank you.
- If everyone could grab their seats, please.
- Welcome to our restaurant anniversary.
[cheers and applause] ♪ ♪ Listen, I'm gonna go plate your food.
[laughter] - Thank you.
- Thank you, baby.
[applause] ♪ ♪ - Some things do hold up.
The tomato sandwich with the smoked corn aioli and the sweet potato onion bread, that's something I'm proud to serve tonight or any night.
I mean, you can look at the pesto cheesecake with tomato icing and the tomato sandwich and see my progression as a chef over the course of about five years.
I mean, the pesto cheesecake is probably rooted in a food magazine or entertaining magazine I read at some point.
And the tomato sandwich comes from the food of my people and my place and the food of my youth.
And it's a much better expression of my voice.
The dish you're about to have for dessert I gleaned from working in New York.
You're about to have a roasted banana ice cream with a chocolate molten cake and a banana chip.
And I--boy, I thought I was fancy when I brought that... [laughter] The banana chip was something that I made as a peon in the basement of wd-50.
But Kim has made more banana chips than anybody in wd-50, I can promise you.
She's so dedicated to doing things the right way, that she would come on Sunday mornings to slice a banana, so that no one else would be messing with the ovens, and--and altering the temperature.
So this dessert is really an homage to her.
[applause] - Beth knows this as well as anybody.
What do you say?
- Those two together, their personal relationship with one another, well, let me tell you.
[laughter] I'm sure it was pretty rocky.
And we all witnessed that.
They had to lean on each other, because they were all they had.
I think that's the making of a wonderful marriage, sometimes, when you just really lean on each other.
- [clinking glass] [inaudible] - What?
We're not kissing.
[laughter and applause] ♪ ♪ - Ah.
Uh, okay, so ten years.
You know, I never knew anything about the place until maybe four years ago and-- Threw myself out there to Vivian and she gave me the opportunity and-- You know, and-- I kind of think that I may owe my career to her a little bit now.
Like, I know I'm in the beginning of it, but if it wasn't for her and her uh, you know, tutelage and leadership and mentorship, I don't think that I would have anything in my career really to-- [mutters] maybe even to talk about.
So ten years to me means a lot, just because it-- I know it means a ton to them.
[birds chirping] - What y'all gonna do, cook?
- We're gonna cook.
You're gonna direct.
- The first tomato episode of "A Chef's Life" is when we, as a team, figured out what we were doing with the show.
And I owe a lot of that to Miss Mary and Miss Lilly.
So we brought them back for "Tomato Part Two."
You ready, Lilly?
- Far as I know--I know what you're gonna do anyway.
- You know what we're making?
- Macaroni and chicken, ain't... - Mm-hmm.
- Macaroni, tomatoes, and chicken.
Can I fix it my way?
That's what I want you to do.
- Oh, okay.
Alrighty, let's go.
- But I want your mother to tell you if you're doing it the right way.
- Yes, ma'am.
[both chuckle] Okay, let's go do this now.
[upbeat acoustic guitar music] - Okay, so what are we doing-- what are we making?
- You're making your chicken... - No, you're making rice.
And we've got chicken broth in here, 'cause I cooked a whole chicken.
And now what are we gonna put in here?
- We gonna put some rice.
- See, we ain't never-- measure stuff like this.
[both laugh softly] - Oh, thank you.
- Now you put that in the pot.
Is the pot boiling?
- It ain't on yet.
- It wasn't.
I just, um... - Oh, my God.
- It's on now.
- No, it's not.
- No, it's not.
[stove light clicks] There we go.
You think that's enough?
'Cause I put--we put about a cup of rice in there.
- Put about half-- bout half of that, put in.
- All right, so we got the rice and the chicken broth in here.
- Let it come to a good boil.
- You put that pinch of salt in it?
- I have not.
- I do it like this.
♪ ♪ - If you hadn't canned the tomatoes, you could just... - Cut 'em up and put 'em in the pot.
♪ ♪ - All right, I'm peeling this tomato.
We're gonna put fresh tomatoes in the tomatoes and rice.
I learned this from Lilly.
Dicing in my hand without a cutting board.
♪ ♪ All right, so we've got our tomatoes and rice going.
- Okay, I'm really looking forward to that.
- It's gonna be like a sauce, like you put on spaghetti.
Then when it get done, if you want to put it all together, you can.
- I'm ready for it.
- Any way you want to do it.
- Except not any way you want to do it.
- No, no, no.
[both laugh] - Any way you want to do it.
[laughs] Bout half?
- This is kind of like old fashioned Hamburger Helper.
- I think it is.
- That's--that's what it is.
You can toss in that chicken, right in that rice.
- You want me to put it in there?
- You can put the chicken right in that rice with the tomato.
- I'll just start pulling it now.
[upbeat acoustic guitar music] ♪ ♪ You cooked for the Bryan Family pretty much... - Mm, cooking for 'em about 15 years.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
- No, I cooked lunch.
That was the big meal of the day.
- Susan at the restaurant talks about your cooking like it was really something special.
- I think this one's about done.
- Is the rice done?
♪ ♪ It ain't quite done.
- I'm doing my own thing right--with this one.
Give me it.
- [chuckles] - You dapping all day.
- [laughs] I was doing this.
- I ain't got no makeup on.
[laughter] That's why I don't cook in the summertime.
[jar pops] ♪ ♪ - I just love tomatoes done like this, just smells so fresh.
- Now, Miss Vivian... - Mm-hmm?
- Put your macaroni in there.
♪ ♪ - That is the original Hamburger Helper right there.
- Smells good.
♪ ♪ - Spoon, spoon, spoon, spoon.
- Spoon, spoon.
Here, I got it, I got you.
And what did you say your mom used to call this?
- Mom used to call it Kill Hungry.
[laughter] When you're hungry and you ain't got anything to eat, just throw some macaroni, some hamburger, some onions, tomatoes, some tomato sauce--paste--whatever, Kill Hungry.
You'll get full.
That's what she named it.
- That's better than Hamburger Helper.
- [laughs] All right, Miss Mary, can I fix you a plate?
♪ ♪ - Oh, just right.
- Needs something-- needs something a little more.
- Maybe a little bit of salt.
- I like your macaroni.
- [chuckles] Thank you, Chef.
- [soft laugh] You're welcome.
♪ ♪ [upbeat acoustic guitar music] ♪ ♪ - For more information on "A Chef's Life," visit pbs.org/food.
"A Chef's Life" is available on DVD.