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Valentino to Valentines

Author: 25 January 2016 No Comment

By Kevan Vanek

When I was young in my singing career, I performed a roll at Catholic University that was reviewed very favorably by a famous critic at The Washington Post and the next day I was offered an audition for a world premier at The Washington Opera called The Dream of Valentino.  I rushed out to find a nice Italian suit so that I would look the part and showed up to the Kennedy Center to audition for the chance that would certainly launch my operatic career.

After my third aria, something from Tosca, the Artistic and General Managers thanked me and invited me to return when my technique was more mature. So close! At least I now had a really nice suit!

A few years and roles later I was singing the same aria from Tosca for a Broadway show called Master Class and my agent told me that the star, Fay Dunaway, had chosen me!  But as a second under-study.  So close!  Maybe Tosca just wasn’t the right aria?  Maybe it was the wrong suit!  No, it was a great suit.  Well, for this singing Chef, Valentine’s Day is forever associated for me with that one door of opportunity that almost opened.  Instead, this cooking Valentino’s ‘dream’ is to open our doors to passionate cuisine for Valentine’s Day weekend!

Speaking of passion, I wonder how often any of us truly let ourselves experience our true passions.  Often the busy pace and mundanity of life can simply stifle and silence this part of our heart, and like that scene from the movie Hook with the late, great Robin Williams as Peter Pan, we have to remember our passions to regain our true voice.  When Pan remembered his “happy passion”, he could fly!  This happened for me last year when I decided to open my new, health driven cuisine restaurant in my home town of Catonsville and called it Black Kettle.  We opened doors in October and have been really busy.

I started by asking myself: “what do I want to do? “ Next, “…well, what do I love?” Suddenly the passion fountain was opened:  I love sauces, I love creating complex and savory soups, broths and bouillons and all the art of saucier.  I love the artistic colors and architecture of vegetables and the wellness that’s in soups and stews!  I get so excited when creating a soup or stock that I’ll take a photo to post somewhere and my wife quickly edits me because it’s just not that pretty—to her anyway!  But to me, the colors and fragrance of the vegetables and bones and meat are a stupendous living still-life!

I conceive of dishes in colors, and rich sauces and broths make vibrantly colored backgrounds that are also naturally super healthy, as all the vitamins and health stays in the broth!  It’s amazing what can happen to us when we ask ourselves simple questions.  Ideas begin to fly!  Maybe the “Peter Pan” in us all is reborn when we simply ask ourselves questions.

Let us all find time to dream a little and remember our passions that make us uniquely who we are.  Remembering our past passions and asking a quiet question may just open that heart valve that leads to an inspiration, and an inspiration can lead to….oh, oh, what have I done this time!

Black Kettle (410) 747-7687(410) 747-7687 www.blackkettledining.com