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Curtis Duffy hovered over plates inside the gleaming white kitchen of his new restaurant, Grace. Of closing your eyes and hoping your problems disappear.Head down, with the poker face that was the 37-year-old’s default demeanor, he arranged long celery curls, ricotta and fried sunchokes into a three-dimensional wreath resembling the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. It’s a story of a chef, and what cooking gave him and what it took away. While the glitterati and food critics in attendance on opening night snapped pictures of the food on their tables, Curtis Duffy focused on Snider, the middle school teacher who — in a way she’s too modest to take credit for — helped make Grace possible. Some problems will always follow you, even when you’re old enough to have children of your own.Get your hands in the dough, give a damn about something, and watch results bubbling from the oven 12 minutes later. In Curtis she saw a boy who put on a hard exterior but behind it was sullen and painfully shy, a student still adjusting from being uprooted.He was all nervous tics, fingers constantly inside his mouth, nails emerging chewed down, arms crossed in a defensive posture.
The namesake of the restaurant and his first muse: Maude, his late paternal grandmother, provided his first culinary inspiration as a child and her sensibilities are resonant throughout the restaurant.By the end of that 45-minute class, Curtis had punched out circles of Pillsbury biscuit dough, slathered on spaghetti sauce, slapped on discs of pepperoni and covered it all with cheese.Cooking provided something lacking in Curtis, he’d later realize: a sense of ownership and control, an illustration of cause and effect. Read about it here in my latest food column in YES! Vin 205 has a little wine market with all kinds of lovely wine, plus local meats, boutique cheese, chocolates and wine accessories and they have plans to add even more. We’ll be doing a special kick-off of our High Country Events in October with Vidalia (date announced soon) and our November Chef’s Table returns to the Triad at Sophie’s Cork & Ale in Lexington on November 13.
Four courses, family-style, with a great group of foodies and friends. Our next Triadfoodies Chef’s Table will be announced later this week. Curtis felt trapped in a small town, wearing out the tape on his speed-metal cassettes, prone to bursts of rage.