Stu Helm: Food Fan
Stu Helm: Food Fan
Episode 111: A Thick Stew of Nothing but Stu
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Episode 111: A Thick Stew of Nothing but Stu

Just Me, Judging Culinary Students, Crowning a New King of Slow-Meats, Going on Lunch Junkets & Eating Tacos
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TODAY’S PODCAST was originally broadcast by WPVM 103.7fm on Friday, April 28, 2023, and features nothin’ but me, talkin’ about nothin’ but food. First, I describe my experience as a judge at the AB Tech Culinary Program’sCapstone Dinner,” then I reviewed slow-meats at Manicomio Pizza, as well as Buttermilk Bakery, Shin Jung Korean Restaurant, Don Juan cafe in Florida, Restoration Asheville Hotel, Isa's Bistro, Antonio Carlo Tomato Sauce, Double D's Coffee & Desserts & Andale Way Mexican Grill.

THE NEWSLETTER below has written words about & pretty pictures of some of the foods featured in the Podcast. If you have time to look, read, and listen, I hope that you will find it both informative and entertaining. Thanks as always, and if you eat something good, please let me know about it!


CAPSTONE DINNER: I recently had the honor and pleasure of being invited to evaluate and grade the “Capstone Dinner” at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, A-B Tech’s culinary program. There were 8 judges, I was the only judge who is not a chef, and we were each assigned 1 student, who we didn’t meet until after the seven course meal. Each student had a different classic culinary tradition assigned to them, mine was assigned Italian.

May be an image of pasta
The students each made two of every dish on their menu, one to feed the judge they were paired with, and one to set aside to talk about after the meal, so when looking at the picture above, please keep in mind that the food has been sitting there for over an hour, while I ate all of the hot dishes first.

My student was NERVOUS when I met them, but I offered good feedback and gave high grades, and even made them cry one tiny little tear of pure relief when I told them that their consommé was perfect. Consmmé is very difficult to make just right, and fortunately I had a conversation with my fellow judge, Chef Steven Goff all about it on the ride over, so I was able to ascertain the level of skill that my student brought to their consommé game!

May be an image of gelato

I didn’t need Steven’s help to figure out how friggin’ awesome my student’s version of tiramisu was, though! It was light, creamy, and delicate, flavorful and satisfying, and came with a very colorful and delicious berry reduction & sorbet quenelle, which is an oval shape that is very popular for items such as butter, potatoes, and dessert.

Judging this special dinner was fun for me, and as I said, it was a big honor to be invited, but as happens from time-to-time, someone online took the opportunity to express a bunch of crappy thoughts about me, and trash my value as a judge at such an important event. I didn’t feel the need to explain myself to that person, but I apologized for the comments in an email to Chef Instructor Chris Buhger at AB Tech, because the person — an alum of the program no less — also disparaged the school for inviting me. Chef Buhger was quick with a very thoughtful response, which I appreciated very much.

Thank you again for attending last week, it was great to have your critique. I take a lot of time and effort picking judges specifically for students. I would not have had you here or placed you with Ashley if I thought it would not have helped build her career. I read the comments and am not concerned. We have a really strong program and being part of the Hot Food Team, Ashley is exposed to wonderful Chefs from across the country for critiques at an even higher level. I thought it would be great to get her feedback from a sector of the industry that is very important. Chefs/cooks are barely ever feeding other chefs, but most often feeding food lovers who have experienced a multitude of flavors, styles, and methods. This is what I wanted her to have for this process.

Thanks, Chef! And congrats to Ashley, and all the students! By the looks of the food in front of the other judges, they all did a great job!


A NEW KING OF SLOW-MEATS? Daaaaaang, Y’all! I have discovered THEE best Rueben in WNC since Ziggy’s closed. Jon Leibowitz from Manicomio Pizza has recently started making the most perfect corned beef & pastrami in-house, and using bread from Mother Bakery to make two incredible Reubens that are super buttery & crispy on the outside, and so hot on the inside that the cheese all but melts into a sauce. Gah! So dang gooood!

More pictures available on Facebook…

Jon has also been making super dank & dreamy brisket that just melted in my mouth when I tried it on some hot crispy latkes, topped with sour cream & chives, and later I had it again on a hoagy with sautéed broccolini.

More pictures available on Facebook

So, yeah, get on into Manicomio to try these slow-meats, tell Jon & the crew that Stu sent ya, and please let me know what you think! 🔥


WINTER PARK VACATION: I recently took a quick trip to our home away from Asheville, Winter Park, Florida, where I ate lots of awesome food, including some incredible pastries from my favorite bake shop in FLA, Buttermilk Bakery. It’s a tiny shop, with a large selection of sweet and savory baked goods, all super delicious and high quality. It’s very hard not to buy one of everything! They are very nice people making very nice stuff.

May be an image of turnover, babka and baguette

We also went to Shin Jung Korean Restaurant just nextdoor in Orlando, where Dawn got the Bulgogi Bibimbap, I got the Japchae, and we shared the awesome sides. This was our second time there, and we loved it! The food is very fresh, expertly made, pretty to look at, and of course, quite delicious. ❤️

If you ever happen to be in Winter Park, Florida, please pay these two places a visit and tell them Stu & Dawn from Asheville sent you!


RESTORATION HOTEL: I went to the ribbon cutting for the brand new Restoration Asheville Hotel. There’s a cafe, a restaurant, a bar, and a nightclub with a bowling alley and a stage, all open to the public, plus an enormous event space with stunning views & patios. The food at the ribbon cutting was laid out buffet style and I had a smattering of tasty stuff, including a slider, some nice charcuterie, and a really good deviled egg. Plus a yummy cookie. 🙂

May be an image of 6 people, club sandwich and chicken sandwich
More pictures available on Facebook

I’ll be going back to try more and more of their menu as they settle into Downtown. I have high hopes for great food!


60 DAYS OF SAFETY: The City of Asheville started something on May 1st called the 60 Day Downtown Safety Initiative, that involves increased police presence, non-police emergency responders, increased cleanliness and park maintenance, and more. You can read it all HERE. I’m very much in favor of this initiative, although, I feel like half of it is a no-brainer, and the other half is, like, “Y’all weren’t doin’ that already?”

“Due to a number of incidents impacting public safety, the City of Asheville is taking targeted steps to address the rise of crime especially in downtown Asheville. There are complex circumstances contributing to the safety issues that Asheville is currently seeing downtown and it will take a community response to address these complexities. Multiple City departments are coordinating a City government response and we also need participation from community leaders and partners to address all the factors contributing to the rise in crime.” - City of Asheville


ISA’S BISTRO: Paddy & I went on an Asheville Food Tours lunch junket to Isa's Bistro last week, where they make one of my all time favorite things to eat in downtown Asheville: Their croissant madame. It’s a big old croissant, with pit-smoked ham, gruyere mornay, and a sunny side egg. It’s insanely satisfying, filling, and delicious! I got a side of French onion soup, which was also very satisfying, flavorful, deep & savory.

Paddy got a chicken cordon bleu sandwich and truffle mac n cheese, both of which he seemed to enjoy very much! All in all, another great experience at Isa’s!


ANDALE WAY: On another Asheville Food Tours lunch junket, Paddy & I went to Andale Way Mexican Grill, and it was excellent as always!

May be an image of taco and burrito

I got two tacos: One Birria and one grilled shrimp. Both were perfect. Andale Way is my 2022 Taco of the Year winner, and they never let me down! Super high recommends for this restaurant at the base of the South Slope! 🔥🌮🔥


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Stu Helm: Food Fan
Stu Helm: Food Fan
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