As a chef, being invited to cook at the James Beard House is like a musician being invited to play at Carnegie Hall – it’s an honor and a big deal. Kelly Cook, dining services director at Presbyterian Village North (PVN), is passionate about preparing delectable and health-conscious cuisine for residents of the senior living community. He’s defying food stereotypes that many senior communities face and is bringing a delightful culinary experience to the seniors who live there. Now, he will have the opportunity to show off his skills and years of experience at the James Beard House in New York City with a group of six chefs who dub themselves “The Lone Star Chefs of Texas.”
“We are honored to have the privilege to perform in the James Beard House this summer,” said Cook. “The Lone Star Chefs is a seasoned group of chefs with more than 200 years of combined experience. While we are all very competitive, we share a common goal of helping others and promoting education. We are now a part of a larger group of chefs who have traveled the world over the last 25 years competing, raising money for charity, working with students, cooking at disaster relief sites and bringing the “Tastes of Texas” around the world though cultural-exchange dinners. This opportunity to cook at James Beard House is something we are all excited to cross off our bucket lists.”
A culinary groupie, James Beard was a champion of American cuisine who helped mentor and educate generations of chefs and food enthusiasts. His spirit lives on through the James Beard Foundation (JBF), which exists to celebrate, nurture and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse and sustainable for everyone. The foundation offers a number of diverse programs that include educational initiatives, food industry awards, scholarships for culinary students, publications, chef-advocacy training and thought-leader convening. The foundation also maintains the historic James Beard House as a performance space for visiting chefs. Each event is a fundraising opportunity which provides the funds necessary to complete the foundation’s initiatives and maintain programming. Foundation members and the public are invited to buy tickets for each dinner or special event.
“We are excited to showcase Texas cuisine, and our menu is a tribute to the tremendous amount of resources available within our community,” said Cook. “These include the abundant seafood in the gulf, the wild game from the plains, the bountiful produce from the Brazos Valley, cheeses and grains from the hill country and the centerpiece of our menu – iconic Texas beef – we worked to represent all the facets of Texas life. We are eager to complete our first practice dinner. Not only will it be a time for us to test out our menu, it is a way for us to fundraise. It is tradition for visiting chefs to provide all of the food and wine for those who attend, while JBF provides the service and venue space. We hope the Texas community will support us in this endeavor as we strive to deliver an exceptional culinary experience.”
Cook has been active with the Texas Chefs Association for more than 20 years and has served on the board of directors in many capacities including currently holding the office of president of the Texas Chefs Association. He also is actively involved in the community and charity organizations such as the National Kidney Foundation of West Texas Board of Directors. In 2005, Chef Kelly was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs (AAC) – the honor society of the American Culinary Federation (ACF). He has received many service and culinary awards including the Second Place Silver Medal in the ACF National Cooking for Life Championship in 2011. He has been responsible for organizing and producing formal and casual dining experiences for U.S. Presidents, members of Congress and other dignitaries and organizations. Cook received a Bachelor of Science, Magna Cum Laude, in Organizational Management from Lubbock Christian University and achieved the level of Certified Executive Chef from the American Culinary Federation Educational Institute.
“We are extremely fortunate to have Chef Kelly lead our dining services team at Presbyterian Village North,” said Bryan Cooper, executive director of Presbyterian Village North. “When a person is talented, passionate and altruistic, that’s a winning combination and someone you want on your team. Chef Kelly ensures that residents get a five-star culinary experience every day and at every meal. From the food to the quality of the service, he and his team deliver. We are so supportive of this opportunity at James Beard House and wish him the best of luck. We know he and the other chefs will make Texas cuisine shine.”