Food Writer John DeMers Featured at Houston’s Central Market Cooking School at 6:30 pm, Tuesday, June 22, Demonstrating Chef Brett Recipes, Hero of Murder Mystery MARFA SHADOWS
CHEF BRETT TAKES THE HEAT IN ‘MARFA SHADOWS’
As veteran food and restaurant journalist John DeMers launches his series of mystery novels starring culinary crime-fighter Chef Brett Baldwin, it’s a clear case of art imitates dinner. Representing his hero, DeMers will be teaching at the Central Market Cooking School at 3815 Westheimer, 6:30 pm, Tuesday, June 22. For reservations, go to www.centralmarket.com and click on Cooking School.
Brett is the hero of just-published Marfa Shadows (Bright Sky Press, $23.94), set in the tiny but artsy West Texas town of Marfa. The novel details his efforts to reignite romance with his high school sweetheart Meridyth, who happens to have gone off and become a Hollywood star, and save the world from the drug wars along the Mexican border, while also doing a halfway decent job of opening for dinner that night. Brett’s restaurant, called Mesquite after the hardwood West Texas loves for grilling steaks and even for smoking brisket, is the darling of food journalists nationwide. Food journalists like, say, John DeMers.
“After writing about these guys and gals for 25 years, and even spending time in the kitchen with a bunch of them helping create their cookbooks, the main themes of kitchen life are pretty clear to me,” offers DeMers, whose previous nonfiction love poem to food is Follow the Smoke: 14,783 Miles of Great Texas Barbecue. “The grit and grime that happens there, the frustration, stress and fear of being slammed on a busy night, the wartime camaraderie that gets you through till closing with no past and no future – all that is in my blood now, right along with the beer and the high cholesterol.”
While DeMers does not place actual recipes in the text of Marfa Shadows – or in its upcoming siblings Marfa Rocks and Marfa Blues – he does let his chef talk incessantly with his staff about nightly specials and other food concerns. Many of the best of these conversations take place with Brett’s right-hand, his tireless 4-foot-10 Aztec of a sous chef Gilberto Cruz. Recently, when Central Market asked DeMers to teach a series of classes in its Texas cooking schools, it seemed natural to mine those feverish combat conversations for dishes that Chef Brett would cook if he were teaching the class.
“Brett’s food is all about Texas, with a twist,” DeMers explains. “Though he was born way out in Marfa, he trained and came of age as a chef in Houston, where he ate and even cooked French and Italian, plus bits of Chinese, Thai and Indian, with a beloved side order, of course, of Tex-Mex. Whenever Brett comes up with new dishes for Mesquite, it’s stuff inspired by what he ate as a child in Far West Texas, but informed by everything he’s cooked and tasted ever since. Sure, at some level, Chef Brett might be Everyman. But even more than that, he’s Everychef. It’s how what I call ‘food intelligence’ really works.’”