Valentine’s Day.

“Restaurants Open On Christmas”

As a chef it disturbs me that so many Americans are afraid of cooking a meal. What am I talking about?

A quick look at Google Trends will reveal that the most popular searches Christmas Day 2009 were “restaurants open on christmas,” “cracker barrel hours,” “huddle house,” “dunkin donuts open on christmas.”  Sad.

Restaurants open on ChristmasIt is one day, folks, cook something!  This trend is very disheartening to anyone like myself who loves to cook – that someone refuses to cook even one meal, even on Christmas Day – they just have to eat out.  Mother’s Day is another day that baffles me.  I can think of no bigger slap in the face to mom than dragging her to some ubiquitous Olive Garden, making her sit in a crowded lobby for hours and then shoving that carcinogen laced pseudo-food down her throat.  Dido for Valentine’s Day.

One of the great experiences in life is for family and loved ones to gather together and share with one another – share their art, their stories, their food and their love.  Going to eat at a restaurant on Christmas Day, to me, tells those around you that they are a burden.  That you only visit loved ones because society’s folkways suggest you are a heel if you do not, or rather society’s folkways expose you as a heel if you do not.

I understand that some people feel overwhelmed by a lot of the activities during the holidays but how about cutting out all of the trivial stuff and just sit down noshing and sharing with those who love you.  But if circumstances dictate that you must go out and consume lethal amounts of additives, saturated fats and hydrogenated oils then here are links to IHOP, Denny’s and Waffle House, but I implore to throw together something easy and spend the rest of your time with the ones you love.

It is one day, cook something!

Hear is a great dish that is ready literally in seconds:

Recipe: Oyster Stew


  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 pint oysters
  • 1 stick real butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a sauce pan or even in a large microwaveable bowl combine milk and oysters and heat to a simmer then add butter and season to taste.
  2. Enjoy!

A Guide to Exceptional Table Settings

Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away so I thought I would help you set the mood by helping you set the table.

It might surprise you to learn just how much of what we taste is influenced by the other senses. To prove the point, there is a fad currently emerging called “dark dining.” There are two different approaches to dark dining but both involve the customers being blind for the entirety of the meal. DD enthusiasts claim that food tastes differently when you eliminate one of the senses. For the record the two different approaches to dark are that some restaurants have servers donning commando-style night-vision goggles while the other employees only vision-impaired servers.

The importance of what we see towards what we taste is essential. This is why chefs are so maniacal about their plate presentations. One example that comes to mind is Chef Charles Mereday formerly of the Battle House Hotel in Mobile, AL and a classmate of Tyler Florence at Johnson & Wales University.  A few years ago I did a profile on Mereday for ‘Zalea Magazine. My editor told me that when they photographed one of Chef Charles’ entrees for the article that the photographer took the liberty of rearranging the items on the dish. The chef politely removed the plate and cooked the dish again asking that the picture reflect the way the dish is served.

For the home cook an easy way to set the stage visually is to set the table creatively. One great teacher of how to set a table is Food Network star Sandra Lee. Though many have been critical of the food on the show (Lee admits to using 70% pre-made foods), none can argue that the TV star sets a beautiful table, or what she calls tablescapes.

Lee’s talent for tablescapes has started a whole genre of DYI books devoted to setting the table. Ironically she is the only person who has not published a book on the subject:

Of course treating your dining room table like a Broadway set is not the only way to set the mood. A simple yet elegantly set table can pop by simply putting a little effort into folding your napkins. I have compiled some videos that will walk you through the process.

Valentine’s Day is Sex on a Plate

The following is from my good friend Jennifer Iannolo, co-founder of the Culinary Media Network®.  Jen has planned the ultimate Valentine’s Day Event this year but I’ll let her tell you more about it.  Read on:

What does your inside voice say when you taste something sublime?

Mine says this.

Youve seen me talk a lot about Sex on a Plate on Twitter and Facebook, but I think its high time we got out of the digital realm to bring the experience to life, so if youre going to be in NYC for Valentines Day, I  hope youll join me for a very special evening.

Instead of the rote table-for-two scenario, I’m inviting you to my cocktail party in the Penthouse of the Roger Smith Hotel. We’ve planned a sultry evening of tastes to evoke your senses with the kinds of aromas, textures  and flavors that will make your mouth water  and prime you for what we hope  is a most sensual evening. It doesn’t matter if you’re a single, double or threesome. Or any other combination.

Step inside my head, and see what Sex on a Plate looks like to me.

Pretty please, with a strawberry on top.


DATE:         February 14, 2010

TIME:          6:30-10:00 PM

VENUE:      Roger Smith Hotel, Penthouse: Solarium, Lexington Avenue & 47th

EVENT TYPE: Cocktail & Tasting Party

MENU:        A series of delectable small plates and adult beverages


$100 per person through January 31st

$125 per person after January 31st

Space is limited. 21 and over. Order your tickets here.

Note: Due to the nature of this tasting event, we will unfortunately not be able to accommodate food allergy restrictions. Menu may contain shellfish,
nuts or other allergens.


The Roger Smith Hotel is offering a special Take Monday Off rate on Valentines Day for this event. Please contact Brian Simpson for details on Twitter or via e-mail.

Photos: Kelly Cline

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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