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Chef Life

Wingman Wednesday

Chef Ronaldo Linares

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Chef Ronaldo Linares
www.ronaldolinares.com
Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/YouTube

Chef Ronaldo Linares has blazed a culinary trail that burns hot enough to flambé anything within a 30 mile radius. He honed his knife skills growing up in his family’s kitchen, then as Sergeant and Food Services Specialist in the Marines and as a high honors graduate from ICE (Institute for Culinary Education) in New York City.

We recently sat down with Chef Ronaldo to talk about “Old Cuba” as a paradise, what it’s like to run a kitchen on your first Friday night rush, and the “Knotted Apron” pop-up restaurant he recently put together in Los Angeles with some of the food industry’s best Latino chefs.

TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking and who has been the biggest influence in your life with regards to your culinary journey?
Chef Linares: I have been in the kitchen since childhood, my two biggest influences in this game have been my father and mother. They have showed me what hard work, technique and patience will do to your craft. I have watched them closely. One of the biggest lessons I learned was to develop habits in the kitchen. Habits bring excellence.

TrunkSpace: What style of cuisine do you enjoy creating the most and why? And what would you consider your signature dish?
Chef Linares: It has to be Cuban cuisine. It speaks to me the most. Cuba has so much culture, history… different cuisines that influence what Cuban food is today. Signature dish? It has to be a plantain mash called Tre-Fongo made with sweet plantains, green plantains, and yuca. Some sofrito, pork skin, and topped with Roasted Pork Shoulder, aka Pernil Asado.

TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Linares: Food is definitely a gateway to one’s culture. My food, the Cuban people’s food, is a staple. It tells stories of the old Cuba, a paradise, and it’s my belief food keeps that paradise alive. That’s why I fight so hard to keep Cuban food on the map.

My food is authentic, it fights, it tells you stories. The best compliment that you could get as a chef, in my opinion, is someone telling you that the flavors, textures and smells brought them back to the glorious moments in Cuban history. That is a great feeling.

TrunkSpace: Every cook and/or chef has a really bad service, and it haunts them, but they grow and learn from it. Do you have a worst service memory that keeps you up at night? And how did it change you as a chef?
Chef Linares: Such a great question. One year after I got out of culinary school, my mother got sick and dad was not around. During that time my mother ran the kitchen, and I had to jump behind the wheel – this happened on a Saturday. In the outside I was cool, calm and collected, but on the inside, I was like, “Holy shit!” So, dinner service starts and orders start coming in, and I was feeling confident at the moment because everything was calm. Not having the experience, I did not anticipate the dinner rush. The time is now 7 p.m. and that printer started to sound like a really bad song. Before long tickets were backed up, everyone is asking me a million and one questions, wait staff is asking for tables, people are leaving, and here I am thinking, “What the F happened?”

So, here I am, 15 years later absolutely crushing it!

TrunkSpace: On the flipside of that, do you have a particular memory of your best service or a moment in your career that really stood out and has stuck with you?
Chef Linares: Recently I put together a pop-up dinner in Los Angeles – the place was “The Knotted Apron.” Some of the best Latino chefs in the game gathered for one night. We put together an eight-course dinner paired with eight different cocktails. Using my connections, I was able to get “Hispanic Kitchen” to live stream a few cooking demos along with top influencers and celebrities that joined the dinner. That night was memorable, dinner was perfect, no mistakes, just good food.

The reason I loved this dinner so much was the family feel of it, but it was a true tale where my career has evolved too.

TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past years, food has also advanced in many ways. Has it changed the way you cook at all?
Chef Linares: In some ways it has, for example, sous vide is a great technique of cooking. It allows you to bring crazy flavors out of foods, from greens to proteins and even starches. The secret lies in playing around with ingredients and checking out other leading chefs that are doing it better than you. Hope that makes sense.

TrunkSpace: Molecular gastronomy… is it mad science? Or mad tasty? Do you feel it has a place in the culinary scene as entire dinner courses, or should it be used more in balance to further enhance traditional dishes?
Chef Linares: Molecular gastronomy, oh boy! I cannot comment on this one. I am very traditional with my food. From time to time I dabble with molecular gastronomy in my food and see how it plays with traditional dishes.

TrunkSpace: Chef life and tattoos seem to go together like sweet and savory. Do you have any food inspired ink? And if so, what does it mean to you?
Chef Linares: Love my tattoos. I have a lot of ink. One of my food-inspired tattoos is on my right pec. There is a skull in the middle screaming with an old school French chef hat on, surrounding the tattoo is a clever, chef knife, salt shaker and wooden spoon – my favorite tools in the kitchen. The ink keeps me focused to stay on track with my career.

TrunkSpace: If someone offered you a blank check to open your own restaurant, whether that would be a brick and mortar, food truck or gastropub, what would your vision be? Where would it be located and what type of food would you focus on?
Chef Linares: It would definitely be a brick and mortar. My vision would be to bring old Cuba back – when Cuba was a paradise – the restaurant will represent that vision. The food would of course be farm to table, dishes will represent all regions of Cuba, but would blend the cultures that migrated to Cuba over the last 100 years. It would become the best Cubano restaurant in the United States.

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Chef Life

Chef Diva

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Chef Diva/Chelsea Elizabeth
Owner/Head Chef of Chef Diva by Chelsea Elizabeth, LLC
www.chefdivabychelseaelizabeth.com
Instagram/Facebook

TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking and who has been the biggest influence in your life with regards to your culinary journey?
Chef Diva: I’ve been cooking since I can remember. I was always that creative kid in the kitchen. My parents let me do me as long as I cleaned up after myself. I was also a very picky eater and the best way to satisfy myself was to create what I liked. My Nana was definitely my biggest influence, because she was just as picky as me when it came to food. (Laughter) When I would visit she would let me be in the kitchen with her and oversee everything. I loved her food. I was the only one that she ever shared her recipes with. I still use many of them to this day.

TrunkSpace: What style of cuisine do you enjoy creating the most and why? And what would you consider your signature dish?
Chef Diva: I love creating a mash-up of southern/soul food with Caribbean and Asian influences. As far as a signature dish, that’s tough. I make more macaroni and cheese than any human could ever imagine. It is always a crowd favorite. However, my jerk chicken spring rolls are very labor intensive but ordered all the time.

TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Diva: My food is the realest representation of my life. It’s all over the place but it works. My family is originally from the south so that influence is automatically in my DNA. Soul food is literally about cooking from the heart. You just know what works. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY which has a heavy West Indian population, so that’s where I received my introduction to Caribbean cuisine. I was hooked from my first chicken roti. My husband’s family comes from Barbados and Trinidad, so I quickly had to learn to make all his favorites. Much like I did with my grandmother, watching her in the kitchen, I did the same with my mother-in-law. She taught me the basics of Caribbean cooking, and I took it from there. On top of that I’ve studied and have had many extended trips to multiple countries in Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. I love to travel. I try to take cooking classes in every country I visit. The learning never stops. I’m obsessed with Asian spices and they work so well with soul food and Caribbean food.

TrunkSpace: Every cook and or chef has a really bad service, and it haunts them, but they grow and learn from it. Do you have a worst service memory that keeps you up at night? And how did it change you as a chef?
Chef Diva: Knock on wood but I’ve been pretty lucky in my professional cooking life. I had a few disasters in culinary school that got me straight for life. I’m a true believer in that quote, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” Also, being in catering and private chef work, I don’t have the same pressures as being in a restaurant. If I must come up with something, then I do remember catering a BBQ in the Hamptons a few years back. I was using the client’s grill and it ran out of fuel. I’m used to always barbecuing with charcoal, so I didn’t even notice right away. I was standing in 90 degree heat trying to figure out why the Papaya Shrimp Skewers weren’t cooking. Needless to say, they wound up having to be finished in the oven. Not quite grilled, but still tasted fabulous.

TrunkSpace: On the flipside of that, do you have a particular memory of your best service or a moment in your career that really stood out and has stuck with you?
Chef Diva: YES! I was catering a memorial in Manhattan for about 300 people. It was a real mix of socialites, politicians and big business folks. I was ready to show out and that I did. My staff was on point and everything was flowing seamlessly. I always make extra food but in this case every morsel of food was gone. I was being sought out from my hiding spot (watching people eat my food always gives me anxiety) because everyone wanted to know who made the delicious food. It felt good to be recognized for my work in such a historic venue with all of these amazing people that I usually see on TV or in the newspaper. Many of them are still my repeat clients to this day.

TrunkSpace: Do you have a set path in mind for your career and where it’s going? Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?
Chef Diva: In addition to being a chef, I am also an event planner. I’ve co-owned Kelly Greene Events for the last six years. With that being said, my ultimate goal is to own and operate my own catering hall. That is really the culmination of both of my worlds. Food and parties.

TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past years, food has also advanced in many ways. Has it changed the way you cook at all?
Chef Diva: Nope. I’m old fashioned. I don’t like to rush my food.

TrunkSpace: Your web-series “Delightfully DIVAlicious” is out now. Can you tell us a bit about that and what to expect from the show?
Chef Diva: I recently had weight-loss surgery so the show is really diving into my health journey. I talk about the changes in my life since making the decision to live, literally. I will also be featuring many new healthier recipes for folks to follow along and make at home.

TrunkSpace: We love that even though you are a classically-trained chef, you bring a lot of personality and spice to your approach on food and life. It’s very refreshing to see! Which, in a punny way, leads us to ask you about your spice blends that are also available now. Can you give us a dash of info on those?
Chef Diva: My new Diva Blends are the bomb.com. People have always asked what I put in my food, well this is it. I marinate everything, because I hate dry food. I season everything because I hate flavorless food. It’s my way of giving you a piece of Chef Diva at home. I’ve recently launched the first three – Gimme That Garlicky Diva, Sweet and Savory Diva Marinade, and Tastes Like Summer Marinade. There is more to come so stay tuned. They are all currently for sale exclusively on my web, www.chefdivabychelseaelizabeth.com.

TrunkSpace: For those home cooks out there or perhaps the aspiring chefs, if you could give them one tip on cooking, what would it be?
Chef Diva: Three things: 1.) I always say, “I don’t make pretty food. I make good food.” Some chefs get so bogged down with how their dish looks, and it tastes like crap. Make sure your food tastes good first and then worry about the presentation. 2.) Be thoughtful. You are putting this stuff in the human body, so be thoughtful with what foods you cook, spices you use, and preparation style. 3.) Be fearless. Try a combination of spices that might seem odd. You may be surprised with what you come up with. If it tastes bad, then try something else. Keep going and do what feels and tastes right to you.

TrunkSpace: If someone offered you a blank check to open your own restaurant, whether that would be a brick and mortar, food truck or gastropub, what would your vision be? Where would it be located and what type of food would you focus on?
Chef Diva: I’ve thought about this so many times. It would be a tapas bar. The twist is instead of it being Spanish tapas, it would be Chef Diva Caribbean/Soul Tapas. Small tasty bites of yummy goodness. It would be located in New York, either the city or the Hudson Valley, where I currently reside.

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Chef Life

Chef Trevor Tack

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Chef Trevor Tack
Executive Chef of the McNellie’s Group
www.thehopjam.com

Tulsa, Oklahoma has long been famous for its local music scene and connection to Route 66, but lately the food scene has been picking up popularity and acclaim. The reason behind T-Town shifting culinary gears into overdrive is a direct result of the chefs that are now at the helm.

We recently sat down with Chef Trevor Tack of the McNellie’s Group to discuss food and beer pairings, what the foodie future holds, and the experience of working with Hanson on Oklahoma’s largest craft beer and music festival, Hop Jam.

TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking and what people have been the biggest influence in your life with regards to your culinary journey?
Chef Trevor: I started cooking in high school. Not at a restaurant mind you, just my house. I wanted to eat certain foods my mom just didn’t cook. In fact, she hates to cook! That’s why I started to take an interest in food because I just got tired of the same old stuff we ate every week. It wasn’t until college that I really got into the scene. That world just appealed to me. The single biggest influence in my journey was my first real chef and mentor, the late Paul Caplinger. He was instrumental in my growth as not only a cook but also as a person.

TrunkSpace: What style of cuisine do you enjoy creating the most and why? And what would you consider your signature dish?
Chef Trevor: Oh boy, that’s a good question! I love braising things. Confit, roast, stew… anything that takes a while is my favorite thing to do. As far as a signature dish goes, I would have to say risotto. It takes a while and you have to pay attention to it or it just turns out terrible.

TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Trevor: That is so true. Food is the great equalizer. Every culture. Every person. We all have a story to tell about food. We grieve with it, we celebrate with it, we give it away when people are sad, happy, tired… you name it. My food is simple. I want it to make you happy. I love serving people. I find a fantastic joy in doing so. When you cook for someone, you’re asking for them to trust you. I don’t take that lightly.

TrunkSpace: Every cook and/or chef has a really bad service, and it haunts them, but they grow and learn from it. Do you have a worst service memory that keeps you up at night? And how did it change you as a chef?
Chef Trevor: I have been pretty fortunate in that category. I have seen very few catastrophic meltdowns in my kitchens. But one that truly haunts me, I mean some really nightmarish shit, was when I opened the Dilly Diner. It was during Tulsa Tough and the race was on our front door. That first week was so hard. People crying in the alley was just a normal sight. Just a torrent of people coming in, no breaks. My legs were chaffed so they were bleeding. It was hot as hell outside to boot. Trying to expo and teach people the proper way of doing things in that environment was very difficult. Oh yeah, and we were open from 7:00 am to midnight.

TrunkSpace: On the flipside of that, do you have a particular memory of your best service or a moment in your career that really stood out and has stuck with you?
Chef Trevor: It’s funny because it was the same week. I saw people that were forgotten rise up and become giants in that time. There were cooks there that had been cast aside by many that showed how strong they truly were. I saw people grow and lead others. We fought together. We bled. We came out on the other side much better for it too. Some didn’t make it ‘til the end, but the ones that did really showed their grit. I’ve truly never been prouder of a staff.

TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past years, food has also advanced in many ways. Has it changed the way you cook at all?
Chef Trevor: Oh yes. I’m by no means a culinary “scientist” but the way food is being raised and grown now has really changed the game. It’s really making us all healthier people.

TrunkSpace: As the Executive Chef of the McNellie’s Group, you appear to be involved in some very exciting ventures including this year’s “Hop Jam” in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Can you tell us a bit about that event and what it’s like working with the Hanson brothers?
Chef Trevor: Those guys are great. They truly are some great ambassadors for our city. I’m fortunate to be cooking a very cool dinner in collaboration with Taylor Hanson at The Bond Event Center. The first annual Firkin Feast. It’s a celebration of food, music, and of course beer! Some really killer breweries are going to be there. The food is going to be pretty great too! I haven’t been this excited about an event in forever. It all goes down on 5/19/18. Details can be found here!

TrunkSpace: As you stated, Hop Jam centers around music and uniquely crafted beers. For those foodies reading out there, can you tell us some basics on pairing the perfect brew with food? We know pizza and beer go together, but what should we order to drink with a good piece of fish or steak?
Chef Trevor: Man, beer is so much fun to pair with food! I have found that some of the best pairings are with simple fizzy lagers or ciders. They go with almost everything. When the food gets a little heavier, just experiment with some darker ales and porters. But really at the end of the day it’s about what you like. Don’t let any beer or wine snob tell you differently!

TrunkSpace: Tulsa has long been well known for being on the forefront of music, but lately the culinary scene has really been developing in T-Town. Do you think this is due to customers becoming more adventurous in their dining? And what do you think the gastronomy future holds for Tulsa?
Chef Trevor: Tulsa is ready for prime time. I have been watching this town grow and spread her culinary wings, so to speak, for the last 15 years. It’s been an amazing ride watching all of it go down. I honestly attribute that to our millennial diners. Social media and young professionals go hand in hand. And hipsters. Hipsters love taking pictures of their food almost as much as they like to eat it. There is just so much more connectivity to the world’s dining scene now. Everyone can see what other cities are doing and saying, “OOOO I want dat!” And that’s a good thing for all of us. I think that we’ll just keep getting better and better as more talented people start coming up the ranks. High tide raises all ships.

Hop Jam takes place this Sunday. For more information, click here.

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Chef Life

Chef Vikki Krinsky

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Vikki Krinsky
www.chefvikkik.com
Twitter: @chefvikkik • Instagram: @chefvikkik

Many times you hear of people switching their profession from doctor or lawyer to pursue a career as a chef. Undergoing such a transformation to follow your passion can be a big risk. Chef Vikki Krinsky went from professional soccer player and actress to kitchen life, working for famous folks like “The Orville” and “Family Guy” creator, Seth MacFarlane.

We recently put on our apron and jumped behind the cutting board to chat with Chef Krinsky about her journey from actress to chef, how to make healthy foods taste great, and calling her mom from Tom Hank’s bathroom.

TrunkSpace: You’ve had an interesting career path, from actress to chef for A-list Hollywood stars like Seth MacFarlane. Can you tell us what that journey was like for you and how your love of culinary arts eclipsed your love of the performing arts?
Chef Krinsky: What a journey it was! In addition to coming off of a Lifetime TV series called Zoe Busiek’s “Wild Card” that we shot in Toronto, Canada, I was also a competitive soccer player my whole life, who put a lot of emphasis on health and fitness. I moved to LA at the ripe ol’ age of 19 and had no idea what I was in for, in terms of body image. It was really tough hearing feedback after an audition and I started to grow immensely dissatisfied with my self-image. After a year of testing for multiple shows, I took it upon myself to start studying nutrition and I even got a job as a personal trainer at the gym down the street. Soon thereafter, I walked away from acting and went on a solo backpacking trip through Europe. I randomly met a chef, interned in five different restaurants throughout Europe and came back to LA with a new, profound passion – cooking fine dining cuisine, with a nutritional twist! My role in the world of entertainment is absolutely perfect for me. I’m very grateful that I listened to my gut and took a chance on myself.

TrunkSpace: Though you’re not actively pursuing an acting career, you are in front of the camera each week on the CBS cooking competition show, “Recipe Rehab.” What are some of the challenges of trying to not only entertain on the show but also cook and educate viewers on how to transform their favorite comfort food dishes? And do you feel your background in acting helps to elevate your performance?
Chef Krinsky: I do feel my love for acting has helped tremendously. I truly don’t find it challenging to do all of the above – in fact, I love that combination more than anything! Like a perfectly balanced… cupcake!

TrunkSpace: You have a passion for creating healthy and delicious meals, and you’re of the belief you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for fit foods. For those trying to seek a healthier lifestyle, do you have any basic tips on adding flavor to dishes that normally get a bad rep for being bland or blasé?
Chef Krinsky: FRESH HERBS, my friends! They are so simple, easy and affordable! They’re a pop of bright flavor, and really bring any and all dishes to life!

TrunkSpace: An artist often needs quality paints to create a quality painting. Do you believe that in the culinary arts it’s important to cook using organic and sustainable foods? And do you find such foods to indeed be tastier?
Chef Krinsky: I certainly believe that fresh, local food is of the highest quality and would stand out in any dish. I do however know that not everyone has the means or the accessibility to enjoy such luxuries. My take is, try to use the freshest ingredients you can find and splurge on yourself as much as possible. Food is our vital source of fuel and I think it’s highly important that we view it as such.

TrunkSpace: Was it intimidating going into the personal chef field for Hollywood’s A-list talent? Or with your background in acting, was it more like you were at ease right away, and you knew they are just regular folks with extraordinary fan bases?
Chef Krinsky: That’s exactly it. My mom always made sure I knew that everyone was just like everyone else, and so I grew up with the advantage of being able to connect naturally. Don’t get me wrong, I called my mom from Tom Hank’s bathroom and whispered to her how crazy it was that I was cooking in his kitchen and thanked her for always encouraging me to follow my passions and believe in myself. It was one of the best phone calls in the world!

TrunkSpace: When not cooking on CBS, you are working as the personal chef to one of our favorite comedians and creators, Seth MacFarlane. Can you tell use a bit about what that experience is like and maybe some of Seth’s favorite dishes?
Chef Krinsky: My experience with Seth, is one million percent perfect in every way. I couldn’t ask for a kinder, more brilliant client to have worked with for over eight years. It’s truly my dream personal chef job. He really enjoys a good, hearty, tuna melt and loves when I make a cornmeal crust pizza with smoked salmon, spinach, basil and crumbled goat cheese. Of course, topped off with fresh dill, lemon and basil. 🙂

TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Krinsky: I believe that my food is very creative and not conventional. I think more than anything, my parents instilled a confidence inside of me that allows me to create bold, unique dishes and see where they land!

TrunkSpace: Do you have a set goal in mind for your career moving forward? Where do you see yourself on your culinary journey in another 10 years?
Chef Krinsky: Of course I do, silly! I certainly want to continue inspiring, teaching and building my brand. My next big venture is making products for the world to enjoy. Let’s do a follow-up interview a year from now, when you’re snacking on my VK energy bars. 🙂

TrunkSpace: If someone offered you a blank check to open your own restaurant, whether that would be a brick and mortar, food truck or gastropub, what would your vision be? Where would it be located and what type of food would you focus on?
Chef Krinsky: Hmm…very kind of them. Off the top of my head, I think I would want to open up a spot that offers more than just food. Something more interactive, more personal. Almost like a chef/nutrition/restaurant combination. A place where people could go to have meal plans created for them via a touch screen computer or even a one-on-one session with a chef/nutritionist. They could then pick up their meals for the week, based off of their personal goals. Of course, there would be a beautiful patio where you could dine in and enjoy unique, delicious food off of the menu also. Maybe fun facts about nutrition everywhere, so you get to eat and learn at the same time. Something like this excites me!

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Chef Life

Chef Emery Chapman

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Emery Chapman
Organic Chef, Author, Food Photographer
Empowering wellness through organic recipes, climate awareness and spiritual insights
www.chefemery.com
Instagram: Chef_Emery Facebook: Chef Emery

Cooking is such a gift for the soul. It really can be that and when we pair it with a greater understanding that our food choices matter, we recognize that we are not only nourishing ourselves but nourishing the planet. We need that so much right now.” – Chef Emery

TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking and what people have been the biggest influence in your life with regards to your culinary journey?
Chef Emery: Cooking has always been a huge part of my life from the time I was a young child. My parents catered out of our home and my father moonlighted during his career at one point as a professional chef and a head saucier. I grew up with an eight-burner stove with double ovens and a father that regularly served dishes such as turtle soup, cow’s tongue, vichyssoise soup, liver pates and tripe over spaghetti just to name a few. He taught me how to tell when fish was fresh and why the marbling of a steak mattered. He taught me my knife skills at age eight. How to mince garlic, fry potatoes in a pan, make gravy from scratch and cook the perfect whole chicken. We grew fresh herbs and mini French strawberries in the garden, and as a child, my favorite thing to do was go out and pick them on a hot summer day, eating as many as I could. To this day, I can still smell the aromas of garlic, fresh herbs and hear the sizzle of the pan as my father fried the potatoes to perfection. Hand cranked homemade strawberry ice cream on a warm summer day. To this day, I think that is the best ice cream I’ve ever had, or at least that is how I will always remember it. I found my deep love and intuition for cooking here and it has been a love affair ever sense.

Fast forward years later, I bought a boutique inn called The Harborage Inn with my husband in Coastal Midcoast, Maine while working evenings apprenticing under a well-known professional chef in our region who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. I had planned to go to cooking school but he recommended I come apprentice under him in a real restaurant because he felt I would learn a lot more. He was doing farm to table years before it was even a thing. To say I learned so much from him, would be an understatement. You could literally feel the excitement and passion he had for food. He grew his own edible flowers, fresh herbs and sourced much of his food locally as well as cured his own fish. I learned that cooking was truly an art form during this time with him. It was also my first deeper exposure to understanding how food can be a direct extension of nature. The simple act of garnishing a plate with an edible flower of fresh herbs elevated a dish. Guests were always charmed by both the aesthetics and the delicious food. This experience really helped me grow into the chef I’ve become today.

TrunkSpace: What style of cuisine do you enjoy creating the most and why? And what would you consider your signature dish?
Chef Emery: My love for cooking runs deep and there are so many different types of cuisine that I love that it’s honestly hard to pick just one. I love Indian food, Thai food, French, Japanese, Mexican, and what I call SoCal food, just to name a few. I gravitate towards cuisines that I absolutely love and then try to give them a healthy twist.

As an organic chef, I’m deeply inspired by the beautiful, local, organic and seasonal food in my region. I love going to my local farmer’s markets or to my local coop to inspire my daily meal planning. I’ve always found this process relaxing and elevating. I also have to be organized too because I run a very busy, high-paced inn seasonally as well as being a mother of two beautiful kiddos which keeps me on my toes. As a chef, I need meals to be delicious but also fairly quick and easy. Demystifying cooking is really important to me. I think a lot of people give up on cooking these days because they find it overwhelming or think it takes too much time. I’ve always tried to encourage and teach people that when you work with real food that’s sourced well, it doesn’t need a lot of complication to be absolutely delicious and this can be done in a timely manner.

If I had to say what my signature dish was, it would be the first meal I cooked by myself at age 10. My father taught me how to make it and to this day it has remained my favorite dish as well as my children’s. Chicken piccata with white wine, capers and lemon. It’s really not a fancy dish and very easy to make. There is something that is just so special about the crispy fried chicken drenched in this lemony, salty caper sauce. It’s absolutely divine if you ask me.

TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Emery: I absolutely love this question because for me my work as a chef has a bigger message that I think is very important right now. I’m really trying to use my platform to highlight the importance of our food choices and how it affects the bigger picture. Climate change is very real and I believe potentially one of the greatest threats for all of us if we don’t start taking action. I think people might be surprised how much they actually can do merely through their food purchasing power. Local, organic food is sustainable for a number of reasons. Farmers who are practicing this type of farming are required to farm in a way that enriches the soil rather than depleting it and the soil plays a large role in the health of our ecosystem. The food also has traveled less so it lowers our carbon footprint along with being more nutrient dense which is better for our health. I believe that when we connect and eat real food that is fresh, it is one of the easiest ways we can connect with nature. Real food is nature and touching, tasting, smelling and connecting with it can slow down our lives in a powerful way. When I’ve had a busy day and I get in the kitchen, bare foot and hear the sizzle of the pan, the smells, there is something transformative and meditative about it. Everything just eases. The magic really happens too when I share this with others. When I’ve made a meal and then I get together and sit down with the most important people in my life and connect, something important happens. In a current on the go culture, I believe we need this so much right now.

TrunkSpace: Every cook and/or chef has a really bad service, and it haunts them, but they grow and learn from it. Do you have a worst service memory that keeps you up at night? And how did it change you as a chef?
Chef Emery: At my business the Harborage Inn, we seasonally serve an average of 22-26 people daily for breakfast from May to October. We source as much as we can locally and organically and pride ourselves on what we have grown the business into. This will actually be my 20th season this year which is actually hard for me to grasp as time flies. When we first bought the business, my husband and I were in our early 20’s and still had so much to learn. Initially it was just a continental breakfast which has since grown into a full gourmet breakfast. I remember early on in our process, we were just trying to learn so much. There were a few moments where in hindsight I realize we were a work in progress. Guests would give us a feedback and even though sometimes it wasn’t easy to hear, I always tried to really listen and then adjust. I think that is crucial in business. You can’t take things personally. If you really want to grow, adapt and be better, you have to hear the constructive criticism and then make the appropriate changes necessary.

TrunkSpace: On the flipside of that, do you have a particular memory of your best service or a moment in your career that really stood out and has stuck with you?
Chef Emery: There are really two things I feel incredibly proud of. Having had our business as long as we have, I have learned so much over the years. There was a point in my career where I just recognized I really needed to make a transition if I was going to continue. We were serving high quality food but I felt this strong urge to push and purchase more local and organic foods for our morning breakfast. This was one of the best transitions we ever made and guests now choose us specifically for it. We are even recognized now as a green certified hotel. It makes me feel really proud that I know I’m making an effort to support as many local businesses and farmers as I can, and that my business is an example of trying to push for more sustainability. My most valuable moments as a chef though are when I work and volunteer for FARMS Kitchen. FARMS stands for Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools. I come in to volunteer as a chef to teach a cooking class from beginning to end to children in the public school system. The program works with local food from our local farmer’s and we prepare, cook and then sit for a family style meal together. Children are taught basic knife skills, cooking and education about the local foods they are eating and why it’s important. There is focus on composting and why eating real food is so important for our bodies and the earth’s soil. We then sit down and enjoy the meal that we have all prepared together as a community. There is something so special about walking children through the process of cooking all the way to the finished product. We talk about the touch, taste and feel of the food, what they loved about the process and then sit down as a community to enjoy it. As a chef, this is honestly one of my favorite things to do and being a part of this program brings me great joy.

TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past years, food has also advanced in many ways. Has it changed the way you cook at all?
Chef Emery: I actually do not use a lot of the gadgets as I’m a pretty straight forward cook. I love my cast iron skillet and sauté pans but I have to say the InstaPot really blew my mind. I do not use it a lot but the fact that it can cook a whole chicken with homemade stock in basically 30 minutes is pretty exciting. I like to make a chicken Pho with the Instapot which is really delicious. You can also pressure cook dried beans in under 30 minutes. It is a pretty fascinating gadget without all the fear of the original pressure cooker. You don’t have to worry about it blowing up all over your kitchen or at least I don’t think so!

TrunkSpace: As an organic chef, can you tell us a bit about why it’s important to choose organic and sustainable foods and how that affects not only flavor but health?
Chef Emery: When we eat real food that is in season and local, there is such a difference in the taste. The food has traveled less which is better for the environment as well as being more nutrient dense for our health. The other thing that I really love is that when food is sourced well, it doesn’t need a lot of complication to be absolutely delicious. It’s this beautiful gift from nature. A strawberry in season in June almost speaks to you through your taste buds. At least that is how it feels for me anyway. My hope is that we can continue to keep bringing the price of local and organic foods down so they are more affordable for everyone. Local coops generally offer such foods at lower price points and there are also a lot of local farms that you can purchase a CSA with. Our purchasing power has weight and the more we demand it, the more the cost will be driven down. We deserve real food that is chemically free and affordable for all of us.

TrunkSpace: If an investor offered you a blank check to start your own restaurant, what would that look like for you? Would it be a brick and mortar, food truck or pop-up?
Chef Emery: I think if someone gave me a blank check, I would want to set up a community kitchen where we could grow a lot of our own food. A working farm that fed people as well. It would be a place that provided meals for those that needed it. We would serve and prepare meals that families could take home or eat on site, bagged lunches as well as teach cooking classes to both adults and children. A place where people could learn more about real food, cooking and provide a valuable service to the community. This would be a dream come true.

TrunkSpace: Do you have a set path in mind for your career and where it’s going? Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?
Chef Emery: Alice Waters is such a role model to me. I honestly just want a platform to be of service and spread knowledge about the power that cooking and real local organic food can have on our health, our soul, our families, our community and the planet. I want to write, teach people to cook, use my recipes to better their lives as well as support and work with brands and companies that are trying to do the same thing. It takes a village and I want to be a part of the village trying to push for a better world. We owe that to ourselves as well as our families and children.

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Chef Life

Chef Jason Barr

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Jason Barr
Sous Chef, Hard Rock Casino Tulsa
T: @ChefJasonBarr

Food and rock go hand in hand. You would be hard-pressed to find a kitchen that did not have music blasting in order to help the staff power through a dinner service. For this edition of “Chef Life” we were able to track down Chef Jason Barr, who just so happens to work at a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, which is known for not only its live concerts, but fine dining as well. So grab a knife and fork and dig into this hearty feature about what it’s like cooking for Michael Rooker (aka Yondu and Merle Dixon), how to roll with the gastronomical punches, and why you should strive to always cook like a grandma.

 

TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking and who has been the biggest influence in your life with regards to your culinary journey?
Chef Barr: Three years old! True story. My grandma found me one morning standing on a bar stool getting ready to fix eggs and bacon for breakfast. I had a lot of heroes growing up watching Food Network. Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, the Two Fat Ladies. I used to watch shows about cooking food and then try to mimic it when I was young. My mother was a good inspiration to get me to cook professionally. She got me my first Betty Crocker cook book when I graduated high school and she said, “Learn to cook and you’ll never eat alone.” I still have that book in my office.

TrunkSpace: What style of cuisine do you enjoy creating the most and why? And what would you consider your signature dish?
Chef Barr: I always aspire to be a great saucier. I have an infatuation with sauces. When it comes to preparing full meals, I’d have to say Latin or Italian cuisine. We eat a lot of tacos at my house. Working in a busy kitchen, I learned that you can put almost anything on a tortilla. My signature dish would have to be chicken alfredo. I make an alfredo sauce that is so velvety smooth it will make your heart flutter.

TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Barr: Coming from Oklahoma, it’s important to learn how to “cook like grandma.” The easiest way to make someone happy is through their stomach. That’s why I do what I do, I like making people happy. When I was a kid we used to have family cookouts every Sunday, then we would gather around the table and play cards. Everyone loves to eat good food. I have a saying in my home that goes like this…

“The three requirements for the best meals are – good food, good drink, good company.”

TrunkSpace: Every cook and/or chef has a really bad service, and it haunts them, but they grow and learn from it. Do you have a worst service memory that keeps you up at night? And how did it change you as a chef?
Chef Barr: Oh man, Tuesdays… Each week the Hard Rock Buffet has a promo that is called “Two for Tuesdays” – it’s a buy one/get one deal we do every week. We have perfected it after many failures, but imagine the most brutally busy flow of business for five hours straight, every week. That’s my Tuesdays. I have a motto I tell my guys. “We know it’s going to suck, but it’s our job to make it suck less.”

Teaching people how to work smarter, not harder is what I’m good at.

TrunkSpace: On the flipside of that, do you have a particular memory of your best service or a moment in your career that really stood out and has stuck with you?
Chef Barr: 2016, the week before Valentine’s Day, the steakhouse chef had to go out on surgery, so it was MY show. I literally had less than a week to finish writing the Valentine’s Day menu, get the food ordered, prepped and executed flawlessly. Not to mention training everyone how to do it. This same week we also had a special wine dinner for a VIP event. So, I had to do a menu of amuse-bouche style items to pair with four different types of wines we were featuring to a large group of people. Luckily, I kept a level head and did not panic. I had been working in fine dining for three years at this point so I at least kind of knew what I was doing. I do remember at the end of that week I felt a HUGE sense of pride. Valentine’s, flawless. Wine dinner and tasting, flawless. AND we (me and my team) received a huge applause from the people that attended the event. That was the first time as a chef I had that happen.

TrunkSpace: Do you have a set path in mind for your career and where it’s going? Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?
Chef Barr: Honestly? Not really. I went to business school, got an IT degree and I’ve always thought of myself as a teacher or scientist. I became a chef because I have always been drawn to the kitchen, sort of a “I was made for this” calling. I’d really love to just teach people how to cook and educate about “edible alchemy.” Ten years down the road I can see myself as a research chef. I love how “Culinology” blends science and art together, that is so me.

TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past years, food has also advanced in many ways. Has it changed the way you cook at all?
Chef Barr: Most of the chefs I have worked for exercised classic ways of cooking. One chef in particular said his style of cooking was based on simplicity. He learned from traveling around the world, so I trusted him. He wanted to be able to cook a dish using nothing but ingredients that the “man that lived in a hut in the middle of nowhere” would have access to. A ton of dishes we cooked together started with four simple ingredients; onion, garlic, salt and pepper. I love new technology and innovation, but old habits are so hard to break.

TrunkSpace: Molecular gastronomy… is it mad science or mad tasty? Do you feel it has a place in the culinary scene as entire dinner courses, or should it be used more in balance to further enhance traditional dishes?
Chef Barr: I love molecular gastronomy! I’ve always thought of kitchens as my laboratories and love how this “mad science” has taken off. Consumers are always looking for the newest, coolest, most exciting experience and some of the innovation I have seen is amazing. Messing with people’s senses is one thing I love to do. One time we messed up making some chocolate mousse, and it looked a lot like ice cream. So, to joke around with the servers, we scooped it up like ice cream and put it in a serving dish and let it sit under the heat lamp. We called it “never melting ice cream.” Each time some of the servers would walk by the pass and look up at it they would have kind of a WTF look on their faces after a few trips.

TrunkSpace: Working at the Hard Rock, you must have had the chance to cook for some of the celebrities that have come through on tour. Is that nerve racking or intimidating? And do you have a favorite experience cooking for any of those celebs?
Chef Barr: It can be intimidating when you first start out – a lot of celebs want VERY specific food to eat. Most of them are easy going though. My favorite celeb would have to be Michael Rooker. He and his entourage came in for Wizard World Comic Con one year and came up to the steakhouse to eat a few times. They were some of the nicest people I had ever talked to and were very happy with each meal, and they let me know it! I must admit the first few times it made me nervous, but you just have to keep in mind that this is what you do every day.

TrunkSpace: If someone offered you a blank check to open your own restaurant, whether that would be a brick and mortar, food truck or gastropub, what would your vision be? Where would it be located and what type of food would you focus on?
Chef Barr: None of the above. (Well, maybe a food truck.) I would like to do a cooking show. Online like a YouTube channel, or maybe network eventually. I love to cook, but I’d really like to have more time for my daughters. I’m thinking along the lines of cooking/comedy show with dance breaks in between waiting periods.

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Chef Life

Chef Robert Irvine

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Robert Irvine
Chef, Fitness Authority, Philanthropist, Author
www.chefirvine.com
• F: /ChefIrvine • T: @robertirvine
• I: @chefirvine

Humans may not have super powers in real life, but Chef Robert Irvine might be as close to super-human as you can possibly get. With restaurants in Las Vegas and the Pentagon… that’s right, THE Pentagon, a regular human would be content with those monumental achievements, but a super-human would do more. The only things bigger than Chef Irvine’s biceps are the size of his heart and the drive he has to not only give back to our military, but to educate people on eating and living healthy lives. You’ve seen him smashing walls with a sledge hammer on Food Network and preparing huge meals against even bigger odds in “Dinner: Impossible,” now the super chef is sitting down with TrunkSpace to chat about cooking in an ice hotel, potstickers, and exercising the culinary muscle.

TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking and who has been the biggest influence in your life with regards to your culinary journey?
Chef Irvine: I have always loved cooking. When I was younger, I helped my mom prepare Sunday roasts, but my first real interest in cooking came when I took a home economics class. It was the first time I was really educated about food, nutrition, and the balance of healthy and delicious meals. I continued cooking when I joined the British Royal Navy.

TrunkSpace: What style of cuisine do you enjoy creating the most and why? And what would you consider your signature dish?
Chef Irvine: It would be difficult to pinpoint any one cuisine as my favorite. I enjoy creating meals that are both healthy and delicious. One of my favorite meals is a perfectly roasted chicken with mashed potatoes – it is a simple and comfortable meal, but much harder to perfect than many realize. When I cook for my family, we do a lot of fish, particularly salmon. My wife also loves potstickers, so we eat a lot of vegetarian potstickers.

TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Irvine: Again, one of my favorite meals to cook is a Sunday roast, a tradition in England. My food speaks to my childhood growing up in England and also incorporates healthy takes, which is inspired by my military experience. It’s important to eat well and stay healthy.

TrunkSpace: Every cook and/or chef has a really bad service, and it haunts them, but they grow and learn from it. Do you have a worst service memory that keeps you up at night? And how did it change you as a chef?
Chef Irvine: There was a dinner I prepared for the entire staff at the Quebec Ice Hotel in subfreezing temperatures during “Dinner: Impossible,” which was the closest to actually being impossible that I can recall. As chefs, we learn and grow from every experience. Repetition is the only way to exercise any muscle – including the culinary muscle – the more we practice, the better chefs we will be.

TrunkSpace: On the flipside of that, do you have a particular memory of your best service or a moment in your career that really stood out and has stuck with you?
Chef Irvine: I do a lot of work in support of our military personnel and their families and every moment I have to commit to these folks is beyond satisfying. It’s hard to put my finger on any one thing, but traveling with the USO and spending the past two Christmases with the troops in the Middle East would certainly be up there.

TrunkSpace: Do you have a set path in mind for your career and where it’s going? Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?
Chef Irvine: While anything can happen, I see myself continuing to focus on pushing out good and healthy food, raising military awareness through my foundation, The Robert Irvine Foundation, and developing my monthly digital magazine, RobertIrvineMagazine.com. Whatever specific shape my endeavors take in the future matters less to me than the fact that I stay involved with what I’m passionate about. If you stick to what you’re passionate about, you can never go wrong.

TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past years, food has also advanced in many ways. Has it changed the way you cook at all?
Chef Irvine: I’m a big fan of a restaurant management software called CTUIT. It makes it easy to manage inventory and pinpoint what you’re losing to spoilage, allowing you to revamp or scrap specific menu items that are too costly or dragging down sales. It also allows you to evaluate employee performance in a really innovative way so you can reward high performance and counsel anyone who’s not up to par. It helps with everything, really, including scheduling. At the end of the day, it allows the staff to focus on turning out great food and providing a good experience to the customers. Any technology that can do that without getting in the way is a huge plus.

TrunkSpace: Molecular gastronomy… is it mad science or mad tasty? Do you feel it has a place in the culinary scene as entire dinner courses, or should it be used more in balance to further enhance traditional dishes?
Chef Irvine: I think if that’s your area of focus, then go for it. People are always looking for new experiences, so it has tremendous potential. At the end of the day, though, it’s all about the taste of the food. My food, of course, is more simple and traditional in preparation.

TrunkSpace: Chef life and tattoos seem to go together like sweet and savory. Do you have any food inspired ink? And if so, what does it mean to you?
Chef Irvine: No tattoos for me!

TrunkSpace: If someone offered you a blank check to open your own restaurant, whether that would be a brick and mortar, food truck or gastropub, what would your vision be? Where would it be located and what type of food would you focus on?
Chef Irvine: I’ve been lucky enough to have already opened my dream projects including Fresh Kitchen at the Pentagon and Public House at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. Both locations are incredible – seriously, who gets to open a restaurant in the Pentagon? – and they have tremendous energy. Both restaurants feature fresh, simple dishes and offer something for everyone, including a roasted chicken, of course.

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Chef Life

Chef Ryan Lopez

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Chef: Ryan Lopez

Current Chefs Title: Private Chef/Consultant

Website/Social Media Handles:
www.chefRL.com
IG: chefryan22

Chef Ryan Lopez started his career as a bus boy in the metro Detroit area. Fast forward a few years later, and he is working as a private chef for professional athletes like Kevin Durant, Amir Khan, Gabe Holmes, Donald Penn and Andrzej Fonfara, to name a few. Chef Lopez even spun some amazing dishes for Big Sean, who is of course known for spinning rhythmic raps. If there is a culinary equivalent to catching lightning in a bottle, Chef Lopez has done it. We recently sat down to talk turkey (terrible pun intended) with Chef Lopez and his take away on all things food and what the future may hold.

TrunkSpace: When and why did you start cooking and who has been the biggest influence in your life with regards to your culinary journey?
Chef Lopez: I started cooking when I was 15 years old. My father would go to the local market and grab produce on the weekends. So, during the week my brother and I would do a lot of cooking for ourselves while our dad was at work. Around that time I got my first job at a country club as a bus boy. I got to see and talk to the chefs and always admired them.

My culinary mentor would have to be the chefs from my culinary school/craft college. They taught me a lot about this profession.

TrunkSpace: What style of cuisine do you enjoy creating the most and why? And what would you consider your signature dish?
Chef Lopez: I love cooking New Mexican cuisine. I have family in New Mexico, and through my youth and even now, I’ve had the chance to travel there quite a bit. I love the spice and culture behind that food. Working for an athlete most of my professional culinary career, I work a lot on bringing your traditional healthy foods a twist. Chicken, brown rice and broccoli are great, but there’s so many great ways to eat healthy, and I try to bring that to the light.

TrunkSpace: It’s been said that food is the gateway into a culture, that it identifies a history, family and a region. What do you feel your food says about your culture and history?
Chef Lopez: To be honest and not just give this question the right answer, the answer is I’m still searching for that answer myself. There were no chefs in my family or professional cooks. I learned from experiences in my life, tastes that I’ve had and places that I’ve gone. I hope to get more active in my journey to find what foods make me tick and find a voice.

TrunkSpace: Every cook and/or chef has a really bad service, and it haunts them, but they grow and learn from it. Do you have a worst service memory that keeps you up at night? And how did it change you as a chef?
Chef Lopez: There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a restaurant and I’ve seen those things. I think the things that I try to instill in young cooks is to be prepared and to be organized. There are so many mental errors you can make in a kitchen because your brain is in 20 different places. I try to minimize those mental mistakes by being extremely organized and prepared.

TrunkSpace: On the flipside of that, do you have a particular memory of your best service or a moment in your career that really stood out and has stuck with you?
Chef Lopez: Always the best moments to me are family meals and just taking downtime to collaborate with your peers.

TrunkSpace: Do you have a set path in mind for your career and where it’s going? Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?
Chef Lopez: I really focus on just getting better every day. I want to be better than I was yesterday.

TrunkSpace: With the advancement of technology in the past few years, food has also advanced in many ways. Has it changed the way you cook at all?
Chef Lopez: Technology has helped the average customer really understand food in a way that 10 years ago, they didn’t. Data and systems have helped restaurants and chefs to create menus and become more profitable. All these things are great for the evolution of food culture.

TrunkSpace: Molecular gastronomy… is it mad science or mad tasty? Do you feel it has a place in the culinary scene as entire dinner courses, or should it be used more in balance to further enhance traditional dishes?
Chef Lopez: Molecular gastronomy has a place in the culinary scene and is here to stay. At the end of the day, if a dish can be delicious and bring a memory or an emotion out of you, then it has done its job.

TrunkSpace: Chef life and tattoos seem to go together like sweet and savory. Do you have any food-inspired ink? And if so, what does it mean to you?
Chef Lopez: I don’t.

TrunkSpace: If someone offered you a blank check to open your own restaurant, whether that would be a brick and mortar, food truck or gastropub, what would your vision be? Where would it be located and what type of food would you focus on?
Chef Lopez: I would love to bring a new American restaurant to Oklahoma or Michigan, focusing on local and seasonal foods. I would like it to be a casual but elegant dining experience. A wood burning oven in front for guests to see and an open kitchen. I can’t give it all away, but maybe one day it will come true.

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