Note: this is a continuation of the last blog entry: 2 week Crucible
Monday May 21st, 10:00 am.
I arrive at Heirloom Fire HQ to see the crew tearing the trucks apart. The outdoor dock is lined with coolers and soap bubbles are floating in the air. The dish room is overflowing with every bowl and prop we had.
Wednesday we leave for Tennessee so EVERYTHING has to be ready. We have two parties back to back to cook for. This is the most logistically complicated, and furthest Heirloom Fire has traveled to date. Everything needs to be airtight. These are the thoughts that keep echoing in my head.
The day after an event of lifting heavy steel, tending hot fires, engaging with guests and breaking it all down after 12-15 hours is taxing, to put it mildly. My Sundays are spent sleeping. If I had a cave, thats were I’d be. However, when you have an event the next day, or in this case, have only two days instead of five to get everything cleaned, prepped and packed up the body does strange things.
At the end of the season last year the core HQ staff and myself talked about what sort of reactions our bodies have. See, when we are in peak season we are basically going all week. Once you hit mid July sleep isn’t really refreshing anymore. I think the body realizes it need to up its production of adrenaline to get you through, and it seems to work. However, once we hit November, when things start to slow down, its like your body physically slows down but your mind and soul are still driving hard. Some effects I heard were a sense of nervous energy, while I mostly felt a sense of loss. It all evens out, but is interesting to acknowledge.
The shop was abuzz with energy. Food was being delivered from the farms, organized and then packed. The guys would load in the truck mid morning and make their way on a 20 hour Journey to Franklin, Tennessee, whereas the rest of the crew would be making our way down via airplane. Thankfully two extra of our guys came up to the shop to help with the quick turnaround. We worked into the 11th hour on Tuesday, checking, rechecking, and checking again, knowing if anything was forgotten we would not be able to come back.
Wednesday May 23rd, 1:50 am.
I have my alarm clock set to slowly ascending birds to gently awaken me from my slumber - this morning it might as well been a rooster in my ear. I crawled into my truck and away I went to pick up Magdalena and Kathryn.
Four of my team and I were heading down on Wednesday to scout the location and secure additional provisions for the following days. Since this particular set of events was 15 hours away, we had to rely on maps and many emails to get a sense of what we were in store for.
Some years back I had a personal shake up and became burnt out with the restaurant industry. I had no idea what was next for me in life but I knew I wanted (needed) to travel. I booked a Hostel, a car and planned a 2 week trip through Tuscany. This time in my life was stressful, and filled with uncertainty, however, every time I felt the heat of being in a foreign country, alone and not able to speak the language I quickly reminded myself why I was there. That trip, and several small moments during the journey changed my life and way of thinking forever. Anything is possible as long as you create goals and don’t let the hurdles stop you. You will be amazed at what you’re capable of when you go outside of your comfort zone.
Many times throughout the history of Heirloom Fire I have referenced the above story. Frankly, had I not taken the trip to Italy there very well may be no Heirloom Fire. Believing in the successes of the past, I knew this excursion to Tennessee would not only be doable but with my battle hardened crew, would be sensational.
We arrived early Wednesday afternoon, secured our passenger van and headed straight to the site for our walk-through. Upon arriving we met our planner, Jaclyn, and toured the grounds. I just have to say southern hospitality is not only real, but wow does it feel great. We love what we do, but doing it for people that just warm your soul is a whole other kind of experience. After coming up with our game-plan we headed back into the van and out to find our accommodations. Anytime we travel outside of our 3 hour radius we require a place for us to lay our heads. Sometimes these living quarters may be a hotel, a guest house or a house through an Air Bnb, This time we had a log cabin on 5 acres of woods. The house could fit the entire crew of 13 comfortably and even had its own elevator that was lined in cowhides. We settled in and headed out the Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack to partake in a Tennessee classic, Hot Chicken. Two words come to mind - intoxicatingly Spicy. Well worth the trip. The heat thankfully wore out any energy I had left from the long day. Tomorrow, the rest of our team would land at the Airport and our truck would be arriving to reunite the family once more.
Magdalena rose early to collect the rest of the flock from the airport. The day before we worked a small trip in to the local grocery to pick out provisions for the house for the next few days. For Townsend, Mike and myself, our task for the morning was to prepare a hearty breakfast for the arriving troops, as we had a big day of setting up the kitchen, and receiving and dividing the rentals into two different locations. I have to say, when that van pulled in and I laid eyes on the rest of the team I had a warmth in my chest akin to that of what a father must feel after seeing his children after a long break. There are so many spots along the way that could have potentially caused issues or hiccups with their arrival time but here we all were, ready to slay this behemoth of a weekend. The team settled in a grabbed a plate of breakfast and we all shared a meal. We switched into our set up clothes, and headed to the site. After being dropped off, the ladies would head to out to the farms to collect the food. Shortly after we arrived on site the wood delivery came and we got to stacking. I left the team to meet the truck at the end of the driveway. I sat for a few moments, alone, awaiting its arrival and reflected on the past week. The road was quiet, but like a passenger in the old days waiting for their train, I heard a change of tone in the distance. The noise continued closer and than a shape rounded the corner - a large red dump truck. Ugh. I wait a few more minutes, and hear a familiar motor sound in the distance. Just like a white horse galloping proudly over a hill, the Heirloom Fire truck appeared after its 17 hour journey, right on time.
Chris and Mark emerged from the cabin of the truck and I embraced both in a hug. Now the real work begins. The beeping of the truck backing up came to a halt and the doors fly open. You can feel the energy of everyone wanting to get this stack of steel off this truck.
After about two hours in the southern heat we all got a good base tan for the next few days. The kitchen was set and primed, and the girls arrived and we transferred the food to the refrigerated truck and set out for our next culinary destination - Husk Nashville. Since we such a large party they hooked us up to dine in the stables and we had it all to ourselves. Its ok, be jealous. After a really wonderful family dinner we made our way home to rest up for the next two days.
Those two mornings with the crew were very memorable for me. Typically we all emerge from our rooms and either stumble down to lobby for a breakfast or drive to the closest diner for breakfast. In Tennessee, we decided to start the day preparing breakfast for ourselves, each person having a task. Eggs, bacon, sausages, country ham, pancakes, coffee, orange juice, fruit salad and other goodies were our version of the continental breakfast.
After our bellies were full and ready to battle the day, we piled into the van and work truck and made our way about 30 minutes east to the site. As with all our road trips, the jokes, digs and stories were flowing. As my eyes scanned the van in the mirror I saw faces full of smiles and laughter. My eyes shifted toward the driver’s side mirror to make sure the truck was still in tow - it was but something was off. We were coming down a hill and it looked like the truck was sliding sideways as I could see the box shifting on the truck. I immediately radioed Chris and asked if the truck was sliding and he said no. We both pulled over to look at what was going on. The box of the truck was clearly off kilter but we couldn’t figure out what it was. Chris mentioned they struck a deep pothole but nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary after the fact. We were just about to get back in the vehicle when we noticed the passenger side hub cap was caved in… now what? We had a truck full of food that needed to get to the site.
This my friends is where the cream floats to the top.
We took what we needed right away and stuffed it into the the van and beat feet to the site. The plan was to use the van as a shuttle to get everything back to the site after we unloaded crew and the first round. The question that kept coming up was what if we decided to not set up the kitchen the day before? Thankfully that was a question we didn’t need to answer.
I spent the next few hours cutting produce with the phone stuffed into the crook of my neck coordinating with my trucking company and their counterpart in Tennessee. We were able to line up a temporary truck to get us through the next day and trip back home. Amazing work on both sides as this was also a holiday weekend.
Meanwhile the client had asked us to do our version of BBQ. We sourced a beautiful pig from Bear Creek Farms for this as well as a leg of beef for the following day. The menu was Pulled Pork, Fried Chicken and typical BBQ sides. If we were going to do it, we were going to blow it out of the water. We roasted the whole pig over walnut, hickory and ash until the skin was like glass and the flesh pulled apart easily. The chickens we brought from up north and brined them for four days. Years back when were doing fried chicken and would normally do a two day brine but realized someone forgot to drain the chickens and they were in the brine for four days. We had no choice but to use them and I am glad we did. Not only were they easily the best fried chicken I had had, but it forever changed the recipe for us. We fried the chicken in 2 massive cauldrons over the fire, golden and juicy - a beautiful thing. We set our kitchen up for that day away from the guests and caravanned the meal to another part of the property to have the unveiling of our kitchen for tomorrow. We raked our coals, acknowledging the day’s challenges and went home for a few drinks and stories before we turned in.
The next morning was started with our log cabin breakfast, once more, before we headed out the door. Today was the big show, and was the hottest of all three days. The menu consisted of the aforementioned leg of beef and really beautiful Mahi Mahi that was running strong in the southern waters. As I trussed the fish and beef my inner voice was on a repeating monologue assuring me that today was going to be a typical Saturday afternoon and the worst was over. Thankfully the voices were correct. Outside of a good downpour that effectively lowered the temperature by about ten degrees, all had gone accordingly to plan. The kitchen was set up about twenty feet from the tent and the guests were in full attention of our performance.
Speaking of performances, this easily was one of the best bands we had the pleasure of performing with - Burning Las Vegas. This group executed song after song, without break, for at least 20 minutes - really fantastic energy! Also, I have never seen a fireworks display that has completely taken over the sky.
The evening drew to a close and the final leg for us began. Our task was to now disassemble our entire kitchen, load it into our rental truck, and prepare it for its seventeen hour journey back to Massachusetts.
The following day the guys departed early for their trip up north while the rest of us had some time to kill before our six o’clock departure. The remaining crew and I decided to spend the afternoon in Nashville and explore. Delicious ice cream and outstanding barbecue helped fight off the exhaustion but the beer did us no favors. The time passed too quickly and we had to make our way to the airport.
As we sat and waiting for our boarding time, I thought about all that was accomplished this weekend. This was (so far) the most challenging event that we had to do. Heck, the week before was also no slouch. Our Truck was damaged to the point where it would not make the journey up north and yet at no point when we were preparing the meal did I ever feel as though we wouldn’t make it. That says a lot. Not only did we have the privilege of getting to cook in Tennessee, we overcame unforeseen hurdles, prepared two unforgettable meals to celebrate an amazing couple, got to meet some of the biggest names in country music. A pretty good few days of work, and you know what? I wouldn’t have changed a moment.
July 28th Heirloom Fire + Magdalena Events will be hosting a dinner and would love to have you in attendance. For more information follow THIS link.