The Best Funeral….Ever

handsYesterday, my husband Alex, asked me to go to a funeral with him. Alex is the Executive Chef at a monstrously large thoroughbred race track.  The funeral was  for his Sous Chef, who died pretty suddenly.

I didn’t  know what to expect because the service was going to be held in the track chapel. ( Yes, racetracks have chapels for the jockeys, trainers, hot walkers etc.)

I’d only met David once or twice and he seemed like a very nice man, warm and fun. He’d  been at Oaklawn for less than a year so I was surprised the chapel was completely full. All the chairs were taken and folks were standing against the walls, waiting for the service.

After ten or fifteen minutes the Chaplin asked if anyone would like to say a few words.  This can be a really awkward moment at a funeral because you just never know. It’s so sad when nobody has anything to say and everyone sits in uncomfortable silence.

But that’s not what happened at David’s funeral. Immediately several guys lined up, dish washers and prep cooks from the main kitchen, then big white ladies who sell beer and hot dogs, valets, security guys and more dish washers.  Black, white and Hispanic. Young and old, well-dressed and trashy, guys with penny sized gages and tattoos on their necks and tear drop tats on their face, guys with no teeth and gold teeth, clean cut cowgirls and corporate folks in polo shirts and kakis.  So many folks walked nervously to the microphone to talk about Chef David.

He had done something for everyone of them. He changed their days and their lives and they were so very sorry to have lost him.  Over and over this beautiful array of humanity said Chef David was a great man and had done so very much for them. But David didn’t give them money or jobs.  All he did, for all them, every single day, was shake their hand, hug them, smile, he remembered their names, asked how they were doing and how their kids were. He told the lazy ones they needed to work harder. He told the angry ones they had to stop fighting with everyone. Then he smiled, hugged them and shook their hand.

He listened and loved. They knew he cared about them and that meant everything.  And that’s how Chef David changed the world.

I’ve never cried so much at a funeral and I’ve been to a lot of them. I’ve buried every member of my immediate family but I’ve never been so moved by the power of a hand shake, a hug and a smile.

I left dehydrated but inspired and uplifted., determined to be a little bit more like Chef David Lausten.


My Husbands A Chef So I Cook All The Time

Alex, my husband of almost twenty years is the  Executive Chef at Oaklawn Jockey Club, a historic throughbred racetrack.  On a good day he feeds five hundred day, on a bad day he has to process 7,000 pounds of corn beef and feed 20 thousand people.

Yesterday I called him, just to check up and say something encouraging. “Hey honey, what did you do today?”

“Luncheon for seventy five.” He sounds very grumpy.

“What did you fix?”

“Bourbon pecan chicken. They cleaned their plates”

“Hey, you’ve never fixed that for me.” He sighs. “So how do I make that?”

Bourbon, brown sugar,  beef stock, pecans, worcester, salt and pepper.”

“Ok, I got that, how much bourbon?”

“I used a fifth.”

“Damn, ok, how much am I gonna use, for six chicken breasts?”

“Ummm, half a cup will work, and the same about of brown sugar, two cups of beef broth.”

“What do I do with the chicken.”

He sighs again and I’m pretty sure I hear him roll his eyes, over the phone. “Season the hell out of it and grill.”

I kind of know what “season the hell out of it” means. Salt, pepper, cavenders and sage.

“Ok, I won’t fix it tonight, but maybe later in the week. Ok?”

“Sure, thanks. I love you honey. I’ve gotta go. It’s inventory week.”

So there you have it a fool proof and delicious Bourbon Pecan Chicken recipe from Chef Alex Hampo.

My husband is a chef, he’s been in the kitchen since he was seventeen.  the first question folks ask me when they hear I’m married to a chef is, “does he cook at home?”

“Hell no!” The last thing he wants to do when he gets home is cook. He barely wants to eat. He’ll cut the grass, maybe event fold laundry but don’t ask a chef to cook after a nine hour in the kitchen

When we were dating Alex wooed me with food. He cooked all the time, trying to impress me. But, like a woman who stops wearing make up and goes grocery shopping in sweats after she lands a husband, Alex knows he’s got me, so he doesn’t have to entrap me with his magical Cream of mushroom soup with brandy or Chicken Escoffier.

That’s alright thou, because I’m married to a chef I basically have a voice activated cook book.  I can ask him any question about food and he’s got an answer. Yeah, my husbands a chef so I cook all the time. You’re welcome to come over for dinner!

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