Tastemaker: Nothing to waste

Tastemaker
Tastemaker

Chef John Childers puts corn on the menu when the farmer tells him it’s ready. He has plans for the kernels and everything else that grew out of the ground with it, too.

In the industry, that’s called 100 percent product utilization.

But, to Childers, it’s responsibility. And respect.

The cornhusk can be dried and used as a tamale wrap or to smoke pork. And corn silk? Childers may flash-fry it in grape seed oil.

“It’s like a corn-cotton-candy garnish,” he says. “As soon as you put it in your mouth it’s crunchy, but also melts away.”

A tough approach

Childers, 31, became executive chef at Midtown Grille last month after seven years at The Umstead Hotel and its Herons restaurant. He began there as an overnight cook and departed as chef de cuisine.

Born in Germany while his mother served in the U.S. Air Force, he lived in Biloxi, Mississippi and Hampton Roads, Virginia before moving to Johnston County, North Carolina in 1999. A graduate of Clayton High School and Wake Tech’s culinary program, he worked his way through college at spots such as Raleigh’s Bloomsbury Bistro.

Childers knew, even during childhood, that he wanted to be a chef. It derived from his affinity for food.

“Being a fat kid, I loved to eat,” he laughs. And while he says he didn’t grow up in a family of foodies, the oldest of four children did learn discipline from his mother, who instilled in him hard work, drive and a no-nonsense approach. And that’s carried over into the kitchen.

“For me, it boils down to applying yourself. If you’re going to do it, do it to the best of your ability,” he says.

Changes to come

As he begins to make a mark at MG, known for its contemporary, Southern-inspired American cuisine, guests may see a few changes. (For one, count on him to look for any opportunity to prepare fresh fish from the North Carolina coast.) But, as Childers notes, he’s arriving at the North Hills eatery to simply build on a 10-year tradition set in place by MG’s former chefs.

In his words, he’s “inheriting something special.”

Tastemaker all-time favorite food:

0007500400132_AChilders loves hotfogs. “People assume that I go home and fix extravagant meals for myself, but I don’t,” he laughs. “I like simple food – grilled steak, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hot dogs. When I tell people hot dogs are my favorite … they don’t believe it.”

He likes the red dogs: Bright Leaf or Jesse Jones southern style. A good dog is good anytime.

Want to meet Chef Childers?

In the next month, he’ll be cooking at all these events.

Go check him out!

Kate Turgeon Watson

Kate Turgeon Watson

Kate Turgeon Watson is a freelance writer who lives and works in Raleigh. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Media and Journalism, she has 15 years experience writing for print, digital and broadcast media. Kate is an award-winning writer whose work has been picked up by the Associated Press national news wire.
Kate Turgeon Watson

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