Friday, November 12, 2010


Definitely not what our parents would have thought as a viable career path for either of their sons.

We were expected to behave perfectly…
Our family descended from Scotch-Irish and Choctaw ancestors who were farmers in Oklahoma and Texas. Our family knew and loved good food, but rarely dined out at restaurants, with the notable exception of some legendary Tex-Mex and barbecue joints.  When as children we were allowed to accompany the grownups to a restaurants, it was a very special occasion. We were expected to behave perfectly and I think for the most part we did, so as not to lose the privilege.

Homemade ice cream, watermelon and cantaloupe feasts…
Ah, the groaning boards of family reunions, church socials and neighborhood potlucks stand out in my memory to this day.  Homemade ice cream, watermelon and cantaloupe feasts on back porches and of course steak and BBQ produced by dad on his own homemade grill.  Our dad was an avid hunter and fisherman.  Cleaning game and cooking it with my father constitute some of my earliest kitchen recollections.

…the family boasted spectacular cooks.
Great home style cooking was an integral part of our family’s life.  Both sides of the family boasted spectacular cooks.  Aunts, female cousins and even some of the guys could all put on a spread.  However, it was the matriarch of our father’s family, Clara Hobbs Lowery that was the star of the day. Her cooking always reflected family, community and fresh ingredients. The food was so good because it was honest, clean, and authentic to a particular time, place, and experience.

…our grandmother could “make a pie out of anything.”
My grandmother honed her skills feeding her family during the great depression.  They had a cow, chickens, a garden and the men and boys provided game and fish.  It was a family truism that our grandmother could “make a pie out of anything.” By the time my generation and better times came along survival cooking was no longer an issue, but her reputation in the kitchen was a well established fact.

…by necessity I learned how to cook it myself.
This was still long before the American Food Revolution and for the most part the home kitchen was pretty much the women’s turf, although in my family it was often said that “there is no such thing as man’s work and woman’s work.”  There were very few times that I helped with any food preparation with the exception of cooking game and fish.  Our mother flat out refused to touch fresh game and so by necessity I learned how to cook it myself.  It would be fair to note that my motivation to cook professionally was through my personal delight in eating those wonderful childhood foods. Becoming a working chef was definitely not what our parents would have thought as a viable career path for either of their sons.

…I began by washing dishes.
It was not a career decision that brought me into the field, but rather a series of opportunities and the evolution in my love affair with food.  As many of us have done, I begin by washing dishes.  Next, came a stint as a baker (which is still a major interest), a position in Canada as a kitchen manager and then I discovered catering.  The old adage about being in the right place at the right time was so very true for the catering business in Austin, Texas in the 1970’s. 

Austin has always had a vibrant social and cultural life…
Austin is the capitol of Texas of course, and that meant and still means a lot of money spent on parties and entertainment of all sorts.  The University of Texas also offers a tremendous amount of catering opportunities.  Austin has always had a vibrant social and cultural life and received quite an influx of personalities associated with the Johnson administration after the former President and Mrs. Johnson returned to Texas.

David … proved himself… by his attitude and work ethic.
A young ambitious and aggressive caterer could soon himself working for Texas Governors, politicians of all stripes, the Board of Regents of the University, President of the University and representatives of the cities social elite.  As my catering career flourished, employing a staff created a reason for my brother, David Lowery to join me in Austin.  David started as server and prep cook but soon proved himself by not only by developing his kitchen skills but also by his attitude and work ethic.  A number of years later, David included our sister, Pam Thomas on his staff.  During one of my visits home a couple of years ago, all three of us had the opportunity to work together at one of David’s function.  What a delight that was and recognition of our efforts coming full circle.

...reads like an official “who’s who”…
Fast forward some 35 years and that (not so young anymore) caterer now finds himself Chef Consultant and Cooking Instructor with Avanti Savoia. David has advanced himself to being a personal chef and caterer to a small clientele that reads like an official “who’s who” of central Texas.  David has served every sitting Texas Governor for over 30 years and every former Governor that has held office since the 50’s.  He also can boast of having served every Presidential candidate on both sides as well as several sitting Presidents since 1980.

…the stability and confidence that comes with his vast experience…
World class musicians, movie stars, famous authors and just plain folks have all been catered to by David.  Regardless of the status or lack of it by any client, David always gives his all.  His customers have come to rely on not only his formidable skills, but also on the stability and confidence that comes with his vast experience and reputation. Let me just assure you that big brother, Chef Joseph is very proud (though not in the least amazed) by his younger sibling’s success.

…the uncrowned royalty of Texas.
David has had experience conducting training programs for catering servers, but has only taught cooking classes upon occasion.  Therefore it was exciting for us all when he agreed to teach a cooking class in late October at La Cucina at Avanti Savoia.  He decided that he would demonstrate and share the recipes for some of his most popular party recipes.  The master caterer named his class, Party Like A Millionaire.  We asked the question, “Would you like to prepare your own holiday cocktail party just like the uncrowned royalty of Texas?”  The overwhelming answer was yes, as the class sold out almost immediately.  Due to the great response, I will teach the class again in late December, although David will not be here with us due to his heavy catering commitments in Texas.  I’ll muddle through as best I can and we already know that his menu is delicious!  Check it out for yourself.

Party like a Millionaire

  • Fruit-wood smoked salmon with fresh fennel salsa in filo cups: sublime and elegant hors d’oeuvre.
  • Fried avocado with red chili mayonnaise: deep-fried pieces of panko-coated avocado, served with a fiery dipping sauce.
  • Cilantro pesto Torta: a layered appetizer of cilantro/pecan pesto, cream cheese and feta to be spread on toasted pita points.
  • Medallions of roasted pork tenderloin, topped with fruited Pico de Gallo (Mexico City style): this distinctive blend of pineapple, purple onion, jicama, cilantro, limes, and chilies is fantastic on slices of pork tenderloin.
  • Roulades of seared Japanese eggplant filled with herbed goat cheese cheese: simplicity … both to make and to serve.
  • Grandmother Lowery’s vanilla pound cake cubes with Tres Leches sauce: a venerable family heirloom cake recipe, served with decadent Mexican “three milk” sauce.
All of David’s recipes will soon be on the Avanti Savoia website, but here is a sample dish that was a big hit in the cooking class.

Fruit-Wood Smoked Salmon with Fresh Fennel Salsa in Filo Cups Yields 45 pieces
This is the most requested recipe that David serves.  The key is the home smoked salmon, David prefers pecan wood but most any aromatic wood can be used successfully.
*Avanti Savoia Products
  • 1 pound salmon fillet with skin on
  • For the soaking brine
  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup Salish Smoked Sea salt*
  • Small amount of olive oil* to brush top of salmon
  1. Combine water, sugar and salt.  Pour over salmon placed in a non- reactive container, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night or at least 4-8 hours.
  2. Prepare your smoker for a long cool fire and soak the smoking wood of choice.
  3. Drain salmon and place it skin side down on a piece of foil in the smoker, brush top lightly with olive oil.  Smoke the salmon 1-2 hours over a cool smoke adding extra soaked wood as necessary. Chill smoked salmon until ready to serve.
For the Fennel Salsa
  • 1 bulb Fennel, diced (with some of the more attractive greenery saved for garnish)
  • ½ purple onion, diced
  • !/4 cup Bangor Capers*, reserve juice
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup Colonna Gran Verde Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil*
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Fleur De Sel Sea salt* to taste
  • Three 1.9 Ounce packages frozen Filo Pastry Cups
  1. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Add liquid from the capers if salsa is dry.
  2. Remove Filo cups from package and place on baking sheet in a 375 degree oven until crisp and very slightly browned.
  3. Cool Filo cups, flake salmon and place a portion in each cup.  Top salmon with a small amount of Fennel Salsa and garnish with a little piece of the greenery.

David ended his recipes with the following dedication to the lady “who could make a pie out of anything.”  She would be so proud of her cooking family!

Dedicated to Joseph’s and David’s first culinary inspiration; their Grandmother,


Bee said...

I'm so glad that I saw this post!
That menu sounds amazing . . . and I'm wondering if I should put "smoker" on my Christmas list?

I've got your mother's pound cake recipe in a book that my mom made for me. I wonder if it is the same one that you mention? Today I made some fruitcake that is supposedly an old Fort Worth tradition, and I was thinking about all of the family.

The Food Hound said...

I love hearing about your roots, Chef Joseph!! The catering menu sounds amazing!! See you later this week!

jLynn said...

Agree with The Food Hound - interesting to read about the events that led you to your career. So sorry to have missed David's class :(
Love the recent pict of the Lowery bros!