The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

February 1, 2010

Chef Kelly Courtney

Just in case you haven’t gotten your hands on a copy of the February issue of Lake Murray Magazine, here’s a copy of the text from the article I wrote about our newest gourmand, Chef Kelly Courtney.

Hope you enjoy.

Chef Kelly Courtney and a Manageable Valentine’s Day Meal –

Keep it Simple, Pure & Exquisite

Chef Kelly Courtney’s connection to the land goes back to her childhood in Richland County and rural South Florida where hauling catfish from the water and slicing sugar cane into strips of juicy, sweet candy were her introduction to the perfection of simple local foods. That early appreciation for the pure, simple and exquisite has guided the nationally renowned chef from her Southern roots all the way to presiding over some of the country’s best restaurants, and back again to her South Carolina home. And it is what continues to drive her in her quest for making magical and meaningful meals – especially on Valentine’s Day, when passion and romance are essential ingredients on everyone’s menu.

Named by Food and Wine Magazine as 2001’s best new American chef, Chef Kelly Courtney could easily dazzle her audience with complicated combinations and impossible processes like those she oversaw as Executive Chef at Mod in Chicago or Firefly in Los Angeles. But rather than intimidate, Chef Kelly focuses on empowering her followers by focusing on simplicity.

“So many of the most pure ways of preparing foods are just more meaningful to you and who you are cooking for,” she explains. “Better yet, make the meal together. Plan the menu, shop for your ingredients, and prepare the meal together. Cooking is one of the most passionate ways a couple can spend their time.”

An advocate of sustainable farming and shopping local, Chef Kelly also recommends that cooking couples look first to seasonal produce when planning their romantic Valentine’s meal. “Go with the freshest ingredients you can find,” she encourages. Even in the chill of winter, crispy fresh greens and tasty root crops are still abundant and bursting with more flavor than out-of-season fruits and vegetables which can be stale and tasteless, not to mention shipped from miles away, leaving a carbon footprint that, these days, no one wants to claim. Saturday mornings always find Chef Kelly at the All Local Farmers Market at 701 Whaley Street where she loads up on local breads, cheeses, meats, and produce. After seeing what is fresh and available, she then plans the meals she’ll be making.

“A wonderful way to start preparations for your meal is with a little something to munch on while you’re cooking,” she advises, recommending a slice of local honey comb, dripping with gooey goodness and served on a pristine white plate. Paired with a tasty cheese, served at room temperature so the flavors are at their fullest and richest, the contrast of sweetness and nuttiness is a tempting introduction to the meal to come.

Color is another important consideration when planning a Valentine’s meal. “Most people associate Valentine’s Day with colors in the red and pink family,” she says. “Following this pattern is not only sweet, but it’s sexy, and it’s easy to do while still focusing on fresh, seasonal foods.” Chef Kelly recommends cooking with beets for a slightly atypical, but perfectly fresh and beautiful romantic dinner. “The colors are rich and gorgeous, and beets are abundant during February – it’s a natural choice,” she says.

Another fresh and colorful Chef Kelly recommended option for the day is fresh tuna from your local fish market. “Simple pairings of small plates is the key,” she says.  No one really wants to eat a heavy meal for a romantic dinner – tuna is light and flavorful, also a beautiful color, and easy to work with.”

Of course, no Valentine’s Day dinner would be complete without chocolate and Chef Kelley advises that sweethearts never skimp on quality when purchasing fine chocolates.

“Visit a local gourmet grocer and purchase just a few delicious truffles or excellent-quality chocolate candies containing varying percentages of cocoa content, from thirty to forty to seventy percent,” she says, and serve them on a beautiful plate with dried cherries or candied orange peel. Adding thin slices of a hot chili pepper to the chocolates allows for complementary tastes, as well as a double dose of endorphins – compounds produced naturally by the pituitary gland which resemble opiates and result in a general feeling of well-being.

Whether you achieve it via the food you prepare or how you prepare it, that feeling of well-being should not be underestimated as a necessary ingredient in a pleasant Valentine’s Day dinner experience, according to Chef Kelly. “Cooking with the person you care for is a wonderful way to share the intimacy of the meal and to show them you care,” she says, but it is also fun and it takes the pressure off one individual to perform for the other.

Everyone can relax; everyone can feel good; everyone can have a Happy Valentine’s Day.

December 21, 2009

Lee Monts and the joy of local artists in local print

Filed under: Lake Murray Magazine,Lee Monts — cynthiaboiter @ 14:21
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I got an email from my friend, the local artist Lee Monts, this morning, telling me he had heard that the article I wrote about him for Lake Murray Magazine was out.

You have to know the back story on how I’m still waiting on some of my articles on local artists to show up in local print to realize how satisfying it is for me to actually hold the product of my local labors in my local hands.   To be honest, I haven’t really physically touched this printed article yet — the Muddy Ford mailbox and paper tube are at the end of our quarter-mile-long driveway (and I use that term loosely) and I haven’t made it down the road yet today — but I believe Lee.

Since many of you may have  either given up on The State these days and let your subscription lapse — and really, I can’t blame you — The State fired almost everyone I ever wanted to read last summer; or, like me, you’re on CBT (Christmas Break Time) and that mailbox is just a little too far down the path for venturing out to; and, since I do want everyone to know the spectacular story of artist-come-lately Lee Monts, I’m providing you with the copy to the article below — but you’ll have to find the photos for yourself.  I hear they’re pretty.

Thanks to Lee for working with me on this.  He’s a talented artist and quite a sweet boy.


Artist Come Lately – Chapin’s Lee Monts

By Cynthia Boiter

Chapin native Lee Monts is anything but your typical artist.  A clean-shaven, short-haired, bespectacled man of a certain age, Lee looks more like a librarian or a math teacher than a new-to-the-scene artist whose acrylics and assemblage works have been popping up all over town of late, especially since his successful premiere solo show at the DuPre Gallery in the Vista last summer.  If Lee looks less like an artist than one may think that may be because he has spent most of his adult life as a geologist, working as a program manager for the Department of Health and Environmental Control, only recently allowing his artist within the attention most of his patrons agree it deserves.

But Monts is not entirely new to the creative process.  As a child growing up, he recognized his own potential with the sketch pencil, but abandoned art as a hobby during his college days, focusing instead on his studies in geology.  A fascination with watercolors that began in college and lasted for years never proved fruitful for Monts, and it wasn’t until a friend gave him a set of acrylic paints as a Christmas present that he finally found the medium which seems to work best as a mechanism for his creative energy.

It was at about this same time that Monts reconnected with an old friend and educator, local artist Judy Bolton Jarrett.  “At the time I was creating wire mobiles and I mentioned that to her,” Monts recalls.  Jarrett invited Monts to offer his mobiles for sale at her gallery in downtown Chapin and, to his surprise, both the demand for his work and his friendship with Jarrett grew strong.

“While our styles are very different, she has given me a lot of great advice over the years,” he says.  “I rarely make mobiles anymore, but that early taste of validation for my creativity fueled my passion of wanting to produce art.  And so the painting began in November 2002.”

Within the next year, Monts’ work was picked up by several downtown galleries and shown as part of the Vista Lights exhibit at Cameo Gallery in 2003.

“I will never forget the excitement about approaching the gallery curator with my work prior to that show,” he remembers.  But, “once it was displayed, I quickly sold several pieces.”

Monts has gone on to show his work at Verve Fine Art and Interiors and the Idylwild Gallery, as well as being included in a number of group shows such as About Face, ArtCan, and Dining With Friends, and displaying pieces in several commercial locations, including Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Café and Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia.

Clearly, Monts’ art has an appeal that is attractive to a variety of patrons in diverse showing situations.  “People tell me that my artwork is contemporary without being overly abstract, but that it is abstract enough that it is often ambiguous,” Monts explains.

In fact, Monts’ style results from what he terms “controlled randomness,” a technique in which he prepares the canvas before painting by applying the common primer gesso, floating a smaller canvas on the surface of the working canvas, and manipulating the smaller canvas to create organic and subtle patterns that take on a life of their own.  According to Monts, the ensuing “tree-like textures” serve to both surprise and inspire him as he works with the image, “moving the creative process in a certain direction.”

Monts is also interested in exploring other creative media, including encaustic work – using melted refined beeswax, and assemblage art – bringing together a variety of usually found objects into a purposeful collective design.  “Assemblages often take time while I wait for the pieces to fall into place,” he says.  “Sometimes they are almost there but an element is missing, then often unexpectedly, the right addition comes along.”

As an artist, and an individual, Monts may be considered something of an assemblage himself, coming into the profession later in life and experimenting along the way.  “I just never envisioned myself as becoming an artist,” he admits, “especially after I received two degrees in geology.  But I have always had that innate need to create.”

He further shares that, “Becoming an artist later in life has increased the quality of my life in many ways.  I take extreme pleasure in the pure act of creating, and that was missing in my earlier years.”

His advice to others who harbor an inner yearning to realize the product of their creative impulses?

“Do it!  Start!  Don’t let the fact that you don’t have a fine art degree hold you back,” he says.  “We never truly know what the future holds,” however, having begun his work as an artist in earnest now, “I feel certain I will be creating as long as I am physically able.”

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