Follow along as I break down why I do what I do. Some might say that it’s a sort of redemption for past terrible acts; assume what you will about my past. The fact is, I’m pretty sure that it’s similar to yours. So, you really can’t point the finger much. We both made it farther than we thought. Keeping in mind the adage 'better late than never,' I know I for one can say that I now can see that I went about some things all wrong in my life. So instead of asking why I’m still here, I’ve just decided to take the second chance without hesitation and run with it. even though it’s become hard for me to see a good thing when it's staring me in the face sometimes. Ever since I made the choice to stop worrying about my image and just focus on the passion of feeding others, I feel I have a chance to return home and make my momma proud with what she taught me to do.
“It doesn’t matter how it looks, the taste is what really matters, don’t ya reckon?” My mom would always say to me whenever I brought up comparing the plates, she used to send out to the ones I saw on the TV back in the prep room where she had me study after school. I never wanted to ever admit she was right. That is until we lost her a few years ago. That’s when I was able to find a balance between a great looking and delicious tasting plate. Through my culinary past, I’ve had many ups and downs. Many successes, along with more failures than I’d like to admit. The thing is, all of those experiences, no matter how good they are, are completely pointless until you come to learn why you really do what you do. We as cooks have to figure out how to make a thought into emotion, and that emotion into action, in order to move us forward in our craft. All while allowing that emotion to flow through us and into our food. Plates tell a story through palates. And the flavors that we choose to create are able to convey an image of art to those who care to pay attention. While other artists in the world create things, you can see or hear, we create art you can taste. Some great masterpieces will be around for the ages to look upon and admire; in my world, the greatest compliment you can pay my work is to devour it completely, not a crumb left behind.
Each plate of food has a story. And more often than not, the dish itself has a past behind it. The person who created it learned it from somewhere. I can appreciate the history and legacy of things like that. Every recipe brings something special to the table, some combination of factors that make it different than all the rest--be it ingredients, technique, or those little finishing touches that bring a dish from good to outstanding. After years of forcing myself through the ranks of the kitchen without taking the time to pay respect to those little touches, I found out the hard way that in doing so you rob yourself of learning valuable things along the way. And if you don’t respect the process and the lessons from those recipes, you hit rock bottom--fast--bringing what you thought was a Rockstar life to a screeching halt. Time to suck it up and call the doctor; you’re completely on fire.
This is where, for some reason, we dig deep inside ourselves after having burned out and found that heat-compressed diamond known commonly as tenacity. So, I felt as though giving up wasn’t an option for me. Slowly, carefully, I started the climb out of rock bottom. And although it’s emotionally the most difficult thing I've ever in my life, I have found the benefits outweigh the hurdles and roadblocks that I have had to navigate. You have to find a reason to continue doing what you’re doing. If not, then was it ever really what you wanted to in the first place? Some of us will say no here. And that’s more than ok. You’ll find your true path when you are meant to. Until then, at least let us show you a few things that make us human like you. Here, taste this sauce and tell me what you think.
The freedom of flavor that we have at our disposal is an ever-growing and evolving spectrum. With new manipulations of flavors being made every day, I feel that it’s time that we go back to the basics and share our flavor stories with the world. A book may show you the text of someone’s background and history, and as we all know, a picture is worth 1000 words. A sound can immerse you in culture. A plate of food can pass you through not only the market but to the dinner table as well. There are so many stories behind how and why those flavors were chosen. If you find them fascinating, as the chef or cook, I’m sure that I don’t have to ask you to listen to what they choose to say. You’ve come this far into the flavor, you’re more than compelled to have this knowledge. That’s what curiosity does. It compels you to pay attention to the heritage behind the flavors you just enjoyed. For me, it was good ol’ fashioned southern cooking. And I had to go home to Tennessee to find that flavor after my mom died. That’s where she left it. And the flavor was simple. That’s it. Keep shit simple. Let the flavors speak for themselves and come together to form the story you are trying to tell. Even the most complex of histories have simple flavors. I really hope you listen to the flavors and what the story they are trying to tell.
It really is amazing how food can tell a story from hundreds of years ago. You have to imagine that the same flavor being used back then is being passed down by generations and generations of people who share the same passion. Wait a minute, isn’t that the exact reason we all do what we do as chefs? Well, I’ll be damned, it is, isn’t it? Funny how life brings shit full circle for you huh? See it’s the connections like that, that make me feel as though I have much more to learn here. Thankfully I’m always hungry for knowledge. Remember folks, a day without learning something new is a waste of a day.
Rodney Lienhart is a Chef formerly of McKenzie, TN but is now working and residing in Lansing, MI area. Starting at the young age of 7 years old. He worked his way through the ranks in his mom's kitchen in the hills of Tennessee. With a background in southern, Italian, French, and Nouvelle cuisines, he uses what he knows to learn more about what he doesn't. When he isn't putting a flame on a sauté pan, he can be found reading and researching about what makes people tick. A massive overindulgence in psychology has led him here to share what he has witnessed in his experiences. Make sure to keep a close eye one his videos coming out soon. In these videos, he will be closely working with Wayhot sauce and Krystilion CBD on future recipes and concepts. You can follow his story and insight into the world of cooking food and adding the health benefits of CBD to his dishes on Facebook also on Instagram @chef_rodney_117