This is the first installment in Hooked on Cheese’s series focusing on outstanding chefs who reign at restaurants off the beaten path in smaller cities across the USA. Raymond will introduce each of these fantastic chefs de cuisine and share one of their unique recipes. Enjoy!
I hate to date myself like this, but it’s been over thirty years since I was introduced to chef Mark Lietzke, the first real chef I ever worked for, learned from, and was inspired by. In the mid-1980s he hired me as a line cook at Trujillo’s de Santa Fe, a now-defunct New Mexican restaurant in Norman, Oklahoma. At Trujillo’s he taught me to be a professional cook and eventually promoted me to the position of head cook for dinner service. Chef Lietzke even found me my following job as a line cook at Greystone, an upscale restaurant in Edmond, Oklahoma. I’m not sure if I ever thanked him properly for all he did for me, so please forgive my tardiness, Chef, and thanks for everything!
After my stint at Greystone, I moved to Las Vegas to attend hospitality college and Mark and I lost touch, only reconnecting about a year ago through Facebook (ah, the wonders of social media). He is now the executive chef of the Country Club of Hilton Head on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
For this story, I asked chef Lietzke if he still uses American artisan cheeses in his cooking like he used to back in the day; he said he most definitely does. He prefers to use local (or at the very least, regional) cheeses, and luckily he has many stellar ones to choose from in the South.
When asked for his favorite personal recipe of late, he recalled a special wine society dinner he’d recently prepared for the Club members. He’d made a blue cheese flan placed on top of a wood-grilled ribeye steak, using Sweet Grass Dairy’s Asher Blue for the flan. He paired the steak and flan with a Donna Laura Ali Sangiovese di Toscana wine.
The combination sounds absolutely delicious, and it made me miss his cooking more than ever.