Bay Creek resident, Nan Bennett recently found herself with an invitation to share a meal with noted chef and bespoke caterer, Amy Brandt. She shares with us what cooking with the area’s top talent is like. And Amy B. talks with us about keeping things local and what’s cooking for fall.
Bay Creek: Nan, you and Amy met years ago. Her business is receiving a great deal of attention. You’ve spent time together but did you know what to expect—what it would be like cooking with her?
Nan Bennett: I had called on Amy to lead a cooking
class for an informal garden club of Bay Creek residents several years ago. From the moment she began teaching her first class, she was a favorite among the ladies. She was such a good teacher. She’s a trained chef, she’s an artist, and when she was teaching, she had a lot of patience. Flowers, baking, orchestrating beautiful events…she does it all. So I’ve known for years how talented she is at so many things. But I could be a challenge–I don’t consider myself a ‘cook.’
BC: It’s not unusual for an artist to have several strengths, but when it comes to being truly multi-talented, chef Amy Brandt, really takes the cake. And bakes the cake. And locally sources exceptional, fresh ingredients for the cake. And decorates it…. Add to that her love of supporting local farmers and using seasonal fare. Both have become popular of late, but it’s nothing new to this world-class talent who wears the chef’s hat (and a hundred others).
BC: Amy, when did you become interested in local sources and seasonal fare?
Amy B: I grew up in upstate New York eating what was growing in our family’s garden, and canning and putting up fresh produce. Over the years, I developed a network of local farmers and watermen on the Eastern Shore to supply the fresh and organic ingredients I use. I’ve always been interested in local sourcing.
BC: You brought your talents to Bay Creek as far back as 2004. You always bring that extra special something to an event or meal. What is your favorite part of being a chef and caterer?
Amy B: I enjoy working with people to create an event that speaks with their voice. I want to create an event that becomes them.
BC: Amy B.’s welcoming and warm kitchen on the grounds of historic Eyre Hall in Cheriton, Virginia has seen many a meal created, many events brought to life in her very special way. Nan, what’s it like cooking with a natural talent like Amy?
Nan: I love how she prepares meals, the way it comes so easily to her. So, cooking with Amy…I say I knew what to expect as far as how she creates, but,what she creates, that always surprises me. The first thing you’ll notice about being with Amy, making dinner with Amy, is that it’s fun. She’s happy when she cooks. She’s in her kitchen laughing, smiling. And our dinner together was no different. No stress, just fun.
BC: What’s on the menu for your meal with Amy? Tell us what you prepared.
Nan: Something so simple, and it was amazing. She is one of the healthiest chefs—she’s very aware of nutrition and is concerned with everything that’s going into someone’s body. Everything she cooks comes from that perspective. So for our dinner, we had salmon. I went shopping—I asked her what to get. We took that simple piece of salmon and seared it in a frying pan. We used some herb salts–that’s another thing Amy does. She creates her own salts and seasonings.
BC: Did she share a secret recipe?
Nan: Nothing’s a secret with Amy. She is such a natural, she just truly knows the language of cooking. And she’s happy to let you know what she’s doing and how she’s doing it. For example, we made a salad together. Again, very simple but so good and really quite different. She made a dressing out of the tomatoes. We just cut cherry tomatoes, put them in a bowl with some sea salt. Rather than use oil and vinegar, we used the salt because Amy explained that it brings out the natural acid from the tomatoes. Then we added a little olive oil.
The salad was yellow wax beans, cherry tomatoes a little lettuce and marinated cucumbers. And in Amy’s artist-style, she put the salad around the plate. So we have this beautiful piece of fish in the middle and the salad was unmixed, all around the salmon. So we could enjoy one thing at a time or mix them together as we ate. It was so simple but remarkably good…and beautiful to look at.
BC: Amy, what does fall look like in your kitchen, what’s on your table?
Amy B: We’re surrounded by water here on the Eastern Shore so that gives us a slow start in spring but it means we stay warmer much longer in the fall. So we can enjoy tomatoes, all our summer vegetables are still available and—crabs. The crabs are all beefed up for winter hibernation. So certainly crab meat for fall.
BC: Nan, any final thoughts about sharing a meal with the chef and caterer who has become a force in the region for bespoke culinary creations?
Nan: It’s really nice to have someone like Amy in the bay area. The food and the events that she creates are just spectacular. I’ve been to many events that she has catered and there’s always something just plain old delicious, there’s always something that surprises and delights…she is the kind of person who can make something beautiful out of everything she touches.
For more about Amy Brandt:
757 647 6003
On the grounds of Eyre Hall