March 2007 - Column:

It’ll be even better the second time around

First Bite
By Judy Lacey

I’m sure those of you who attended the “special event” for the Tour of Homes last year will remember the delicious food  prepared by Chef Kern Chiasson.  What a treat for all of us who were lucky enough to be in attendance!  Kay Dell Knarr, who returns this year as chairperson for this event has engaged Chef Kern to return and spoil us with his delectables one more time.

If you went last year, you’ll definitely want to return but if you missed out, sign up early so you won’t miss THIS one on April 28, 2007.   Not long after we moved to Big Canoe, Claud and I were fortunate to sample Chef Kern’s cajun style of catering prepared in his own uniquely equipped catering truck.  You won’t believe what this person is able to accomplish (on site) to tempt your palate and satisfy your appetite at the same time.

Chef Kern’s father is Cajun/French and his mother is Italian so just imagine the aromas in his family kitchen on any given day.  Growing up in south Louisiana in the middle of the Atchafalaya Basin, he had easy access to vast swamps and coastline plentiful in shrimp, crawfish, frog, alligator, oyster, catfish, crab, speckled trout, red fish and wild herbs and learned effective methods of catching and harvesting the fresh ingredients that were so plentiful.

At any early age with his mother (who was a wonderful cook)  as his teacher,  Kern was educated on the authentic techniques of both Italian and Cajun cuisine.  By the time he was 16 years old he was cooking for friends and family, and had earned the reputation of someone who could cook “a mean” gumbo, etouffee and a host of Cajun and Italian dishes. 

As Kern pursued his passion for cooking, he never imagined it would become his profession.  Cooking was a hobby he loved but his passion was playing baseball. For nine months of the year thru both high school and college,  he would practice perfecting the craft of pitching.  When he was 23 and felt the need to choose a career path, his urge to cook overcame his passion to play professional baseball.  Kern followed his heart in pursuing his interest in becoming a chef and moved to New Orleans where he worked and trained under a host of great chefs who were associated with popular restaurants and hotels.

After three years in New Orleans, Kern moved to Baton Rouge where he helped open the Magnolia Cafe after which he became anxious to spread his wings by traveling to Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix, Flag Staff, Las Vegas, San Diego and finally in 1987 to Atlanta.  He immediately felt a connection here - he was nine hours from his hometown and family, and Atlanta was a city booming with culinary opportunity.  Another huge factor in his decision was the close proximity to the north Georgia mountains and Lake Lanier.

Kern joined the chef’s association of Atlanta, and the word spread of his expertise as a chef specializing in Cajun, French and Italian cuisine.  After attracting the attention of other chefs, Kern began to lease himself as a chef (Chiasson’s Chef Service) to many hotels, restaurants and country clubs.

As word spread of his knowledge as a Cajun chef (which was a hot cuisine at that time), Kern made guest chef appearances, worked in country clubs and hotels and studied under as well as taught many great chefs.  All of these experiences gave him the confirmation that he could sell his own signature food items and make a career of it.

Chef Kern
Chef Kern in his personalized commercial cooking truck.

One decision led to another and the next one was “do I cater my own events or do I accumulate funds and open a restaurant?”  Since the catering business offered greater flexibility, Chiasson’s Catering was officially open for business in June, 1988.  Kern catered his first function out of the back of a borrowed old orange Volvo station wagon and did the prep work out of his two bedroom apartment in Alpharetta.

For 18 years, his business has offered higher-end hospitality from professional sporting events to large political fund raisers as well as intimate sit-down gourmet dinners for eight guests.  Kern is on the brink of taking another step forward with Kern’s Fine Foods, a prepackaged food company offering convenient, high quality, fresh, healthy, tasty meals.

He also  has plans to expand his catering business by offering daily pickup and delivery service.

Chef Kern credits his wife, Denise with being the inspiration in his life.  With her support, she brings stability and normalcy by being his best friend, business partner and a wonderful mother for the kids in their lives.  These “kids” are young men and women whom Kern and Denise mentor by sharing their home in Cumming, Kern’s hometown in Louisiana, Lake Jocassee in South Carolina and their place in southwest Texas.

Chef Kern sharing his cooking secrets with a third grade classroom.

Kern and Denise include kids of any echelon emphasizing the value of respect, love, work ethics and teamwork while incorporating intriguing activities in the outdoors such as fishing, hiking, camping, boating or even alligator hunting.  They stay consistent with the rules and respect for one another and rarely compromise.

When these young people fail, they pick them up, encourage them and resume life without any harsh judgment.  Kern says, “the reward for me is the joy of watching a young man or woman develop with the priceless years of memories, laughter and camaraderie we all share”.

He states that his daily highlight is the joy of assembling a meal and eating it together as a group/family.  We are so very lucky that this talented chef has agreed to share some of his recipes with us.

“For the entire family”

3 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ cup + 2 Tbsp. milk
pinch salt

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks into another.  Add the flour, baking powder and milk to the yolks and mix to a smooth thick batter.  Whisk the whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks.  Gently fold into the batter.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat.  Melt 1/4 tsp. butter (optional) and pour some of the batter into the pan and fry for a couple of minutes until it starts to look golden and firm.  At this point, sprinkle your chosen flavoring (see below) onto the uncooked side before loosening with a spatula and flipping the pancake over.  Continue cooking until both sides are golden.  Serves 2-4

Suggest adding: fresh blueberries, thinly sliced banana, peaches, stewed apples, chocolate chips and for a savory taste, crispy bacon with a fresh cut corn off the cob is very tasty.

(Authentic chicken, pearl onion and mushroom stew)

1 whole chicken (4 lbs.) cut into 10 serving pieces with skin on and seasoned well with salt and pepper 
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Bouquet garni  - 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig thyme, 1 sprig rosemary, 8 sprigs parsley
4 oz. lean bacon (4-5 slices) cut into fine, matchstick pieces
24 button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and left whole
24 small pearl onions, peeled and left whole
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 oz. butter
2 Tbsp. Cognac
3 cups red Burgundy, such as Chambertin
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thickly sliced
3 small pinches freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. light brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Season the chicken well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Spread the flour on a plate and roll the chicken pieces in kit, shaking off excess flour.  Set aside.  With kitchen twine, tie together the herbs for the bouquet garni.

Heat the oil in a 6-quart pot and add the butter.  Cook the onions, bacon and mushrooms until softened then remove and set aside.  Brown the chicken pieces on all sides for about ten minutes.  Sprinkle the Cognac over the chicken and ignite, shaking the pot gently until flames subside.  Pour in the wine and stir in the bouquet garni, garlic, salt, pepper, nutmeg and sugar.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for one hour, stirring from time to time.  Add the mushrooms, onion and bacon mixture and cook uncovered for 30 minutes longer.

Remove the cooked chicken pieces from the pot and arrange on a serving platter.  Remove the bouquet garni and let the sauce boil over high heat for two minutes or until thickened.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Pour over the chicken and serve immediately accompanied by your favorite bread.  (Chef Kern recommends a hearty Peasant bread, good butter and a wonderful bottle of red wine).

“A taste of Tuscany

½ lb. dried spaghetti, linguine or angel hair pasta
1 + 1 ½ Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. salted sweet cream butter (optional)
8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1/3 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
 12 black olives, quartered
1 lb. ripe cherry tomatoes (red and yellow), halved
2-3 handfuls basil leaves, cut chiffonade style (stack leaves, tightly roll up and then thinly slice)
1 Tbsp.  fresh marjoram
1 Tbsp. white or red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated in thin ribbons

Put pasta into a large pot of salted boiling water and cook until al dente (check package for cooking time).  In a skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the butter.  Add the sliced garlic, red pepper flakes and pinch of salt.  Sweat the garlic until it is just turning golden on edges and remove from the heat.  Stir in olives and allow to cook slightly.  Place tomatoes in a large bowl and add the herbs, remaining olive oil and vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and then scrunch with your hands slightly to mash the tomatoes.  Let sit until pasta is ready.  Drain the pasta but do not rinse and while steaming hot, mix with the roasted garlic and tomato mixtures.  Check seasoning.  Transfer to serving platter.  To garnish, shave ribbons of Parmesan cheese over top along with a little extra shaved basil and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

This pasta is very good out of the refrigerator eaten as a cold pasta salad.  Good pasta, quality olive oil and homegrown tomatoes intensify flavors.  Serves 6-8 

Note: Great pasta dish to accompany grilled chicken, lamb, beef or duck breast.  If eaten as a salad, toss in your favorite “green” with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice and a couple of ounces of Prosciutto ham.

“For the entire family”

2 lbs. Yukon gold or other small, baby red creamer potatoes
1 Tbsp. light olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
Kosher sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Wash potatoes and parboil until just tender.  Drain, drizzle with a touch of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, black pepper and rosemary.  Cover a roasting pan with foil, place the potatoes in pan and cook uncovered for 25 minutes or until golden.  For grilling: wrap them in aluminum foil and place on grill for same amount of time.  Serves 6-8      

Note: Very nice with grilled chicken, pork tenderloin or steak.  A great potato for your favorite potato salad recipe.

“A healthy alternative”

2 large handfuls swiss chard
2 large handfuls chicory (or any greens listed below)
2 large handfuls arugula
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
½ lemon, juiced
1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Half fill a large pot with salted water.  Bring to a boil and add swiss chard and chicory.  Cook for two to three minutes until the greens are tender or al dente and then drain in a colander.  Place olive oil and garlic in the empty pan.  Fry garlic until just golden and add cooked chard and chicory.  Season and stir to coat in the olive oil.  After one minute, remove from the heat, add arugula and squeeze in the lemon juice.  Stir again, check seasoning and serve immediately.  Serves 4-6.

Suggested greens: spinach, cabbage, mustard greens, Chinese cabbage, beet greens

Note: Great with grilled meats or served cold.    More garlic can be used, if desired.

“A taste of New Orleans

1 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. Cocoa
2 ½ Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1/4 cup butter
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 cups milk
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 (10 inch) pie crust, baked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa, flour and salt.  Add the butter, egg yolks and milk and cook the mixture over low heat until it is thick.  Stir in the vanilla, pour the filling into the piecrust, cover with meringue and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.  Turn off oven, open oven door and allow pie to cool in open oven for 10 minutes before removing.  Completely cool the pie before cutting it. 

Meringue Tips: Always have egg whites at room temperature before beating them.  Use at least three egg whites for meringue for one pie.  Add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar or salt when the meringue starts to get frothy to stabilize it.  Slowly add three tablespoons sugar for each egg white after adding the cream of tartar or salt.  Meringue should always be sealed to the edges of the piecrust to avoid shrinkage.  Serves 8-10

Note: Kids as well as adults appreciate the flavor of this simple pie.


Roasted chicory (also called succory) comes from the roasted, ground roots of some varieties of chicory.  It’s used as a coffee substitute, and added to some coffees for body and aroma and as an “extender”.  This coffee-chicory blend is often referred to as “New Orleans” or “Creole” coffee and is a popular beverage in Louisiana.

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