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It sounds almost like some kind of Gothic Fairytale: The youngest son of a poor farmer goes out into the world to make his fortune armed with only three things: a knife, a pouch of salt and a bag of bones.

Fiction has a way of validating life’s events rather than the other way around- Denton Milford is proof of that. Nobody, except a few here in Parrot County, knows who Denton Milford is- just the way he likes it. But everyone knows who Chef Orleon is, or dang near everybody who has any appetite.

We don’t get a chance to see Chef ‘O’ back here too often. He has an aunt who lives down Beeno Ford and comes to visit as often as he can. Most folks figure it’s a gesture of gratitude for making him who he is today- Chef Orleon:The Famous King of International Cuisine’. Everything he ever did in his meteoric rise was built upon a few simple notions his Aunt Celia taught him in his youth.

It’s funny how the world idolizes heroes, but every hero is still only a small child inside. And when the hero comes back home, no matter the years, the miles or the fame, the hero is still a small child compared to older folks in their past. The world thinks Chef ‘O’ knows everything about cooking, but he understands that only Aunt Cecilia knows best.

I guess we all need heroes- they inspire us to be better. We each have our own yearnings to become someone else-someone famous. Unfortunately, we have to learn to gravitate toward those things we do best with whatever skill-sets we are blessed, or cursed. But that never stops us from visualizing our ordinary self glowing in the footlights of some kind of fame.

Of course, fame is more important to those who only dream of fame. It is not necessarily a condition the famed individual craves or needs- most often they only wish for a moment to disappear from those lights, get a good home-cooked meal and a good night’s sleep. At least that’s true for Milton.

Fame is such an odd animal. The irony of such which Milton confided; we’re not always good at what we really want to do; and what we’re really good at is not often the thing we really want to do- go figure crazy human animals!

You see, Milton really wanted to be a professional baseball player.

But eventually- as Milton explained- he finally succumbed to his “Derby Dilemma’. Here in Kentucky we have the famous Kentucky Derby. Any horse that has a chance to win must have the very best of three things, Vision, Physical Attributes and Mindset. Without coordinating into a perfect package you will ultimately get lost in the dust. The same is true about professional baseball players; that was Milton’s Derby Dilemma; He wanted to come to his career table playing the cards of Ted Williams but he was only dealt the same hand as his Aunt Cecilia. So he settled for doing what he was gifted at-thus, Chef Orleon.

I told Milton a secret of mine one time.

Many years ago I hankered to be a great chef. I actually took classes. I was immediately inspired but nothing ever came of it.

At the end of my two weeks of culinary training all I remember coming away from the experience with was enlightenment of three things: How to use a sharp knife; How to make soup stock; And the secret to excellent flavor exists in understanding what happens to ingredients at the molecular level (Chemistry was never one of my strong skills).

 I thought being a chef would be easy but I came away confused by the complexity of it all. I figure at the end of the day I lacked the Vision, the Physical Attributes (smell, taste, etc.) and the Mindset to build upon.

It was like taking guitar lessons from Eric Clapton and afterwards only knowing how to hold a pick, tune a guitar and play basic three chord progressions-no net success as a famed blues guitarist! On the surface, seemingly a waste, yet within three simple guitar ideas are the secrets to unfold a universe of music creation. I finally figured out the same was true with my short venture to become famous like Chef Orleon.

I didn’t expect Milton to respond to my little story, but he did.

“You learned a big part of the real secret”, he nodded. “Cooking is like any profession in life; the art is in its simplicity; it’s easy to make something complex to showcase and confuse those you wish to impress, but to strive for perfection in art it is essential to strive for simplicity.”

He told me his secret: Aunt Cecilia stressed three simple rules for cooking, similar to what I had learned- a knife, a pouch of salt and a bag of bones. As Chef Orleon, her rules were a constant mantra for everything he ever did as a professional chef.

She taught him that a good sharp knife is the ‘Artist Paintbrush’-proper trimming of meat and slicing and dicing ingredients to the correct size and shape makes the difference between perfection and mediocrity.

Flavoring is the ‘Artists’ Palette’; how to use salt with other spices to effect a distinct, simple flavor. The more seasons you add the less distinct flavor you end up with-like mixing paint-if you add all the colors, all you end up with is ‘gray’! Flavor is about knowing the correct salt, fat and caloric content! You use ingredients and spices to sacrifice their distinct taste to become transformed into a new taste.

And finally, anything you cook must begin with a Mindset to go beyond the ordinary. For instance, most recipes require some amount of liquid. Water by itself does little to enhance taste-but prepared soup stock does! When most people see bones, seashells and fish heads they’ll throw them away. But any great chef knows boiled down properly into a stock becomes the ‘Artists’ Canvas’ to create any masterpiece.

I miss when Chef ‘O’ leaves after visiting. But just his brief presence sort of inspires everyone to notch up their culinary creativity-Parrot County palates are reborn! The rich smells rising on the breeze from previous mediocre kitchens reminds us we might all be heroes just waiting to be cooked up a bit.