Archive for July, 2015

#BetterBurgerProject: Meet Chef Rob Ray

Chef Rob Ray, Belly Acres


1. Tell us a little about yourself and why you love to cook!
Chef Rob Ray, Madison, MS, 27 years old. Food brings people together. Coming from my southern family food connected us in a way…it created memories of cooking together and sitting down at every meal made us closer. Cooking is an art…if all ways loved art…food is my medium.

2. Why are you participating in the Better Burger Project?
Why not? It’s a great idea. Belly Acres is about healthier options and when we heard about this we jumped on board!

3. Tell us about your burger! What makes it “better”?

100% grass-fed all natural beef, blended with mushrooms, all local produce, local all natural bun, made from scratch aioli… Can’t beat that!

Belly Acres Better Burger

4. Why do you love to cook with mushrooms?
If you don’t love mushrooms….you wouldn’t understand 🙂

5. What’s your favorite burger condiment?

Belly Acres sauce of course!!

6. What sides would you recommend serving with your burger?

Local veggies on the grill!

7. How did you get started in the restaurant/culinary industry?

I really needed a job in high school so I went and applied for a kitchen spot in a new upscale fine dining restaurant if you will. I got the job (I think it was because my crappy high school resume informed that I was on the drum line) the hiring manager seem to only talk about that. So, after starting and knowing nothing about restaurant kitchens, I worked hard and gained trust with kitchen workers and the chefs. I fell in love with this opportunity for hands on learning and ran with it!

8. What’s your favorite type of mushroom?

Classic Button Mushroom…steak house style!

#BetterBurgerProject: Meet Chef Jonathan Sanning

Chef Jonathan Sanning of Smithtown Seafood is known for his love of cooking that is not confined to the workings of the kitchen. He embraces the concept of local food, like mushrooms, for the large local population.

Chef Jonathan Sanning, Smithtown Seafood

  1. Tell us a little about yourself and why you love to cook!

I am 31 and father to a wonderful 5-year-old, Evelyn. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English as well as a culinary associate’s degree. I’ve lived in Lexington for 13 years. Before that I moved a lot: Missouri, Western Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, and Oregon, back to Eastern Kentucky and finally to Central Kentucky. My love for cooking stems from spending time with my grandparents. A healthy love for eating helps foster a love for cooking, too. Watching my grandparents turn basic ingredients into my favorite things to eat was like magic to me. Even after they let me help, I was still amazed by the outcome. Cooking is always fascinating.

  1. Why are you participating in the Better Burger Project?

I’m participating in the BBP because I saw it as a challenge. When I first read about the project, honestly I thought, “Why the hell would I mix mushrooms into my burger when I can just add them on top?” But after understanding the health and environmental benefits, I became interested in seeing if I could make myself into a believer as far as the actual burger. I was shocked after the first bite. The flavor was beyond my expectations.

  1. Tell us about your burger! What makes it “better”?

My Better Burger is the Beef Well-ington Burger. It is a 75/25 mix of local sourced beef and roasted mushroom duxelles and served on a croissant with coffee-stout demi-glace, crumbled Kenny’s Barren County Bleu Cheese, crispy buttermilk onions, roast garlic aioli and FoodChain mustard microgreens.

One thing that makes our burger better is that the beef is locally sourced. With the blend of rich, smoky coffee stout demi, roasted mushrooms, the beef, additional mushroom notes and tang from the cheese, and the clean spice of the micro mustard greens, the umami of this burger is unbelievable.

  1. Why do you love to cook with mushrooms?

I love cooking mushrooms because of their versatility.

  1. Do you have a favorite summer memory with burgers?

I’m not going to lie. My favorite summer burger memory is driving from Kentucky to Missouri and hitting every Steak ‘n Shake. Classic double with lettuce, mayo, mustard and pickle, onion rings and chocolate shake.

  1. What’s your favorite burger condiment?

My favorite burger condiment would have to be mayo or aioli. The creamy tang goes so well with any seared or grilled protein.

  1. Do you have any tips and tricks to grilling?

The best tip or trick for grilling is to make sure your grill is clean and smoking hot before anything goes on. That is how you set yourself up for success.

  1. What sides would you recommend serving with your burger?

Sides for the Well-ington Burger: On the menu, the burger comes with our classic hand-cut fries, but anything from roasted veggies to a marinated tomato and cucumber salad would be a delicious accompaniment.

  1. Tell us a bit about your new restaurant and cooking style.

Smithtown is connected to the West Sixth Brewing Co. taproom. Behind our prep room door is FoodChain, a non-profit aquaponics farm that grows our lettuces, microgreens, shoots and tilapia. Besides the tilapia, we serve sustainable Gulf and Atlantic wild caught, fresh never frozen seafood. Serving such great fish would be a difficult feat except for our fishmonger in Deltona, Fla. Kelly Probst is great to work with and his business is dedicated to sustainability as well.

My cooking style is eclectic. I don’t hold myself to one style or cuisine. As I said, I love to eat so experimenting has become part of my style.

  1. How did you get started in the restaurant/culinary industry?

I started catering to the second and third shifts at an automotive plant during my senior year of high school. I’d go to school all day, then drive to this house in the hills of Morehead, Ky., where someone I knew had converted his garage into a commercial kitchen. We would load up chafers and food, go to the plant, serve out, load up, and head back to the garage, cook, and load, repeat. I’d get home at 3 a.m. and loved every minute of it.

  1. What’s your favorite type of mushroom?

Morels would have to be my favorite mushroom. I’ve gone foraging for them a couple times and discovered an unforgettable joy in the successful pursuit of nature, even with fishing or hunting. I love the taste and texture of a good beefy morel.


Pesto Portobello Pizzas

Paula of bell’alimento shares a perfect pesto portobello pizza recipe with a lighter side.

When you’re wanting a “lighter” pizza option this one will fit that bill perfectly. Our personal pesto portobello pizzas are the perfect portion for a light lunch or even can be served as an hors de vors for all your summer entertaining.

Portobello Pizzas Paula of bell’alimento

We start by gently removing the mushroom gills by scraping them with a spoon. To keep our shrooms from getting soggy we like to bake ours upside down on a muffin tin so that it collects the liquid and makes it much easier to discard.

Then we’ll use our favorite pesto add the cheese and cherry tomatoes and bake until golden and bubbly.

Easy peasy gluten free portobello pizza perfection.

Portobello Pizzas by Paula of bell’alimento

Pesto Portobello Pizzas

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes

2 large portobello mushrooms – cleaned and gills removed
2 teaspoons pesto
1/2 -3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
3-4 cherry tomatoes – halved
kosher salt/pepper
fresh basil leaves

1. Preheat oven to broil.

2. Place mushroom caps upside down on a muffin pan. Bake for 5-10 minutes until mushrooms have just begun to soften. Discard liquid.

2. Equally divide pesto between mushroom caps. Using a silicone brush, spread pesto on inside of mushroom caps.

3. Equally divide cheese between mushroom caps.

4. Equally divide tomatoes between mushroom caps. Arrange on top of cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Turn oven to broil. Return mushrooms to oven and bake for additional 5 minutes OR until cheese has melted.

6. Garnish with fresh basil.