ROCHELLE — Chef Amadeus spent his week in Rochelle eating at local restaurants like The Rack, Sunrise Family Restaurant and The Iron Skillet.
The professional chef and former winner of The Food Network’s “Extreme Chef: Mexican Show-down” was in town to cook at the Cooks & Carpenters fundraiser at The Kitchen Table with Habitat For Humanity of Ogle County. He also helped with The Kitchen Table’s usual Tuesday and Thursday dinners.
“I like small towns and I like to put down roots in every community I’m in,” Amadeus said. “If I come back, I feel like a local. That’s why I always eat local in different cities. I could’ve gone across the street to McDonalds. It’s just spending time in the community so people see me and know who I am. I’m here to help out. I’m here to give back, not just to The Kitchen Table. I want to give my money to locals.”
Chef Amadeus met Carolyn Brown of The Kitchen Table five or six years ago when he was guest speaker at a seminar in Tampa, Florida. They talked about doing events at community cafes like The Kitchen Table. About 90 percent of community cafes are in small towns.
“When I found out that all of them were in small towns, I was kind of excited about that,” Amadeus said. “I was excited to go to a small town. When I was having breakfast at Sunrise, I knew I was in a small town when a group of older guys got up and said, ‘See you tomorrow.’ I like that small town feel.”
Amadeus believes The Kitchen Table is “a really great idea.” He said it shows when somebody cares enough to give back to their community. When cooks want to do an internship with Chef Amadeus, the first thing he tells them is that they have to do volunteer work.
He said he admired the way The Kitchen Table prepares its food and said it cooks for people like they’re a part of a family.
“I think every community needs a place like this,” Amadeus said. “This place, they’re feeding the community. Tonight is taco night. Most people take Taco Tuesday for granted. Taco Tuesday here means something totally different. Here, it means, ‘I get to eat something.’ They’re eating because they need to.”
Being a professional chef has taken the Jacksonville, Florida native to Haiti, The Bahamas and Puerto Rico as a guest chef. He’s worked on cruises. He loves his “culinary road trips” in the states to cities in the south and Florida.
“I get to collaborate with other chefs,” Amadeus said. “My thing is, I like to travel, cook and play golf. If I can get the trifecta, I’m good. How many people can say they played golf in Haiti?”
At Friday’s fundraiser, Chef Amadeus served cowboy pork chops with his own line of spices along with roasted veggies, a baked potato and a dinner roll.
“Sometimes it’s not the money, it’s the journey,” Amadeus said. “I tell cooks I’d rather build passion cooks than paycheck cooks. Paycheck cooks come in and do just enough not to get fired. A passion cook will show up early and come to work all the time because they don’t know what they’re going to miss.”
For more information about Chef Amadeus, visit www.chefamadeus.net/.