Comfort Foods showcases spice blends

by Keith Barber

Comfort Foods showcases spice blends

Last week, local chef Barry Moody paid a visit to the Winston-Salem offices of YES! Weekly and delivered his succulent penne pasta with vegetable medley dish taken straight from page 120 of his cookbook, Comfort Foods of the South. Moody did a slight variation on a theme, adding boiled shrimp and omitting parmesan cheese from the dish and the result was delicious. Moody, the founder of Spice Delight, also delivered five containers of his all-purpose seasoning. With 25 years of experience in the culinary arts, Moody experienced a professional breakthrough in 2001 while working as a banquet chef at the Hawthorne Inn. A guest at the Hawthorne was so enamored of Moody’s fried chicken, she asked him for the recipe. Shrewdly, Moody declined. Instead, he offered the patron a sampling of his homemade fried-chicken spice. The incident inspired him to experiment further with his spice concoctions and begin researching the spice market. Much to his surprise, Moody said, he could not find a seasoning specifically for fried chicken anywhere. Moody then began mass-producing his Spice Delight Chicken Essence in his Winston-Salem home and sharing samples with his co-workers at the Hawthorne Inn to get valuable feedback. Ironically, Moody’s co-workers told him they liked the spice, but used it on everything except fried chicken. Moody went back to the drawing board and renamed his invention Spice Delight All-Purpose Essence. Soon, he was performing demonstrations of how to use his all-purpose spice at the Fresh Market in Winston-Salem. After drawing rave reviews from his customers, Moody decided to cobble together the Southern recipes he learned from his mother, Mildred. A Savannah, Ga. native, Mildred Moody brought her style of cooking to White Plains, NY when she married Barry’s father, William. Her cooking style was derived from the culinary traditions of the Gullah people of South Carolina and Georgia, Moody said. Gullah-style cooking could be defined as cooking everything in one big pot. “In other parts of the world, it’s called ‘stew,’” Moody said. The recipes in his 187-page cookbook often rely on a roux base — a combination of flour and butter made into a thickening — for gravies and sauces. Using a roux base in recipes is a hallmark of Savannah cooking, Moody said. The biggest challenge in composing the cookbook was figuring out portion sizes, he said. To nail down the details, Moody spent many a night and weekend at area bookstores studying cookbooks and recipes. “It had been twentyfive years since I had worked out of a cookbook. Even when I was cooking out of a cookbook, it was in bulk,” Moody said. Moody had never published a book so it’s no surprise it took more than a year to go from concept to finished product. Since he never learned to type, Moody had to rely on others to transcribe his recipes from hand-written notes. While working as sous chef at Winston-Salem State University, Moody often called upon students to help him in that regard. Despite the daunting task of publishing, at every turn it seemed like something fortuitous would happen. During one of his Fresh Market demos, Moody met a professional photographer who offered to do many of the book’s photos in exchange for building her portfolio. Moody stepped in as photographer for the inside photos, and after a year of research, Moody finally found an editor and a publisher. Now, fans of Moody’s all-purpose seasoning can pick up Comfort Foods at 15 different Fresh Market stores in the region. The cookbook is also available at Borders bookstore at Thruway Shopping Center in Winston-Salem and online at Moody continues to expand his horizons. Moody is one of seven local chefs involved in performing cooking demonstrations as part of the BestHealth programs sponsored by Baptist Hospital. Moody said his cookbook debunks the myth that Southern cooking is unhealthy. During his intense study of Southern-style cookbooks, he decided to go in a different direction. Moody said 98 percent of the recipes in Comfort Foods include baked, broiled, pan-fried or grilled entr’es using olive oil. Moody said spent countless hours making sure the cookbook would be user-friendly. All of the book’s recipes — from minestrone soup to oven-roasted squash medley to rotisserie tilapia — can be prepared in 45 minutes or less. There’s even a hotline readers can call and speak to Moody himself for cooking advice. There’s are many good reasons to buy a cookbook authored by a local chef, the least of which is access to great advice on how to make the best Southern cooking with the right all-purpose spice.

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Local chef BarryMoody delivered his penne pasta vegetable medley dish with boiledshrimp to the YES! Weekly offices last week. (photos by Keith T. Barber).