[gentle music] - In this part of the world, when we talk about pears, we're not talking about Bartlett or Bosc or Anjou.
The pears we grow, we affectionately call hard pears or sand pears.
♪ ♪ - One, two, three, four.
- I'm Vivian, and I'm a chef.
My husband, Ben, and I were working for some of the best chefs in New York City, when my parents offered to help us open our own restaurant.
Of course, there was a catch.
We had to open this restaurant in eastern North Carolina where I grew up and said I would never return.
["Will You Return" by the Avett Brothers] - ♪ I wish you'd see yourself ♪ ♪ As beautiful as I see you ♪ all: ♪ Why can't you see yourself ♪ ♪ As beautiful as I see you ♪ - So this is my life.
Raising twins, living on my parents' farm and exploring the South one ingredient at a time.
Previously on "A Chef's Life"... We're going on a food truck tour.
- For, like, nine weeks.
- Nine weeks?
- [laughing] - This is your practice for your food truck.
- I'm trying to squirrel away all of this quality family time, because in a couple weeks, I'm gonna be on the road for a long, long, long time.
What happens next week?
What do y'all start?
- Are we gonna go to school today?
- No, you're gonna go on Monday.
Today's Friday, then we have Saturday and Sunday, and then we go on Monday.
And we're gonna have to get up really early in the morning.
- Because... - And you're gonna go to bed really early too.
- This is my new suitcase that Mommy got.
- For all our new-- our trips we're going on.
- All right, you want to go to the pear tree?
- Okay, we'll go.
- Where's the pear tree?
- The pear tree?
- The pear tree.
- It's across the road.
[gentle acoustic guitar music] ♪ ♪ Wow, look how many pears are on this thing.
So, Dad, this tree has been here... - That tree could be 90 years old.
- Is this rotten?
- It's been in the family well over 100 years.
- So John and I have been married 55 years, and I know it's been here that long, producing pears.
- It's incredible.
Look at this tree.
It doesn't hardly even have a trunk, and it has a hole all the way through the center.
You can see through it.
- It's amazing.
- It's amazing.
- Mom, can you help me?
- Pick pears?
♪ ♪ - This is so much fun.
- "The Giving Tree"?
It's like a giving tree, because it gives pears.
- You don't do anything to this tree, I'm assuming.
- It's Mother Nature, and Mother Nature took care of it.
- Hard pears are actually called Kieffer pears.
They're hard, like their nickname implies.
The flesh is kind of gritty and sandy.
The skin is thick and rough, and they're not particularly sweet.
I know you're dying to eat one.
- These pears are better than they look.
- They are.
[laughter] - Y'all are going to save these pears?
- We're gonna make pear preserves and also a pear relish to go on Tom Thumb.
- On the food truck.
- You're gonna take it out of town, I hear.
- No, but we're gonna do a little practice session at the farmers market.
I'll endorse that.
♪ ♪ [truck backing up alarm beeping] [thunder rumbling] - Look at that.
- Oh, my God.
- That's great.
- That's bigger than life.
- Oh, my God.
- How cool?
- [laughing] - This is so big.
- "Deep run roots."
- I've always been a person with a lot of ideas, but until recently, nobody paid any attention to my ideas.
Now people act on them.
This is incredible.
I cannot-- - Awesome.
- Oh, my God.
Can we get in?
- Yeah, I don't see why not.
- I'm dying to see.
[laughing] Oh, my God.
- What have you done?
- Oh, my God.
This is so scary.
♪ ♪ - [mouthing words] - Ben is very excited.
[laughter] ♪ ♪ I mean, this is like a real kitchen.
This is really incredible.
It is really big.
- It's huge.
It's like an RV.
♪ ♪ - Can I get anybody a Tom Thumb?
Banana mayonnaise sandwich?
[laughing] We're just nervous about driving it, for one.
- It drives great.
Oh, you're gonna love it.
A big box like this, in the wind?
♪ ♪ - It's exciting.
I mean, the kitchen is, like, a real kitchen.
I mean, I'm not worried about that part of it, really.
I'm worried about this, and getting where we need to go.
I hope this is not a bad idea.
A very expensive, bad idea.
♪ ♪ So we have a collection of pears.
I had these, which we picked from my parents' tree.
- So these are like the ones we have, which are similar.
These are the big ones from our cousin.
- Oh, wow.
That's--that is big.
- These are huge.
- I know about hard pears because we have a hard pear tree in our yard, but beyond that, I don't really know a whole lot.
There's not a whole lot to find on the Internet even, so I'm calling on somebody who's an expert.
So I'm here with Vera and David Cecelski.
When I think of historians, I think of someone, you know, reading in books and-- and transcribing history, but I really-- what I know of you is that you-- you do look to your roots for inspiration, and I admire that tremendously.
- Because I focus on one place, me and often my kids, Vera and her brother Guy, traveled with me from the time that they were barely out of diapers.
Wherever we went, we would explore the food as well as collect stories and that sort of thing.
- So we're gonna make pear preserves.
These are past their prime.
I picked them about two weeks ago.
They are from a tree on my family's farm that I think is about 100 years old, and I'm gonna let y'all take the reins.
♪ ♪ - When I was little, there were always pear preserves in my grandmother's pantry.
I learn how to do things when the people that used to do them for me die, or, I'm afraid, are about to pass.
- And I just can't imagine life without pear preserves.
So I--I didn't learn these from my grandmother.
I learned them from all the neighbors around us.
- 'Cause you didn't get to ask your grandmother.
You didn't... - That's right, I-- - You weren't paying attention at that point.
They're pear preserves, but for me, they're also a memory, a connection.
♪ ♪ - So how do I cut these?
- Halve them, and then take the core out of each side, and then usually leave them in quarters, is what we would do.
- Okay, so...
I'm gonna make a relish with these, so it'll have some sweetness.
- Sounds good.
- And it'll be a garnish for Tom Thumb.
- What made me think of that is that they're so-- they remind me of a vegetable because they're so hard.
So now we're gonna toss them with sugar, and then we'll let them sit overnight, and that'll pull some of the pear juice out of the pears so that, you know, we're gonna can them in syrup, and we won't have to add water or something to make that syrup.
We'll just be able to use, hopefully, just the juice that comes out of the pears themselves.
- How much sugar?
- We kind of go, to some degree, by taste and by feel.
- Okay, good.
Well, there's the sugar.
- But we do about a cup for every quart of pears.
- A cup for every quart.
- Yeah, there we go.
- Oh, really?
So we usually just-- yeah, take one of the jars that we're gonna use for canning.
♪ ♪ We usually just kind of toss them around.
They'll seem dry right now, but after they sit for a couple minutes or a few hours, they'll sit overnight.
- All right, so y'all did this step last night.
♪ ♪ - Remember, we didn't add any water.
It's amazing, isn't it?
- This is all from the pears.
- So are we talking about, like, medium heat here?
- Bring it up to start, so that they kind of come up to a boil or right below, and then turn 'em down some, so that they're not cooking too quickly.
♪ ♪ - They've turned a nice golden color.
- And they're kind of translucent.
- And they're kind of translucent.
What we want is essence of pear.
It almost tastes more like a pear than the pear tastes.
- You know?
- Like you've really brought out that distilled essence of pear.
♪ ♪ - Thank y'all.
This has been great.
I mean--and I wish that I had called on you earlier for your expertise and thoughtfulness and-- so expect to hear from me again.
- It was fun.
- Yeah, it was fun.
- Been a lot of fun.
- Thank you.
♪ ♪ Not everybody's sign comes in an El Camino.
- You want to take this thing down or what?
- I'm experiencing a lot of milestones this year.
I'm publishing a book.
Our restaurant turned ten, and the sign that's greeted me every morning for the past ten years is crumbling, and there's a family of wasps living in the back of it.
We got to get a new sign.
- Do I need a hazmat suit?
All right, you ready?
- Holy crap.
- Spray, Ben.
What are you doing?
You want to see it?
It's laying in the back of the truck.
Are you ready for sure?
- I'm ready.
Look at that!
- Oh, my God.
- Oh, wow.
- I wanted you to see it while it's, like, hanging up.
Let's put it up.
- I think it looks great.
You did a great job.
- Let's put it up first.
- And then make up your mind.
'Cause you're not gonna hurt my feelings either way.
- I think it looks cool.
- All right, it's gonna take, like, ten minutes to get it up.
- And it might be crooked the first time.
♪ ♪ - So we need to season this.
You're gonna rub it with oil and then heat it up, and then we'll do that again.
- All right.
- We're getting ready for our practice run tomorrow on the food truck.
We're gonna serve Tom Thumb with a hard pear relish and turnip roots and greens.
We're gonna serve a Mom's chicken and rice, and we're gonna serve shrimp stew with poached eggs.
♪ ♪ - Does that look greasy enough?
- I think so.
And what'll happen is, like, when it gets in the oven, it'll absorb it, and it'll look as if it dries out, and then you'll do that again.
What I'm trying to do is kind of do a cross between a relish and a preserve.
Something that has both sweetness and acidity.
♪ ♪ So I'm starting it by slicing the pears really thin.
I slice mine much thinner than David and Vera, and I'm gonna macerate them with sugar, and ideally I would let these macerate overnight, but for me it's really more important that I'm able to cook my relish today, so I'm slicing them thin, which will allow the liquid to pull out of them faster than if they were thicker.
♪ ♪ So I've got onions and red bell peppers here, and the onions are there because you can't have a relish without onions.
So I'm brining the onions and the bell peppers, and they're gonna be a salty counterpoint to this sweet pear counterpoint.
When we load the truck today, we can get on there and make sure everything works.
- You getting fired up?
Do you have a walk-in in the truck?
Theoretically, we won't need to be storing a whole lot of perishables.
But all of this is theoretical.
♪ ♪ So I'm gonna transfer all of my pears and their syrup to this pan.
At this stage, I'm gonna add mustard seeds, both yellow and brown.
I'm gonna add turmeric, which is gonna give it a really bold orange color.
And then my coriander seeds.
Coriander seeds are the seed from a cilantro plant, but to me they don't taste like cilantro at all.
They have a lemony, bright pop.
I'm also gonna add some salt, because I can't just add salt in the end, or it'll just taste as if I added salt in the end.
All right, so I'm gonna drain off my onions and my bell peppers, and that brine is gonna help them keep their crisp texture.
♪ ♪ And now for my vinegar.
If it works, we will end up with our pears, bell peppers, and onions that still have texture, and they'll all be kind of suspended in this sweet and tart and a little bit spicy liquid, and hopefully it'll be a great foil for my Tom Thumb.
♪ ♪ - Stop!
Close your eyes.
I don't want to see tears either.
Walk this way.
Keep in mind, it's super shiny.
It will--no, it's going to not be as shiny.
- [laughs] I think it looks great.
- It's like getting a-- what would you say?
Like, your hair's shorter now.
- It is, yeah.
- It looks good, but at first it was a shock.
- Oh, yeah, it took me a while to get used to it.
- I think it's a more substantial, prettier-looking sign than-- - Than the termite-infested one that was up there?
- Yeah, than the other one.
- You have to get used to it, though, you know?
- Yeah, you know, everything new is-- - After awhile, you'll come in here, and it'll look-- if it wasn't up there, it wouldn't even look normal.
The building wouldn't even look normal.
Well, that's what I'm going through right this second, you know?
But the other one looked awful, at this point, so we had to do something.
This sign is gonna have to grow on me.
The problem is, is that every single person who comes to eat at Chef & the Farmer at this point takes their picture in front of our sign, so I'm worried there's gonna be quite a few shocked and disappointed selfie-takers.
♪ ♪ - What are you making?
- I'm making a hard pear relish.
Are you gonna be at the farmers market tomorrow?
- What are you doing at the farmers market?
- So we're testing out the food truck.
- That's going on the book tour with you?
The truck is?
- Yeah, that is the--literally the vehicle for the tour.
- Are you gonna be driving it?
- I'm gonna drive it some, I'm sure.
I mean, Casey can't drive it the whole time.
He's responsible for the success of the food truck.
- Blame it on him.
♪ ♪ So I think we're almost there.
See how my pears have held together?
And they're this nice translucent... That's not something you see every day.
So we're gonna let it mellow overnight, and the flavors will kind of get to know each other, and I think it's gonna be great tomorrow.
♪ ♪ - Special delivery.
You want a knife to open it?
- Uh, yeah.
I guess so.
[sniffles] [crying] It looks better than I thought it was going to.
[laughs] I gave it everything that I had, and to have it here is... Really powerful.
And if people don't like it, then I can throw it at them, 'cause it's really frickin' heavy.
Well, I think that's probably the most I'm gonna sit down and enjoy this for a while.
We have a very long road ahead of us.
♪ ♪ Hi, it's Vivian Howard.
We're-- you know, we're trying to crank up this food truck, and we're-- we can't seem to do anything.
- Yeah, stress levels are running pretty high too.
All right, well, look, just let me do this, and then if this doesn't work, I'll just bypass it.
- I don't know why this part is so hard.
- The kitchen part's the hard part?
- It's like, a bunch of people trying to light an oven.
This is embarrassing.
♪ ♪ - Looks lit.
- All right, that should be lit.
- Looks lit.
- All right, let go of it.
We'll see if it stays lit.
- I guess it's full.
- All right, man your battle stations.
- You might run out of gas before you get there.
♪ ♪ I'm very relieved that our first food truck event is only about a hundred yards away, and we only have to drive across the street.
So once you get one Tom Thumb seared, I'll plate it for you, so you'll plate the Tom Thumb.
I'll plate the chicken and rice, and Casey will plate the shrimp stew.
So see how-- I'm really very pleased with how this turned out.
See how they're translucent, but they kept their shape and all that?
- So cool.
♪ ♪ - Hey.
Got your eggs.
- Thank you, thank you.
- All right.
- How are you?
- Doing good.
- What do you think of this?
- I like it.
Got it going on.
- It's a great way for people to taste a lot of the dishes that have recipes in the book, and then what we do use it for going forward, who knows?
I mean, probably some catering and things like that.
- Have you ever worked in a restaurant?
- Oh, okay, great.
- So you know how inappropriate people are in restaurants?
- I know that.
- That's all I need to know.
- She's gonna get a great education.
This book tour is not gonna be about me driving the food truck around the South, then cooking for everybody and signing books.
It's gonna require an entire team.
We have Casey, who's the "chef de food truck," Holley, who's organizing the tour, Madison, who's assisting Holley, and me, who's signing books and kissing babies, basically.
Then every week, two people from either Chef & the Farmer or the Boiler Room are gonna come and meet us on the road and bring food that's been prepped back home at VHQ.
This is complicated stuff.
- It's 11:30 now.
- We're ready.
- Can we open the window?
♪ ♪ - All right, Vivian, stick your head in there.
♪ ♪ - Okay, everybody, you can line up for the truck now if you're hungry.
- Can I try the Tom Thumb, please?
- Yeah, of course.
- Hey, hey.
Wow, you got to belly up to get to this bar.
- Why don't you have shrimp stew, since you're such a fish stew guy?
- Yeah, yeah, shrimp stew's fine.
- What's got the eggs in it?
Anything got eggs in it?
- The shrimp stew.
- That's what I want.
- See how she does.
[laughing] - Okay, thank you.
- Oh, wow, that looks great.
- Make sure everybody gets at least two, hopefully three shrimp.
- Chicken and rice, because I got to live with your mama.
[laughs] - I got my two chicks.
One--one chick all day.
♪ ♪ - She's not gonna know what this stuff is on top, but... - [laughing] - I'll do the Tom Thumb.
- Hey, Jamie.
How are you?
How are you?
- In restaurant terms, I guess this would be like a soft opening: friends and family come, eat the food, experience the experience.
I think these people will be kind, but I hope they tell me what they think.
So that's what that's gonna look like, Leslie.
- Thank you.
- Here you go.
♪ ♪ - That's good.
- I know.
I can't stop eating it.
It's got a sweet, spicy taste that's really good.
- Thank you.
- I wanted the Tom Thumb, but I didn't dare get the Tom Thumb and not get chicken and rice, because I have to-- I have to live with her.
- You know what I love?
When I sweat right here.
- Yeah, and it drips down?
- I just feel so sexy.
- How's it going?
- All right.
- Hey, darling.
- What are you getting?
- I'm trying the Tom Thumb.
- Oh, good, good.
♪ ♪ - What is that?
This ain't my kind of food.
[laughter] - What's wrong with it?
- Can I get a bib?
[laughter] ♪ ♪ - Well, that wasn't so bad.
I mean, we'll see what it's like when we're on the road, doing it day after day for hundreds of people in unfamiliar places.
We got this.
It'll be an adventure.
That's my story, and I'm sticking with it.
What do you think about this, Leslie?
How do you think it went?
- I think it went really good.
It went-- it was even fun, I'd say.
- It was actually fun.
♪ ♪ - For more information on "A Chef's Life," visit pbs.org/food.
"A Chef's Life" is available on DVD.