In The Kitchen With Kevin McCauley

In The Kitchen with Gateway: Chef Kevin McCauley

When we initially decided to do the series “In the Kitchen with Gateway”, I imagined myself standing behind chefs in a kitchen recording their experiences while they cooked up one of their signature dishes. After finishing the entrée, we would sit down and chat about his or her career and share our love for food, because who doesn’t love food?

However, this time, I found myself getting lost once again. After Waze failed me and I made a couple of phone calls, I found myself turning into a place called the Dirt Farmers, a local farmers market. To be honest, I thought I was still in the wrong place but I was able to confirm the location from the owner’s son mowing the front lawn.

Grabbing my camera and notebook I headed towards the house ready to meet the one and only Chef Kevin McCauley. I was greeted by Chef Kevin McCauley and Joe Zawacki, owner of the Dirt Farmers. After being introduced to the Dirt Farmers and a quick overview of their services, we headed into the backyard and onto the farm instead to the kitchen inside.

Playing hopscotch on the grass to avoid the mud puddles, I soon realized that my poor low rising flats would not make it through this appointment. As we headed towards the garden, colorful signs of fresh produce and herbs began to rise from the greenery. Chef Kevin went right to the freshly grown produce and plucked the brightest and biggest tomato. He began to talk about how lucky he was to have such a valuable cooking resource right around the corner from his house and what he could make with the fruit. That’s when I started to realize why I was here and not in an actual kitchen. This was where Kevin’s cooking process started. He was in his kitchen.  

Walking through the Dirt Farm with Kevin, he navigated with ease in his flip flops while I struggled to keep my composure and footing. As he gave me a tour of the grounds, he spoke fluently about what he would do with the fresh produce he collected. He spoke highly of the Dirt Farmers and how he felt at home every time he visited. It definitely showed. From showing no signs of hesitation when going inside the chicken coop to pick eggs to make his favorite pasta to the way the goats and pig of the farm flocked to him, anyone could tell this wasn’t his first walk in the farm.

As we sat at the picnic table with ice cold mason jars filled with water, Chef Kevin began to tell me about his career and his passion for cooking. It all started around twenty years ago when Kevin was a dishwasher for a restaurant. He laughs a little as he reminisces about peering through the dishracks looking at the cooks and thinking that their job was a lot easier than his. Over time the peers through the dishrack became interactions with the cooks which ultimately led to Kevin’s transition from a dishwasher to an apprentice to the chef he is today.

From the beehive to the picnic table Kevin discussed his passion for local and fresh food and how farm to table produces food that allows the quality speak for itself compared to crowding subpar quality food with additional ingredients to make up for the taste.   

While Chef Kevin learned a lot in the kitchen from other cooks and chefs, he regards his family roots as his true inspiration. Watching his mother serve up large meals for him and his siblings, he feels a connection to southern dishes such a grits and fried chicken. Speaking about his roots and family, Kevin quickly reminded me that cooking isn’t always about the food produced, but the bond made in doing so.

When asked how he would describe his style of cooking, Kevin stated, without much hesitation, “As simple as possible”. He then proceeds to describe to me how ingredients should speak for themselves; that quality always outweighs quantity.”

Chef Kevin McCauley and Dirt Farmers, thanks for letting Gateway in your kitchen!