Two questions, many answers

So here you are..

Posted 5/29/20

Chef Gray Brooks owns three eateries: Littler, Pizzeria Toro and my favorite Durham restaurant — Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter, located at 202 N. Corcoran St.

I think it’s because Jack …

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Two questions, many answers

So here you are..

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Chef Gray Brooks owns three eateries: Littler, Pizzeria Toro and my favorite Durham restaurant — Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter, located at 202 N. Corcoran St.

I think it’s because Jack Tar isn’t just one restaurant.

It’s a brunch place with really good eggs Benedict, scrumptious pancakes and plenty of savory dishes. And made-to-order doughnuts — ‘nuff said.

It’s a diner, with classic dishes like cheeseburgers and Cobb salad, but then they take a hard left with dishes like mussels and Piedmontese Ravioli Plin full of veal and pork served with brown butter with sage.

And tucked into a quiet corner is a small, intimate bar that brings to mind the Rat Pack — the Vegas years. The drinks are carefully curated and delicious and the bar food is perfect for the last stop on a pub crawl. The French Silk pie will be the best you’ve ever put into your own pie hole.

Chef Gray is also very generous and loves to talk food. So, I asked him my two pandemic food questions:

Q: When it’s going to be a while before you make a grocery run, what’s your favorite pantry meal?

A: Dried ramen noodle cacio e pepe

Q: What’s your best food-related activity for staving off familial boredom?

A: Making pizza at home with your kids with anything goes toppings.

In a twist worthy of Hitchcock, another chef I reached out to sent me step-by-step directions for a homemade pizza party.

Chef Elizabeth Karmel is a Southern girl and barbecue expert. Barbecue and the grilling circuit has been a man’s world since Ug came out of the cave and threw the first mammoth steak onto the flames. Chef Elizabeth broke through that sooty, smoky glass ceiling.

In addition to the pizza party how-to, Karmel answered my two questions:

For favorite pantry meal: “My favorite pantry meals are Okra Gumbo with chicken and andouille and Brunswick stew,” she told me. “My pantry includes my freezer and Goya sells a very good bag of frozen okra if you can’t get fresh, or you need to save it for a rainy day — like we are going through right now.”

And for staving off boredom?
“I have two food-related fun activities. Recently, a friend of mine got a pellet smoker and he had never smoked anything before. We both chose the same food to smoke and I walked him through the process via FaceTime.

“Another fun activity is a Make Your Own Grilled Pizza Party!,” she said. “I wrote ‘Pizza on the Grill’ with my good friend Bob Blumer, and as the weather gets warmer, this is a fun activity that turns dinner into entertainment.”

Elizabeth Karmel & Bob Blumer’s Make Your Own Pizza Party:

For 8 - 12

Create three pizza-making stations on a surface where guests can roll out their dough, like a kitchen counter. Equip each station with:

• Tongs

• Polenta or Grits

• Rolling pin

• Olive oil + brush for oiling dough

• Pizza peel

• Dough for individual pizzas

The day of the party, separate dough into balls about the size of softballs. Remove dough from refrigerator at least an hour before grilling to bring to room temperature. For large groups or unruly friends, consider rolling out and oiling dough or grilling the crusts in advance.

Set up your toppings buffet style, in individual bowls, on a table or kitchen counter. Prepare at least 2-3 kinds of each topping — sauces, meats, vegetables, and cheeses — to inspire your guests’ creativity.

Let guests use the same peel to roll out the dough, take it to and from the grill, and use as a base to slice and serve pizza.

DESSERT: Nothing says dessert like a dessert pizza!

Thanks for your time. Contact me at

Chef Gray Brooks

Chef Gray Brooks


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