Blog :: 10-2019

Heart & Soul: Meet Canyon Kitchen's New Executive Chef

Chef Ken Naron is no stranger to the kitchen, particularly Lonesome Valley's Canyon Kitchen, located in Sapphire Valley. Having served as Sous Chef, or second in command, for the last two years under Chef Adam Hayes, Chef Ken’s new role as Chef de Cuisine or Executive Chef will breathe fresh life into the traditions emanating from this highly respected farm-to-table restaurant. Patiently working his way up the ranks during nearly twenty years of culinary experience, he has achieved an impressive resumé. And while he looks great on paper through his culinary accomplishments, it is his Louisiana heritage along with his magnetic personality that will bring a fresh heart and soul to Canyon Kitchen’s seasonal debut.
As a kid, if he wasn’t on his skateboard, he was getting the cultural education of living off the land in the bayou. He was unaware at the time that this down-home training would shape him for his culinary path and current role. “Although my passion for cooking was realized later, I was always involved with the gathering process and gained an intense appreciation for the land.” Steeped within his memory are happy times spent hunting, trapping, and fishing with his grandfather. Harvesting from the family garden, they ate seasonally in the days when the term “farm-to-table” was not yet a culinary trend. They ate whatever they caught or grew. It was Ken’s Creole-Irish grandmother who would spend hours creating spontaneous yet traditional dishes from their bounty. He recalls carefully watching her preparations and waiting patiently for her mouthwatering plates to land on the family table. He was always impressed with her ability to pay homage to the land and craft food that radiated passion.
When Ken’s teenage aspirations to be a professional skateboarder fizzled, he soon found his next step as a dishwasher to earn money to buy his first car. What he quickly discovered was a fascination for the restaurant life, particularly in the kitchen. The energy, the creativity, the camaraderie, and enthusiasm drew him in, and he soon found himself working under such notable chefs as Tom Wolfe and James Beard award-winning Chef Gary Danko. As a mentor, Gary Danko wielded a great influence on Ken’s career while he worked at Danko’s Relais & Chateaux restaurant in San Francisco. Ken was encouraged by Danko to pay attention to the finer details. Aside from learning how to best manage a kitchen team, he was taught culinary and kitchen secrets that became a turning point in his path and gave him the tools to become a truly great head chef.
Now taking the helm at Canyon Kitchen, Chef Ken and his team introduced an expanded tasting menu, offering more choices of Canyon Kitchen’s signature menu items and incorporating new twists to past presentations. Gracing the menu is gastronomy influenced by Ken’s Creole roots, as well as Mexican and Asian infusions. Thoughtful and inventive, Ken draws inspiration from around the world and the local land. His vision is clear on striking a balance in his culinary creations by marrying flavorful spices with seasonal ingredients. Canyon Kitchen’s practice of using local ingredients from sustainable suppliers along with fruits and vegetables harvested from their own garden will continue to serve as the basis for Chef Ken’s prix fix menu. New features include pasture-raised Lady Edison pork and farm-raised bison from Carolina Bison. You might find these dishes imbued with essences of fresh chamomile and coriander that are new to the garden this season, while heirloom squash, Seminole pumpkin seeds, arugula, and cauliflower with touches of radish and nasturtium brighten the plates. 
Above and beyond everything else, Chef Ken is all about making his guests happy. “It’s important that the food is flavorful and balanced with every bite,” says Ken. “Our guests can expect an elevated dining experience.” Creative gastronomy guided by Ken’s heart and soul will be the driving force behind his authentic cuisine. If you haven’t managed to visit Canyon Kitchen this season, make sure to make your reservation soon! Not only will you enjoy your experience, you will love getting to know Ken as he meets and greets.  

About Canyon Kitchen

Located in the scenic Lonesome Valley community in Cashiers, North Carolina, Canyon Kitchen is a seasonal restaurant featuring exquisite dishes in a relaxed setting. The nightly prix fixed menus utilize fresh, seasonal ingredients from the restaurant’s own garden and other local food sources, including Sunburst Trout Farms, Brasstown Beef, and Looking Glass Creamery, to name a few. At Canyon Kitchen, guests enjoy the local flavors of North Carolina while looking upon the thousand-foot granite cliffs and lush forests. Situated in a craftsman-style barn, Canyon Kitchen’s interiors include traditional post-and-beam architecture, stacked stone fireplaces and sliding barn doors throughout allowing guests to take advantage of the crisp mountain air. For more information, visit www.lonesomevalley.com.

South Pacific Escape

Welcomed by stringed instruments, Fijian lyrics, and bright smiles, you immediately feel the tropical embrace of Royal Davui. The private island resort located in the Beqa Lagoon is a sanctuary of lush land and seascapes bottled into a curated rendezvous that allows time to disappear and invigorates your human experience. 
Sipping morning coffee in the warm splash pool overlooking a spectacle of blue water begins each day. Each villa inspires a no-technology zone, with an open-air deck, inviting sun or shaded lounge chairs, and a tub for two—perfect for stargazing with the one you love. 
The perfectly transparent turquoise waters offer some of the best snorkeling in the world. Filled with live coral and breathtakingly beautiful fish species, the scenery mesmerizes guests. Low-tide paddleboarding or kayak jaunts will allow a view from above where deep blue starfish can’t escape your eye. Raise a flag poolside for your cocktail of choice to be delivered, or indulge in the refreshing aromas and inviting touch of the spa. 
The staff brings the resort to life; with only sixteen villas on the island, they all know your name and share their culture, allowing you to feel a part of something much bigger than yourself. The connection with others, yourself, and nature is the most special part of this Fijian escape from the everyday world. 
Each morning over breakfast, choose your lunch and dinner menu over the sound of crashing waves and the aroma of fresh flowers under the leaves of a one-hundred-year-old banyan tree. Culinary delights from the island chef include tuna cones with fresh wasabi, cucumber, and ginger or an incredible tuna caesar salad. Enjoy fried cassava root (a healthy alternative to french fries) and the catch of the day. Sweet offerings at the end of lunch and dinner are delightful with an innovative island twist. I was fond of the ice cream affogato drizzled with chocolate and dipped in espresso and coconut vodka. The detox smoothie offers a restorative zing with its mint and fresh ginger, while the spice of the kava-infused vodka bloody mary is a staple at 8 o'clock each morning. 
Don’t miss the kava experience with the locals. If you are lucky enough to be anointed Ratu (chief), the drinking of kava and singing could go on for hours. Kava root is harvested when it is around three years old. It is cured and ground into a fine powder that is diffused into room-temperature water and used in social gatherings in local villages. Travelers beware, it is a little more powerful than the average alcohol drink. 
Hermit crab racing will have you in deep anticipation to see if your chosen one will cross the line first, and cocktail hour is always a great time to converse with other guests from across the globe and the bartenders are always good for storytelling. 
We were fortunate enough to watch humpback whales and dolphins show off from the deck of our villa as we gazed at the edge of the horizon, watching the sun take its final bow as it kissed the sealine. The little moments of smiles and connection were truly life-changing, inspiring new ideas and mottos to live by. Your stay at Royal Davui allows you to relax, unwind, and tap into what matters most. 

/ Picnic on the sand cay. Exposed for only a few hours of the day, this stretch of sand, about the size of a football field, provides an afternoon you will never forget. At the edge of Beqa’s lagoon water break, you are surrounded by hues of blue from both the water and horizon—becoming your backdrop for a private picnic lunch for two. Land crabs play hide-and-seek, and fish leisurely swim by as you and your loved one spend a couple of hours on a deserted island. 

/ World War II Hike. Many people may not realize the history of Fiji during World War II. The island-hopping campaign brought 10,000 U.S. Marines on the ground in Fiji to look out for warships coming through the sea passage. A ten-minute boat ride across the waters from Royal Davui is a small village of approximately one hundred, where local guides will take you up a mountain to one of those lookout points. The hike is not for the faint of heart, yet the view is stunning. This was one of our favorite activities, as we were able to shake the hands of children at school, and see the villagers' lifestyles.

/ Day Trip to Suva. Pass villages and visit roadside makeshift stands to buy local fruits and vegetables, freshly caught fish, and straight-from-the-tree coconut water as you make the forty-five-minute drive to the capital city of Suva. The city is bustling with shops, parks, markets, and people. Its main port receives approximately 150 cruise ships a year and offers a perspective on city versus village living. Find souvenirs or try local fare, yet the must-see is the market. Filled with an endless selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, it rivals Pike’s Place in Seattle and the renowned spice markets of Mérida, Mexico. Its cleanliness and fresh pineapple will linger in my mind forever.

/ Deep Sea Fishing. If the urge bites you, take a local charter to the east side of the reef to challenge yourself with a mahi-mahi, marlin, skipjack, or a myriad of other fish. Guides will be happy to strap you in and help you reel in the big one. When you land your prized fish, snap a photo and then enjoy it on your dinner plate. If your sea legs are a little weak, be sure to pack a patch or Dramamine to get you through. 
 

How to Get Here:

From the States, take the direct Air Fiji flight from Los Angeles Airport (LAX) to Nadi International Airport on the mainland in Fiji. From here there are a few options. One, take a helicopter directly from the Domestic Terminal to Royal Davui Island. It is the fastest and most exhilarating way to get there. Second, have breakfast in the terminal, enjoy a Fiji Bitter at the domestic terminal, and wait for your small plane to take you to the airstrip where you will taxi to a dock and board the 30-minute boat ride to Royal Davui. Third, take a three-hour scenic drive from Nadi to the boat dock and cruise over to the island for your Royal Davui welcome greeting. 
 

Comments

  1. No comments. Be the first to comment.