Why Amanda Elliott.
It seems as though we have a theme going. It also seems as though these “Inspirations” are much less inspirational to you the reader than they may have initially been intended. In stead, they have become verbal descriptions of who we are as a business, and as a family. While not exactly the intent I had when making this page, I’m finding them selfishly satisfying. Hopefully you find them, at the very least, grin-worthy.
This episode, was inspired by the Feast 50 Awards. For those of you who haven’t voted, or have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, Feast Magazine is currently accepting votes for a variety of Food Industry related categories, from Chef of the Year to Best Butcher. If you haven’t seen or haven’t voted, don’t worry, there will be a link at the end of this; it’s also not pertinent to our story. For now, just play along.
So, as you ALL know, Feast Magazine is currently accepting votes for the Feast 50 Awards. Every day I see ads from local food spots promoting their nominees. Today, it made me feel bad. Today, I felt like I wasn’t doing my job, not only as an employer but as a friend. My good friend, who also happens to be one of the most incredible cooks I’ve ever known, is nominated in the category of Rising Star. I’ve mentioned it once and only once. This, is not ok.
Amanda Elliott, or @rusticsupper as many of you may know her, is a fellow Townie. Like most of our cook-friends, Amanda left Columbia to find her culinary voice. She found her second home in New York City, completing her culinary training and creating a very successful Catering and Personal Chef business. I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly unique some of her ventures were, but buy her a glass of whiskey and I bet she’ll tell you some crazy stories (ask her about the subway service). Nonetheless, much to my betterment, and just like the rest of us, she found her way back to our home town.
- This is where our cryptic title takes shape -
I was working an event, at a facility where Amanda had also been working. We hadn’t met yet, so I was shamelessly snooping through a bin of mise en place neatly and meticulously date-labeled; my OCD was quite pleased. I found a quart container marked “Carrot Top Pesto,” and did what any other self-loathing cook would do…grabbed a spoon and helped myself. Dwamn….(a little secret about cooks..we judge each other at first bite..harsh but fair, that’s our motto). This bite, judged harshly and fairly, gave me baby giraffe knees (that’s a good thing). First off, I was excited to see a pesto made from carrot tops. This told me I was dealing at least with a cook that didn’t always color inside the lines. It also told me she was creative, technically proficient, and passionate about her craft. To put it bluntly, I was intrigued. Some time passed after this first bite, but eventually we connected.
I cooked with Amanda for about 13 minutes before I knew she was someone I wanted to work with. Here’s the thing about cooks, we all want to be the best, it’s In our nature. We work long hours, sometimes for laughable pay, simply to see that exact moment when the corners of our diner’s mouths take that turn north. We want to take all the ideas flying around in our heads and materialize them on a plate so accurately that the people eating them can’t help but smile. It’s like crack (again, Mom, I’ve never tried crack).
We all love it when they smile, and we all want to be the best at it. Another little secret about cooks, is that we all also simultaneously care nothing for who is “best". We all understand how subjective it is, and none of us actually care. If you want to know who the best cooks in town are, check their dining room. Better yet, check their bar. Best yet, check their bar on a random week night. If you see other cooks, you can bet you’re in the right place for a food experience.
The real point is that we don’t care who you think is best, we care that you have a choice. That’s what excites me about Columbia, we have choices. We have a LOT of choices.. What does all of this have to do with Amanda, you say?? In that first 13 minutes, I knew that even if I couldn’t work with her, that my home town would be ever better having her in it. That’s the type of talent she displays on her worst day.
Amanda Elliott is not just a Rising Star, she IS the star. There are so many cooks in this town that I respect, admire, and learn from every day, but I can say that Amanda Elliott is undoubtably the best of them. Before you go thinking that I’m biased, and of course I am, let me explain..
Ben Parks, JoshTheButcher (I promised I’d only call him by his IG name), Adam Wells-Morgan, Craig Cyr, Mike Odette, Levi Grantham, Kiel Herman, Kimber Dean, Brook Harlan, Anthony Schmidt, and a number of others are cooks that I look up to and respect. These people are taking the town I love from a steakhouse-loving midwest college town, and pushing it ever closer to our own little midwest metropolis. Ten years ago, you couldn’t get an eighth of the quality and technically advanced food that you can get so easily today, and it is absolutely a result of the hard work of these cooks. If you care about good food, and you care about your community, and you see one of these cooks around town..stop them, shake their hand, and say “thank you.” Ok, that may be a bit dramatic, but hopefully you get the point. These people are responsible for the creation of new jobs, new industries, and new families in our community. Ask Clay Stem from Stem to Table, or Emily from Three Creeks about these cooks and their effect on their businesses. Visit Bill and Brittany Sullivan, their pigs, their goats, and most importantly their kids. Ask them what effect these cooks have had on their lives. There are numerous other local producers that have started and maintained businesses that are reliant on the food culture in our community. If you even periodically visit the Columbia Farmer’s Market you can’t help but notice how much it has grown and with it it’s variety. It’s just another lovely bi-product of these artisans burying their roots in our town. Which brings me back to Amanda. And the whole “…IS the star” thing.
Here’s a quick synopsis of a day in the life of Amanda Elliott. She’s a mom, with a beautiful little daughter. She maintains a significant following on social media, posting mouth-watering content daily. She authors rusticsupper.com, an eye-gasming compilation of pictures, recipes, and industry knick-knacks. She contributes to a number of media publications, like Inside Columbia Magazine. She volunteers her time to local organizations involved in community building. She volunteers at the Columbia Area Career Center. And, oh yeah, she designs clothing and kitchen attire. That’s a day in the head of this crazy little fire cracker, and a slow day at that. Most importantly, she spends every single day thinking of how to build more and more relationships throughout our town and surrounding community. Her whole existence revolves around family and community. You may be thinking that this is a larger than average load for a food service professional, or even a normal human, but that doesn’t even include the true reason I believe she is the best of us in this town. Not even close.
All you have to do is take a look at her social media feed and you’ll see that her eye sets her apart from the rest. Every cook struggles to take the visions in our heads and manifest them accurately on a plate. Amanda succeeds where so many of us fail. I’ve never worked with someone who composes a plate like her. I’ve never experienced someone take an idea and conduct mental origami on it. She will take an idea that seems so classic and untouchable, and mold it into something so unique.
Her style is rooted heavily in classic preparations.
Her plating is simple and also complex.
You’ll NEVER catch her placing a piece of food at the center of a plate..I think it’s her secret love affair with ceramics.
Not one of her plates reflect an ounce of symmetry.
She doesn’t like conventional beauty, and she is anything but basic, but if you like complex flavors and masterful technique she’s your huckleberry. (Not sure but I think this makes me Wyatt Earp..)
To sum up this rant, as I’m sure she’s already pissed at me for bringing this much constant focus on her, I think you should all vote for Amanda Elliott as Feast 50’s Rising Star. I think you should follow her on Instagram and Facebook @rusticsupper. I think you should spend some time on rusticsupper.com. I think you should read her recipes in Inside Columbia Magazine. I think you should join us at one of our Sunday Suppers so you can put her masterpieces in your food holes.
Mostly, I just hope you get the chance to meet her, or even luckier that you should get to know her. You will undoubtedly, as we are, be forever better because of it.
Here's the link to vote!!!!!!!