May 2012 Issue
May 2012 Digest
A French chef becomes a U.S. citizen; herbs take the spotlight in Gahanna; a sports-car team heads to its hometown track.
Herbs are the quintessential multi-taskers: They soothe the mind, body and spirit, add zing to meals and serve as a delight to the senses.
On May 12, Gahanna will honor these aromatic plants at the 21st annual Herb Day, an event offering myriad ways to discover the magic wrought by these marvels of nature.
“The subject of herbs crosses all ages and demographics,” says Karen Eylon, executive director of the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau. “There’s the whole culinary scene that’s growing strong throughout Ohio, which includes the pursuit of flavorful, fresh, wonderful foods enhanced by herbs. And there are the wellness initiatives all of us as a nation are working to embrace, which incorporate the use of aromatherapy and backyard herb gardening.”
Clearly, no matter what enthusiasts are seeking, they’ll find it in Gahanna: In 1972, thanks to the diligence of resident Jane Geroux, the town was designated the Herb Capital of Ohio. An avid herbalist, Geroux was captivated by the gardens maintained by the Gahanna Historical Society. She researched the more than 25 varieties residents grew around town, then traveled to the Ohio Statehouse. Armed with loaves of her homemade bread slathered with herb butter, Geroux convinced legislators to acknowledge Gahanna’s role in promoting the many ways these vibrant plants could be put to good use.
That tradition continues today. Visitors to this year’s Herb Day will be able to follow a new Herbal Trail to partake of refreshments from local eateries, tour neighborhood herb gardens and discover the secrets of cooking with herbs.
Additionally, 133 varieties of herbs — ranging from artemisia to yarrow — will be available for purchase.
“Who knew there were so many kinds of basil?” adds Eylon with a smile, marveling at the fact that seven types will be showcased.
She’s particularly gratified to see the return of families who’ve made Herb Day a not-to-be-missed tradition.
“So many children in this country don’t understand where fruits, vegetables and herbs come from,” Eylon reflects. “To be able to hear parents explain that the chives they take home will be planted in the back yard as part of their garden and served in scrambled eggs on Sunday is a great lesson.
“It proves,” she adds, “that a little knowledge can go a long way.” — Linda Feagler
The May Herb Day Festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Creekside Park & Plaza, 123 Mill St., Gahanna 43230. For more information, call 614/418-9114 or visit visitgahanna.com.
Race to Win
Loyal friends and family have cheered for Michael Shank Racing, a professional sports-car team based in Pataskala, for the past 20 years.
But next month, when Shank’s car lines up for the start of the EMCO Gears Classic, a roar of approval will be heard from many new fans: In January, the Thornville resident became a full-fledged celebrity when his Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian team won the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona. One of the most prestigious class races, the competition takes an intense, grueling, 24 hours to complete. Now, with the Daytona win in his pocket, Shank is preparing for the EMCO contest, part of the GRAND-AM Road Racing Rolex Sports Car Series, which begins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington on June 8.
“Mid-Ohio is home base,” Shank says, noting that the race is one of 13 in the series, which includes a stop at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. “To win in Ohio would be phenomenal.”
And, he adds, the Buckeye State is the ideal location for his business because it is a manageable distance to many of the series’ tracks.
Daytona Prototype racing “is the top rung of sports car racing in the United States,” explains Shank, who admits, however, that the GRAND-AM series, established in 2003, is not as visible as some others.
“The series really hasn’t been around that long, so we are still building on the people who watch and follow us,” says Shank. “It’s like NASCAR in the mid-1980s. We are literally building a fan base one fan at a time.”
His wife, Marybeth, co-owns Michael Shank Racing and handles the day-to-day operations. He credits her with keeping him on track.
“Marybeth is a tough lady. I need that because I’m a racer and I will spend every dime put in front of me on racing. She won’t let that happen,” says Shank, who also enjoys boating and wake surfing. — Jill Sell
There was no particular reason why Jean-Robert de Cavel chose 2011 to become a U.S. citizen. The celebrated chef and owner of Jean-Robert’s Table in Cincinnati, who came to the United States from Lille, France, in 1986, says simply, “It was time.” After 10 months studying the nation’s constitution, history and geography, de Cavel passed the citizenship exam and took the Oath of Allegiance on December 9.
Cavel, 52, has lived in the U.S. for nearly half his life, and sought citizenship for a variety of reasons, including the right to vote.
Arriving in New York City 26 years ago to become executive chef of La Regence at the Hotel Plaza Athenee, de Cavel quickly embraced U.S. traditions — from cooking trends to holidays. It’s no surprise that de Cavel, a food enthusiast, says his favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.
“[I enjoy] family and friends getting together,” he says. “Regardless of the household income, the food is still similar on every table.”
The chef has made his mark at several restaurants, including Cincinnati’s renowned Maisonette, which closed in 2005. He has been a four-time semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Awards in the Great Lakes category, and has been involved in many charitable efforts. In 2002, he received a merit award from the French government.
“They realized I give a piece of France to Cincinnati,” says de Cavel, who enjoys French pastimes including frequent trips to the market and having wine with nearly every meal — “except breakfast,” he laughs.
What’s next for the chef? A two-kitchen “accelerator,” an incubator-like operation that will allow aspiring restaurateurs to try new concepts, opening in the Short and Vine district in November. Diners will be able to sample creations indoors and, in fair weather, at outdoor tables. — Christina Ipavec