September 21, 2019

Chef Ben Vaughn Brings his Talents to the Farm Table

Chef Ben Vaughn is a James Beard-nominated chef who has graced Memphis with his culinary skills for years. Recently, Chef Ben Vaughn opened a second restaurant in Midtown Memphis, called Au Fond Farmtable. Au fond is a French term, explains Chef Ben Vaughn, that is pronounced like the English “Oh faun” with the “n” left off. This idiomatic phrase means “essentially” or “at bottom.”

What Chef Ben Vaughn wants to bring to his Midtown niche is the relaxed and rustic feel of agricultural life. In addition, Chef Ben Vaughn pairs that informal atmosphere with the same delightful and carefully prepared menu that his patrons have come to expect. Unlike Chef Ben Vaughn’s dinner-only restaurant, Grace, Au Fond Farmtable focuses on brunch and lunch offerings. But Chef Ben Vaughn assures his customers that Au Fond Farmtable is not always idle in the evenings. On Monday nights only, at Au Fond Farmtable, Chef Ben Vaughn presents a family style dinner. What’s more, says Chef Ben Vaughn, family dinner Mondays have no corkage fee, so patrons are invited to bring their own wine and enjoy.

Chef Ben Vaughn’s Au Fond Farmtable is in a large airy storefront for shopping, dining, or relaxing with friends and coffee. For Chef Ben Vaughn, Au Fond Farmtable must bring forward all of the best things about a relaxed cafe atmosphere while still providing more culinary range than any cafe. In addition to Au Fond Farmtable’s affordable gourmet menu featuring $6 – $10 food items and an inviting atmosphere, Chef Ben Vaughn has prepared a retail nook in this new establishment. Here, says Chef Ben Vaughn, patrons can purchase some of the finest locally produced artisan foods in west Tennessee. Au Fond Farmtable’s retail counter, Chef Ben Vaughn stocks fine cheeses, fresh baked bread, and a wide variety of imported treats that are sure to bring shoppers back for more.

Au Fond Farmtable
Cooper-Young next to Grace Restaurant
938 South Cooper Street
Memphis, TN, 38104

Chef Ben Vaughn Presents a Brief History of Risotto – Chef Ben Vaughn

Chef Ben Vaughn Presents a Brief History of Risotto

No one is really sure how rice arrived in Italy. Chef Ben Vaughn has done some research and says that rice was likely introduced to the Italian nation in the 14th century, probably from Spain. There are of course other theories, notes Chef Ben Vaughn, including China’s Silk Road trade. One thing that most everyone can agree on, Chef Ben Vaughn adds, is that shortly after rice made it to Italy it became a popular staple of Italian food.

Agriculturally, reports Chef Ben Vaughn, Italy has excellent land for cultivating rice. The lay of the land, the availability of water, and the Mediterranean humidity make rice grow very well there. Chef Ben Vaughn says that the most prevalent example of rice in Italian food is risotto. Chef Ben Vaughn identifies 4 major components to authentic risotto.

The first is soffritto.  Soffritto, explains Chef Ben Vaughn, is the flavor base of risotto. Soffritto varies by region and cook, but is usually a mix of vegetables, onion, oil, and butter. Chef Ben Vaughn says the soffritto must be sautéed in the same skillet that the rice will later be cooked.

Chef Ben Vaughn instructs that after soffritto comes the broth.  There are many broth options, says Chef Ben Vaughn, including meat broth, vegetable broth and fish broth.  Each broth adds its own unique character to the dish.  Some people use canned broth to save time, but Chef Ben Vaughn always prefers to make his own broth.

Component three of risotto is the choice of flavoring ingredient. This is Chef Ben Vaughn’s favorite part of making risotto. There is a lot of freedom here, but Chef Ben Vaughn prefers sticking to tradition. He says to choose vegetables, meat, or truffles to give your risotto a rich, hearty flavor. And if you can, says Chef Ben Vaughn, use saffron. Saffron is a very unique and traditional flavoring for risotto.

The last and most famous component, continues Chef Ben Vaughn, is the Italian rice. Italian rice, says Chef Ben Vaughn, is unique from other kinds of rice in that it is made up of large grains that contain a lot of starch. Chef Ben Vaughn further explains that Italian rice is ideal for risotto because it can absorb lots of flavorful liquid while cooking but still stay firm.

Now that you’ve had a risotto lesson, Chef Ben Vaughn encourages you to go out there and experiment with your own risotto recipes. You are sure to be delighted by the results. And if success doesn’t come on the first try, you’ve got another excuse to practice in the kitchen. Happy cooking!