Food: What makes a chef |

Food: What makes a chef

Lee Mathis
Free Press Food Columnist
Lee Mathis
Staff Photo |


Servings: 16 large or 24 small brownies

The addition of coconut and macadamias makes these rich brownies even more decadent and delicious.


• 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, more for pan and parchment paper

• 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

• 4 eggs

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1 cup brown sugar

• 3/4 cup granulated sugar

• 1 tsp vanilla extract

• 1 cup flour

• 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut

• 1/2 cup roughly chopped macadamia nuts


1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Butter a 9x13 baking pan and line with buttered parchment paper.

3. Place butter and chocolate in a bowl and place bowl over a pot of barely simmering water.

4. Cool slightly.

5. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, salt, sugars, and vanilla.

6. Whisk in cooled chocolate mixture.

7. Fold in flour just until combined.

8. Stir in coconut and macadamias and pour batter into prepared pan.

9. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until shiny and beginning to crack on top.

10. Cool completely in pan on rack before cutting.


Over the past few years, I’ve been called “chef,” which creates mixed feelings in me.

Yes, I am a culinary school graduate (with honors); yes, I run a food business and have survived (and grown) even with a still stagnant local economy; yes, I do try to push some boundaries, especially with our cheesecakes and our “En Fuego”cooking; but I do not consider myself a chef. Rather, I’m a cook from Jersey!

I have hired culinary students, in both Grand Junction and Virginia, who know more about “fancy” cooking than I do. And I know many chefs and cooks around town (Josh from Bin 707 Foodbar; Theo from 626 on Rood; Diana Tarasiewicz from DMT Catering and now District 51; Jonathan from Craving; and Jon, Wayne and Dan Kirby from Colorado Mesa University’s Culinary Program are just a few that come to mind).

While I have always loved cooking, I also came into this industry late in life (after the age of 50) and wonder how much more I would know if I realized my calling years ago.

So, am I a chef? No. A cheesecake savant? Maybe.

Come on, ghost peppers in a cheesecake? And you must try our Colorado-style southern chow-chow, which will be unveiled at Grand Junction’s Downtown Farmers’ Market in August. Think southern relish meets en fuego.

To me, a chef is more than just a great cook. A chef knows how to hire the right people, train them the right way, in the right procedures (miz en place anyone?) and also knows how to give them a little room (not too much, at first). A chef puts out food that makes people think and go “Whoa!” And a chef can do so again, again and again.

There are many great home chef/cooks out there, too. How many of us in the industry learned from Mom or Dad? How many family recipes have we adapted over the years in our personal and professional lives?

While considering those questions, don’t forget to play with your food!

GJ Free Press food columnist Lee Mathis is the founder and owner of Decadence Gourmet Cheesecakes and Catering. He can be reached via email at, on the Web at, or by calling 970-256-4688. Also, find him on the Web by searching Facebook, Pinterest or by visiting Twitter (@decadenceGJ).

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