As is the case with many culinary traditions, the origins of “brunch” are a bit hazy. Some food historians think that the meal has its roots in England’s hunt breakfasts—lavish multi-course meals that featured a smorgasbord of goodies such as chicken livers, eggs, meats, bacon, fresh fruit and sweets. Others posit that Sunday brunch derives from the practice of Catholics fasting before mass and then sitting down for a large midday meal. And then there are those who look to New York’s abundance of dining spots when it comes to tracing the origins of classic brunch dishes from eggs Benedict to bagels and lox.
What does seem certain is that the word “brunch”—that playful blend of “breakfast” and “lunch”— first appeared in print in an 1895 Hunter’s Weekly article. In “Brunch: A Plea,” British author Guy Beringer suggested an alternative to the heavy, post-church Sunday meals in favor of lighter fare served late in the morning. ”Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” Beringer says. ”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
A group of local chefs, namely Lezlie Simmons, Christine Brown and Samantha Allen will be doing their own “pop up” brunch to benefit the Biscuits and Jam Farmers’ Market. The event will be held at The Basement, an event venue located at the Tanglefoot Trailhead, on April 9th from 11am until 2pm.
All chefs have honed their craft locally and afar.
Simmons began her real training at Tallahatchie Gourmet, learning basic kitchen techniques with a focus on Southern and New Orleans inspired food. In 2007, Lezlie moved to Oxford, and began working at John Currence’s restaurant, Boure, on the Oxford Square. From there, she moved on to the position of Pastry Chef at the Oxford University Club, where she trained under Chef Levi Minyard. Chef Minyard encouraged Lezlie to get out of her comfort zone to learn new techniques and have new culinary experiences. He made a call to Avignon, France to his former boss, Robert Brunel, and made arrangements for Lezlie to spend a summer living in France and working at Numero 75. She came back from France with a new attitude and approach to cooking with a special interest in fresh and healthy, but flavorful food. Comically contrary to this style, Lezlie has been working at Sugaree’s Bakery for the past 3 ½ years, helping to make the world a little sweeter one cake at a time.
Christine Brown is a recent transplant from the Windy City. She attended the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago where she received her training in baking and pastries in 1997. From there, she went on to become the pastry sous chef at a prominent private business club in Chicago, The Metropolitan Club of Chicago. At the Metropolitan Club, Christine was able to hone her skills and artistry while creating culinary delights for notable individuals, such as President George W. Bush and Oprah Winfrey. After her time at the club, Christine went joined the staff at Elaine’s Restaurant in Naperville, Illinois which was under the command of chef owner, Ted Cizma who was named one of the year 2000’s top 10 chefs in America by Food and Wine Magazine. Chef Cizma left his mark on Christine by challenging her to go outside the box and utilize more savory ingredients in dessert production, generally unheard of at the time. After a volunteer stint at Oliver’s Kitchen in Chicago, a welfare-to-work program in which she taught individuals recently released from prison a trade—culinary arts, Christine went back to school to receive her education degree. Now she combines her passion for baking and education in everything she does.
Samantha Allen is the Assisstant Production Manager at Sugaree’s Bakery. She is a 2009 graduate of South Pontotoc High School and a 2013 graduate of the Mississippi University for Women. Sam received her degree in Culinary Arts from the W, where she was ranked one of the highest in her class. A very talented young lady, Sam has already made her mark in the New Albany food circle. She was chosen to be the featured Pastry Chef at last year’s Farm to Table dinner. In 2014, her dessert won Best in Show at New Albany’s Arts, Beats, and Eats.
Menu items include, made from scratch cinnamon rolls and bagels (with smoked salmon and cream cheese), bananas foster French toast casserole, a variety of quiches, shrimp and grits, and chicken salad and croissants, along with typical breakfast fare such as bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy and fresh fruit.
“We’re excited to bring a new culinary event to New Albany,” says Simmons. “We’re looking forward to the community breaking bread together in support of our wonderful farmers’ market and the art and artistry involved in cooking.”
Tickets to the brunch, which are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, include a buffet of “brunchy” items ranging from the sweet to the savory, along with coffee and juice. Each ticket also includes a complementary Mimosa or Bloody Mary. Live music will accompany the event and a cash bar will be available. Tickets may be purchased online at brownpapertickets.com, or by calling Lezlie Simmons at 662-266-2250.