Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions

Aug
4
2008

Chef from Brookside will be serving it up during the Beijing Games

Stewart Lane got his first taste of cooking in his parents’ Brookside kitchen as they launched a catering company in the early 1990s.

He was 5 or 6, and he stood on a milk crate to turn the food processor on and off. Now, 16 years later, he’s still cooking, and beginning this week he’ll be whipping up dishes in Beijing.

Lane, a senior at Kansas State University, is part of an American delegation of bakers, chefs and other workers who are staffing kitchens for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s main hospitality headquarters, the USA House.

“It’s really exciting,” Lane said recently, while taking a break from preparing a roasted corn, black bean and goat-cheese terrine for a customer’s party.

“I’m going to Beijing at a time that’s historic. And this is an extreme experience.”

Among Lane’s assignments in Beijing will be preparing appetizers and small-plate dishes for corporate sponsors, winning athletes and their families and guests at nightly receptions. The cuisine: mostly American but often with Chinese ingredients and spin.

Lane also will help inaugurate Club Bud, an Olympics party palace sponsored by the St. Louis (and now Belgian) beer giant Anheuser-Busch. The temporary facility, with a capacity of 2,000, was built inside a Chinese agricultural center.

Given a lifelong passion for food, Lane also looks forward to prowling Beijing’s local kitchens, including the nearly mile-long, restaurant packed district known as Ghost Street.

The local delicacies, he said, include insects, grub worms and other surprises.

“Stewart’s like a sponge, and he always has been,” said his mother, Marcia Lane. “He can’t stop talking about food. He lives to create food and to eat it.”

In the sixth grade Lane scored points with teachers who took cooking classes from him.

And while at Rockhurst High School, his mother said, he was known for throwing some legendary Super Bowl parties, which he planned months in advance.

This summer he’s making dishes in the commercial kitchen his parents built in a Brookside house converted to the headquarters of Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions.

Stewart Lane’s Olympics gig came by way of New York-based Framboise Catering, which has operated kitchens for the U.S. Olympic Committee since 1996. It’s overseeing several Olympics kitchens in Beijing with a staff of 84.

One of its principals, Frank Puleo, is a family friend made through longtime connections in the International Caterers Association. Two years ago Lane accompanied Puleo on a scouting trip before the winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, but his school schedule prevented him from working during those games.

“Stewart impressed me with his passion for food,” Puleo said by e-mail from Beijing. “He is super talented — and has a great palate and keen eye — which makes him the perfect candidate for catering.”

Lane recently returned from a catering conference in Louisville, Ky., where he helped his father, Lon Lane, teach hands-on cooking classes, such as creating fish dishes and “profitable hors d’ouevres.”

The younger Lane also has taught classes in local culinary centers.

His aesthetic style, learned from his father, is simplicity.

“A lot of people overcomplicate food,” he said. “They’ll put 20 different flavors on something and you eat it and have no idea what you’re eating. It drives me insane.

“I believe in simple and elegant.”

Lane is a semester away from completing his degree in hotel and restaurant management at Kansas State.

And after that?

He has no idea what he wants to do, though he’s thinking of traveling and interning with chefs around the country whom he has gotten to know through the catering association.

But first there’s his monthlong stint in Beijing.

“I hope this will be the most amazing experience of my life,” he said.

 

The online article is listed at http://www.kansascity.com/238/story/732229.html

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