GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

April 17, 2013

Stir-fry from a Yankee

Third-generation chef specializes in New England food

Jim Bailey calls himself The Yankee Chef. His new cookbook, “The Yankee Chef, Feel Good Food for Every Kitchen,” is a compendium of New England foods — and more.

Thirty years ago, Jim Bailey, at 20 years old, leapt, wrists and feet bound, 55 feet from a Skowhegan, Maine, bridge into the Kennebec River. The article in the Lewiston Journal from September 1982 described the young man as a short-order cook and an amateur boxer.

“He took the leap on Wednesday to publicize what, he hopes, is his next profession as a magician and escape artist,” the reporter wrote.

My metaphor may be a reach, but I’d say Bailey is still working as an escape artist, at least allowing his cuisine to escape from the New England liturgy of cornmeal, cranberries and maple syrup. His cookbook covers Northeast recipes from corned goose to plum duff, including excerpts from historical cookbooks in the marginalia, but there are also recipes for Kung Pao Shrimp and Orange Cappucino Cheesecake. Watch those recipes un-tie themselves from “New England,” and get away!

In his signature pink chef’s jacket, Bailey earns his Yankee Chef title if only for his long Maine pedigree and the slow, elegant way his DownEast “r’s” turn into “ah’s.”

“Heatha, it’s a pleasah to meet a nice lady like you,” he told me over the phone.

Does he really talk like that, I wondered. He does. Watch his videos.

Tall, solid, brawny, Bailey’s build reminds us of that amateur boxer he once was.

His biography is studded with tough Maine men in kitchens, struggling with their curious, sensitive souls, and with drinking. Bailey’s grandfather, Sam Bailey, played a fiddle well enough to be accepted into the New England Conservatory of Music; he supported himself by learning to cook. His son, Bailey’s father, followed the same path, playing the same violin, and ultimately owning three restaurants, because a restaurant provides a steadier income than a violin. Bailey describes them all as three generations of violin-playing history buffs from Maine who learned to cook to make a living.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Lifestyle

Your news, your way
Pictures of the Week
Comments Tracker
AP Entertainment Videos
'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Uzo Aduba Says Emmy Nod Is 'Crazy' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up Mirren Not Thrilled to Play 'The Queen' on B'way The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' ShowBiz Minute: Hoffman, Oberst, Box Office Shawn Mendes Jumps From Vine to the Music Charts Cook Shifts Gears in 'Planes: Fire and Rescue' ShowBiz Minute: Stritch, Marvel, Beyonce ShowBiz Minute: Cole, JWoww, Box Office ShowBiz Minute: Garner, Backstreet, George 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success Legendary Actor James Garner Dies 'Pageant' Star Nick Cearley on Show, Skivvies Roger Ebert Doc a Surprise Summer Hit First Lady Salutes Monae ShowBiz Minute: Cranston, Obama, Howard Kruger on Where 'The Bridge' Leads in Season 2