For Mike Whitfield
and Darlene Pruett that means taking the party outside.
"Anyone with some backyard space, imagination, and a little bit of money can do this, but the cooking results can be almost duplicated by purchasing an adjustable charcoal grill, a campstove, and a couple of gas burners," says Whitfield
, known to most as "Big Mike" or "Chef Bubba."He
emphasizes the point by hefting a four-foot-long, one-inch-by-three-inch board and a Crescent wrench that are part of his
stash of outdoor cooking tools. Easy for him to say.After 25 years as a ground operations instructor for Northwest Airlines
- who has always had a passion for cuisine - went back to school at the Memphis Culinary Academy
, graduating in 1987.Under the skilled tutelage of Joseph Carey, Whitfield
turned an avocation into a profession.
In the course of his
second career, Whitfield
has been a key part of many local restaurants including The Carriage House
, Dux, and the King Cotton Caf8E, and he
still fills in occasionally when a friend needs help.Today, he
truly loves his
day job as manager of product development and education for United Liquors Corporation
, a Memphis wine and liquor distributor.He
describes it as the world's most perfect career choice. It was a mutual love of wine that brought Mike
and Darlene together 12 years ago when they met at work.
nicknames attest, Whitfield
is bigger than life, with a contagious smile, hearty laugh, and expansive vocabulary of gestures often called upon when he
talks about food and wine.
and Darlene say that virtually every guest becomes a repeater, and is then treated like the regulars.Couples or, in the case of singles, an individual are expected to bring an hors d'oeuvre, appetizer, or dessert, and a bottle of wine for the group.The hosts provide the main course and an array of compatible side dishes. "From a fiscal standpoint, we could never do this as frequently and with this level of quality without everyone's participation," Mike
...Wisdom from Chef Mike Whitfield