Stir it up: Regional chefs star in online video recipe series

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  • Galaxy chef/owner Casey Douglass prepares a dish of pasta carbonara at his restaurant in Easthampton on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The dish is featured in the debut episode of “Stir Up Some Love,” a new online video recipe series with chefs from across the Valley. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Galaxy chef/owner Casey Douglass prepares a dish of pasta carbonara at his restaurant in Easthampton. The dish is featured in the debut episode of “Stir Up Some Love,” a new online video recipe series with chefs from across the Valley. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Galaxy chef/owner Casey Douglass prepares a dish of pasta carbonara at his restaurant in Easthampton on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The dish is featured in the debut episode of “Stir Up Some Love,” a new online video recipe series with chefs from across the Valley. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  •  Casey Douglass cuts fresh pasta for a dish of pasta carbonara at his restaurant in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO KEVIN GUTTING

  • Galaxy chef/owner Casey Douglass prepares a dish of pasta carbonara at his restaurant in Easthampton on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The dish is featured in the debut episode of “Stir Up Some Love,” a new online video recipe series with chefs from across the Valley. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Galaxy chef/owner Casey Douglass prepares a dish of pasta carbonara at his restaurant in Easthampton on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The dish is featured in the debut episode of “Stir Up Some Love,” a new online video recipe series with chefs from across the Valley. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Some ingredients on hand as Galaxy chef/owner Casey Douglass prepares a dish of pasta carbonara at his restaurant in Easthampton on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The dish is featured in the debut episode of “Stir Up Some Love,” a new online video recipe series with chefs from across the Valley. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Pasta carbonara prepared by Galaxy chef/owner Casey Douglass at his restaurant in Easthampton on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The dish is featured in the debut episode of “Stir Up Some Love,” a new online video recipe series with chefs from across the Valley. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Intergenerational Treehouse community members, from left, Lynne Knudsen, Jordan, Sue Brow (chef and High Brow owner Andrew Brow’s mother) and Marcia Kemp. Photo by Sarah Prall Photography

  • Chef Andrew Brow of High Brow in Northampton. Jeffrey Byrnes Photography

  • Galaxy chef/owner Casey Douglass prepares a dish of pasta carbonara at his restaurant in Easthampton on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. The dish is featured in the debut episode of “Stir Up Some Love,” a new online video recipe series with chefs from across the Valley. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Galaxy chef/owner Casey Douglass with his prepared dish of pasta carbonara. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 10/24/2020 12:34:30 PM

‘There’s a saying in the restaurant industry, ‘When in doubt, add cheese.’”

So quips Casey Douglass, one of the region’s most well-known chefs, as viewers tuned in to watch the debut episode of “Stir Up Some Love,” a new online video recipe series in which chefs from across the Valley recreate their restaurants’ iconic recipes.

Attired with a NASA apron that’s fitting for his Easthampton restaurant’s name — Galaxy — Douglass is spending this part of the video grating a block of parmesan cheese into a pan of pasta carbonara and chit-chatting with the online audience. The video then cuts to an upbeat acoustic jazz song, before Douglass launches into a step-by-step “egg heavy” and home-friendly recipe that features one of his restaurant’s popular dishes.

During the course of 10 minutes, Douglass takes ingredients such as semolina flour, water and farm fresh eggs (from his own chickens) to make fresh pasta that he rolls out and cuts into thin strips. Meanwhile, he’s preparing other ingredients including fresh asparagus and peas and thin sliced prosciutto mixed with garlic cloves and butter.

In the end, the chef samples his own meal and says, “Beautiful,” before commenting on the charred scallions giving the dish a “nice background note.”

Beautiful is just one way to describe the collaboration that spawned “Stir Up Some Love,” a series of 15 online episodes featuring regional chefs leading cooking demonstrations for a virtual audience. The program is serving as a fundraiser for those in the hard-hit culinary world in western Massachusetts and the Treehouse Foundation, a 60-home community in Easthampton where foster families are supported.

Douglass said he featured pasta carbonara during his segment because the dish doesn’t require many ingredients and is easy for viewers to follow the recipe in their own homes.

“A lot of people don’t make their own pasta and I wanted to show how easy it was to make pasta by hand,” he said. “We don’t offer pasta carbonara right now because it doesn’t travel well. We do a variation now with sweet potato and gnocchi. It travels much better and it’s very popular. It’s got brussels sprouts, local mushrooms, bacon and ricotta cheese.”

A collaboration is born

Beth Spong, chief operating officer with Treehouse Foundation, said “Stir Up Some Love” was born from a mutual financial impact due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We knew we needed to raise a significant amount of money to keep the organization going, so between the development committee and Unmi Abkin, who is the co-owner and chef at Coco & the Cellar Bar in Easthampton, we cooked up this idea,” Spong says. “Restaurants are also really hard hit right now and it’s a terrible time for them.”

Spong said Treehouse Foundation has a longstanding relationship with Abkin and her husband and co-owner Roger Taylor at Coco & the Cellar Bar, who are in touch with the broader restaurant community in western Massachusetts.

The initiative started with this premise: “How can we connect and lift up the restaurant community and connect with the larger community and also support Treehouse?” Spong said.

The answer turned out to be “Stir Up Some Love.” In addition to Galaxy Restaurant, the series includes segments from Gypsy Apple Bistro in Shelburne Falls, Homestead in Northampton, Good Stock Farm in Hatfield, Crave Food Truck in Holyoke and others.

The first season of the 15-episode series was shot on iPhones (with film lights and a tripod) by Spong and members of Treehouse, supervised remotely by New York City-based film editor Daniel Krakowksi. Episodes have been airing since Sept. 15 and will continue to air through the end of December. The restaurants and Treehouse Foundation are splitting the proceeds 50/50.

“We’re excited about how things are going so far,” Spong said. “We have about 17 chefs who are interested in being part of season two. Of course, that’s going to be contingent on how successful we are in season one as a fundraiser.”

Chef Andrew Brow, who owns HighBrow Wood Fired Kitchen + Bar in Northampton, focused his episode in the series on his restaurant’s popular sticky ribs appetizer.

“It’s a labor of love. We braise them for about four hours in the oven, slow and low, and then we let them rest overnight. And then we cut them and then we fry them. And then we fry them and then we toss them in Asian glaze and then we roast them. They’re like crispy, tender, amazing sticky ribs,” Brow said. “I sell more of those than any other appetizer.”

Being a part of the collaboration for Brow is personal, as his mother and younger brother lived with Treehouse in the past, he said.

“When they asked, it was absolutely a no-brainer,” Brow said.

Food and charity

“Stir Up Some Love” is being promoted by The Lisa Ekus Group, a Hatfield-based culinary agency. Manager Sally Ekus said the agency “jumped at the chance” to be a part of the series.

“It’s an intersection of food and charity and to us that’s a beautiful combination,” said Sally Ekus, the daughter of founder Lisa Ekus.

She added that the restaurant industry will likely be changed forever due to the pandemic.

“This campaign is an opportunity to support chefs during this time of need,” Ekus says. “They can’t have customers come through their doors in the same way or at all and yet they still have landlords to pay, invoices to pay off and also the deep desire to feed people and their community, in any area, and we see that so beautifully in the Valley.”

She hopes Stir Up Some Love will serve as a model for other communities across the country with a close-knit culinary community like the Pioneer Valley.

Brow said his saving grace during the pandemic has been people ordering takeout food. He opened the restaurant a year ago this September.

“The community has supported me through this, which is amazing and we’re doing all right,” he said.

Douglass said his restaurant has had to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by losing staff members, changing its menu to offer more “comfort food” and offering more takeout options.

He added that since the onset of the pandemic, he was looking for ways to help others in the western Massachusetts community, so when Stir Up Some Love was formed and he was asked to star in an episode, Douglass was excited to take part in the collaboration.

“Some volunteers with the organization came by with their cellphones and in about two hours we recorded this 10-minute video and the director was in New York on my laptop telling us what to do as I went through and did the recipe,” Douglass said. “They did an amazing job of editing. The sound quality was great. It was just my cellphone in my pocket with a little mic. I think the production came out really good.”

For more information about Stir Up Some Love visit stirupsomelove.com.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@gazettenet.com.


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