‘Cook With Brooks’ premieres on AETN

"Cook With Brooks" – a new weekly, documentary-style educational program with an emphasis on local farmers, restaurants, chefs and other interesting stories about food – will premiere on the Arkansas Educational Television Network at 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7.

Chef Steven Brooks of Bella Vista hosts this series that is dedicated to telling the whole story of food in Arkansas – where it’s from, how to make it and who shares it.

With more than 10 years of experience as an executive chef for various Arkansas restaurants and country clubs, Brooks has mastered the art of cooking. In his current executive chef position, he works on a daily basis with farms across Arkansas and connects them with the restaurants that want local, sustainable food. He is passionate about representing farmers, chefs and restaurants – and giving their stories a voice.

“Eating local, it helps everybody from the person growing all the way to your fork at the dinner table,” Brooks said. “We have a lot of great local farmers and families and stories to tell about those people.

“In this show, we’re going to go out to farms, we’ll talk to chefs, and we’ll sit down and eat their fine dishes. I’m really excited – I think we have a great concept. I’m proud to be a part of AETN and to get an opportunity to show what I can do all over the state.”

Some of the topics featured in the first season of “Cook With Brooks” include:

•    A tour of Crystal Bridge’s Eleven restaurant in Bentonville. In the kitchen, Chef William Lyle creates a quick Coq au Vin while explaining where the food comes from and how he is inspired by the art around him. Brooks shares the meal with food and beverage director Case Dighero, who elaborates on the term “High South Cuisine.”

•    A visit to Woodstone Pizza in Fayetteville to talk with owner and chef Jerrmy Gawthrop. He cooks up a pork chop and belly with braised kale and butternut squash puree with goat cheese that highlights seven different local ingredients. Brooks sits down with Clayton Suttle, Woodstone Pizza co-owner, to learn more about the business and the farm-to-table movement in Northwest Arkansas.

•    A trip to the farm to learn about White River Creamery in Elkins. This family worked together after moving from the Los Angeles area to start a dairy farm and a new way of life. Together, they are now making some of the best cheese in Northwest Arkansas. Brooks goes back to the kitchen to create a chicken slider recipe using their Triple Pepper Halloumi Cheese and other local ingredients.

•    A visit to Tri Cycle Farms, a community garden on two acres of land in the heart of Fayetteville. Founder Don Bennett discusses his passion for growing community through soil, creating food awareness, combating community hunger, educating the community and empowering those around him to make a difference. The episode also concludes at Greenhouse Grille in Fayetteville to see how local chefs came together to help raise money for Tri Cycle Farms at the Ozark Beer Dinner.

•    A trip to the Vanzant Fruit Farm in Lowell. Steve Vanzant shares the history of this family fruit farm that has been in operation since 1949. He explains how the farm keeps a constant supply of fruit by growing several varieties of apples, peaches and grapes. Then he takes Brooks to their market on Highway 264 to get ingredients for a honey mustard chicken and apple dish.

•    A look at the first and only cider brewer in Arkansas, Black Apple Crossing, in downtown Springdale. Brooks discusses the important role the brewery is playing in the revitalization of downtown Springdale, as well as the history of apples and chickens in the area. In the kitchen, Brooks makes Cider Pork Tacos inspired by the Princess Peach cider and the Taqueria across the street.

•    A visit to the McGarrrah farm to learn how pumpkins can bring a lot of kids to the country. Brooks joins Dennis “Farmer” McGarrah for a hayride and trip to the pumpkin patch. The pumpkin pie pumpkins lead Brooks to the kitchen to make a dessert the whole family will enjoy.

“Cook With Brooks” airs at 5 p.m. Saturdays on AETN. Episodes and recipes are also available at aetn.org/cookwithbrooks.

“Cook With Brooks” is produced by Bod High Productions and presented by AETN. Brooks also hosted “Cooking Today” on KNWA, and the program was awarded the Arkansas Broadcasters’ Association’s 2014 Outstanding Production of the Year.