The passion of cooking has led a family far away from their Readstown roots and the Kickapoo Valley to the wilds of Alaska to share their passion with the world.
Sherri (Hadley) Ewing-Rahmnop along with her children Bradley and Amy Ewing, with help from their siblings Deanna and Becky when the need arises, have all come together to help produce amazing plates for diners for the past few years.
Having a passion for cooking since her youth, Sherri came to a fork in the road, which led her to her initial adventure in the wilderness.
“My children were growing up, and I was looking for a new adventure that would allow me to follow my passion,” The mother of four recalled. She found herself at a fishing camp in Cordova, Alaska in 1997.
“I really loved it! All of them were my kids age, so it was a great natural transition for me,” Sherri said.
Through that first job, Sherri was able to network and make several connections, which would allow her to move up to Alaska full time in 2001. This time she was drawn to Kodiak.
Sherri spent her first 13 years in Kodiak cooking remotely in several different camps, ranging from labor to bear camps.
“I got a really good reputation during that time as a relief cook, anything where people would come to Alaska and needed a camp, we would be there,” Sherri said of her adventures.
It was a milestone birthday however that helped give Sherri the push she needed into starting her own business.
“I think I was traumatized that I was turning 50,” Sherri recalled with a laugh over the memory of kicking off her business on her 50th birthday. “I had been working in remote lodges for a long time and finally decided just to do it.”
Locally, Sherri was able to put her business, ‘Red Hot Cooking,’ out there during a conference held right around the same time as the launch.
“There was a women in business conference in town that I decided to go to, and someone took my business card and we had our first job three days later,” Sherri explained.
Things got exciting for Sherri and her family in November of 2013 when Discovery Television made plans to come to the country’s largest, yet least densely populated, state.
“They (TV producers) said, who do you have cooking in Kodiak? And everyone responded, ‘Red Hot Cooking is all we have,’ ”
This led Sherri and her son Bradley, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Minneapolis, on a 21-day odyssey in a winter camp, cooking for and feeding 30 camera and talent people.
“It was just brutal,” Sherri said of the elements in which they worked. But despite the wintery weather, things heated up for Red Hot Cooking.
“They really liked the comedy in the cook house, but we had no idea they were shopping us,” Sherri said.
A short time later, in a whirlwind of excitement, the gang signed a contract and began filming their pilot episode, which featured them preparing a gourmet dish for a photography group. The episode also showcased some of the food foraging for the meals that the family prides itself on, when Bradley boarded a fishing boat to catch fresh seafood for their hungry patrons.
The kitchen has always been a place for the family to congregate, noted Sherri.
“They were always in the kitchen, eating and creating," she recalled.
Cooking came later for her children, especially her son Bradley, who now cooks along side his mom in the family business. Bradley spent his first few years in Kodiak running a restaurant, with his mother working in the same location creating, pastries, working separate hours they were unable to have the opportunity to combine their talents. However, Bradley is now blossoming in his own work with an upcoming television series focused on his cooking.
“He was always artistic, drawing, sewing his own jeans, now he has just flipped it on to a plate,” Sherri said of her son.
Daughter Amy, who also lives in Kodiak as well and helps the family in-between her travels around the globe, uses her design background and degree to enhance the foods’ natural beauty.
Bradley graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis in 2000, and before that LaFarge High School and spent his time working under the best chefs he could find to help hone his skill. His sister Amy graduated from Kickapoo High School and UW-Stout with a degree in design. She has spent many years traveling the world enhancing her style and ability, using her eye for design. Amy has the unique ability to make anything, including a table and plate, beautiful.
Both Bradley and Amy are children of Readstown Village Trustee Brian Ewing and grew up in the Kickapoo Valley. It’s something, which Bradley carries with him even in Alaska.
“My love for foraging came from springs in the Kickapoo Valley. Spring time there is so abundant, fiddle heads, trout, asparagus’s and morels,” Bradley recalled fondly.
Foraging is a key element in the family’s food prep. It’s a passion that helped inspire Sherri many years ago. She arrived at one of her first jobs missing lots grocery items, Undeterred, she foraged the backyard of the camp, finding rhubarb, chives and other wild herbs, which she blended together with the few items she had to create magic for her diners. Now, the family stresses the importance of using foraged, seasonal and local Alaskan ingredients in their meals.
“The whole time we are serving them, we are educating them about what is available in their backyard, what is sustainable,” Sherri noted.
The pace of the work changed in the last year however after Bradley took a trip to Thailand and found that he had lost his wallet.
“I was on a Visa run to Malaysia because it was about to expire,” Bradley recalled, it was during that time he had realized he had lost his wallet containing all of his credit and bankcards.
“He needed to sustain himself after he had lost his wallet, because it would take such a long time for him to get a new card,” his mother recalled, “So, with the money he had and connections he had made, he was able to forage and collect some ingredients and table settings to create a popup restaurant, and threw down a gourmet meal,” said Sherri, swelling with pride over her sons accomplishment. “All of these kids who had danced with him at parties the night before were shocked to find out he was also a rock star chef.”
Bradley was able to line up reservations for bi-weekly pop-ups in Thailand, as well as work as a guest chef in hostels during his stay.
“I was just banging the meals out, I had all the coconuts and mangos a guy could ever want,” Bradley said. “I had to do a lot of research to be able to forage there, it was pretty cool though to meet up with Thai botanists and pick their brain about what I could eat out of the jungle.”
Through those ventures, he was able to sustain his stay in Thailand for several months, while still keeping his connection with serving up fresh, local, and delicious food.
When he came back to Kodiak, he brought with him new experiences to share with his family.
“He came back to Alaska and wanted to see what could happen, so we did a pop up and friends and other people just lined up,” Sherri noted.
Keeping in line with the family-run business, Bradley’s sister Amy joined her brother in the action. Amy also forages elements of design for the meals, and table settings—matching flora and fauna colors to her brother’s meals, as well as assisting with plating and garnish work.
Making plates from spruce trees and continuing to forage the highest quality ingredients helped the concept take off. It impressed the television crews that the family had thought passed them by.
“They had called us and we had accepted it was ‘goodbye’ but when they heard about the pop ups, they were like, ‘Wha wha what? Pop ups!?’ and that’s all it took. They love us and are really excited about our style.”
So the family is embarking on another television adventure, which will be aired on the Outdoor Network.
“It will be a cooking show, like you see on Food Network,” Sherri said. “The meals are designed around what is available in Alaska right at that moment. The focus will be on the food.”
Bradley will be executive chef for the operation, matching his flavor profiles to what is available locally and seasonally.
The show whose title is still in the works is set to air sometime this fall. A focus on the food and process of retrieving it will be a breath of fresh air for many viewers tired of channels filled with the ongoing dramas of reality TV.
“There is always some natural stress when you’re in a kitchen, but there is not a lot of drama, because it’s about the food and we are trying to be a supportive team for each other,” said Sherri.
Aside from all of her other foodie adventures, Sherri has also been writing a cookbook, which she recently finished, a labor of love for the last 13 years. As the Red Hot Cooking Facebook page describes, “a 12-year adventure in writing the tales of living and cooking in bush Alaska, told through each recipe.” Bradley also notes additional projects up his sleeve, which friends, family, and fans can look for in the future.
The passion in the kitchen, no matter where the kitchen is located, is sure to sustain the hunger for excitement for this family.