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Wide view of Fayetteville Roots Festival

Chef Talk: Roots in Music and Food

When I came to Arkansas in 2000, I was stunned by the beauty of The Natural State.  Northwest Arkansas is a great place to get your Ozark legs! There are so many great things going on here: a growing community filled with transplants from all over that work to support the retails giants; world wide trucking and rail company; the world poultry leader; and lots of educated palates. It helps make the region of the “Ozarks” unique.

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In this episode of “Cook with Brooks,” we enjoyed some fun at the Fayetteville Roots Festival. They had some of the most talented chefs in this area of the country, collaborate for the VIP kick-off party at Garner Farm. It was a night full of music and food. Twelve chefs were paired up to make six delicious dishes that everyone could enjoy. People were sitting at beautiful white tables, standing around and listening to some amazing music. We were so lucky to be apart of it and see what our local food community can do when they come together.


Then they come to the historic Fayetteville square to compete in the Chef Cook-off, for cash and prizes, and to support locally-sourced food! And, with the help of some great sponsors, give 100s of pounds of food to the chefs’ favorite charities. Jason Paul and Matt Scott won with this dish below giving their winnings to Tri Cycle Farms, one of our favorite farms we featured on Episode 1.

Winning dish for the Chef Cook-off

I am lucky to be one of the judges of this group of heavy hitters!

judges for the Chef Cook-off

I will also make a trip around the Fayetteville Farmers Market to get supplies for my dish: lamb chops and a neat pear-herb medley!

CWB 110_final dish

Thanks to the great crowd and support of this event as we are working to feed the hungry! IT’S WHAT CHEFS DO!

MORE TO THE STORY: Other great resources in the great state of Arkansas!

4 Days at the Fayetteville Roots Festival

Steven with Will Hanna

The other pink meat?

Nothing in Arkansas is bigger than pig. Physically and culturally they have made their mark, but they are also a big deal on the plate.  Here in northwest Arkansas, their has been a movement to raise some variety of breeds that most Americans have not tried in their life-time. Most pork, you think of the ‘other white meat’, but the reality is, a lot of pork is pink. Hertiage breeds and Berkshire breeds are two of the varieties that both farms we looked for this episode. We go into what makes them different in flavor, size, and stature. All the pigs are raised outside on green grassy pastures with fresh air, sunshine, with a stress free life. All this good living gives their porks amazing flavor and quality.

Hanna Family Ranch in Bentonville has focused on the Hertiage breeds that are kind of silly looking, but quite tasty. They are longer and more slender with floppy ears that cover their eyes. This is to protect their eyes while rooting around.

Floppy Ears


The Bansley’s are more in the business of breeding the Berkshire breed.  You can tell they truly love these animals. They were always petting and scratching their dirty little backs. You can hear the pride they have, knowing they are doing everything they can to make life good for these pigs. Plus, they recently got solar panels to make sure they area doing things right for the earth too.

CWB 109-PettingPig


Both farms are owned by the nicest folks around. We have had the pleasure of meeting both families many times and they are highly regarded in the food community in Northwest Arkansas. So happy we could show them off to the rest of the state.

If you would like to buy any local meat directly from the families, contact information is below.

Will and Waltina Hanna

Hanna Family Ranch

Waltina and Will Hanna




Carol and Sean Bansley

Bansley’s Berkshire Ridge

Sean and Carol Bansley

Bansleys Berkshire Ridge Farms


Thanks again for watching and looking forward to finishing off our last three shows for Season 1 for you. They will start airing this coming June.

Chef Lyle and Chef Brooks

A look inside the heart of Crystal Bridges

Hopefully you were able to watch our Episode at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art. Whether you watch it on AETN or YouTube, it doesn’t make a difference to us. We just want to provide you a story that you found entertaining, while being educational about the food movement in Arkansas. It was our first pilot show we shot, so we learned a lot in the process. We learned exhaust vents in the kitchen can be a problem with the audio and that getting more food shots is important. Even with that, hope you enjoyed and watch the rest of ours shows that keep getting better.

If you didn’t watch, go ahead and learn how Chef Lyle pairs food not just with wine these days, but also with the art at Crystal Bridges. He created a delicious Quick Coq au Vin. This is a one pan dish that is a nice healthy winter dish with local herbs and chicken.  It is a flexible dish that you don’t have to follow exactly. Open your refrigerator and empty out the vegetables and experiment. The thyme and wine makes this feel like an expensive meal, but easy enough to make at home for the whole family.

Watch and hear how Chef Lyle is purchasing food locally the Eleven Restaurant. By staying in the region, he gets to meet the farmers and buy from them directly. He can visit their farms to know exactly what he is buying and putting into each dish that he serves his customers. He takes great pride in his work and finds it very rewarding. He gets to see the process from the very beginning to the end. From sourcing where the food comes from, to creating his own menu and costing them out. He is involved in actually receiving the products into the kitchen and to putting them together and firing them at the end of the night for a full dining room. And after all that hard work, then he is able to go out and speak to the customer and see their reaction. That is why he considers this one of the most rewarding professions he could be in.

Next, Steven takes us to the table to eat this delicious dish with an old friend. Eigthteen years ago, Case and Steven met at Marketplace Foods and immediately became good friends. They worked together and ended up doing a show on the Jones Network for several years and FOX. After the Markeplace closed, they moved on and opened a restaurant together, Soul Restaurant and Lounge. Find out more about their friendship and feelings about food.

Case Dighero and Chef Brooks

UP NEXT: This Saturday on AETN at 5 p.m., we visit White River Creamery in Elkins, Arkansas. After some rough times in California, they thought “Going a Different Whey,” would be a better decision for their family. 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.

Triple Pepper Halloumi Cheese from White River Creamery

The Steve's picking

The roots at Vanzant Fruit Farms

Late last September, we wanted to do an episode to highlight the history of apples in the area. This was something we had heard about, but really didn’t fully understand until we started looking into the episode. Wow, so much information on the history alone that a movie could be made on that. It was neat to learn with the coming of the railroad in the 1880s, growers began planting apple trees by the thousands in the area. While every county in Northwest Arkansas grew and shipped apples, Benton and Washington Counties were the major players in the area. Now with the changing times and weather, apples are not a major player in the area, but one that should not be forgotten.

We choose Vanzant Fruit Farm to dive into that history. This family has a long been in the area. Steve Vanzant mentions Peter Graham in the episode, so here is what we learned from doing some research. Peter Graham homesteaded Northwest Arkansas in the early 1800’s and was Steve’s Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather. I don’t have a picture of Peter, but we did receive this one from Regena Shelby that shows his grandson, Silas Graham(1850-1929).

Peter had a son, Nelson Graham who was killed at the spring mentioned in the show. Nelson was the father of Silas Graham. In this photo, Silas is in center surrounded by his grand children. He was born in Benton County Sept. 5, 1850, and spent his entire life in this area. For many years, he has made his home on the farm originally known as the Barr place just east of the Butler ford on the White River. Silas Graham’s son was John Nelson Graham, who had a son, Harvey Graham. Harvey was Steve Vanzant’s grandfather on his mother’s side. He is pictured here two people to the right of Silas.

Steve’s mother Kahylene Vanzant, was born on May 14, 1927 on their family farm here in Lowell, Arkansas. When she was 15, Kahylene caught the eye of Fred Vanzant, 17, while her parents were singing at a small church in Sonora — this chance moment marked the beginning of their 74-year love story.

After Fred returned from his WWII tour in the Navy, the two were married June 27, 1948. Together they established Vanzant Fruit Farms in 1949. It was a run down Chicago Fruit Farm at the time of purchase, but together made it the successful Fruit Farm we know today. Now they grow the finest peaches, apples, and grapes in Northwest Arkansas.  They have been providing us and the four state region with only the highest quality of fruit and vegetables. They also grow pumpkins and tomatoes on their farm to make sure they always have something available in their market.

When we talked with Steve Vanzant for this episode, we were surprised by what a character he was. He was so much fun to talk to and learn from. He has adapted to the markets, the regulations, and varieties over the years to make sure to keep this farm going. It has not been easy, but his heart is there.

Even though Steve Vanzant was light-hearted, he was also in a hurry because he had to go check on his mother who had just returned from the hospital the day before. She was not doing well. We heard soon after, on October 29, 2016 she passed peacefully surrounded by family. We asked the family if we could mention it and dedicate the episode to her, and they said yes. We dedicated it ‘In Memory to Kahylene Graham Vanzant’. She sounded like a lovely lady and although I did not meet her, I was touched by what her and Fred have created.Kahylene Vanzant

If you want to experience Vanzant Fruit Farms, just visit the market on Highway 264 when they open for the season in 2017.  We were able to take some delicious Black Apples and honey and make this Honey Mustard Chicken and Apples dish. We couldn’t resist this meal, and we don’t think your friends and family will either! Be sure to let us know how your cooking adventure turns out.

Cook with Brooks Honey-mustard chicken and apples recipe

If you didn’t get a chance to watch it, WATCH NOW! You will enjoy learning even more about this great family farm and how to make this one skillet dish that is healthy and hearty.

If you want to learn more about the history of apples in the area, here are some great resources to check out:

Bumper crop

Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Arkansas Apple Festival


Couple of Chefs. Jerrmy Gawthrop and Steven Brooks at Wood Stone Craft Pizza.

UP NEXT on Episode 4: Watch this Saturday on Cook with Brooks, when visit to Wood Stone Craft Pizza in Fayetteville, Arkansas, 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 six different local ingredients. Brooks then sits down with Clayton Suttle, Wood Stone Craft Pizza co-owner, to learn more about what inspired them to start this business and thoughts on farm-to-table movement in Northwest Arkansas.

Black Apple Crossing outside

Chef Talk: Episode 2 is in the world

Before we get started, first let me say what an honor it was to premiere “Cook With Brooks” on AETN this last weekend! What a kick to see our show on the television. Thank y’all for watching with us and helping make it possible. I hope you enjoyed it! And now that we’re rolling, we’ve got lots of great places, dishes and more on the way!


There’s something pretty amazing brewing in Springdale, Arkansas! Hopefully you caught this week’s episode of “Cook With Brooks”. Some of our crew went down and watched it with a cider and taco in hand. Wish I could have been there, but so glad they got to do that. It makes our job rewarding when we can see the faces of the folks we are showing off. If you missed it, check it out now. You can watch me as I made a visit to the first and only cidery in The Natural State: Black Apple Crossing in historic downtown Springdale. I learned about the cidery, the history of chicken and apples in the area, and how this business is helping to revitalize the city after years of neglect. Black Apple Crossing has transformed an old office building and hatchery that once housed George’s Chicken and Hatchery. It’s a great mix of history and innovation that are giving downtown Springdale a whole new flavor.

CWB-102_ChefandLeoWe talk with owner Leo Orpin about the dream behind this place, the juice they use to produce the product and how the cider is made. From the Ozarks, to Michigan and Washington state, there are some great U.S. products involved and a fascinating process behind it all!

And, of course, it wouldn’t be an episode of “Cook With Brooks” without something mouthwatering you can whip up at home. Watch how I get inspired by the cider and the local Mexican joint, Taquería Don Güero, across the road from Black Apple Crossing.

To learn more about this great Arkansas business, READ THIS article by Edible Ozarkansas. They wrote it back in November 2015, but still full of great details you will love to know. It goes into more depth about the history of apples in Benton and Washington counties, the history of how cider came to be and gives you a sneak peek at all other two founders,  Trey Holt and John Handley. Leo was more than happy to talk and get in front of the camera for us, but Trey and John were not too excited to about that idea.  We understand, but here is your chance to see their faces too.

UP NEXT: Next Saturday, January 28th, on Cook with Brooks, we take a trip to the Vanzant Fruit Farms in Lowell, Arkansas. As we walk through an orchard of Black Apples, we learn more about the history of apples in the area with Steve Vanzant, as well as the history of his own family fruit farm that has been in operation since 1949. He explains how the farm has adapted over the years to changing demands and has learned how to keep 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.  

Watch next Saturday to learn more about a local orchard and how to make a delicious dish using their ingredients.


Cook with Brooks on the Big Screen.

We did it!

Watching Cook with Brooks with Don BennettLast night was so rewarding just to stand next to Don Bennett, the founder of Tri Cycle Farms and see his expression. It is a 30 minute show, but felt like 10 minutes. I guess that is good because it means it was entertaining, but it went so fast.  I found myself to be emotional and so happy I wanted to cry, but kept myself together.  Unless you have worked in TV, I don’t think people understand how much work one episode takes. A lot, but once you see it on the air, it is all worth it.

This episode started with an trip to Wood Stone Craft Pizza for an episode you will see soon. While there shooting, Jerrmy Gawthrop, who is an owner of that restaurant and Greenhouse Grille, told us of an event he was doing for his birthday. His idea of a great present was to create an event that brought people together, but benefited a local community garden, Tri Cycle Farms. At the time, we didn’t really know what the farm was all about, but learned a lot from talking to Don that night. The seed was planted to grow the idea of what to do for an episode.

We made it out to Tri Cycle Farms following that dinner to learn more about what they do and the story behind the farm. A Northwest Arkansas magazine, Edible Ozarkansas, wrote an amazing article last year on them, so please read more HERE. If you really want to experience and learn more about Tri Cycle Farms, go out to there farm anytime. You can usually find Don out and about doing something in the fields or bringing fresh ingredients to a local kitchen.

We hope you enjoyed our first episode. Please give us feedback. We would love to hear from you.

Episode 2, we visit the first and only Cidery in Arkansas. “Brewing Change,” looks at 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. Check it out next Saturday!

Thank you

Chef Talk – Thank you and ready to party!

What a ride this has been. Said with the biggest smile! So...I am just a kid from Alabama that moved to Arkansas and the world has been opened to me! 

I am so proud of the Cook with Brooks team. Jeremy Duckworth and Michelle Hammarstrom have been a blessing in my life. Jeremy and I did 282 episodes of 'Cooking Today' on KNWA in 2014 and 2015. He made me believe that we could accomplish anything. Michelle keeps us focused on the goals we have which is simply to tell the stories of Arkansas food. It is a story worth telling.

Now it is really happening and you guys are going to see what we have been working so hard on. Our promo is running on AETN everyday (super awesome). The press release went out last week and we were on the cover of the Harrison newspaper. We are getting close, but are still planning on doing more up to when our show premieres on January 7th.  This month, we have more new episodes to film. Can't wait to get out to Paul Chapracki farm to see all he provides to Native Nectar who has its fingers on a lot of local products through juicing.

First, we would like to thank AETN for making us part of their amazing team. DeWayne L. Wilbur for listening to us and giving us a chance. The Senior Producer, Casey Sanders has been nothing but helpful, understanding and welcoming.  The Promotions Manager, Tiffany Head, was vital on sending out our press release that spread the word around this great state.  Look forward to working more with Julie Thomas, Katie Culpepper, Larmon Vanwinkle and Jess Setzler to make our print and on-line presents shine. They are providing support and helping us learn the ropes of public television on a daily basis, so my team wants to thank you very much. 

Secondly, we want to thank the folks who came on as underwriters to Season 1 of our show.  You have a team behind this show who is really excited and can't wait to make you proud. Thank you all for your support.

Tankersley Food Service, LLC - This is the company I have my day job with and they are thrilled to play a major roll in the show.

Metro Appliances and More - This company supported me back on my old show too and so happy to have them on board again.

Rick McLeod Agency - Farmers Insurance and Financial Services is a big part of the community in downtown Rogers and happy they remembered their roots of helping farmers.

Richter Solar Energy - We are a big supporter of making the earth a cleaner planet.  So happy to have Flint Richter getting some exposure around the state.

Springdale Farmers Market - James McGuire came on from the goodness in his heart and his love of AETN. We are so grateful that we are able to highlight them for all the state to see.

We also want to give special thanks to......
–  Bansley Berkshire Ridge Farm - Carol and Sean Bansley for your personal donation and support.
–  Hanna Family Ranch - Will and Walton for the use of your beautiful kitchen that they so graciously let us use.
–  Simple Machines - Sean and Ally Morrison have been so helpful on getting our website up and functioning the way we need it to. We are still working on it, but appreciate all they do.

Without the support of all of you, we would not be here. Thank you for seeing the value in what we are doing and the value of Public Television. For more details on who they are and how to find them, view our underwriters page.

Save the date

We will also be having a Premiere Launch Party on January 7th to launch our show! We will be inviting anyone who loves farms, the seed-to-fork movement and Public Television. Overalls will be welcome. Instead of a Barn Raising, will be doing a "Show Raising" to help build up this show into what it needs to be. Details to come very soon. We have a lot of ideas for the party and will announce the full details on the 15th.

So excited and proud to part of the thriving Arkansas Food scene. We look forward to the future with AETN and sharing some great stories with all of you! We have some awesome recipes to share with you as well. Meet you in the kitchen.


Yang Family Farm at the Springdale Farmers Market

Final touches

After a year of hard work, we are finally sending over our first seven episodes to AETN by the end of this month. This week we are trying to finalize the spots for our underwriters. James McGuire with the Springdale Farmers Market has approved his spot and is officially on board with Cook with Brooks. We are so happy to have them and are forever grateful for their belief in what we are trying to do. It has been really nice to get to know James a little more and hear all he has been doing for the Springdale farming community for the last 16 years. He has gone from being a hobby farmer with too much food to eat, to a vital part of the farmers market community in Springdale. Thanks again and I’m happy to have your spot for all of Arkansas to see.

Learn more about their farmers market by checking out their website.

It is go time

It is go time

What have we been up to...well a lot! We officially signed at the end of September with AETN/PBS. Now we are finishing up editing our first seven shows of Cook with Brooks. All this while also trying to get support from local underwriters. It has not been easy, but we are proud of what we are doing and know the stories are good. We know that telling the stories of the state’s No. 1 industry, agriculture, is crucial to Arkansas’s economy. More than 44,000 farms spread across 13.8 million acres annually contribute more than $20 billion to the Natural State. That’s nearly one quarter of the state’s economic activity. We are capturing those stories of this important industry, while also getting in the kitchen with those local ingredients and making a delicious dish.  For this first season, we are focusing on northwest Arkansas, but hope to get out and see more of Arkansas in Season 2. So many stories to tell, it can be overwhelming.

Don Bennett with Tri Cycle Farms

Stories on farmers like, Don Bennett with Tri Cycle Farms will open your eyes to the hunger issues in Arkansas and how it is all around us.

Stories like Farmer Steve Vanzant of Vanzant Fruit Farm, will make you laugh, but also make you realize how much this area has changed with the apple industry.

Dennis McGarrah of McGarrah Farms in Pearidge, Arkansas.

And Dennis 'Farmer' McGarrah of McGarrah Farms was such much fun to watch in action as the Santa Claus of October.

Black Apple Crossing with Leo Orpin.

We have also learned about some local products produced with local ingredients, which was interesting too. Black Apple Crossing let us into their 'kitchen' to see how they make cider as the First Cidery in Arkansas. With each stop, Chef Brooks picked up ingredients and went back to the kitchen to make some magic.

As we are editing, we are laughing out loud. We know that once people see these characters and learn more about them, they will understand why a show like this is important. Their are a lot of great magazines and stories on-line, but for me, there is nothing like a story captured in video. The jokes and random conversations are the magic of the moment. That is the craft we are bringing to the table.

Please make sure to watch our season premiere on AETN/PBS this coming January 7th at 5pm. Until then, please consider becoming an underwriter for this locally produced show that is receiving no funding from AETN. You can buy your media locally directly from us in Northwest Arkansas and get 15,000 to 33,000 eyes on your spot 4 times a month. Your spot will be embedded in the episode forever unlike most commercial spots. Considering AETN is still rerunning cooking shows from 6 years ago, that could be for years to come. Help us tell the good story of food and be champions with us on the most trustworthy institute seven years running.


Chef Talk - Feeling blessed

Chef Talk – Feeling blessed

Wow………It has been such a busy time. What a great time to be a chef in the food industry! Really, it has all taken on new meaning for me. See, I have been so fortunate with what I do that I have been able to travel all over . Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee in the early part of my career opening units and learning how to manage. I have worked in some trend setting gourmet grocery stores. Moved to Arkansas and just like my mother said, “your gonna find exactly what you have been looking for”. And she was right!!!!

I have worked in clubs. Had my own restaurant with my friend Case. Soul Restaurant was the best learning experience that I have had. Now working for a Foodservice company has just changed my whole outlook. Getting the chance to bring all these great farms to the eyes, ears and hands of the best chefs in Arkansas and Oklahoma has been very liberating and has made my focus on education. I was able to do that with having a daily cooking show, ‘Cooking Today’ for two years, with over 280 episodes. Now with the opening of Brightwater, Center for the Study of Food, and getting a chance to share all that has been given to me with my students! It is a real BLESSING!!!!!! And now a show statewide on AETN…WOW!!

My perspective has had a total change. I look at restaurants, all aspects, causal, fine dining and fast food different. Maybe because I get to go into the back door of so many kitchens each week. Maybe because I have seen so many chefs take on a greater caring about the ingredients they serve. Whatever the reason for the change, makes me smile with delight!

I am a living example that you can do anything you set your mind to. And if you believe, all things are possible! To all the people that have had Faith in me and Believed in me like, my sweet momma Sharon. My late father George. Chefs Scott Berg, Paul DeMartino, Case Dighero. My wife Mandy and my kid, Noah. My friend and producer Jeremy Duckworth! All of my family and friends. I am so grateful. Without your Love and Support I would not be here in this place on the road! I will not let you down!