My Other Projects

In China, sunflowers are symbols of longevity and good luck, which are two important things that I needed when I started my culinary hobby almost fifteen years ago. This hobby resembles a plant in many ways. I initially started with a focus on Italian cuisine, working my ways through the various regions of Italy. One of my best friends said to me that I needed to branch out. And, I did. I began pursuing other cuisines, not just in Europe (such as Spanish or French cuisines), but around the world, including Persian and Indian cuisines. Over time, my blog posts began to blossom with this expanded focus, especially with my Around the World in 80 Dishes personal culinary challenge. 

As I work my way through this challenge, I have still branched out with other culinary projects. One of these projects is Beyond Borders, which is an effort to learn about the culture, cuisine, and history of ethnic groups that I would not necessarily be able to include in my Around the World in 80 Dishes challenge. 

There are many other projects that I have done over the years. Some are ongoing projects with no set expiration, while others were a limited series of blog posts. All of my Chef Bolek culinary projects, other than the two set forth above, can be found on this page.


THE MINDFULNESS FOODWAYS: This project chronicles my gradual efforts to incorporate Buddhist principles to evolve my cooking experience. I am not going to become a Buddhist or even eat like a Buddhist. Instead, I will bring a mindfulness to the ingredients, the processes and the final dishes that I prepare. My goal is to change the way that I cook and eat by evolving my diet that will be better for the environment and, of course, my own health. I plan on incorporating what I have learned from over fourteen years of writing this blog. I will draw upon what I have learned about rice dishes from sub-Saharan Africa or curry dishes from across Asia. I will use what I have learned about indigenous cuisine and their approach to nature, including  Native American and Pacific Islander cuisines. The page with the posts about this journey can be found here.


 One of my favorite shows is the original Iron Chef. I loved watching the Iron Chefs (like Chen Kenichi, Hiroyuki Sakai and Morimoto) express their creativity through food.  The Iron Chefs and many of their challengers take the secret ingredients - ranging from cilantro to wagyu beef -- and create amazing dishes. Every once in a while, I pick an ingredient and try to come up with three dishes that feature that ingredient.  While I may consult with recipes for some basic guidance in developing the dish, I try not to use them when I prepare the dish. I avoid recipes during the cooking process so that I can truly pressure myself into making dishes that, for better or worse, I can call my own. The page with the links to each culinary battle can be found here

 If there is one form of food that I love the most, it is the kebab. That form of food also is perhaps one of the most ubiquitous meals, as it can be found across the world, whether in fancy restaurants, street stalls or home kitchens. Many different cultures have their own takes upon the mighty kebab. This blog series explores how this one food item unites people around the world, yet also enables people to celebrate their differences together through food. Each Kebab-apalooza event begins with a large amount of an ingredient (such as a protein), followed by an effort to learn different recipes, along with the backstories of the cultures who produce them.  The page with the links to each of the kebab recipes can be found here.

THE BREWERY SERIES: A series of blog posts about new breweries, taprooms, or brewpubs (whether truly new or just new to me), as well as some long standing breweries that have truly left their mark or have contributed to some notable experiences. Some notes about the breweries, their beers, and those experiences. These are some of the places that I have been which truly stand apart, one way or another, from many of the breweries that are out there. The blog posts can be found here.

 There is so much more to cooking than a bunch of ingredients, a cooking process or technique, and a final dish or meal. There are the stories behind it all. I have decided to write about these stories and tangents, as well as the issues that they raise in my mind. Each post addresses a subject that I have come across and delves into it. At the end, I suggest some recipes that I have previously made that relate to the underlying issue. 

 While I love buffalo wings, I am no longer a fan of the basic wing sauce. I have spent my time searching for the best sauces other than the traditional wing sauce. My search has led me to two conclusions. First, there is a wide array of marinades, rubs, and sauces used in cuisines around the world. Second, the only way that I would ever learn if these marinades, rubs and sauces would work with buffalo wings is to make them myself. Thus, a new project where I will not only explore some of the more common sauces (for example, Caribbean Jerk), but I will also experiment with some little known methods for preparing wings. The end result will be an adventure through global cuisine on chicken wings! The blog posts can be found here.


 I was drawn to Amor Towles' A Gentleman in Moscow with a recipe for Lativan Stew. As I read the book,  I become engrossed in the lives of Count Alexander Rostov and those around him as he lives out the Bolshevik-imposed life sentence of being confined to the Metropol hotel. I also found my interest piqued by the two restaurants of the hotel -- the Boyarsky and the Piazza -- where Count Rostov would be served his meals. I paid close attention to Towles' descriptions of not only the meals, but also the context in which they were prepared.  This project seeks to recreate some of those dishes, including that Latvian Stew using a recipe from Towles himself. I hope to approach other recipes in the same way as the Boyarsky's chef, Emil Zhutovsky, having to be creative with limited ingredients. 

 In an age of politicians trying to remove African-American history from textbooks, I want to explore how African-Americans have contributed  to the history and the cuisine of the Chesapeake Bay. That contribution is quite extensive, reaching into many of the iconic aspects of the bay, such as fishing, oyster harvesting and crabbing. I am also motivated to respond to the concerted effort by conservative politicians to interfere with the desire to learn more about African-American history. This project is also guided by Tangie Holifield's A Culinary History of the Chesapeake Bay. This work is part history book, part cookbook. 


 This upcoming blog series delves into Maryland's iconic spice mix known as Old Bay.  This also happens to be my favorite spice mix. (That statement says a lot, given my love for the seemingly endless multitudes of masalas out there, as well as my special interest in Berbere from the Horn of Africa). This series will delve into the history of spice mixes used in Maryland cuisine, as well as the history of Old Bay itself.  The series will also focus on the specific ingredients used to make the mix, as well as how the mix itself can be used in different dishes.  The series finale will involve my own attempt to recreate the Old Bay spice mixture. The blog posts can be found here.

PROJECT MARYLAND BBQ: There are regional and state barbecue styles across the United States.  Texas has beef brisket and sausage. Kansas City  has ribs with thick, tangy sauces, while Memphis has ribs with complex dry rubs. The Carolinas have either whole hog or pulled pork, with different sauces depending upon where you happen to be in those States.  What if the State of Maryland had its own barbecue style? This is a project that explores what barbecue would be in the Old Line State or Free State. The series focuses on the fundamental elements of what comprises a barbecue style, namely, proteins, sauces, and regional variations.  All four blog posts from the series can be found here.


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