By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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But this week, Graham Kerr becomes the Olympic Peninsula’s traveling taster and velvet-omelet maker.
First, he’s spending a few days gallivanting from Port Townsend to Sequim to Port Angeles and points west with his wife of 57 years, Treena.
Then, at The Gateway center stage at First and Lincoln streets in Port Angeles, Kerr will open the Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival at 11 a.m. Saturday, with Jamestown S’Klallam elder Elaine Grinnell at his side.
The chef will next offer something he doesn’t do much of anymore: a cooking demonstration in the grand and jaunty style he perfected on his “Galloping Gourmet” network TV show of decades ago.
A London-born Scot who’s lived in Mount Vernon for 10 years, Kerr “is kind of beyond” onstage demos, said Scott Nagel, crab fest producing director.
But he’s enthused about the fresh foods of the Olympic Peninsula, and he’s got a book out, Growing at the Speed of Life, that he would like to promote.
The crab festival, which takes over The Gateway pavilion and City Pier from 10 a.m. till 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, is Port Angeles’ grand celebration of local food, which puts it straight down the Galloping Gourmet’s alley.
Kerr, 77, used to be all about butter and heavy cream. He was Julia Child’s male counterpart on TV.
But in 1986, Treena suffered a heart attack, and he converted to low-fat cuisine and then got into gardening and sustainable food — all the while staying on the quest for deliciousness.
Kerr lives by a four-part motto: Eat more plants, grow more food, gather and share, he recited in an interview from his home last week.
Conveniently, the words’ first letters spell “eggs,” the ingredient he’ll work with Saturday morning.
“I’ll make an omelet with a coating of parsnip. Nobody has ever seen this before,” Kerr said.
“I take the parsnips and steam them. Then, I put them in a blender with evaporated skim milk. I run the blender for three or four minutes, and a completely amazing thing happens:
“I have a pot full of velvet.”
During Saturday’s demonstration, Kerr will “grab a couple of people from the audience who have never made an omelet in their entire life” and invite them up to his cooktop.
“Then, I’m going to hover over them,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of tricks up my sleeve.”
Once the cooking is done, Kerr and crew will pass out utensils. He predicts 150 people will be able to enjoy a big bite, “perilously perched” on a fork.
Afterward, Kerr will descend into the crab festival crowd to sell and sign copies of Growing at the Speed of Life.
Nagel, meanwhile, has pronounced himself “totally psyched” about Kerr’s visit.
The crab festival, which brings some 15,000 people to downtown Port Angeles each October, has had regionally renowned chefs, but never one of this stature.
Nagel hopes Kerr will be a harbinger of future visits by famous cooks as well as a messenger to the rest of the world about the flavors of the Olympic Peninsula.
Kerr, for his part, said he and Treena “are like a couple of school kids” about to go on vacation.
“We’re going to trot up the paths and see the waterfalls,” he said.
When not on the trail, the Kerrs will be stopping at places along the Olympic Peninsula Culinary Adventure Route, that circuit of farms, fine dining and casual cafes accessible via www.OlympicPeninsula.org.
They will visit Brinnon to “have a look at the geoducks, which I have never cooked,” Kerr said.
The Resort at Port Ludlow’s Fireside Restaurant, Finnriver Farm and the Port Townsend Food Co-op are also on the itinerary — and “we’re going to meet Arran Stark,” the Jefferson Healthcare chef who Kerr said is doing innovative things for the hospital.
Then, it’s on to the Alder Wood Bistro in Sequim and Michael’s in Port Angeles, where local delicacies are regular fare.
“I’m going to have a men’s breakfast with Nash,” added Kerr, referring to Nash Huber of Nash’s Organic Produce.
Huber, a pioneer of sustainable farming in the Dungeness Valley, hosts a hearty breakfast with fellow farmers every Thursday.
When asked to name his favorite Pacific Northwest food, however, Kerr didn’t immediately talk fish.
“There is a squash that’s coming up, as we speak: the delicata,” he said. “I just love it.”
But Kerr quickly added another favorite: Dungeness crab — in his words, “those lovely, succulent lumps.”
To find out more about this weekend’s revelry, which includes free live music and many other chef demonstrations, visit www.CrabFest.org, check Friday’s Peninsula Daily News or phone the festival office at 360-452-6300.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.