The Carnegie Community Arts Center is getting back in the food game. In a big way.

The key addition is that of Bobby Crews, who is coming aboard as the Carnegie's Executive Chef.

Crews, of Russell County, is a recent graduate of Somerset Community College's Culinary Arts program, but has plenty of real-world experience already, having worked as chef at Mulligans Restaurant in Woodson Bend and operates the Triple C food truck in Russell Springs — Triple C as in "Crews'm Cumberland Cuisines."

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity with the Carnegie," said Crews. "Obviously, culinary arts is my passion. It's a great opportunity for me to get a good foot in the door and to let the community try new things too."

Crews will be doing the catering for the Carnegie Center, as well as the food manager.

"The state is requiring all institutions that serve food to have a manager that's certified to oversee food service," said Carnegie director Diane Giddens, "so he will be doing that. He's getting his certification to be our food manager."

But even better than that — Crews will be launching a new program at the Carnegie called "Mondays with the Chef." The new endeavor will feature food and instructional opportunities from Crew, and will take place ever other Monday at noon, beginning on November 18, with participation by reservation for $20.

"The first one is just going to be an introduction," said Giddens. "It will be an introduction to him, what he's going to serve, all sorts of cuisines and hors d'oeuvres."

After that, Crews will evolve to teaching classes on various techniques and kitchen practices — how to cut with knives, how to cook with wine, how to make your own sauces.

For Crews, its the fulfillment of a path that he started on long ago. He's been in the industry for about 15 years and started trying to get his SCC Culinary Arts degree several years ago, but life got in the way and he had to put that aside for a while. Eventually, however, he decided to go back and finish up the few classes he had left, with the guidance of his "great mentors," SCC instructors Chef Ed Nazario and Chef Michael Wells — and now he's at the Carnegie.

"Honestly, the joy of seeing people's expressions and just getting the feedback when I'd cook a dish — 'Oh, it's good,' 'It's different,' 'I've never had it like this before,'" said Crews of why he loves cooking. "I'm really into international food. Like Japanese, I love trying to cook hibachi, or working with seafood. I enjoy creating my own sauces, I don't like anythign store-bought. I'm just hooked on different cultural foods, and learning about other countries and how they eat."

While Crews will mainly be working upstairs at the Carnegie, downstairs in the Cellar, the kitchen is starting to heat up again with the arrival of Kathleen Hall Ali, otherwise known as "Kat," to manage it.

When Giddens returned as director of the Carnegie Center, one of the major goals she had was to fully utilize the dining space in the basement of the venerable North Main Street facility. The downstairs area of the Carnegie has been one of the unfulfilled hidden dining gems in the area for years. A gorgeous space set up to look like a rustic European villa, it has hosted numerous special dinners and events over the years, but has never really been utilized on a regular basis, as is Giddens' goal.

"We wanted (this type of daily food service) to be a thing ever since (the space) was decorated," said Giddens, who returned to the Carnegie after an absence of several years this past spring. "I said, 'Now's the time to do it.'

Earlier this year, local caterer Darlene Newell operated a daily lunch service out of the Cellar, but in recent weeks, that utilization has been put on hold. But hall Ali is arriving after cooking at the Highlands Place assisted living facility in Somerset at continue lunch at the Cellar from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., eat in our carry out.

"Her signature bread pudding with real bourbon sauce will be wonderful," said Giddens.

New items include "a sandwich named after legendary youth Mark Thatcher, the "Cumberbun," an Italian open-faced sandwich, a bacon jam burger, chili dogs, and daily special. Nothing is over $8, said Giddens.

"Everything will be made from scratch, nothing processed, all homemade, including the salad dressings," said Giddens.

And of course, the bratwurst with homemade bacon jam will be a regular offering for those looking for a quick and tasty bite.

Hall Ali is excited to take on the new challenge at the Carnegie, and to meet both old friends and new ones who walk in the downtown door.

"I will love everyone that walks in the door. That's just me," said Hall Ali. "I was raised by Southern ladies, so we do this thing where we feed souls."

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