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Stirring the pot

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He initially planned to return to Paris, where he went to culinary school, but then a job opportunity presented itself.

It took a little Okie charm and a meeting with John Williams, Oklahoma hotelier, to convince this vibrant chef of his place in the Sooner State.

The rest is a colorful and tasty history that’s quickly becoming part of Oklahoma foodie culture.

After working together at the Skirvin Hilton, Williams and Black moved to the Colcord Hotel, 15 N. Robinson, which houses Flint, an upscale, contemporary restaurant opening tomorrow.

“People are going to love the restaurant. I think they’re going to be really impressed with the food and the level of service they’ll receive,” said Williams, Colcord general manager.

As the concept for the restaurant began to develop, the team sat down and molded their vision, as well as their menu, from the ingredients up.

“The
whole idea was to do cuisine in a contemporary style without being
offthe-wall or so trendy that people don’t know what it is. The food is
very much ingredient-based,” said Williams.

Black echoed his cohort when discussing the importance of each element in each dish.

“What
we did was start off with the foundation,” he said. “Like building a
building, you locate the foundation and that’s what you start with
first.”

 Black
discussed the methods they used to build the menu and see the concept
come to fruition. Instead of only sourcing local ingredients, they
developed criteria and then ensured all items met those requirements.

If that happens to be local, great!

If
it doesn’t, they’ve decided that’s OK, too. Because of Oklahoma’s
climate, sourcing only locally would require the menu be limited or
dependent upon weather, as well as other uncontrollable elements.

“Everything
is so trendy these days, I think a lot of places forget where the food
started and where certain ingredients came from. What I do, I like to
travel back in time from how it used to be prepared before there was
gas. How did they handle those ingredients? What journey has that
ingredient been on? And then taking it and saying, ‘What journey can put
I put it on?’” said Black.

He has a history of taking that extra step when it comes to the ingredients he brings into his kitchen. In fact, a new book, Foraging in Oklahoma, delves into his early life in Jamaica, his inspiration for becoming a chef and his journey to Oklahoma.

Although
his story is told through author Steve Lackmeyer, the lengthy process
of writing the essays and developing recipes is close to Black’s heart.

“I have an accent, of course. But it’s written in my voice,” he joked.

Black also has a
significant role in the culinary operations at the Devon World
Headquarters. He recently hired two chefs for Vast, the restaurant at
the top of the new skyscraper: Executive Chef Patrick Williams and Ladan
Raissi, a world-class banquet chef.

“At
the end of the day, we’re all cooks, cooking and learning from each
other,” said Black, now an enthusiastic supporter of all things Oklahoma
who said he’s proud of the cultivation he’s had a hand in, as well as
the bright future of the food industry in OKC.

“We’re not just cowboys riding around. We’re a foodie town,” he said.

Meet Black and purchase Foraging in Oklahoma by Full Circle Press from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Flint.

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