The first time I met Glenn was at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival where I was ‘getting my feet wet’ with the ACF. He drifted into my peripheral, white-coated and commanding. I turned to face this figure and looked up…and then up some more…and I thought, “This guys a Chef? No way! Are you sure he’s not a captain of a fishing boat, or maybe a herder of bovines on the craggy bluffs of Norway? Wait, wait--I know! He’s the leader of a Harley Gang!”
Well, come to find out, he did sail the seven seas and twice around the world. Glenn grew up on a farm in Connecticut, raised cattle and outlined cuts of meat on their bodies with indelible ink. Maybe he didn’t turn out to be the leader of a Harley Gang, but he was definitely a leader who adored his bike and those who shared the joy of the open road. But I digress…
Upon our first meeting, I hoisted a 20-pound bag of ice over my shoulder--you know, like a lady--and he walked up to me, shook his head in that way that he did, chuckled a bit and said, “What are you doing?” I replied, “I’m helping!” Obviously, I should have said, “Trying to impress you!” But he knew that, and as our friendship grew, I came to understand that Glenn didn’t want to be impressed. He was a man who sought authenticity.
We became compatriots in the ACF and I, in turn, sought his advice constantly. He represented his beloved ACI on radio and film with into the Soup and then he did it just for fun! He was a walking, talking, culinary encyclopedia that I called upon for answers to on-air questions like, “Why does fennel taste like licorice?” “Is there really such a thing as lemur shit coffee beans?” “Is Veloute a Crayola color?” He’d lean into his mic with that smile on his face and translate the complex language of the kitchen in a way that even the most novice cook could understand. It’s just one of the reasons why his students loved and respected him: He was an accessible genius.
I’d call him on a Friday night when I’d screwed up a sauce and he’d tell me how to fix it, or in dire circumstances, where to get the best pizza. Glenn always had my back and I hope somewhere along the way, I had his.
My final frolic in foodie land with Chef Glenn Humphrey was over Super Bowl weekend. I got a last minute call to employ Grey Tie Events for a VIP. They wanted two breakfasts, dinner for 8 and me to Chef it. Um, I don’t think so. “Hey Glenn, can you help me?”
He told me that he had been in the hospital the week before, so I convinced myself that I could pull it off on my own; but as I began to prepare for the occasion, images of a straightjacket and padded room filled my head and I couldn’t find my flask. I panicked and called my ol’ compatriot again. He said, “Give me the menu and I’ll cook it!” Despite being sicker than any of us knew, he got my back; and together, we knocked it out of the park!
You’re probably wondering where that Demi in the title fits into this little missive. VIP dinner menu included some Prime Rib-Eyes and Glenn, being the classy and uber prepared act that he is, brought along a quart of heaven, just in case. Lucky for me, our clients’ tastes leaned toward the more simple side of steak sauce. So, Glenn asked if I’d like to take it home. Hell, yes!!
When I went to visit him in the hospital just hours before he passed, I said, “Hey Glenn! Guess what I had for breakfast? Scrambled eggs and Demi-Glace! I put that shit on everything!” I saw a twinkle in his eye, heard a faint chuckle, and he shook his head and smiled.
Damn, he was a great guy!