Having spent nearly two years as executive chef of Biltmore Estate, Damien Cavicchi was pretty sure he knew how to make cornbread. He’d perfected a mountain-style preparation that involved bacon and a cast-iron pan.
But in the eyes of the residents of a Mississippi senior home operated by Blake Management Group, which in 2013 hired Cavicchi away from The Biltmore and its hoity-toity tendencies, that deliberate Old South homage didn’t belong on a plate with plain black-eyed peas or cooked-down collards. They wanted dense buttermilk cornbread that crumbled on command. Or they wanted the kind of cornbread that’s as sweet and moist as birthday cake.
Cavicchi knew his recipe didn’t stand a chance. Yet he also hesitated to side with either cornbread camp. So he dutifully baked cornbread both ways until residents had a chance to fight out their philosophies in a monthly meeting of the Culinary Council, a resident board that’s become a fixture of life care facilities.