Wilton Manors resident Chad Thilborger seems to have finally found himself in the most obvious of places.
Not in the Jesuit priesthood for which he had prepared for many years. Nor in the not-for-profit world in which he has served local organizations including SunServe and Stonewall National Museum and Archives.
He has found himself in his kitchen. Via his new cookbook A Whole Heap Of Goodness and television spots, he is finding himself in your kitchen as well.
Recalling his New Orleans childhood, Thilborger explains why he was deputized by his cousins to memorialize his grandmother’s southern cooking.
“Growing up, my nickname was “Jaws” because I would eat anything. When my grandmother was cooking and ready to test something, I was the first one to get the spoon. When we all grew up, it was obvious that I’d be the one to collect recipes.”
If South Florida is itself a “test kitchen” in which gay people discover their souls’ ingredients after having completed lives elsewhere, the Thilborger recipe is loving, playful and adventurous. For him, cooking is always a personal expression of care for friends and family, and a heartfelt gesture that uses whatever components are at hand. He describes having concocted something out of the last two lemons and oranges on trees in his backyard combined with the last sprigs of mint and basil in his garden to create a shortbread cookie that has since been in high demand among his friends.
“Like my grandmother, I cook for the moment, and if you aren’t willing to be bold and fearless and playful in the kitchen, you won’t like my book,” he said. “It’s full of typos. If you can deal with that, and with every other page being a personal memoir or a story about a family recipe, you will like this.”
A Whole Heap of Goodness is definitely about southern cooking, but Thilborger is quick to tell me that not everything in it is fried and that there is no recipe for fried chicken.
The book does include red beans and rice (for the beginner), his Aunt Net’s boulets fricassee (Cajun meatballs with thick brown gravy), a rum cake that uses a boxed mix as its base, a popular spinach artichoke dip, his grandmother’s pralines and her “Mock Shoe Corn,” an unusual onion/butter/pepper side dish made by cutting corn off the cob and scraping the “milk” out of the cob.
Recently, Money Talks News approached Thilborger about starring in three segments in which he would suggest and demonstrate how a family of four might enjoy a meal for less than $15. Never afraid of a challenge, he instantly agreed.
On the night before the shoot, they added an element, requesting that he include two Superbowl snacks or party ideas. No problem. The resultant “Marinated Checkerboard Cheese and Sausage balls” would have comforted any family startled by the pyrotechnics of Beyonce’s halftime show.
Thilborger is expanding his “Whole Heap Of” concept to include a line of limited run table runners and napkins made of fabric that catches his eye but is perhaps discontinued.
A second book A Whole Heap Of Love will be a party/entertaining guide full of quirky stories about dropping the turkey or setting the decorations on fire. After that, he will deliver his dessert recipe book A Whole Heap Of Trouble.
Meanwhile, Chad is dealing with the ramifications of becoming a brand.
“I am finally doing something I love, but I have learned not to put my cell phone number on my business card. I got a call from a lady in Texas who said, ‘Hi, I’m giving a party using all your recipes and I need you to walk me through this.’ I loved it and I enjoy the connection I feel with people like her,” he said. “I guess it’s because I’m gay, no kids and no plans to have any kids. These recipes are my legacy. I have to spread this thing I love. It’s not meant to be hoarded.”
Success has not changed Chad Thilborger. He is still at play in the kitchen of his home in Wilton Manors where he cooks for his partner Frank. His prize possessions are the cast iron skillet his grandmother used to make biscuits and the simple drawing she made for him when he asked her for that recipe.
“I don’t care if the house burns as long as I walk out with those two things,” he said.
For more about Chad and to order the cookbook: http://www.awholeheap.com
Watch Chad on Money Talks News: http://mtnews.co/XjglLi