Lew Flader came to our attention as a good home cook by one of his fellow congregants at St. Andrew's Presbyterian. Lew is an active member of the West Ashley church and helped in getting a cookbook off the ground there last fall.
Lew says both his grandfather and dad were sailors, and he was career Navy, as well as his son (Scott Flader), who just retired from the Navy after 20 years. "So I'm the son of a son of a sailor and my son is the son of a son of a son of a sailor."
Name: Lewis Flader
Family: Married to the love of my life Kathy, whom I met in Charleston. We will celebrate 31 years in September. I have one son, Scott Flader, who lives in San Diego. He married a sweet girl named Carrie and has three children: Jamie who lives here and two girls, Taylor and Paige in San Diego.
Occupation: When I retired from the Navy (1969-91), I went back to school to be a computer systems analyst. Ultimately went to work for Roper St. Francis Health Care. I stayed there for 15 years and retired two years ago.
Q. Your interest in food and cooking started at a young age. Where did you grow up, and who was your greatest influence?
A. I grew up in Denver, an only child. My greatest influence was my dad, Lewis Otto Flader. He thought everyone should know how to cook and made sure I had the basics.
I also often helped with meals and learned along the way. When my dad served a meal of spaghetti or chicken cacciatore, everyone went nuts.
He was famous in the family for his cooking and people loved it; I wanted a little of that praise coming my way, I guess. I learned how good it feels to prepare and serve someone a really good meal.
Q. Describe "pasta day" in your family.
A. Well, from the looks of the house, you would think it was a little crazy in there. The truth was, it was very well-organized, and everyone had a job.
When you feed a lot of family (aunts and uncles, etc.), you need a lot of pasta. So we started early Saturday morning. My dad made and kneaded the dough; he had the strong hands. After it rested, my mom rolled it flat (the thickness of the noodle), floured it a little, then rolled it up and sliced off the noodles.
First, every horizontal surface in the house like dressers, beds, coffee tables, etc., had clean sheets or towels on them. I sprinkled flour on the pasta, separated it and spread it out to dry. There was pasta everywhere. I remember when a buddy of mine stopped by, after looking around wide-eyed he asked, "What are you people doing?"
"Making pasta," I said, "don't you make pasta at your house?" I honestly thought everyone made pasta.
Q. So, as an adult, how have you cultivated your interest and furthered your knowledge?
A. No formal training, I'm just a listener, and I'll try almost anything. My grandma used to make old-fashioned liquid center chocolate-covered cherries. The juice ran all over your mouth, amazing.
I was telling the story to a couple of friends and they asked if I knew how to do it. No, but how hard could it be? A little research later and now I make liquid center chocolate covered cherries (Well, it was a little difficult).
The fact is, if you have a good recipe, I'm interested and I'll give it a shot. The Internet is a fantastic tool for broadening your cooking knowledge. Look at several recipes for what you're thinking of trying. You can't get too much information. Then pick one or combine a couple and just dive into it.
Q. How would you describe your cooking or baking style?
A. I don't know that I have a style you could pin down. If a French pastry chef had my style, they would also make a good spaghetti or Cuban pork. If I like it, I try to perfect it and I like lots of very different things.
Q. You had a long Navy career. Did that affect your cooking in any way?
A. Yes, I was on submarines and retired as a senior chief petty officer. I was lucky enough to visit a few countries. The one thing I learned is, try the local food. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you're going to enjoy it. I did anyway. That really defined my taste; I enjoy good Southern barbecue as much as paella, Mexican pasole as much as fried flounder.
Q. What is the most challenging dish you've ever attempted and how did it go?
A. Well, first of all I don't consider myself a really good cook. Like a lot of people, I cook a lot of things good. Not like a real gourmet cook or someone who can be a real wizard in the kitchen.
I find something I like and work on it, then add it to my list of items I might serve guests.
The biggest challenge was doing really good pork barbecue. Not the Crock-Pot stuff, but the hand-rubbed, slow-smoked, hand-pulled real thing. The real stuff takes time to perfect and all day to prepare.
Q. Do you have any affinities for ethnic cooking?
A. Well, let's see, is grilling ethnic? If at all possible, I'll do all or part of a meal on a grill.
Seriously though, certainly Italian, I grew up on it as well as Mexican. I cook what I love to eat and I love to eat what I grew up on.
Q. Let's say you were on "Survivor" and deprived of good food for awhile. What would be the first meal you request?
A. Honestly, I'd ask for a good meat smoker, a nice lean Boston butt roast and ingredients for a good rub and sauce. Let's not forget the homemade coleslaw and dressing.
Momma Flader's Bar-B-Q Ribs
2 pounds boneless country-style ribs
1 clove garlic
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup vinegar
1 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Thin slices of onion and lemon
Mix all ingredients, except for onion and lemon, and bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let stand.
Brown meat on a charcoal grill for 1 hour, 30 minutes per side, and place in an oven pan (it's best to find a smaller pan so the sauce will cover the ribs). Cover with the onion and lemon slices and cook at 325 degrees for about 2 hours or until meat is tender.
Optional meat preparation: Brown under broiler or in frying pan. Just make sure all sides are browned.
Lew Flader's Spicy Charleston Red Rice
1 pound smoked sausage (Polish sausage for spicier rice)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon cilantro
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon anise seed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (for brave souls)
2 cups of uncooked Uncle Ben's Converted Rice
Cut sausage into thin slices or dice. Mix sausage with the remaining ingredients except the rice and add 3 cups of water. Bring to a good boil, and then stir in the rice. Cover tightly and simmer for 20 minutes. Resist the temptation to peek, stir, or taste. Leave it alone and it will turn out great.