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Out of the courtroom, into the kitchen

Marilyn Odendahl
November 21, 2012
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At the end of a busy workday or while “taking five” during the weekend, many lawyers find themselves venturing into the kitchen in search of food ready to grab and go. But for some attorneys, the lure of the kitchen involves preparation and cooking.

For the latter group, being in the kitchen is not a chore. Putting ingredients together, chopping, braising and roasting is the way they relax and exercise their artistic side. But more than making a meal, they enjoy cooking because it is often paired with family and friends.

The phrase, “I cook” is often followed by a recollection of what they made and who was there to eat with them.

That convivial nature of cooking and dining winds through the stories these attorneys have of their culinary adventures. Even while many insist they are not great or accomplished cooks, they still talk about cooking with love and garnish their tales with a lot of delicious examples.

Empty stomach

Scott Chinn’s cooking skills started to take root when he was a latchkey kid. Coming home from school in the afternoons, his house was as empty as

moberly-recipe.jpg

 his stomach.

His technique and talent evolved from there as he largely taught himself through observation and replication. When he enters the kitchen today, he sees himself as a “jack of all cooking trades” kind of chef.

Chinn switches his focus between preparing a five- to six-course dinner to serve at a dinner party for friends and colleagues to putting on a grill-master hat and tailgating at Indiana University football games.

When entertaining friends, he usually makes a meal centered on a particular theme, like the cuisine of northeast France, Cajun Creole or even something eclectic like half California fare and half All-American staples.

“It’s the creativity,” Chinn said of his attraction to cooking. “I try to be creative as a lawyer, but there’s only so much you can do.”

Lately, Chinn, a partner at Faegre Baker Daniels LLP and current president of the Indianapolis Bar Association, has been doing a lot of traveling which has kept him out of town and away from home. In a nod to his childhood experience, Chinn has expanded his cooking portfolio to making one-pot meals before he goes on the road so his wife can have a hot meal when she comes home with an empty stomach.

Missing Ina
As a mother with three children in the house, Robyn Moberly had to prepare the meals. But once the youngsters became adults and were living on their own, she discovered she could turn from cooking the “boring stuff” to putting in more creative effort and trying new dishes.

Her menus now include shrimp creole, leg of lamb with orzo and roasted vegetables on the side, soups like chicken noodle and butternut squash, roasted chicken with herbs and lemon, and salmon with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Moberly learned the techniques and discovered new recipes to try by taking a few cooking classes and reading cookbooks. When her sister told her about Ina Garten, widely known as “The Barefoot Contessa,” Moberly read her cookbooks, watched her TV show, and became a fan.

So much so that Moberly was prepared to delay her recent swearing in ceremony in order to fly to Washington D.C. for an Evening with Ina event at a local bookstore. Moberly, formerly a Marion Superior judge, was recently appointed to a 14-year term as a judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

She was scheduled to be sworn in Nov. 1 but, since that was the day she would be seeing Garten, the court moved the ceremony to Oct. 29.

However, the entire trip became foiled by super storm Sandy that ravaged the East Coast. The weather forced Garten to cancel her tour and left Moberly disappointed.

“I was anxious to meet her,” the jurist said. “She seems like a very grounded person.”

Living to eat

Driving home each night, Gary Klotz thinks about what he can make for dinner.
One night leftover roasted chicken was sandwiched with blue cheese and fig jam, then put into the Panini press. Another night black bean soup was the main course. Inviting friends over for a dinner party is common and may offer a menu of rabbit in mustard sauce or leg of lamb with a white wine and root vegetables.

Klotz’s approach to food reflects the attitude he encountered during his studies and travels in Europe. Where Americans eat to live, he explained, Europeans live to eat.

“It’s still a big part of my life,” the partner at Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP said. “I have a lot of friends who are interested in cooking, some are more interested in eating, but all enjoy a good meal with a good bottle of wine.”

Once he graduated college and got his own apartment, Klotz embraced cooking. He has made and shared meals all through law school, bachelorhood and marriage. Comfort food finds a place on his table the same as new fare like pork shoulder covered with a dry rub of fresh fennel seeds and spices, served with a side dish of eggplant, marinara sauce, arborio rice and mozzarella.

“Some people paint,” he explained. “Some people fish. I like cooking.”

Soup parties

After a meal, East Chicago attorney Paul Velligan is likely to ask for recipes.

He does not follow the instructions to the precise teaspoon measurement, but he is always looking for new ways to cook the ingredients in his pantry or those he brings home from the farmer’s market. Recently, he has been cajoling his Italian neighbor to let him come over before dinner so he can watch and learn how she prepares the meal.
 

EXTRA
Click here to view more recipes from the attorneys profiled here

Growing up, Velligan, along with his six brothers and one sister, were surrounded by food. His mother, grandmothers and even his father prepared hearty fare like soups and roasts, not only satisfying his hunger but also instilling in him a love of cooking.

“Food for me has been informed by a great diversity of friends and family and travels,” Velligan said.

As a student at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Velligan continued his family’s traditions by gathering his classmates and throwing soup parties. They would cook three or four different kinds of soup and gather for an evening of sustenance and friendship.

Among his favorite soups is a concoction of stewed tomatoes, garlic, lentils and cumin. He got the recipe from the woman who used to clean the legal aid clinic at I.U. Often working late there, Velligan would take in the “incredible smells” as the janitor, who was a native of Ethiopia, heated her dinner. One night, she gave him the instructions for the soup.

“What a fantastic recipe,” he said.

The science of food

Bloomington attorney Geoffrey Grodner of Mallor Grodner LLP began cooking before there were big, bright cookbooks and food shows on television. The visuals and excitement that are common today were absent, along with the opportunity to learn.

However, after 40 years in the kitchen, Grodner has taught himself and embraced different foods. He has cooked Indian food, Thai food, and Asian food. For a dinner party, he may stick to an Italian or Mediterranean menu. At his home in Florida, he prepares a lot of fresh seafood, and during the time he vacationed in France, he cooked a lot of French cuisine.

“If the ingredients are around and the equipment is available, I’ll try to cook about anything,” he said.

Lately he has been preparing to experiment with molecular gastronomy – the new frontier of cooking. This is more science than cooking, he said, the method encapsulates surprising flavors in gelled spheres.

Grodner’s love of cooking is shared by many lawyers, as is his having to squeeze the cooking into a busy schedule.

“If you’re a practicing attorney,” he admits, “cooking every night is a challenge.”•

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