Alabama Scene

Our prize-winning Executive Chef

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at:

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. E-mail him at:

I had actually forgotten that we have an executive chef at the Governor’s Mansion until a few weeks ago when the current chef, Jim Smith, attracted a great deal of attention by winning the Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans.

Smith is 33 and hails from Troy. In a recent interview he described his duties as preparing lunch and dinner for the governor and his family, but adds that his job is more than a just-personal chef. Smith said he is the official ambassador for Alabama food and is charged with promoting the state’s producers, but he must still be “ready for all events” for which the governor needs food, “whether it’s cupcakes for a birthday, hors d’oeuvres for 200, or dinner for visiting dignitaries.”

Smith doesn’t live in the Governor’s Mansion but says it is his base of operation. He revealed recently that the governor has a big vegetable garden on the mansion grounds, complete with tomatoes, peppers, squash, and okra. On a typical day, he says, the governor will come home, eat dinner, and later he and the first lady will pick vegetables and leave a basket for the next day’s menu. He was also quoted as saying that the first lady is an “excellent cook.”

Smith graduated culinary school at the top of his class, from Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, N.C. His winning entry in New Orleans was a dish titled “Late Summer Alabama Bounty.” It featured Alabama wild shrimp and marinated crab seasoned with garam masala and served with scented yellow squash puree, lady peas, and bacon-peach relish and garnished with Spanish basil oil. He beat out chefs from 13 other states. The chefs were asked to create dishes that were unique to their states and that reflected fishing catches native to their waters.

We should all be proud that our governor’s food preparation is top caliber. I wasn’t able to find out over the weekend what we are paying for the governor’s expertly prepared cuisine. The state’s open records website didn’t list a “Jim Smith,” but I would suspect he is paid an annual salary of about $80,000 plus fringe benefits.

I do not write this column as a suggestion the governor fire his chef, but perhaps he could find a better and more expanded use for his talents… like sending him over to those horrible cafeterias in the state office buildings to spruce up and spice up the menus. After all, our first lady is described as “an excellent cook,” and such a move would allow state workers to purchase a few good lunches before they lose their jobs.

I can’t help but wonder how many chefs Bob Riley had. Foreign in Alabama

It doesn’t pay to be “foreign and driving in Alabama” no matter that you’re a citizen from one of our allies or perhaps an executive with a company that brought thousands of jobs to our state. Believe me, if you don’t have proper credentials, Dr. Bentley and Scott Beason will call out the cops in boots and put you in the slammer.

Just ask the 46-year-old Mercedes executive who was stopped by police in Tuscaloosa, jerked out of his rental car, and arrested because he couldn’t show a proper driver’s license. Had he been a bit older, he might have seen visions of Hitler’s Storm Troopers.

This is just another “unintended consequence” of this utterly unrealistic and unnecessary immigration law, which likely violates our Constitution and is again making us the “laughingstock of the universe.”

More than 200 news reports about the incident are listed on Google. TVA chief’s salary boosted to nearly $4 million

In an incredible display of insensitivity to the plight of American taxpayers, the Tennessee Valley Authority has given its chief executive, Tom Kilgore, a $352,481 pay raise, boosting his pay to more than $3.95 million in fiscal 2011.

Kilgore is one of the highest paid federal workers in America.

TVA Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum is paid total compensation of nearly $2.6 million, up from less than $2.4 million in the previous year, and TVA Group President Kim Greene was paid a total of nearly $2.4 million, or $49,139 more than the previous year.

Congress must put a stop to this largesse.