July 20, 2017
Clear sky
  • 86 °F
  • Clear sky

Ace on the Court

Lukas Greif continues to rack up success on tennis scene
Photo provided by the United States Tennis AssociationPhoto provided by the United States Tennis Association
In 2016, Lukas Greif earned national attention on the tennis courts after capturing the hard court singles championship.

Easter weekend provided a brief reprieve for 17-year-old Lukas Greif. A native of Evansville, Greif made the trek from Indianapolis to spend time with friends and family over the holiday in Newburgh, Indiana. As a high-school tennis standout living and training in Indianapolis, the trip still was filled with work for the teen.

“About to finish up the recruiting process, so it’s getting busy,” was a text message from Greif that Saturday.

A few days later, Greif committed to the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, as one of the top tennis recruits in the Class of 2018. Florida has a nationally-ranked, top-20 university tennis program.

“I was looking for a school with great academics and a great tennis program,” says Greif. “When I visited Florida, it had everything I wanted in a school and tennis program. The coaches are unbelievable. They preach the philosophy and had the coaching style I was looking for. The team was awesome. They had a great work ethic, and I got along great with each of the guys. Walking around campus, I just felt like I could really see myself there. It felt like a home away from home.”

Greif will play on the male side of the same Florida program his long-time teacher Stephanie Hazlett was a part of.

“I took him on that recruiting visit,” explains Hazlett. “So I’m pretty excited he’s going to be a Gator.”

That commitment to Florida has been part of a very strong few years of tennis for Greif. His latest run in the national tennis spotlight started in April 2016 when he was runner-up in the Easter Bowl 16-under singles in Palm Springs, California. Greif would go on to have a big summer in 2016, winning the United States Tennis Association (USTA) hard court singles national championship and the USTA clay court national championship.

After that, Greif moved on to play in the Junior U.S. Open.

This year, the work has not let up for Greif, who spent the spring months working his way back to the Easter Bowl in Rancho Mirage, California, where he reached the Round of 16 in the 18-under category. The tournament, held from March 25 to April 1, was the second straight weekend Greif played in California.

“Oh, he travels all the time,” says Lukas’s mother Joanie Greif.

Ranked No. 3 in the nation on the HEAD tennis recruiting list and No. 1 in TennisRPI rankings in late April, Greif has lived in Indianapolis the last two years as he works with Hazlett at the Smith Tennis Academy, owned by Bryan and Jeff Smith. The teen made the move in the summer of 2015 to enter into the academy. Not only did it allow him to work with Hazlett, but also brought Chad Stanley, a strength and conditioning coach at the academy, into the coaching of Greif.

“The move for him was needed; it was necessary,” says Hazlett. “It allows him to play with better players. Last year, he played against some guys — one went to Notre Dame, one went to Stanford — and that helped Lukas improve. He spends a lot of time with our trainer Chad Stanley, and that’s helped him get stronger, faster, more flexible. And Bryan Smith has been amazing — to have a male voice Lukas trusts, that has been great.”

From her observations and working with him, Hazlett has noticed Greif physically and mentally has become stronger on the court. He also has become more of an aggressive player.

“I mentally have grown so much with confidence, focus, and intensity in every practice and match. Also, I physically have improved. I have grown, gotten faster, stronger, which has tremendously helped me with all the shots in my game,” he says.

For Greif, tennis has been a big part of his life since he was 3 years old. His father John Greif is an Evansville periodontist who played tennis in college at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois. His sister Abby is a 2008 Memorial High School graduate and played the sport in college at Florida Tech, Melbourne, Florida.

“Having a dad and sister who played tennis at a high level, I was surrounded by the sport at an early age,” says Greif.

He started competing at an early age, too. “I played my first tennis tournament when I was 6 years old. I still remember it,” he says. “It was at Wesselman Park. The net was taller than me, and I could not reach the score cards.”

Greif began his work with Hazlett at the former Advantage Court and Fitness, located in Downtown Evansville atop the Executive Inn parking garage. He played local tournaments until he was 9, then began traveling to tournaments throughout the Midwest before entering in competitions across the country. When he was 13, Greif gave up baseball and soccer and made tennis his main focus.

After Advantage closed with the demolition of the Executive Inn in 2011, Greif trained with Hazlett and Ryan McDaniel at Evansville Tennis Center.

“I followed (Hazlett) to train up in Indianapolis,” he says. He currently lives with Hazlett in Indianapolis since his family remains in Evansville. Bryan Smith also closely works with Greif.

As he still is in high school, Greif takes online classes at Laurel Springs (a distance learning school in California that works with elite junior players) to ensure he will graduate with a diploma. He spent his freshman year at Reitz Memorial High School and attended Holy Rosary for grade school.

Since his move to the state capital, he has done a lot of growing up, both on and off the court, according to Hazlett.

“Lukas had to learn a lot as far as life skills,” she says. “I make him do his own laundry, cook his own food. It’s been fun; I’m extremely happy for him.”

Greif credits the move to Indianapolis with improving his game and getting him more in line with his goal of ultimately becoming a professional tennis player.

“This move has had the most influence in my recent success,” says Greif. “With moving, I started online school, which allowed me to spend more time on court with such great coaches and more time doing fitness with Chad. These factors have helped me improve so much in the past two years. Also, practicing with the players in Indianapolis has been key. The level of these players is very high, and they bring so much intensity to every practice, which makes me push myself more and more every day to improve.”

The chance to play tennis at one of the top programs in the SEC is the culmination of one part of Greif’s journey, but it really is just the start of what he hopes is a long road playing professional tennis.

“A lot of the guys Florida is recruiting have the same goals,” says Hazlett. “Having like-minded people around helps. He’s still got a ways to go, but he realizes it’s attainable.”

Greif and his coaches still are working to put together a schedule for the summer.

“Ideally, he needs to go to Europe, play some more International Tennis Federation events,” says Hazlett. “Lukas may get the chance to play in the juniors of the French Open or Wimbledon.”

That means a busy summer is ahead for the teen. But for Greif, that has become his normal course.


For Pets’ Sake

Give A Dog A Bone plates up natural goodness
Quincy and Liz Zikmund, and their 7-year-old pug Murphie say customers of Give A Dog A Bone are like family.

It’s a bit of a coincidence how Liz and Quincy Zikmund came to own Give A Dog A Bone, a natural pet food market located at 5626 E. Virginia St.

The Evansville couple had been shopping at the store for a number of years for their pug Murphie before Liz took a job there in 2012. As time went by, it became a bit of a joke between the Zikmunds that if the store ever went up for sale, they would take over ownership.

“Then in February 2014, the owner asked if we wanted to buy it,” says Liz. “And I immediately said yes. I went home and told Quincy, ‘Hey, she offered and I said yes, is that okay?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, yeah!’ It was really a fun start to everything.”

The couple finalized the purchase and became the official owners in July 2015, not once looking back. On March 19, the Zikmunds along with their staff and customers celebrated Give A Dog A Bone’s 12th anniversary and recent expansion into a store space three doors down from the former location.

“We really like this complex and we love our neighbors,” says Quincy, who also is a freelance web designer. “One big reason we wanted to move over was we were just cramped in our former store. We wanted more space and to create an even better experience for customers, especially for dogs that come in.”

For Liz and Quincy, owning Give A Dog A Bone isn’t about making a sale, it is about finding the perfect food or treat for dogs and cats and their owners. Their focus is nutrition and natural wellness, and being locally owned allows them to control the product on their shelves.

“We’re not really interested in just selling products. We want to educate and inform people, teach them how to read ingredient labels and what’s good for their pets,” says Quincy. “We look after our customers.”

The Zikmunds like to keep things small; carrying products from small businesses that are like-minded is important to them. Creating a bond with customers also is important. They encourage their staff to ask questions and get to know the pets and pet owners to find foods that will fit health and taste, as well as budget.

“We’re able to work with people, get to know their pets, and get to know them,” says Liz. “Building long-lasting connections is the best part of this business.”

For more information about Give A Dog A Bone, call 812-402-2663 or visit facebook.com/DogBoneMarket or dogbonemarket.com.


A Family Guy

Sit down, order lunch, and get to know Ron Ryan

Take a minute and think of a few community leaders, people you do business with, or perhaps engage with in the nonprofit world. You’re familiar with them, you see them often, but how much do you really know? Every issue, I will take someone in the community who we all “know” and get the story behind their story. Lunch will be on me (how else could I get anyone to go to lunch?) and we will talk about all things non-business.

For this issue, Ron Ryan, Boys & Girls Club executive director, and I met at the Deerhead Tavern on April 3 for a lengthy discussion.

TT: Ron, I know you are a native of Chicago, right?
RR: Born in Chicago. I was born on the west side. That’s where my parents, when they were first married, lived. But they bought a house when I was 1, and we moved to the south side of Chicago. So that’s where I grew up. That’s where I went to grammar school, elementary school, high school.

I stayed home and went to Moraine Valley Junior College because of a bad accident I was in. Two weeks after I graduated from high school, I was in a motorcycle accident. Broke my femur, pelvis, hip, two toes came off, tore my Achilles tendon, tore my hamstrings; I couldn’t walk.

I ended up playing baseball there, at the community college. Then, I went to the University of Illinois at Chicago, so then I lived in downtown Chicago. I got a master’s degree at Chicago State, and then another master’s at Governors State (University Park, Illinois).

TT: How did you meet your wife Chris? (Ron’s wife is Chris Ryan, CEO of Deaconess Women’s Hospital.)
RR: I was a student at UIC. We had our end-of-the-year baseball banquet. They invite all the alumni back, and we meet on campus to celebrate the year. After that, a bunch of us went out in downtown Chicago, and I met Chris there, on Division Street at a bar called the Hangge-Uppe. I think it’s still there. It’s around the corner from Mother’s; that was the famous place, on Rush Street.

TT: How long did you date?
RR: Our first date was at Wrigley Field, May 1984. Afterwards, I told her I had just enlisted in the military and was going on July 3. She thought I was joking at first; then, she quickly came to realize I was not joking. School was out, so we spent the next two months pretty much with each other every day.

On July 3, I went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She ended up picking me up from there when I was done with basic training. We wrote every day. Back then we didn’t have cell phones, for one. There was a lot of communication the old fashioned way, with pen and pencil.

TT: What year did you and Chris move here?
RR: She moved here in October 1999 and I still was teaching and coaching, so I moved here in June 2000.

Now, Chris’s parents live with us. The first year we were here, we put “relative living” on the house. Her dad was a builder back home; a carpenter, construction guy. So he designed it and built it; I said I just wanted it to look like it was part of the house. Relative living. It’s only connected on the second floor. They’re still with us; 88 and 89 years old.

They have their own entrance and garage; we did it for privacy for them, and we wanted our privacy, too. It’s awesome. It’s been great. Jessica, our oldest daughter, took her grandpa last year on one of the Honor Flights. Chris’s mom is still with us, too.

TT: What’s going on with the kids, Ron?
RR: Jessica, who is 27, is engaged to Casey Delgado, who is currently with the Binghampton, New York Mets. Jennifer, 26, is engaged to Tyler Rodgers, who is with the Triple A Sacramento Giants. His twin brother Taylor is in the big leagues, pitching for the Minnesota Twins.

Matt is into acting and currently doing stand-ins and doubles on the television series “Chicago Fire.”

TT: Is Evansville home now?
RR: Absolutely. When we moved here, we heard a thousand times Evansville was a great place to raise a family. Well, they were right.


Some Like it Hot

When it comes to top-notch stoves, BTUs offer the best heat
View the full feature in the March/April 2017 issue of Evansville Living.

For most homebuyers, the kitchen is the heart of the home. A nexus of activity including family time together and cooking, the kitchen is where food is prepared and shared with loved ones and friends. Anthropologists know food sharing is one of the most culturally universal human activities, so it is no wonder that when we have the opportunity to raise our kitchen game to new heights, we do. Add a bad habit of watching HGTV, and this new game can get costly. Toss in a Food Network addiction, and you find the core kitchen truth: the stove is the workhorse of the kitchen.

To use a stove is to cook. Alton Brown in his 2002 cookbook “I’m Just Here for the Food” gives us this equation: food + heat = cooking. Heat is very important to a stove, and is different from temperature. Temperature is measured in degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius. Heat is measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs, where a BTU is the amount of energy required to warm one pint of water one degree Fahrenheit.

While a match is very hot and has a high temperature, it lacks the BTUs to warm a bathtub or sear a steak. By paying special attention to heat, as well as top-notch design and manufacturing origins, we begin to understand the differences between a $15,000 AGA cast-iron stove, a $55,000 La Cornue Grand Palais 180 — the crown jewel of their Château Series — or a $699 stainless GE gas range from Lowe’s.

The AGA stove, or cooker as they are called in England where they are made, is famous for its timeless design and cast iron construction, which allows for the supremely gentle and even distribution of heat. Because of this, the oven is the soul of an AGA. To keep all that cast iron ready to cook, they also are famous for always being on. Being well insulated, however, they release the same amount of heat into your kitchen as approximately a dozen 100-watt incandescent lights. They also are famous for their enamel colors, which come in dozens of options. And like a great stove, the burners can put out an excess of 20,000 BTUs per hour each.

In France, the La Cornue Company dates back to 1908, when they developed the first convection oven. Their burners and cook tops come in a range of configurations, crank out an excess of 20,000 BTUs per burner, and — like the AGA stoves — feature timeless designs with 50 enamel colors, some custom.

Not to be outdone in the United States, BlueStar Cooking Company has been manufacturing stoves in Reading, Pennsylvania, since 1880 — and their high-end commercial quality stoves come in 750 color options. BlueStars are priced competitively to AGA stoves, and embrace a more contemporary style that looks fabulous in stainless. You don’t have to sacrifice heat when you spend a fraction of the cost of a La Cornue flagship stove — the BlueStar’s premium burners scorch a whopping 25,000 BTUs, while their burners geared for sauces keep a steady 130 degrees with enough heat to do much more.

▲ Scott and Susan Hyatt knew they wanted a premium stove when they began to renovate their kitchen in 2015. The couple’s search would bring them to the BlueStar line, made in the U.S. and priced competitively to the European AGA stoves. Susan adores the stove; at right, she gives the BlueStar a whirl soon after it was installed in 2015.

When Scott and Susan Hyatt began the 2015 renovation of the kitchen in their 1928 home, the hunt for their favorite stove landed them with BlueStar, where Susan to this day is ecstatic about their stove.

“We didn’t want just any stove. We love to cook, and we love to entertain. And frankly, I don’t have time in life to waste on things that aren’t amazing,” she says. “So we asked tons of people who cook, chefs like Scott Schymik, and the answer kept coming back to BlueStar.”

Like owning an Audi S8 and knowing how to drive it well is the key, Susan knows how to drive this Audi of a stove.

“I love searing vegetables; you can caramelize them without burning them. I love, love cooking steak. You simply cannot cook with these results with a stove that is not this hot,” she says.

▲ With an impressive output of BTUs and a smaller price tag than an AGA or BlueStar, it isn’t hard to see why Kristen Burkhartt enjoys her SMEG stove. She also has two stacked 1947 Thermadors installed by the Karges family during their renovation of the kitchen that same year. The knobs of the two conventional ovens were modeled after dials and controls on World War II airplanes.

Go back across the world to Italy and you’ll find Bertazzoni stoves (available at Ferguson Enterprises), and their cousin, SMEG. SMEG stands for Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla, which translates to Metal Enameling Plant from Guastalla. Based in the Northern Italy town of Guastalla, SMEG was actually started by Vittorio Bertazzoni in 1948, and they compete to this day for Italian kitchen appliance dominance with their same-named cousins in the same small Italian city. Kristen Burkhartt snagged a SMEG for her kitchen at her home along Sunset Avenue in Downtown Evansville and has not been disappointed.

“I have a 48-inch, six-burner, double oven range. One is a conventional oven, and one can operate both as a conventional oven or a convection oven,” she says. “I love the high output burner. One burner has larger flames for different kinds of cookware, for woks and stir-fry, and one burner is for lower, consistent heat for sauces and crusts. I have been really happy with the results.”

It is easy to be happy with a Bertazzoni  — in a side-by-side comparison a Bertazzoni reveals similar Italian styling, a higher BTU output, and a smaller price of an AGA or BlueStar with impressive results.

But when BTUs really count, and you want to sear with the best, come back to the U.S. for a Southbend. Now manufactured in North Carolina, this range has roots with the South Bend Range Company founded in 1898 by two South Bend, Indiana, real estate agents. Workhorses of commercial kitchens all over the country, Southbend ranges are truly made for the restaurant world. You can order one for your next kitchen renovation or new home build, and a 60-inch, six-burner, double oven with a raised griddle over a broiler still will set you back less than a BlueStar of similar size.

▲ When David and Lindsay Whitehead bought their Lincolnshire home, they were surprised to see a vintage Southbend stove already installed in their kitchen. Originally manufactured in South Bend, Indiana, these stoves take home the gold in BTU production — nearly 30,000 BTUs per burner.

Or you can buy a house with a classic, vintage Southbend already installed, complete with a true commercial grade hood. While you can’t count on such real estate availability, David and Lindsay Whitehead scored on the purchase of their Lincolnshire home.

“We were kind of stunned when we saw this at first, like we had hit the kitchen stove lottery,” says Lindsay. “The more we thought about it, the more excited we got for the entertaining and culinary possibilities with having a stove like this. It definitely has inspired us to keep our kitchen skills sharpened.”

With nameplates that read South Bend, and not Southbend, the Whiteheads’ range dates prior to 1982. Not only is their stove the inspiration for a kitchen design in a custom home now under construction across the river in Henderson, Kentucky, but it also is the winner of the BTU contest at nearly 30,000 BTUs per burner.

Combined with the two ovens and the raised broiler and griddle, their stove puts out a combined 300,000 BTUs per hour. That’s enough heat per hour to heat six 2,000-square-foot homes. Though it isn’t blasted through ductwork, like the heat being circulated in a convection oven is more efficient at heat transfer, it is a pinnacle of kitchen awe, power, and finesse none the same.

You know what they say: “If you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.”

Fun in the Oven

Ferguson Enterprises helps amateur home cooks master the stove

For more than 100 years, La Cornue has brought the excellence and style of French culinary tradition into novice chefs’ homes. They began under the principle that every client is unique and deserves a kitchen that caters to their specific needs.

Evansville La Cornue customers are “very much that specific customer who has researched,” says Ferguson Enterprises showroom manager Michelle Ferrero. “They’re seeing the brand in places like Chicago and New York and are thrilled to see it someplace locally where they can come and get the assistance they need.”

A La Cornue stove costs anywhere from $8,000 to $50,000, but Ferrero says the service customers receive in exchange is the highest quality. Ferguson (6620 Interchange Road) also carries BlueStar ranges, which compete in the same price range at $4,000 to $20,000.

“If they really are a true cook and it’s their passion, then they want something that’s going to perform like a professional appliance,” says Ferrero. Those homeowners looking to add an AGA to their kitchen lineup are in luck as well. According to the brand’s website, Trend Setting Appliances (951 N. Congress Ave.) is a local distributor.

For amateur chefs not set on the European models or who wish to buy American, King’s Great Buys Plus (5010 E. Vogel Road) carries the Thermador line of professional, high-end stoves, as well as Whirlpool’s Kitchen Aid brand gas ranges, also popular among homeowners with chef-style kitchens.

Another destination to explore on a search for a range is Wayne’s Appliance (5719 E. Morgan Ave.), which carries Kitchen Aid, as well as Jenn-Air, a Whirlpool brand established in Indianapolis in 1947.

For more information, call Ferguson Enterprises at 812-473-1721, Trend Setting Appliances at 812-422-3900, King’s Great Buys Plus at 812-473-5464, or Wayne’s Appliance at 812-425-5451.


Expressive Transformation

Paige Talbert finds creative prowess in art therapy
Paige Talbert, a 12-year-old Newburgh, Indiana, resident with autism, shows off one of her landscape works of art.

Paige Talbert of Newburgh, Indiana, was very young when her mother Jenna, a physical therapist, and father Marco, an engineer at Vectren, suspected something was amiss.  Just an infant, Paige was inconsolable at times. At six months, doctors fitted little Paige with her first set of glasses to help her visual impairments. At nine months, she began refusing food, was diagnosed with three food allergies, and began feeding therapy to help her eat.
By age 6, doctors diagnosed Paige with autism. Like most autistic children, Paige — now 12 years old and attending Holy Spirit Catholic School’s Marian Educational Outreach program — struggled with many things. However, with the help of therapy and her family — including three older siblings Sam, Will, and Claire — she has thrived.

“Paige has truly overcome obstacles of things we were once told she would never do,” says Jenna. “We are so proud of her and grateful for our family.”

One form of therapy that has given Paige a release is art. While attending a birthday party of a friend with a similar condition, she was introduced to MnemeTherapy, a type of art therapy originally developed for Alzheimer’s patients. Paige took to the activity right away, prompting Jenna and Marco to contact Beautiful Minds LLC therapist Tina Gibbs.

“There’s all these super highways going on in our brain, and when a brain has been damaged or is underdeveloped, there is a bridge or connection that’s blown out,” explains Gibbs. “What this therapy does is create a detour around that and form a new connection.”

Every other week, Paige sits down with Tina, paintbrush in hand, and begins to create a new work of art. They discuss what painting she would like to do before picking out colors and getting started.

“In the beginning, she was very apprehensive, but now she takes less guidance and does her thing,” says Gibbs. “She’s not afraid to make her own decisions.”

In the past three years, Paige has created 86 pieces of art. The response from family and friends has been so positive, Jenna decided to make a calendar of Paige’s creations as Christmas gifts. From there, the Talberts began to sell the calendars to the public, raising funds to continue Paige’s therapy. So far, 75 calendars have been purchased.

“She loves to paint landscapes and she really likes to paint animals,” says Jenna. “All the money raised from this project is used to pay for Paige’s art therapy, which is not covered by insurance.”

For Marco and Jenna, the art therapy has changed Paige in positive ways. It has helped improve Paige’s bilateral coordination, aiding her in learning how to ride a bike. Her visual tracking and fine motor skills have improved as well, says Jenna, allowing her to legibly write and read close to her grade level. Gibbs agrees Paige’s immense talent has given her more confidence.

“When she gets done with a painting and it looks awesome, it helps her self worth,” she says. “It gives her that extra boost to maybe try something else.”

For more information about Paige’s art calendars, visit her Facebook page, Facebook.com/artbypaigetalbert.


Girl On A Mission

Jaimie Sheth inspires others to give back with her book “My Life Is Not My Own”
Author Jaimie Sheth began her foundation, the JD Sheth Foundation, to give back through needs-based projects.

Jaimie Sheth’s inspiration for mission work began 10 years ago in India on a trip to visit the school where her grandmother taught. Two years later, she went to Vietnam where she met people who were building playgrounds, which inspired her to go to Cambodia to build a school.

Fast-forward to today and Sheth has her own foundation, the JD Sheth Foundation, dedicated to needs-based projects around the world, as well as a new book titled “My Life Is Not My Own.”

Sheth, who grew up in Evansville and attended Reitz Memorial High School, the University of Southern Indiana, and the University of Evansville, says the goal of the book is to help people know where to start in accomplishing major projects like hers. The book starts where her charity story begins and outlines all of the projects she has completed so far.

“I was writing a journal that was just for myself,” says Sheth. “As I started to do project after project, my friends told me I should write a book about this because there are a lot of people who are interested in doing [charity work] but just don’t know how to do it.”

The book dives into projects all over the globe in countries like Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Haiti, Thailand, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her next stop will be the Philippines where Sheth is trying to partner with Delta Air Lines to build a school and feeding house, and support an orphanage.

“Each one I do I take away something from it,” says Sheth. “I think in each project the most meaningful thing is meeting these people, realizing their situation, and looking at it from their perspective of what that water well did for their life or that school or that house and how that benefited them and makes their life better.”

For more information on Jaimie Sheth and her foundation, visit jdshethfoundation.org. Her book can be found online at amazon.com.


Golden Brown

Cooking star talks about his new tour
Alton Brown hits the stage at Old National Events Plaza on May 4.

 “A devilishly handsome raconteur who enjoys telling tales about food and its preparation,” Alton Brown quickly spouts when asked if he can describe himself in one sentence.

The fact is, the guy is modest. In direct opposition to kitchen “unitaskers” he so loathes, Brown does it all. He’s known as a culinary authority, an award-winning author, a TV host, a musician, a cinematographer, and a proud science nerd. “AB” is an omnipresent Renaissance man — or rather a man for all seasonings.

Brown and his crew last visited Evansville in 2006 while filming the series “Feasting on Asphalt,” riding motorcycles to the then-neglected historic Greyhound station, the YWCA Tea Room, and the Hilltop Inn for brain sandwiches. Taking on yet another project, the showman returns to the River City on May 4 for “Alton Brown Live: Eat Your Science” at the Old National Events Plaza, the follow-up to his “Edible Inevitable” tour.

Moderately obsessed with Brown since the early days of his show “Good Eats,” I hushed my inner “fangirl” (well, a little) to chat with him about our city, the show, and the South.

Do you recall any specific memories of Evansville or have an impression of our area that you’d like to share?

Alton Brown: Two things I remembered the most strongly — one, the bus station. I don’t know why that place struck me the way that it did. I was looking for a place to really talk about vending machines as part of the American road experience, and I remember leaving going “somebody needs to get hold of this and do this place justice.” So I am so happy to see that is happening, and I can’t wait to see it. The other thing, of course, is that I was looking for brains.

What inspired the idea for your variety shows, and what are you hoping to accomplish with them?

AB: I’ll tell you the flat out truth about this. What made me come up with the idea for a culinary variety show was Sonny and Cher. I was a child of the ‘70s and adored variety shows. You had musical numbers, you had comedy routines, you had bizarre circus acts, and it was like vaudeville on television. And I miss it. So I decided that I was going to design the culinary version of that very thing, and did with “Edible Inevitable.” Played it, toured it for two years, and adored every moment of it. When it was over, I was like, “You know what, I want to go again, I want to ride again.” So I came up with a new show.

On the last tour you built a huge version of the Easy-Bake Oven called the “Mega Bake.” Please tell us there is another mega appliance in the new show?

AB: Ohhh, baby. Oh, baby, is there a new appliance.

Can you, without giving away too much, tell me a little bit about it?

AB: No, I’m not going to tell you anything. I’m not going to tell you a gosh darn thing, other than there’s another appliance, and it’s bigger. (laughs) Although, it’s hard to beat the Mega Bake. It’s a huge amount of fun, and I still use it.

Is there a particular food or drink that you seek out when you travel from city to city on the tour?

AB: We’ve been doing this hashtag program on social media called #ABRoadEats. We have a different one for every city. About a week before we come there, we’ll post the hashtag for Evansville, and people will put in their votes and their suggestions for where I should eat. The cool thing about that is by show time, I’ve already got a relationship going with my audience, because I’ve eaten the food they told me to eat.

You’re from the South. Evansville is technically a Southern city, also. What do you believe distinguishes the culinary identity of the South?

AB: The absolute desire and need to consume animals that anyone else would throw away. This is why we have things like burgoo. You’re more Kentucky than you are Indiana, in a way. The food identity I got when I was there was most definitely Southern, which is delightful.

For ticket information, call 812-435-5770 or visit oldnationaleventsplaza.com


Pure Imagination

Stephen Libs presents a chocolate wonderland
Stephen Libs continues the tradition of chocolate making his father Robert P. Libs brought to Evansville in 1950.

Fictional candy maker Willy Wonka famously said the only way to make chocolate just right is churning it by waterfall. Evansville’s own chocolatier Stephen Libs Finer Chocolates may not boast a waterfall and oompa loompas, but the family-owned company certainly has a claim on quality chocolates.

The shop, located at 6225 Vogel Road, showcases a storefront that would put Wonka to shame. Shelves lined with assorted chocolate boxes, caramel pecan supremes, crèmes, roasted nuts, chocolate-covered fruits, seasonal and special occasion treats, and more present a chocolate lover’s dream.

But it is behind the counters, down a small hallway, and in the back of the building where the true magic lies. Employees line along machines and countertops, monitoring as treats are coated in milk, dark, or white chocolate before they are decorated, cooled, and then placed in inventory boxes ready for packaging.

“Depending on what we’re making, I would guess we produce anywhere around 200 to 300 pounds of chocolate a day,” says owner Stephen Libs.

He and his wife Marjorie started their little chocolate factory in 1985. Stephen was taught the art of chocolate-making from his father Robert P. Libs, who brought the unique Libs technique to Evansville from Eureka, California, in 1950. The secret to the high-quality chocolate is not in the recipe, says Stephen, but in the process.

“You can give a recipe to different people and the same recipe turns out differently,” he says. “We just have our own technique and try to follow that.”

The freshest and highest quality ingredients are a part of that, Stephen adds.

“You can’t take low quality and turn it into high. You have to start with good stuff to end up with good stuff,” he says.

Each night, Libs employees cover their chocolate pots and turn the temperature up. In the morning, they will cool the chocolate and temper it properly. Tempering helps create a smooth, glossy chocolate by getting the cocoa butter to the right consistency. Once the chocolate is tempered correctly, it’s ready to pour over nuts, caramels, creams, fruit, peanut butter, and other treats offered at Stephen Libs.

“It’s a very great place to work,” says Brenda Stone, who has packaged chocolates at the company for more than 10 years. “There’s a happy family atmosphere here.”

For more information on Stephen Libs Finer Chocolates, call 812-473-0048 or visit stephenlibschocolates.com.


Artist in Residence

Tony Treadway comes back to New Harmony to share his art
Treadway first became acquainted with the artistic community of New Harmony during his days as a ceramics student.

Tony Treadway keeps an old theory on clay in his mind as he works — hand-thrown pottery pieces should be affordable to everyone.

“I’ve always taken that to heart,” says the New Harmony, Indiana, resident.

Treadway started throwing clay in 1979, after a football injury in high school damaged his hand. After 18 weeks in a cast, his doctor told him he had two choices — learn to throw pots or play the piano.

“I looked at him and said, ‘There’s no way I’m playing a piano,’ and he said, ‘Well, I’ll introduce you to a potter,’” says Treadway with a laugh.

From there, his passion for pottery and the arts flourished. The Robinson, Illinois, native would attend and graduate from the University of Evansville with a bachelor’s degree in ceramics and a minor in printmaking, and from Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, Illinois, with a master’s in ceramics and sculpture.

Through his undergraduate years at UE, he became familiar with New Harmony and its artistic culture — first in 1984 working on a photography project then again in 1985 and ‘86 as a ceramics student intern at the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Potter’s House studio.

After being away from the small arts community for 30 years, the Illinois native and his wife Christy moved to New Harmony in 2015 to essentially pick up where he left off.

“For me, coming back here is repaying the kindness that Mrs. Jane Blaffer Owens showed me in those days when I was here as a student from UE,” says Treadway.

Today, along with his thriving ceramic art, which he displays and sells under the name Treadway Clay, Tony throws clay in his backyard studio; runs the 609 Gallery; serves on the Arts in Harmonie and Christmas in Harmonie boards; is vice president of the business association; and lives as most artists in New Harmony do — sharing his craft and prompting the creative minds of the small town.

Where do you draw inspiration?

Inspiration, for me, goes back to the river. Everything goes back to the Wabash River for me. My family tradition runs back four generations on the river. There’s an association to this kind of river community lifestyle for me that works.

Is there a specific type of piece that you enjoy making the most?

I enjoy doing platters. One of the reasons is it gives you a surface to really be expressive on. The jar forms are always fun and I love making teapots, but I don’t do it as often as I used to.

Teapots are unique; they are multiple pieces that are assembled together. It’s always fun, and it’s always a challenge. Platters are not what I consider a challenge, but the use of the surface of the platter is where the fun comes from. The same thing goes for the low, shallow bowl forms. I can really play with those — you can carve, you can paint, there’s all types of things. Then you can just let the glaze do some wonderful things as well.

How do you sign your pieces?

Well, I have an arched T, which is homage to my mother. (Treadway’s mother was one of the first women to graduate from University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, with a degree in mathematics.) The arched T is very much like the Pi symbol for mathematics.

For dating, mine always has a month and a year on it and, since I’ve moved here, every one of them has New Harmony on the bottom of it — either NH with Indiana, or New Harmony, Indiana, completely written on the bottom. Part of that is because I’ve worked in three different cities that are within 150 miles of each other.

So by looking at the bottom, I know what series a piece is coming from and where it was developed.

Have you worked with any other mediums?

Yeah, I paint, I draw. I spend a lot of time on design theory. But the potter’s wheel always just was the one thing I felt most comfortable with. And part of it is because I think it is the history buff in me. For me, the work is all a connection to history.

When you think about it, as I sit down and throw clay, outside of the electricity running the wheel, this is the same way they were doing this 8,000 years ago. This is basically, outside of beating two rocks together, one of the oldest art forms there is.

What brought you back to New Harmony, Indiana?

It’s a funny story. My wife Christy and I brought work down to the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art in 2015 — we were living in Shelbyville, Illinois, at the time, and she worked as an advocate coordinator in the state attorney’s office. She had never visited here before.

Christy really got hooked on the community. We came back for a second trip and she said she felt so at home here. But I recognized that some of the vitality was gone and I really started to think about what it would be like to be back here.

After a weekend trip down here, she called me from work on a Tuesday in June and said, “Call a Realtor and have them start looking for a house down there. We’re moving to New Harmony.” On Oct. 15, we moved into this house.

I’m a devoted disciple of the Jane Blaffer Owen school of thought. She had a strong belief that the arts were a part of this community, — they are. The history, the archeology, and there’s all these things here that I truly love.

For more information on Tony Treadway, visit theartisansgalleria.com.


Farewell Act

Ron Glass is honored by UE and AAM

Inside the Evansville African American Museum sits a unique display honoring the life and work of an Evansville native who had a successful career in Hollywood.

Ron Glass, who graduated from the University of Evansville, passed away Nov. 26, 2016, in Los Angeles at the age of 71.  An exhibit created in 2007 to illuminate Glass’s distinguished career now stands in his memory at AAM and was the centerpiece during a recent ceremony honoring his life. 

On Feb. 25, UE and the AAM recognized Glass with a presentation titled “A Celebration of Life Honoring Ron Glass” at Shanklin Theatre on UE’s campus. The service included words from AAM Executive Director Lu Porter, UE theater professor John David Lutz, UE President Dr. Thomas Kazee, and Glass’s friend, retired Marion Superior Court Judge David Shaheed, as well as a video montage of Glass’s work. There was a moment of silence to honor his life before guests were invited to visit the museum.

“Ron always was connected to the museum and the community of Evansville,” says Porter. “He encouraged students to think globally and expand their knowledge.”

Among the items on display at the museum are Glass’s detective badge and various cast photos from the show “Barney Miller,” a Distinguished Alumnus Award from UE where he studied drama and literature, an image from his days as a history teacher in NBC’s prep school comedy “Mr. Rhodes,” and his 1982 key to the city of Evansville.

Glass remained in touch with the community of Evansville throughout his television and film career. Scholarships in his name are offered through the Evansville African American Museum and the University of Evansville. Lutz remembers first meeting Glass in 1965; Glass’s sophomore year at the university and Lutz’s first year as a faculty member.

“Ron was very intelligent and had great work ethic during his acting career; always go, go, go, driven onto the current project,” he says.

Lutz directed him in numerous productions. He also shared the stage with Glass during a production of Hamlet, playing the lead role and Glass portraying Horatio. They stayed in touch for the next 52 years. During Glass’s film and television career in California, Lutz visited and remembered a lot of laughter between them.

“He was outgoing and an inspiration to students,” says Lutz.

For more information about the Ron Glass display, call 812-423-5188.