Dear Food - Snobs, Bloggers, Critics, and Connoisseurs,

My life is like the song "Wonderful World" by Sam Cooke. I don't know much about history (only the history of food), don't know much biology. Don't know much about a science book, don't know much about the French (played hooky at La Sorbonne in Paris, France) I took. But I do know that I love you (food)..... etc.

Loving food and working in this industry as a maitre d', catering director, country club events coordinator, and restaurant supervisor taught me how a restaurant kitchen works. Every time I visit a new venue I'm not only a knowledgeable diner, I'm a "Judge." I've learned that a chef who is not interested in where his food came from and where the culinary world is going ceases to be a chef, and becomes merely a cook.

Now, I'm sure you're dying to find out who has this bragging right ... so, here it goes!

Chef James Canter from Alhambra Restaurant (cuisine with a conscience) never brags. In fact, he's quite humble, so, I'll give you the news. Deemed "the Oscars of the food world," by Time Magazine, the James Beard Foundation Awards are the country's most coveted honor for chefs. There are 19 categories - the "Best Chef Southwest" category has our very own Chef James listed as a nominee. I'm not surprised ... because he's ambitious, innovative, and his background is very impressive.

• Executive Chef for the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts - Nominated 2008 Best New Restaurant in the Tampa Bay area.

• Chef owner of San Francisco's exclusive organic South American Pena -

• Received 2 ½ Stars for Best Places of Northern California

• Gold Medal Sous Chef ACF Hot Foods competition - Tampa, Florida

• Second Place - RGV Iron Chef 2010 (Cimarron Country Club - Mission, Texas)

• First Place - For the Paella "Iron Chef" (Culinary Institutes of Las Amιricas - San Antonio)

• Texas Monthly Magazine has Alhambra Restaurant on their 100 Top Texas Restaurants (Farm to Table) issue.

If you would like to know more about Alhambra Restaurant or Chef James Canter log onto Your Valley Voice (Valley Town Crier) and read:

• Hungry for a little excitement this summer?

• Good Judgment = Good Friday

• How Chef Canter orchestrated our memorable Soiree.

• Winner of the "Best Pumpkin" treat - Desserts First

• Mon Grand Paris

Chef James delights his guests with succulent Mediterranean and Iberian dishes such as Seafood Paella, Ossobuco Couscous, Moroccan Chicken Tagine and Chermoula Beef Kebabs prepared with top-shelf ingredients. I find him to be very curious and receptive to foods of other cultures. I'll never forget about the fantastic "Fabada" (cassoulet) he prepared with Spanish-style chorizo and cannellini beans (etcetera); it was truly a one-dish masterpiece. Once he treated my husband and I to a plate of Ropa Vieja (Cuban - style shredded beef), Coconut Rice (Caribbean Coast of Colombia- arroz con coco) and a side of Moros y Cristianos (rice and black beans) - what a feast!

The James Beard Foundation is still accepting votes for Best Chef Southwest (it only takes a minute) - please log onto and vote for James Canter (Alhambra) or visit Alhambra on 17th Street.

Attention Foodies! Chef Canter is serving artisan and Cuban style sandwiches (sando's) with your choice of soup or salad for brunch during the Farmers Market. The Buckeye Omelet Sando is prepared with farm fresh eggs, homemade Italian bacon, Swiss cheese, chives, and pita bread ($5.00). How about a warm bowl of Mexican- style vegetable chile topped with crema (zest of lime), cilantro, cotija cheese and bread ($4.00).

Who says we can't have waffles for din-din. Live a little and order the - Applewood Smoked Bacon Waffles with Sage Fried Chicken ($16.00). This finger lickin' dish comes with a side of wild mushroom gravy and seasonal veggies - that's my kind of foodgasm. The combination of sage in the chicken (light batter) and bacon in the waffle takes this dish to another level. Yes, go ahead and drizzle your waffle with warm blue agave're worth it.

Chef James and Juan Carlos Zapata (owner) make the perfect combination - they're professional, dedicated, and open to new ideas. Their successful Farmers Market (Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.) allows our local farmers to educate and sell pesticide-free produce and grass-fed beef to the public - what a refreshing organic treat!

Chef Canter is extremely thankful and grateful to the community and loyal customers for their continued support and friendship. Our local foodies can't get enough of this gastronomic explorer - so...let's VOTE (please)!


Madame Gourmand

Alhambra Restaurant & Bar, 519 S. 17th Street, McAllen. 956-772-4252.