West Virginia’s seasons inspire chef
CANAAN VALLEY, W.Va. – Originally from Frankfort, Germany, culinary artist Chef Nemat Odeh now calls the Mountain State home.
He was introduced to West Virginia when his wife Barbara brought him here for a family reunion. “West Virginia has a very home-like atmosphere where everybody is part of one big family,” he said. He currently lives the Riverton area with his wife and son Donnie and serves as executive chef at Canaan Valley Resort State Park.
After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in food and nutrition from the Culinary Academy of Cooking in Germany, Odeh served his apprenticeship at The Palace Hotel in Gstaad, Switzerland. His hunger for knowledge led him across the ocean where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in science nutrition and health at Western Connecticut State University. He later completed a yearlong course at NYU in food chemistry and reactions.
His culinary journey took him to places like New York, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., before coming to West Virginia to work at Canaan Valley Resort. Chef Odeh combines his international culinary experience with West Virginia’s regional cuisine. “I change the menu according to the season here,” he said. “I also use local produce and organic meats in my dishes to help support the local farmers.”
At Canaan Valley Resort, he coordinates numerous culinary experiences for food lovers. “I’m a diversified cook,” Odeh says. “I can cook four- or five-star meals or very simple down-home meals.”
For example, gourmet wine weekends offer a taste of wines from around the world paired with extraordinary delicacies. Another occasion where Chef Odeh gets to showcase his culinary skills is at the “Remembering the Titanic” event scheduled every April. This seven-course dinner is a recreation of the Titanic’s last meal. Along with special events, he does catering at the lodge and parties at cabins. “We can basically cater to any order you like,” he says. The Hickory Dining Room in the main lodge offers a “chef’s table,” which holds six to 12 people and serves six or seven small entrees with wine for a fixed price.
In addition to his duties as executive chef, he teaches classes known as the “Culinary University.” “It’s a really good opportunity to get involved with the local community,” he said. He is currently working on his second cookbook, “Cooking the Four Seasons in West Virginia,” which includes recipes and a personal account of his life. The book is tentatively set to be released in the spring of 2009.
When he’s not in the kitchen, one of his favorite places to be is standing in front of his house in Riverton, where he can see mountains on either side of him. “It looks like a picture,” he said. “There’s nothing like it. I’ve traveled a lot in my career and with my family. This is just one of those beautiful scenes that you can appreciate, especially when it’s just right there sitting in front of you. This is where I would like to spend the rest of my life.”