From restaurants to TV, Tootsie Demos Nelson has done it all

swthompson@herald-leader.com,Sharon ThompsonJuly 31, 2013 Updated 3 hours ago

Sharon Thompson

MARK CORNELISON — mcornelison@herald-leader.com

Tootsie Demos Nelson grew up in the restaurant business under the watchful eyes of father Stanley Demos at The Coach House, one of Lexington's best known dining spots.

Nelson and her husband, Sam, have a long history with food and restaurants. Sam Nelson is vice president of franchise sales at Fazoli's; they operated The Coach House after Demos' retirement and Tootsie & Tony's restaurant with master chef Tony Seta. Tootsie Nelson became general manager at The Rolling Pin kitchen store in Fayette Mall; ran a catering business; and then became the host of Ask Tootsie, a noon cooking segment on WLEX-TV. After 15 years on TV, Nelson is retiring to put "my grandmotherly duties" first.

On her last show, Nelson talked about how food has changed over her TV career. When she began, The Food Network wasn't available in the Lexington market. "Food was becoming front and center in our lives, not just the ritual of putting a bland meal on the table," she said. "People learned the importance of using fresh, good quality ingredients to create a more exciting culinary experience.

"We were introduced to many ethnic foods where they hadn't existed before. People were now cooking with Greek feta, Indian ghee and Thai basil. Cooking became fun, something the whole family could do together. We also learned to look for recipes to promote good health. Phrases like 'low carb' and 'heart healthy' became a part of our lexicon.

"I remember when Morton's in the blue cardboard box was our only choice for salt. I went to a hop in Cincinnati last week where there were over 40 types of salt to cook with.

"I was lucky that after the years at The Coach House, chatting with customers at The Rolling Pin, doing private cooking classes and catering, it was a pretty easy transition for me to go in front of the camera. Food is all I think about.

"In the last year or so, it has become a little more of a struggle for me to keep doing the lunch segment as it is nap time for the grandkids," she said.

Nelson will have a weekly food blog on the WLEX Facebook page and make guest TV appearances during the holidays.

Sold on this slider

The Realtor Community Housing Foundation, which offers programs for elderly and low-income homeowners, held a grill cook-off at Denger's Hearth and Home store in Nicholasville last month.

Proceeds from the event went to Repair Affair, a program that assists low-income households with needed exterior repairs; Prepare Affair weatherization workshops; Emergency Repair Service for urgent housing repair needs; and Remodeling for Access and Mobility Program, which makes homes more accessible for those with physical challenges and/or mobility impairments.

Nine teams entered the competition for the best slider burger. Chance Hoover, a member of RE/MAX Elite Realty, was the first-place winner. Here is his recipe.

Recipe

Basil mayo slider burger

Burgers:

5 pounds ground chuck

½ teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon Season All salt

1 stick butter, melted

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce or Dale's Steak Seasoning reduced sodium

Sweet chili bacon:

2 packages thick sliced, center-cut bacon

All-natural maple syrup

Brown sugar

Sriracha hot chili sauce

Basil mayonnaise:

1 cup Hellman's mayonnaise

10 to 15 fresh basil leaves, chopped

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

Buns:

Ciabatta buns

Olive oil

Melted butter

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Toppings:

Gouda or asiago cheese

Fresh sliced Roma tomatoes

To prepare burgers: Combine burger ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into slider patties. Set aside.

To prepare bacon: Place a wire rack above a cookie sheet and lay bacon out flat. Mix syrup, brown sugar and chili sauce together, to taste. Baste each slice of bacon with syrup mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Check it at 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

To make mayonnaise: Mix ingredients and refrigerate.

To prepare buns: Brush buns with olive oil, melted butter, garlic powder and onion powder. Then grill until lightly brown.

To grill burgers: Prepare grill with hickory chips. Smoke for 45 minute and then grill for 10 minutes. Add cheese to burger the last 3 to 5 minutes.

Constructing slider: Spread basil mayonnaise on top and bottom of bun. Add burger and top with a slice of tomato, cheese and 1/2 slice bacon.

Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.

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