Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

July 7, 2013

ED VASICEK: Ducky's redo

In Kokomo, big events just come to you

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Marylu and I are food-ies. That means we love tasty, well-seasoned food, and we cook with an adventurous spirit. Because we try to watch cholesterol and the budget — and because I particularly enjoy the process of cooking itself — we eat out only occasionally.

We are longtime fans of Food Network. So when we heard that Robert Irvine and “Restaurant Impossible” were coming to town, we were exuberant. The Kokomo Tribune article touting the event explained that Ducky’s was taking reservations for re-opening night. We peered at one another with an animated, almost mischievous look. I cannot remember who first verbalized what we both were thinking: “Let’s go!”

Because we called immediately — and because we were only a party of two — we were privileged to be among the elite.

“Restaurant Impossible” seeks to rescue failing restaurants in dire straits. The establishments vary significantly: some are amazingly dirty, others are run by entrenched, stubborn folks who end up reverting back to their familiar ways once they are temporarily rescued. Others may have outdated menus, undisciplined staffs or require some cooking instruction.

The Food Network updates information about restaurants from previously aired programs, so viewers can follow what has happened since the program. Will owners prefer their own instincts — instincts that led them to ruin in the first place — or will they trust the experts despite their instincts? It is a lesson in human nature.

From watching the show, we knew they remodeled these restaurants within a 24-hour period, so we drove by Thursday night to gape. We spied a tent erected alongside the restaurant and crews working diligently. This was no dream.

What was it like on opening night? Things ran a little late (as they invariably do), and we were eventually escorted to the new, handsome Ducky’s. It looks like a completely different restaurant. We had the honor of chatting with owner Bill Duncan, a gracious and enjoyable host.

Because we were seated at a cozy table for two against a wall, I could see the muscular figure of Chef Robert Irvine through the kitchen door window. Then the wife nudged me and asked, “Isn’t that the guy from ‘Unwrapped’ — you know, Marc Summers?” “Unwrapped” is another Food Network show. He was chatting with folks at the next table. We kept asking ourselves, “Is it him or no?” Then we heard some folks call him “Marc,” and we postulated that he was indeed the man. When we came home, I checked matters out online and found out that Summers was the producer of “Restaurant Impossible.”

Because an entire restaurant full of people entered Ducky’s at once, it took awhile to get our food, but it was worth the wait. I tried to target offerings that I felt sure were developed by Chef Irvine. I had the spiced chicken with guacamole and beans: Wow, was it seasoned well. The soups were exceptional (tomato bisque with basil), and the salads were nothing less than amazing. Next time I will try the blackened catfish, which we heard (later) is out of this world.

Because they were shooting segments live in the dining hall after Robert Irvine greeted us, some folks you probably know will be in the background when the show airs.

Marylu and I are constantly amazed about all the great events that come to Kokomo! When you live in a large metropolitan area — like the Chicago area we hailed from — there are many fine events, but they are such a hassle. It takes forever to get to them, the parking will empty your coffers, and the logistics are stressful. Here in Kokomo, the spectacular events come to you. How cool is that?

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@att.net.