An Celebration of Spring. A simple dinner menu just for you!

Spring Picture








I know that everyone has plans for Easter this weekend. Family, friends, children, Easter egg hunts, desserts, big dinners, etc. And by the way who’s going to cook, host and serve this year? Well may I offer a simple menu  that would create memories of enjoyment  family, friends, fellowship and great food.


The recipe below is my very own that I’ve prepared for my family during  Christmas 2012. I served this with roasted red potatoes, grilled asparagus with lemon zest with assorted artisan rolls.

sliced lamb

Sliced lamb presented on a wood cutting board









Grilled Boneless Leg of Lamb

1- 3-5 lbs boneless leg of lamb

3-5  meyer or regular lemons (halved)

6 oz. of extra virgin olive oil

3 oz. red wine vinegar

2 0z. honey

1 bunch each fresh rosemary,oregano and thyme ( deflower and chopped half, save rest )

2 to 3 tbsp  kosher salt

2 to 3 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper

2 yellow or sweet onions, quartered, whole without skin removed


  • While grille is getting hot, pat dry lamb with paper towel or clean dry kitchen towel
  • Using large grille steak fork, punch holes throughout the cavity and outside of lamb which would allow all the marinade  to be absorbed in the meat to enhance the flavor profile.
  • Drizzle olive oil,honey, red wine vinegar throughout the lamb inside and out. Add squeeze lemons and massage the liquids into the flesh.
  • Add chopped garlic, herb, salt and pepper and massage in for a few minutes.  Marinate for a few hours or overnight.
  • Prepare grille with charcoal or wood
  • Once coals are white. Add onion halves and a few strands of herbs over the coals. Quickly place oil grated on top.
  • Add lamb with flesh side down and turn every 10-12 minutes on each side. While lamb is cooking open top and add additional lemons and herbs to enhance the flavor. The aroma is fantastic!You may have a few extra people from the neighborhood that may arrive to find out what your cooking!
  • Continue this procedure 3-5 times until meat reach your desired temperature of medium rare to medium.
  • Remove lamb and sit on platter for 15-20 minutes to rest.
  • Garnish and serve.


Suggested Sides and Accompaniments


Red Bliss Mashed Potatoes with Onion & Garlic Puree

Blanched Fresh Green Beans with shredded Carrots and Orange oil

Assorted Artisan Rolls from local bakery

Triple Cream Brie served with fig preserved and Spanish Maracona Almonds

Seasonal Vegetable Crudite’ with buttermilk dressing with herbs

Italian Creme Lemon cake with fresh seasonal berries

Old Fashioned Jordan Almonds and chocolates for the kids

Homemade White Sangria, Shiraz and Chablis chilled


Until next time!


Chef Dondari,d.b2I&psig=AFQjCNHjL7BVdN-v2h7UwayYGhDlzi87GA&ust=1397942557939335



A day fit for some good ole soup!


rainy day in Atlanta









Well, its raining here in Atlanta, Georgia and its a bit cold outside. The rain has taken away our first saturation of pollen which is a mess for us here with allergy season upon us. So today is a good day for a pot of soup, warm crusty bread and a good movie or show to top off your Monday and set the course for the week. Here’s a few recipes that you can use to make this happen.


french onion soup pic









French Onion Soup Grantinee


Original recipe makes 4 serving
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 (48 fluid ounce) can chicken broth
1 (14 ounce) can beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 thick slices French or Italian bread
8 slices Gruyere or Swiss cheese slices, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded Asiago or mozzarella cheese, room temperature

Another great soup to try is a Tomato Basil with its rich and smooth texture.

tomato basil soup pic










makes 4 servings
4 tomatoes – peeled, seeded and diced
4 cups tomato juice
14 leaves fresh basil
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste


Place tomatoes and juice in a stock pot over medium heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Puree the tomato mixture along with the basil leaves, and return the puree to the stock pot.
Place the pot over medium heat, and stir in the heavy cream and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Do not boil.

Pick up some baguettes, brie and fig spread with a bottle of White Sangria or great Chardonnay and enjoy. Until next time!

Chef djc

fig spread pic

classic baguette bread



brie cheese pic











*recipes and photos taken from all

A Night in Tunisia at Nancy’s Candy & Spice, Lawrenceville, GA

Cooking class with Nancy







Cooking class with Nancy



Cooking class with Nancy












Good evening everyone. It has been awhile since my last blog post and I must get back to consistency. Earlier this week  I had the pleasure to host a trial run of cooking class  in a joint venture with Nancy Abuaisheh of Nancy’s Candy and Spice located in Downtown Lawrenceville, Georgia.  It’s a delectable shop filled with the scent of aromatic spices from all over the world along with the best tasting sweets that will leave your mouth and senses craving for more.  We had an awesome time sharing and celebrating our passion for food, cooking, friends, fellowship and life. I presented two recipes for the guests that were received with enthusiasm, appreciation and sincerity. I featured a winter green salad with feta cheese, pistachios and chickpeas with lemon vinaigrette. The next recipe is a Mediterranean Cous Cous infused with Saffron and Pomegranate. Here are the recipes from last night.

Winter Garden Salad with Field Greens, Feta, Pistachios with Herb Vinaigrette

  • 2 bags (5oz.) of Organic Field Greens (chilled)
  • 1 can  of chickpeas (rinsed)
  • 3 oz. pistachios (roasted, salted and shelled)
  • 3 oz. fresh feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp. of fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 bottle of herb vinaigrette (good quality)
  • 3 tbsp. of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz. of fresh lemon zest
  • Fresh grind sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
  • Add diced tomatoes and sliced English cucumbers (optional)

First place field greens in large bowl. Add chickpeas and pistachios and set aside. Do not mix. This is your salad base. Next take herb vinaigrette (shake vigorously) and place in small bowl. Add chopped oregano, feta cheese, lemon juice and zest with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk everything together for a minute or so.  This is your flavor profile. Add the flavored vinaigrette to the salad base and toss with your hands lightly for a few minutes until greens are coated with vinaigrette. Add a bit of salt and pepper to bring the flavors out. Plate up on chilled salad plates and serve with warm crusty French baguette or warm pita bread. Serve immediately.

Mediterranean Vegetable Cous Cous infused Saffron and Pomegranate

In this recipe if pomegranate is not available use pomegranate juice and add a few ounces in the cooking process with the aromatic vegetables.

  • 1 medium eggplant ( small diced and burped***)
  • 1 small red onion, diced small
  • 1 each of red, green and yellow pepper (small dice)
  • 2 oz. of EVOO
  • 1 pomegranate or 2 oz. of pomegranate juice
  • 1/3 bunch of chopped cilantro
  • 3 each of fresh mint and oregano, chopped
  • ½ tbsp. of cumin and turmeric
  • (1 lb. box) of cous cous
  • 1 qt. of vegetable or chicken broth
  • Cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste
  • The key to the recipe is to build flavor and texture with the cous cous as the highlight

Before cooking the cous cous which takes just a few minutes cook the aromatic vegetables and set aside.

Add EVOO in to medium heated skillet. Add onions, peppers, herb mix and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add eggplant and cook and sauté for additional 3-4 minutes until eggplant begins to take on some browning on each side. Add pomegranate juice and turn off heat and stir liberally to enhance the flavor. Add salt and pepper. Set aside.

In medium pot heat broth and heat to boil about 4 minutes. Add saffron (or turmeric) with ground cumin and stir in for a few seconds.   Add cous cous in a steady stream and quickly stir for a few seconds like you would polenta or cream of wheat. Add additional fresh herb mix about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Place lid on top and remove from heat for 3-5 minutes. Take lid off and fluff cous cous with a fork. Add cooked vegetables and mix with wooden spoon for a few minutes.  As an option you can add diced dried apricots or dried cranberries for an added texture and natural sweetness. Serve immediately.

The burping of the eggplant which means adding salt to the diced eggplant before application will extract the excess of water and moisture within the eggplant that will make the eggplant hold its firmness rather than rubbery and soggy.

We had a great time! If you’re looking for some sweet treats to cap off an evening or Friday stop by Nancy’s Candy & Spice and tell her that Chef Donnell referred you for a special treat. She has some awesome candies. The eggnog coated almonds are to die for amongst her many sweet treats.  So stop by, its worth the trip.  She’s located in downtown Lawrenceville on West Crogan Street next to Dominick’s Italian Restaurant.

Nancy’s Candy & Spice

Nuts, Fried Fruit, Candy and Spices

186 West Crogan Street Lawrencville, GA 30045

770-910-7927 store

Look for the next post soon!


Food Talk with Chef Ernesto Interview Friday 1/24/14

Food Talk with Chef Ernesto Interview Friday 1/24/14



Good evening everyone. Just wanted to share the latest culinary happening in my life.

I was interviewed by Chef Ernesto last Friday evening on his Radio Talk Show. Just wanted to put it out there. I really enjoyed the show and hope to become a regular guests on the show. Please check out his show weekly on Fridays at 6pm PST/9am EST.

Welcome to Food Talk with Chef Ernesto, the coolest Chef on the planet!

Join us as we Interview Chef Donnell Jones Craven. He is well versed hands on, culinary trained in classic and international cookery. His ability to lead a kitchen staff and front of the house into success makes him a valuable commodity. 
This culinary specialist is doing big things in the ATl. 
A Graduate of Morehouse College and an dedicated food and beverage manager is an awesome in complete kitchen management!!!!

show airs on Friday @ 6pm pacific. click the food talk link below, or call in to listen on your phone. 213-769-0900.

It’s all about the Ribs baby!

bbq ribs main photo

Today I want to write and discover the most relevant information about the American fascination with these grilled, savory, tender and notorious charcoalist  kingsfordius and hickoriuos (like the wording, lol)  aromatic smell of grilled, succulent pieces of meat with rib bones of the famous livestock animal  that has become a culinary celebrity of recent times serving culinary connoisseur as a favorable jam, a savory jerky, or fried rinds before a favorable broth. There are festivals in its name all across the country. It’s  even on a annual tour (cochon 555) throughout the US! I myself participated in the event in Atlanta a few years ago and its amazing I might add.  What am I talking about? The omnivore itself the pig. The popular animal has brought an awakening to the culinary world.  Because of it butcher shops have  has came back into the  neighborhoods, chefs have made it the highlight of their menus, and livestock farmers have went back into business with raising the popular breeds such as berkshire, iberian, yorkshire and the chestire white form Chester County, Pennsylvania.

pork cuts

Spare Ribs

Spare Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

Baby Back Ribs

Country Style Ribs

Country Style Ribs

Pork Loin Chop

Pork Loin Chop

Rib Tips

Rib Tips

For the past several months I’ve prepared family meals utilizing the various cuts of meat from this vicarious animal while applying different cooking methods like  pan searing, grilling, smoking and plain old bbqing. I’ve often used citrus, garlic, brown sugar, vinegars, rubs and marinades seeking to discover an unknown taste and texture that has loomed in my culinary mind and soul for days at end. I must the taste and flavor that pork ribs give are quite satisfying! I mean some good seasoned and marinated ribs grilled to perfection slathered with a simple concocted bbq sauce with some coleslaw or potato salad and some lite bread ( white bread to some) and Red’s Apple Ale and I’m happy as fat kid with his favorite cake! I must admit everyone has their favorite cut of ribs. The cuts are various. As a kid my Dad always purchased spare ribs which he seasoned up with his blend of spices and parboiled  for a few hours in hot water with onions and beer. Funny combination but after he slow cooked them over a medium heat charcoaled grill for several hours they were the best with kraft bbq sauce (I’m a 70’s kid, that’s what we had back in the day). Other cuts like I’ve come to enjoy like the St. Louis cut ( one of my favorite cuts) that I’ve worked with as a Food and Beverage Manager/Executive Chef at Emory Healthcare here in Atlanta that we seasoned and put on the rotisserie as well as the oven which the customers loved as we served 3 to 4 bone segments and draped them with some Sweet Ray’s BBQ Sauce. They were indeed the bomb with mac and cheese, collard green and fresh baked corn bread muffins. This will put you in the mood for an afternoon nap. Now the cut that everyone raves about are the one and only baby backs that made Chili’s restaurants famous with their barber quartet commercial and the amazing shots of bbq baby back ribs over an open flame. Applebee’s restaurants  also are known for their baby back as well. I imagine that both of this restaurant chains have sold millions upon millions of baby back ribs to their customers over the years. Some other well know restaurants that served these succulent and memorable ribs are Tony Roma’s, Corky’s,  Famous Dave’s, Dreamland BBQ, and JimnNick’s. The country style ribs are one of my favorites because its pretty much all meat with the exception of a little bone, but the tenderness of the meat you can’t beat.  Now let’s not forget the rib-tips. If your from Atlanta you’ve heard the famous commercial from This is It! BBQ & Seafood Restaurant where the owner Shelley Butch Anthony belts out his famous line ” Its the rib tips.” I became acquainted with rib tips while working at the Covington Highway location in Decatur, Georgia early in my culinary  career which I learned a lot about the cooking and smoking process. I didn’t know that these small, yet tender pieces of meat were so good. I tell you he has some good BBQ there which is addictive!

dreamland bbq logofamous dave's logotony  roma's restaurantchili's restaurant

jimnicks logo

sweet baby rays bbq sauce

corky's bbq logo

Slicing St. Louis Cut Ribs for lunch service at Emory University Hospital Midtown

Slicing St. Louis Cut Ribs for lunch service at Emory University Hospital Midtown

Shelley "Butch"Anthony and son Telley  Atlanta's own favorite BBQ Restaurant

Shelley “Butch”Anthony and son Telley Atlanta’s own favorite BBQ Restaurant This is It!

Now lets switch gears and talk about seasoning blends and cooking methods. Everyone and I do mean everyone has a special cut of meat that they go goo goo over or my kids term “Ham” ( an expression fitted for this blog I may add). As you know there are hundreds maybe thousands of bby seasoning blends, rubs (dry and wet), marinades and sauces that are on the market. Some local, regional, nationwide and some made right out of home kitchen ( they’re the best I found).  I’ve come to the conclusion that the simpliest blends and marinades produce the best flavor for you ribs. A rub of granulated garlic, onion, season salt, white pepper, cayenne, salt and cumin brings out the true flavor of pork. Or try a simple marinade of 1 part each of  light brown sugar, soy sauce, and yellow mustard does absolute justice on some ribs. Try and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Many chefs, grillers and home cooks perform murder on coming up with these complex and overdone rubs, marinades and seasoning blends  that has so many conflicting flavors and smells going off you can taste the meat at all. I hope you are not one of these individuals that I’m speaking of. If so there’s hope for you through this post. Keep reading because you’re going to learn today! Find spices and flavors that appeal to you the most. Build two or three flavor profiles that you like such as  sweet and sassy (honey, apple cider vinegar, pepper, salt, seasoned salt, granulated garlic)  or tropical (lime juice, pineapple, cumin, pimento seed, curry, granulated garlic, etc.) or  asian ( light soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ground coriander, tomato paste, pepper, honey, orange juice). Learn to create your own special magic and perfect it, It will set you and your cooking style apart from the rest of the crowd and people will be drooling to have some your special prepared ribs!

Make your marinade simple with bold  flavors

Make your marinade simple with bold flavors

Find your balance between sweet and savory

Find your balance between sweet and savory

K.I.S.S. =Keep It Simple Stupid

K.I.S.S. =Keep It Simple Stupid

Cooking Methods

For the best method you must ask yourself the question “What type of taste or aroma do I want my ribs to have”? Smoky, charcoal or woodsy aroma and taste in my meat delicacies. Personally speaking nothing beats the aroma and flavor of charcoal (Kingsford is still the best in my experience). Charcoal provides the meat with an  sort of primitive but  simple characteristic of  cooking over an open flame that goes back to ancient times when basically everything that people ate was cooked over an open flame with grates to keep the wild game from falling into the fire. Some of the basic tools needed to start your grilling career or hobby is a decent kettle shaped grill (18or 22 inch will suffice), good charcoal, lighter fluid, charcoal chimney, grill tool set, basting brush,  water bottle ( to calm down flare ups) and some garlic bulbs, onion hulls and fresh rosemary to give your meat a nice aroma while it cooks. Now your on your way. As you get into the fine art of grilling you’ll pick up new items and gadgets along the way such as fancy thermometers, skewers, cedar planks, fruit tree wood chips, marinades, spices, etc. It’s an adventure so pack lightly and keep your eyes and you nose open to new techniques, preparation, and presentation. You will learn from all types of cooks, backyard weekend grillers, chefs, uncles and aunts, old school pit masters and the new school smokers with their fusion style marinades, sauces and flavor enhancers. You can’t possibly go wrong unless you leave your food on the grill and go inside and forgot about  and once you realize you were grilling all your meat has caught on fire and is charred to blackness because you forgot to put the top on and close the vents!!!!! Awg! How many times has that happen to you? It has happen to all of us at some point or another, especially the novices. It’s  a rites of passage for the bbq journeyman or woman. You must survive your learning curve.

Well, there you have it…. Ribs, the cuts, the eateries that made them famous to us, the seasoning and flavor techniques, equipment and products that will take your ribs to the next pigosphere or atmosphere of serene  utopia as you sit down at the table, role your sleeves up and partake of the most succulent, tender pieces of  sweet and savory protein morsels of meat that’s slathered in sweet tangy bbq sauce that makes your lips smack and your tongue form a circle eight as your brain tells you that man  this is it! Simply stated its the Ribs Baby! It’s all about the Ribs baby. Give me some more and pass the light bread and tata salad. You know the vernacular! Until next time!

The Payoff —the finished meat

The Results of Grillin: BBQ Country Style Ribs

The Results of Grillin: BBQ Country Style Ribs

Country Style BBQ Ribs cooked on a lazy Sunday afternoon in October

Country Style BBQ Ribs cooked on a lazy Sunday afternoon in October


Special Note:  I recently had dinner at JimnNicks in Conyers, GA (my favorite bbq spot) with my wife and  some friends earlier this week and the food and service was very very very good. Sorry I forgot to take pictures while dining on some cheese filled corn muffins, fried green tomatoes, BBQ beef brisket and some baby backs (of course), mac and cheese and collard greens like Grandma’s with some soothing sweet tea and to top it off the the best pecan pie with a flaky crust that’s to die for! We had some much food that we just finished our doggy bag two days ago. The food quality and service was outstanding thanks to our server Sir Zacahry that made it a great experience. Please check them out and tell them Donnell sent you! Until next time….GO GET SOME RIBS AND GETTA QQQQING HERE IN GEORGIA AND ALL AROUND THE COUNTRY!  ITTA MAKE YA FEEL REAL GOOD DOWN ON THE INSIDE !


Tabbouleh: To be or not to be: That is the question!

It’s been awhile since my last blog ( about 3 weeks) so I want to finish my Middle Eastern theme and share with you one of my favorite  Saturday afternoon  lunch or late night meal (if you will) that makes me feel whole and earthy at the same time. I enjoy it by itself stuffed in pita bread or on a plate with fresh prepared  hummus, Greek salad and grape leaves with spring or sparkling water infused with fresh squeezed lemon juice and pomegranate juice and I feel good. What am I talking about? The most simplest dish that you can make that’s cheap, healthy and you want gain 5 lbs. after consuming. It’s Tabbouleh to most  or Tabouli to others depending on the region Lebanon, Turkey or Armenia.

Tabbouleh (Arabic: تبولةtabūlah; also tabouleh or tab(b)ouli) is a Levantine Arab salad traditionally made of bulgur, tomatoes, cucumbers, finely chopped parsley, mint, onion, and garlic and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt, although there are various other variations such as using couscous instead of bulgur.[1][2]

Traditionally served as part of a mezze in the Arab world, tabbouleh was adopted by Cypriots, variations of it are made by Turks and Armenians, and it has become a popular ethnic food in Western cultures.


In Lebanon, tabbouleh is commonly scooped onto lettuce leaves from a large bowl and eaten. People in the United States may eat tabbouleh with a fork or spoon or use it as a dip for vegetables or pita bread. It also goes well with falafel, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, or any other Middle Eastern or Mediterranean menu items. The herbs included in tabbouleh frequently include scallions, mint, parsley, and tomato. Lemon juice, salt, and black pepper are the most traditional seasonings, sometimes supplemented with cinnamon, allspice, or other spices.

A basic recipe for tabbouleh can be found below, but the dish is amenable to creative variation. For example, though garlic is not a traditional ingredient, many cooks enjoy adding it to tabbouleh. Another interesting option is a bit of pepperoncini juice to add a little spice. The main ingredient, bulgur wheat, can usually be found at Middle Eastern or health food markets, and it is typically inexpensive. If more than one grade is available, go with the finest for the best tabouleh.

To feed four to six guests, begin with a cup of finely chopped bulgur wheat in a large glass dish. Pour a cup and a half of boiling water on it, and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Next, use a spoon to mix in 1/3 cup lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Chill covered in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

To finish up your tabbouleh, add two bunches of parsley, four scallions, two tomatoes, and about five mint leaves, all as finely chopped as possible. Return it to the refrigerator for another hour – not more – and it’s ready to serve. You can add extra lemon juice, a bit of olive oil, or anything else you like just before serving.


andronicos' market image


adronico's deli photo







I became acquainted with tabbouleh several years ago while working as a Store Chef at Andronico’s Market in Albany, California. As learned to make it from a fellow chef I was intrigued with the process of taking a simple grain like wheat bulgur, soaking it in water for  a couple of hours and chopping and dicing the fresh aromatic parsley, mint and diced tomatoes with there liquid and blending them with the  soft bulgur and adding lemon juice, olive oil with salt and pepper to taste it made me admire and respect this simple dish. And once you taste it after its properly made you fall in love with it instantly, hands down or up for surrender. Ethnic dishes such as this must be made the traditional way, no ifsn ands or buts. No spin offs, tweaks or off the wall version of culinary adventure. Just K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) for those who don’t know the phrase. This drives my point. Ethic foods are to be celebrated, respected and most of all made in the simplest format according to traditional recipe and processes by the people and culture it represents. No american or gringo version, not adding ingredients that have nothing to do with the dish or the culture itself. With all the recipes and cookbooks on the internet and bookstore why do people only buy the latest or hottest culinary or foodie personality’s take on Italian, Greek,  Asian or African cuisine and have know roots, cultural understanding or respect to the people behind the cuisine? Its very puzzling to me. Why not go to a used book store or shop on-line for a real authentic cookbook on your favorite cuisine or a cuisine that you would like to explore and learn, Read through the pages and learn about the author and the world as it relates to food, history, culture and cooking. How it makes them feel, what inspires them when they think about food. The memories of family celebrations as a child, the importance of defining family, their heritage and their cultural traditions. You will then find yourself walking on the pages with them learning, relating and exploring the world of food, family and fellowship through their mind therefore relating to people on a higher level of love, acceptance and appreciation. It has been said when you dine with a person and their family you become a part of them forever. I don’t know who said that (or maybe it was my own I just thought of), but you become tied to them instantly and you will never forget the experience. An experience that gives you peace and the ability to be transparent.  If you don’t believe me go to a wedding or family festivity of someone you know whose ethnicity is different than yours. You will learn more about life in one evening than ten years of study of that family. Long lasting memories will be instilled in you for years to come. So let’s celebrate Tabbouleh. It is and will forever be the appetizer, dish, meal and detox salad to all who will take the time to savor it. And don’t forget the pita bread!

Until next time!


Here’s a traditional recipe that you can try:

From Wikipedia
By the way here’s some local places around Atlanta that has some great  tabbouleh:
Two  of my local favorites:
Loganville, GA
Emory/North Decatur location is well know amongst Emory college students
Midtown across from City Hall East