Thursday, February 16, 2012

Meet Bill Wood, Kalamazoo's Minister of Culture

Now may be the time to admit that I had one of the coolest, most-envied jobs at The Kalamazoo Gazette for 23 years. The work offered a great opportunity to get to know chefs and to share their lives with our readers. You will get the chance to read more about them and their culinary creations here on Riffs on the Good Life. I also wrote about other aspects of culture, like fashion, art and jazz music. Kalamazoo's Western Michigan University has one of the oldest and best jazz programs in the United States. Expect occasional reviews of the concerts in the local jazz scene and of jazz recordings here too. 
I'm often asked what I look for in a new restaurant. I look for a clean bathroom and clean silverware. That's how you can tell that a new place cares about its customers. The better the wine glasses are, the better the wine list is. I look for the use of fresh, local ingredients and culinary imagination. If food basics are executed perfectly, then, I'm there. You can find good fare at both mom & pop restaurants as well as fine dining spots. My job has been to sniff out the best of the best and to let everyone else know about it. I hope to continue that sniffin’.
The good life doesn’t have to be expensive. I've learned that to purchase quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar is a good place to start. Use real garlic, which gets mellow after being cooked, and you may improve your meals for generations. The garlic thing my be silly, but it led to my interest in food and my position as a critic for the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Bill Wood at the 2012 BraVo! Chefs' All Star Dinner.
Everybody has their own style. Clothing is very important to me. When you're well clothed, you feel better about yourself. Every man should have an occasional professional shave. Every woman should indulge in an occasional massage. When people say "Nice look, brother, I want that hat!" that makes me feel good. One or two people have said, "I've never seen anyone dress the way you do before." People in Manhattan look like that all of the time. They look like mannequins walking down the street. I use fashion to display creativity. Ascots, bow ties, the interplay of colors and patterns and the fit of my clothing communicates sophistication. 
It's important to me to help people connect the dots in their lives. I've always liked the feeling that I've found exceptional things hiding in plain sight. I hope you find Riffs on the Good Life invigorating and a valuable continuation of what I once wrote while having the best job in an entire daily newspaper.

William R. Wood
Kalamazoo’s Minister of Culture