I found myself in Calvert, Texas because of an assignment for my Travel Literature class. A leisurely afternoon spent walking up and down the storefronts on historic Main St led me to COCOAMODA, the only high-end restaurant in the sleepy little town of 1,100. Upon entering, I heard a rumbling coming from the kitchen, and out walked a tall, slender man. He was dressed in jeans, a traditional white button up chef jacket, and a black apron, with a pair of thin glasses on his aged face. His gray hair had been slicked back with comb and gel, but most noticeably, he was missing half of a finger.
Ken Wilkinson moved from the United Kingdom after forty years of culinary experience throughout Europe. So naturally, my main question was what he was doing in Calvert, Texas. He responded, telling me that he moved there for the tranquility and the erudite people. Seconds later, he burst into an uncontrollable hiss of laughter, covering his mouth with four and a half fingers. Calvert is smack-dab in the middle of the Texas triangle, he explained to me, giving him a unique opportunity to market himself to Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. I learned a little more about his fine restaurant, perfectly placed on a corner at the only stop light in the town. Construction took over two years and had its ups and downs. When you’re a chef with no kitchen, he remarked, you have no job. So Ken had a two-year holiday, though he had little time to rest. He took the project on himself and hired outside help in order to reduce costs. There was one incident with a saw and his left pointer finger, but the transformation of a 19th century bank building into a truffle shop and restaurant was a success.
When Ken wasn’t informing me about his business ventures, he told me about his passion for cars. Specifically, fast cars. On a drive from Houston to Calvert, he was overtaken by a car, a rare occasion. Normally, he would give it little thought, but this car was a Corvette (in Ken’s words, a “vette”), and there is nothing he despised more than a vette. Without breaking a sweat, Ken kicked his machine into high gear and roared passed the vette going 195 miles per hour. He kept the pace, wanting to prove a point, and wanting to distance himself from the eyesore. On another occasion, he made his trip from Houston to San Francisco a little more entertaining by setting his cruise control to a leisurely 140 miles per hour. To Ken, if he had money, there was nothing better to spend it on than a machine that could making driving into a sport.