Photo by Jeremy Bronaugh.
0614 Jon McClure
Hoover resident Jon McClure’s latest best-seller, Alabama’s Best Restaurants Cookbook, was re-released this year with a number of updates. The cookbook features recipes from the state’s best restaurants.
Tucked away on Shades Mountain, you’ll find retired food expert-turned-writer Jon McClure. Over the last two decades, McClure has traveled to every city in Alabama as a convention producer, putting on shows where local vendors sold everything from orange juice to million-dollar yachts. In each city, he made a point to sample the best local restaurants with his wife, Pam, which became the highlight of each trip. When he retired from the convention circuit, he decided to put his culinary knowledge to use and finally write his fourth cookbook.
“Well, I’d been researching it for 20 years,” he says with a laugh.
McClure’s latest best-seller, Alabama’s Best Restaurants Cookbook, was re-released this year with a number of delicious updates. The cookbook features the best restaurants from all over the state along with each restaurant’s best recipes.
McClure wrote his first book, Meat Eaters are Threatened, in 1973 while he was working as a meat cutter. “The book came about because of some things happening in the meat industry that were wrong and needed to be changed,” McClure says of his inspiration. This book, an exposé of the deceptive and unsafe tactics butchers use to sell bad meat, took off unexpectedly and propelled McClure toward a career as a television personality.
After being invited to talk about the meat industry on To Tell the Truth, McClure went on to guest star on shows like What’s My Line and The Mike Douglas Show. Television stations caught on to his skills in the kitchen, and McClure was asked to lead segments where he taught celebrities and news anchors cooking tips. He guest starred on more than 3,000 episodes of news, radio and television shows before being offered his own nationally syndicated television program, Making Ends Meet Cooking, which led to his first cookbook.
In 1983 McClure moved to Hoover and wrote the best-selling Birmingham’s Best Restaurants Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the best restaurants in Birmingham. It was while doing research for this book that he discovered his favorite restaurant in all of Alabama.
“In all my travels, Highlands Bar and Grill is one of my favorite restaurants. We are blessed in Birmingham to have a chef as good as Frank Stitt,” he said. McClure highly recommends the wild mushroom risotto as well as the veal loin steaks. Both recipes can be found in his cookbook.
After seeing the success of his first cookbook, McClure decided to go even bigger and catalog the best restaurants in the state.
“I had so much encouragement from people who had read Birmingham’s Best Restaurants Cookbook, McClure says of his inspiration for writing his sixth book. “‘It’s time,’ they said, ‘to do another book, maybe on the whole state.’” But it would be another 20 years before McClure had the time to sit down and write what he as a trained master chef was uniquely qualified to write: a compendium of the best recipes and restaurants Alabama’s culinary scene had to offer.
After he retired from convention production, McClure spent two years meeting with the restaurant owners and chefs of his top choices. Then he compiled Alabama’s Best Restaurants Cookbook, a culinary tour guide to Alabama through a collection of restaurant recipes.
“It was an adventure traveling over 12,000 miles to all four corners of Alabama,” says McClure. “These restaurants were surveyed and eaten in, and those chosen represent the best at their specialty.”
In a compliment to Hoover’s restaurant scene, McClure features recipes from 12 Hoover restaurants in Alabama’s Best Restaurants Cookbook, second in number only to Birmingham. “I don’t believe there is a place on the planet better than Hoover, with its rolling hills and valleys and great year-round weather,” McClure says of the city he calls home. “They’ll have to bury me on this mountain [because] I’m never leaving.”
Ever the workaholic, McClure doesn’t have any plans to slow down. “I have three more books to write — some fiction, some nonfiction — but my focus right now is keeping Alabama’s Best Restaurants Cookbook updated for future editions and getting it into local vendors like book, gift and antique stores.”
Alabama’s Best Restaurants Cookbook is available at the Patton Creek shopping center in Barnes & Noble and Wrapsody, and online at AlabamaGoods.com. McClure can be reached for booking or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.