By Mary GraffMore in Blog Cabin
How does an executive chef end up splitting logs in the mountains of eastern North Carolina? The answer makes more sense than one might first expect.
After facing a period of burnout in the middle of his career, Allen Crawford, a 20-year construction industry veteran, enrolled in courses at the California Culinary Academy, where he received a degree and began a new life as a chef. But he could never quite escape the lure of construction. "Both seem to be a really good creative outlet and a creative process for me," he adds. "I really love to do both."
The perfect opportunity presented itself at The Preserve at Little Pine, where he now serves as both a construction crew member and special events chef, catering for up to 200 people at each event. "I am lucky I get to do both up here," he adds.
It was a chance meeting with DIY Blog Cabin house planner Jack Thomasson that led to Crawford’s guest-starring role as a carpenter on the '09 series. "He was here to take a look at the property for Blog Cabin," Crawford recalls. "And that night I cooked for everybody — we were at my boss Jack’s house — and then all of a sudden I came out of the woods with a chain saw and he asked me if I wanted to be on TV and I said, ‘Yeah, we’ll go for it.’"
Crawford has served as a jack of all trades for Blog Cabin projects, including interior work at the equestrian center; trim, sheetrock and paint work at the lodge; batten board, trim, caulking and countertop work at the observatory; and special projects, including the construction of hand-hewn mantels and a custom-crafted picnic table, which Crawford considers his finest work. "The inspiration for the picnic table came into my head one day," says Crawford. "I went into the woods, took an 8-foot section out of a downed purple walnut tree, and here we are." The picnic table, crafted from a tree that also produced two mantels, served as a springboard for other creative projects. "It’s hard to go to sleep at night because your head is swimming with ideas," says Crawford. "Benches, barstools, chaise lounges, swinging chairs — everything comes to mind now."
So how does it feel to be a TV star? "To be on camera is not that bad," says Crawford. "I was a little shocked at how close the camera gets to me when I am working, but otherwise, it doesn’t seem to bother me. I kind of act like it’s not there and go about my business. It seems to be just natural for me."
Learn more about Allen's sidekick, carpenter Ryan James Heryford.