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Maj. Richard Bendorf, left, chaplain for the Army's Area IV in lower South Korea, gives some cooking pointers Friday to Kim Man-cho, center, and Pfc. David White at the Soldiers Memorial Chapel on Camp Walker in Taegu, South Korea. Both Cho and White work with the chapel program. Bendorf, known also as “The Frian’ Friar,” plans to publish a cookbook with favorite recipes.
Maj. Richard Bendorf, left, chaplain for the Army's Area IV in lower South Korea, gives some cooking pointers Friday to Kim Man-cho, center, and Pfc. David White at the Soldiers Memorial Chapel on Camp Walker in Taegu, South Korea. Both Cho and White work with the chapel program. Bendorf, known also as “The Frian’ Friar,” plans to publish a cookbook with favorite recipes. (Galen Putnam / Courtesy of U.S. Army)

PYONGTAEK, South Korea — Back when Army Maj. Richard Bendorf was a small boy in southern Illinois, he liked to follow his grandmother around the kitchen and watch her demonstrate her great talent for cooking.

It was the beginning of his lifelong love of cooking. And now, Bendorf, 61, the Area IV chaplain based at Camp Walker in Taegu, South Korea, plans to write his own cookbook.

Like other members of the Catholic Church’s Franciscan order, Bendorf is a friar, so he plans on calling his book “The Culinary Adventures of the Frian’ Friar.”

“I’m not sure when it’s going to be finished, but it’s started,” he said, noting he has not yet sought a publisher.

The cookbook will contain some of the many recipes he’s accumulated over decades, as well as short narratives of his experiences with recipes, restaurants and other culinary matters, he said.

“I’m going to take an adventure and perhaps even talk about a particular restaurant I’ve eaten in, and maybe share one of the recipes,” Bendorf said.

“I do use recipes, and I look at recipes, but I make those recipes my own,” Bendorf said. “Or sometimes I just come up with my own recipes for something. I’ve done my own creations from scratch.”

A big part of Bendorf’s enthusiasm for cooking, he said, is the “therapy” it affords from the heavier parts of a chaplain’s work. He holds a master’s degree in social work and counsels members of the military community about personal problems.

“I’m a therapist for other people and so for me this is my therapy,” he said.

“My interest in the culinary arts dates back to I guess when I was probably seven or eight years old,” he said. “My grandmother was not only an excellent baker, but she was the head cook for a school system in southern Illinois. And I used to walk around behind her, and I kind of learned early on how to cook and how to bake.

“At present, I’m 61 years old, and I’ve had a lot of culinary experiences. There are several hundred recipes in my folder and I’m going to cull that. And the ones that I pretty much call my own I’m going to put in the book.”

Bendorf has a Web site at www.frianfriar.com, which includes a few recipes, such as garlic-herb encrusted crostini and yogurt-berry custard.

“We’ve got an e-mail address and people periodically send recipes and pictures and also stories to me. And my idea is also to incorporate them into the book. So all the experiences won’t necessarily be my own. But it’ll be kind of an eclectic compilation,” he said.

“The problem is not not finding enough material; the problem is culling the material so we don’t have too much.”

Bendorf’s favorite cuisines are, in order, French, German, Mexican and Italian.

“It doesn’t take a genius to be a really fine cook,” he said. “What you need is some good ingredients, and some of the basic ingredients that I use are a good extra virgin olive oil, good cracked pepper, fresh ground pepper, fresh ground sea salt and herbs, a variety of herbs. And with those things you can do a tremendous amount in a kitchen. But those are just some of the basics.”

As a soldier, Bendorf can’t eat fine cooking all the time. There are also the Meals, Ready to Eat that troops eat in the field. “I’ve eaten many MREs … quite a few.”

But he’s shared his cooking with others in the Taegu-area military community, often in dinner gatherings for six or so people.

“They say, ‘When are you cooking again?’ and I say, ‘Well, I don’t know.’ Two reactions: they want to come back, and the other one is that there’s usually nothing left.”

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