Friday, July 29, 2011

A Chef from Hell and a Top Chef

Every now and again you meet people that remind you why you love what you love.  If you haven't noticed one of my passions is all things food.  Today I was lucky enough to meet two Chefs who cook with intense passion.

One Chef who is known and respected throughout the industry and another who battled his way through hell to become an instant fan favorite

Saturday I told you how I was selected to judge a chef cook-off for the Cadillac Culinary Cookoff.  I am so happy I was, because getting to meet and listen to Jonathan Waxman and Jason Santos was one of the highlights of my summer.

I arrived about an hour before the event and had the pleasure to meet with David from Big Fuel, the events social media reps.  It was great to hear how they are using this event to connect with local bloggers all over the country.

Both chefs where given a specific ingredient to center a dish around.

Summer Squash

With the ingredient picked the chefs created their separate dishes.  Without planning they both picked lamb but prepared the dishes in completely different styles.  Lamb sausage Squash Ragu for Chef Waxman and a Grilled Lamb with Greek Style Summer Squash Salad with Black Olive Yogurt.

For about 45 minutes myself and a tent full of guests watched and listened while the two chefs and their teams prepared their dishes. From the very beginning of the challenge, the chefs were entertaining and inspiring. They talked about why those chose their ingredients, tips on how to cook , their time on Top Chef Masters and Hell's Kitchen and why they became chefs.

Chef Santos telling us that Gordon Ramsey is really a nice guy!!

Chef Waxman talking about the importance of seasoning your dish

Heirloom tomatoes and olive yogurt! Oh My!!

Chef Santos passed along a kitchen tip that blew my mind!  Ever try to cut more than 2 cherry tomatoes for a salad?  Yeah its painfully slow and painful.

Chef's tip was to take two plastic deli covers and place the tomatoes in between.  Then with slight pressure on the top lid, slide your knife across the tomatoes and TADA!  Within seconds all your tomatoes are sliced evenly in half at once!  Simple and genius!

Chef Santos's Grilled Lamb with Greek Style Summer Squash & Tomato Salad with Black Olive Yogurt 
This dish was a perfect summer meal!  Light refreshing and full of different textures.  The lamb was grilled to perfection and the squash was a perfect compliment to the salty tangy bite of the Greek salad and creamy yogurt. (Note: this dish won our round of voting!)

Chef Waxman's Squash Ragout with Spicy Merguez
During the challenge I voted for Chef Santos because the dish was so different than anything I would think to make.  However, Chef Waxman's dish above hit every note of how I would describe comfort summer food.  It was a one pot dish full of Italian spice notes, cheese and reminded me of Sunday Dinner with my family as a child.

I was so inspired in fact, that I drove home and whipped up my own variation of his meal.  A summer vegetable ragout with pesto and orzo.  Yummy!
My own one pot dish of summer veggies!
This day was a day I will remember!  It reminded my why I love to cook, the influences that got me into the kitchen (yes my mom and grandmother!) and that you should never take food to seriously!  If you like something go for it.  Food is meant to be enjoyed not over analyzed.

Thanks again to Cadillac, Big Fuel and the Boston Food Bloggers for getting me involved!