Cooking Lesson

7 Nov

I spent yesterday at the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show, which was such fun I can barely put it into words. I got a cookbook signed by Giada, I won a T-shirt (*giggle*), I snagged a super cute Christmas present for my daughter, and I came home with some yummy things in jars and some yummy ideas in my head.

There were about 10 aisles of booths filled with all sorts of foodie things (and some not so much–Gutter Helmet? BathFitter? Really?), and I spotted some definite trends. Salsa and barbecue sauce are both hot–I saw lots of those from all sorts of vendors. The line for soup was the longest in the place, and comfort food in general was very popular. Two vendors were selling high-end knives (no Wusthof, which surprised me, but Guy Fieri’s line looked nice and there was an artisan company whose hammered blades were stunning), a few were selling expensive table linens, and there were two booths of brightly-patterned aprons and lunch totes and chef’s hats and soft cooler bags and all sorts of fun things like that. One large exhibit in the back sold Viking stoves, one truck was handing out Duke’s mayonnaise (I am a recent convert, by the way–that stuff is good), and a large area was hosting beef cooking and eating demonstrations.

There were three demonstration stages open to the masses and one large one that cost extra, which is where Paula Deen and Giada and Guy Fieri spoke. The (free) demos I saw were all about making life easier, both every day and during the holidays, and the speakers had some super cute ideas.

The biggest free stage hosted Michel Richard at noon, and that was what made me buy my ticket, what with my foodie crush and all. I sat down 20 minutes early to be in the front, and he did not disappoint.

His food demo–an orange sponge cake–was wonderful, but the real reason I enjoyed it was that it was FUN. Food and cooking are FUN, you guys, and that totally came through–he laughed and joked and danced and sang and shouted through his recipe, and then bounced off the stage to take questions and laugh some more. I learned quite a bit in the half-hour he talked, including…

  • You don’t have to spend a lot on your kitchenware–he baked his cake in a plain, frill-free metal pan–but a stand mixer makes a huge difference. “Do you have one of these,” he asked the audience as his KitchenAid whirred away. “You should buy one.” It was the only product he endorsed. Have to say, I heartily agree–mine makes all the difference and was worth the investment and counter space.
  • Ingredients matter. He talked about using butter in recipes, and how his mother used margarine and it just wasn’t the same. Eat less if you must, but use quality ingredients when you cook. You’ll be happier for it.
  • Want chocolate cake? Substitute cocoa powder for 20 percent of the flour in a white cake recipe. Simple, eh? (The recipe he demonstrated called for orange juice. He recommended using apple if you go with chocolate there. Cool.)
  • His favorite food to make and eat at home? ROASTED CHICKEN WITH GARLIC. Vindication, my friends. Total, beautiful, absolute vindication.
  • He baked his cake in a pan lined with plastic wrap. I asked why plastic instead of parchment. He said–and I completely agree–that he doesn’t like using parchment paper because it’s hard to get down in the pan properly. Spray the pan with nonstick spray and then line it with plastic, and it magically conforms to the walls of the pan, giving you a beautiful cake at the end. I’d never seen that done before  and am intrigued.
  • Finally, he stopped bouncing around long enough to stand very still and ask us all if we knew what the magic ingredient was to give food a special sparkle. Nobody knew. “Love,” he said, and began bouncing and singing. “Love, love, love loooooooove.”

Gang, this is fun. Food is a creative outlet and eating is a joy and the kitchen is a place for family and friends to gather and enjoy each other. I had a ball yesterday simply because he’s so much fun–he’s not stuffy and snobby like other chefs in his position (he raised both fists in the air and gave a hearty “YEAH” when his introducer mentioned his James Beard award), and he could not be nicer or more encouraging. He sat down and took a few pictures with me and chatted about what I liked to cook, and it felt so accessible, which is the way it should be.

“You can do this,” he said to us. “In your kitchen. It is easy.” And he’s right.


2 Responses to “Cooking Lesson”

  1. Laura November 7, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    What a great post. I can feel your excitement, and I might even be slightly
    inspired to cook something… 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Gayle Haeffner November 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    It sounds like he was really fun. Great photo of Chef Richards. And YEAH chicken!

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