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I love Food. Cooking it. Eating it. Experiencing it. As a result, that's what this blog has evolved into: A journal of my gastronomical journeys abroad, as well as my culinary creativity at home. I hope you enjoy what I have to say, and I'd love to hear your comments... Cheers!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cooking Demo Memories

The best part BY FAR of my weekend as host/emcee of the Taste! Gourmet Food & Wine Expo was having the honor -- not to mention the best seat in the house -- of introducing three extraordinary chefs to the crowds on hand. It was first time witnessing up close what goes into a live cooking demonstration, and I was left with a true understanding of the teamwork and talent of the headliners as well as the good people behind the scenes who make the magic happen.

It should be noted right off the top, that these three gentlemen are all as different as could be, but they share one thing in common that sets them apart, and has placed them in the positions they hold: equal parts cooking chops and personality...

First up was Guy Fieri. Just a few minutes listening to this guy do his thing and you know exactly why he is the reigning rock star of TV chefs. He keeps it real; knows how to engage an audience, and stays true to his culinary sensibilities. The crowd was eating him up, much like the food he prepares. In this case, the food was a twist on a shrimp cocktail. He used avocado and cucumber to brighten and freshen up the presentation and flavor, and he replaced traditional cocktail sauce with his "grilled ketchup," who's base was fresh-grilled veggies, along with the more standard fare of cocktail sauce ingredients (Worcestershire, mustard, garlic, etc.)...

"Big Daddy" Aaron McCargo took the stage the next day, and the promise of his main dish had my mouth watering in advance: Filet Mignon Sloppy Joes. Big Daddy's all about big, bold flavors, so there was more than a fair shake of hot sauce, but with all due respect, his side dish of potatoes stole the show. Nothing too fancy, but sensational in its simplicity. Sliver-thin sliced fingerlings heavily seasoned with S&P and smoked paprika and flash fried. Some people in the crowd gasped when Aaron sprinkled a more than healthy does of salt over the chips, and I loves his reply: "The difference between a little and a lot is opinion." You could grab these crispy, glistening chips by the mouthful and not get bored until you crushed an entire baking sheet of 'em!

Fabio Viviani was the final celebrity chef to demo. This guy is the embodiment of Don Juan in Italian shoes. He maxes out every last bit of his image as a charmer... and makes no bones about his cooking being nothing but simple. As he told the adoring crowd, in his somewhat broken English, "You cannot reinvent tradition."

My only issue with Fabio's dish, Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi, was that it was not really gnocchi at all. No potatoes; no pasta. He said it's name is due to the shape, and I guess that's up for discussion. Just call 'em dumplings and be done with it. It did please the crowd, though, and from being there to witness it, he coulda served this group shit in a shoe and they woulda asked for seconds...

The food was solid if not spectacular across the board. But what really stuck with me afterwards was just how talented these guys are as entertainers. I stand in awe of their multifaceted skills as both cooks and comics. And I take with me a better understanding of what it takes to make it to that level of notoriety...

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