Sunday, April 22, 2012
New thing #26: Epicurious Cooking School
Our good friends shared their gift certificate from Epicurious Cooking School by inviting us to join them at their home for an in-house cooking demonstration. Chef Sean Gartland brought all the ingredients for a terrific dinner, then showed us how to put it all together with hands-on demonstrations and insightful tips. As he puts it, his goal is to encourage the natural curiosity we all have in the kitchen so we can discover our inner chefs.
The menu was planned with the hostess in advance, so our theme for tonight was healthy cooking using seasonal produce. When we arrived at our friends gorgeous kitchen - seriously, this place should be on Cribs - Chef Sean had already set up his mise en place and was ready to start cooking. Now when I said he brought everything to prepare a delicious dinner, I meant it - pots, pans, knives, bowls, chopping boards, food processor, bamboo steamer, oils, herbs, seasonings, veggies, meats, etc. The only thing he didn't provide was the place settings. He gave each of us a set of the recipes he was preparing that evening, and invited us to participate as much as we wanted in the chopping and stirring.
Chef Sean has an easy and comfortable presentation style, honed as a chef instructor at The Chopping Block Cooking School in Chicago. He explained each step of the process while mixing in stories about his family and his days as a chef in Traverse City and Chicago. We learned a ton of new things - how to pick the freshest produce, the right way to hold a knife and chop, the difference between shallots and scallions, getting the oil just right to toast couscous, prepping vegetables for the grill so they cook evenly, what to ask the butcher at the market, when a protein has reached medium rare, how to use a bamboo steamer (gotta get me one of those) and more. But I'm not sharing any of the secrets here. If you want to know, you'll have to invite Chef Sean into your home.
We feasted on grilled vegetable and couscous salad with fresh pesto, grilled asparagus with caper vinaigrette, steamed salmon with bok choy and snap peas topped with ginger soy butter, and grilled pound cake with balsamic strawberries. Our hosts provided beer, Michigan wines and coffee to round out the dinner and insisted that Chef Sean join us to eat. And when we were done, he even cleaned up the kitchen! We can't wait to have him back again for another class or dinner party.
UPDATE 04/2013: Chef Sean has changed the name of his cooking school to "Feast". You can find his new website here