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March 2013

Open Stove XI: A Bacos Bonanza!

Didja miss us?!

Open Stove, COOK’s recurring culinary battle, took a brief break in frigid February, but it was back and stranger than ever in the month of March. The 11th installment of the series brought in two new game victims competitors ready to take on absolutely anything: Carmen Cappello (left), COOK vet and sous chef/charcuterie expert aboard The Moshulu; and Jamie Wolf, who kills it in the kitchen of the nearby Alma de Cuba. Would Cappello capitalize on his familiarity with the battlefield and come out with his glove raised? Or would Wolf continue in the tradition of first-ever female victor Hilary Hamilton and earn the W? Read on to find out!

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COOK Masters Program: Down & Dirty in the Trenches with Michael Solomonov of Zahav

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“Use as much profanity as you want,” began Michael Solomonov cheerfully. “F-bombs, totally acceptable. Also encouraged: open-hand body slaps; impromptu high-stakes rock-paper-scissors games; and devious ways to get a man to bend down so you can finger-thwack him from behind. Those are today’s basic ground-rules. Everybody okay with that? Great, let’s get going!”

And so began our final COOK Masters class, with Solomonov in the lead like the naughty conductor of some deranged culinary orchestra. If you’ve read your Bourdain, or marveled at Ramsey’s foul-mouthed locutions on the telly, or even seen Ratatouille, you already know that professional kitchens can be a bit rough around the edges—seething, cursing vortexes of controlled chaos and intense personalities on a passionate mission to craft flavor and beauty. No matter where you eat, the person who cooked that exquisite dish for you is likely to be the type who, say, was once a roadie for Insane Clown Posse, or who could teach you the kind of filthy Spanish that would make his abuela gasp and faint. They truly are a “colorful” lot.

There are plenty of tyrants out there commanding their kitchens with expletives and berating and belittling, but that’s not what I’m talking about with Solomonov. He’s more of a mischievous sort, slinging the shit for fun, of course, but also to build camaraderie and the kind of healthy rivalry that gets everyone to goad everyone else into doing an even better job. The Japanese call this “sessa-takuma,” which literally means people polishing each another by grinding against each other’s hard surfaces. Faster, cleaner, prettier, tastier, better, whatever-er—that’s what gets cooks off, and they take pride in it.

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COOK Masters Program: Stuffing the Noodles with In Riva’s Arthur Cavaliere

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Arthur Cavaliere speaks with quick confidence, likes to have fun and shoot the sh*t while he’s cooking, and is full of “crazy good tricks.” He might have made a pretty good lawyer, except that he dropped out of law school to let cooking take over his life, working in one high-profile kitchen after another (El Vez, Amada, and Parc, to name a few). Now he’s got a place of his own, In Riva, doing “southern-Italian with a lot of French technique” down by the Schuylkill in East Falls. He’s a barrel of culinary knowledge and experience, but on this day he visited COOK simply to get us into the basics of making and serving fresh pastas.

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Cheese Please with Patrick Feury of Nectar

Patrick Feury, the Executive Chef/Partner of Nectar Restaurant located in Berwyn, Pa  made his return to COOK with this cheese filled class on February 26, 2013.  Feury sources fresh, local, natural and organic ingredients and applies them to simple French and Asian techniques at Nectar.  Among Pat’s extensive culinary experience and expertise, he is certified in cheesemaking from the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont. Or as Lily from COOK would put it “Pat is a Cheese Genius who went to Cheese Camp.”

Pat brought with him an assortment of exquisite cheeses from Doe Run Farm, Birchrun Hills Farm, and Yellow Springs Farm all found locally in Chester County.  He would incorporate cheese in all of his courses and provide a demo on how to make simple cheeses you can make at home without the need of a cheese cave!

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COOK Masters Program: Crafting Sauces with Peter Woolsey of Bistrot La Minette

“Cooking is not an art,” says Peter Woolsey, “It’s a craft. Art is about expressing whatever you want; craft is about consistently re-creating what is expected.”

(Thank you! Finally, somebody gets this!)

“An artist works from his life experiences, his feelings, and he’s free to put those into his product.” Not so for the craftsman chef, whose personal life can’t have anything to do with the food. “You may be distraught because your beloved Poochie just died, or overjoyed because your girlfriend agreed to marry you—but none of that can go into your cooking.” A woodworker doesn’t make one chair different from the others, and a chef doesn’t change the carefully honed details of his sauce, just because he’s bummed about Poochie.

Peter Woolsey came to talk about French sauces — mostly. Yes, he mentioned the ‘mother sauces,’ and the unsavory acronym culinary students use to remember them (which involves an unfortunate young lady named Beth). He briefly discussed the derivative ‘small sauces,’ as you would expect. He mentioned Escoffier, as one usually must. He offered lots of practical sauce-making advice. But besides all of that, he also offered some more philosophical observations from his nearly 20 years in cooking.

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COOK Masters Program: Crafting Sauces with Peter Woolsey of Bistrot La Minette

woolsey

“Cooking is not an art,” says Peter Woolsey, “It’s a craft. Art is about expressing whatever you want; craft is about consistently re-creating what is expected.”

(Thank you! Finally, somebody gets this!)

“An artist works from his life experiences, his feelings, and he’s free to put those into his product.” Not so for the craftsman chef, whose personal life can’t have anything to do with the food. “You may be distraught because your beloved Poochie just died, or overjoyed because your girlfriend agreed to marry you—but none of that can go into your cooking.” A woodworker doesn’t make one chair different from the others, and a chef doesn’t change the carefully honed details of his sauce, just because he’s bummed about Poochie.

Peter Woolsey came to talk about French sauces — mostly. Yes, he mentioned the ‘mother sauces,’ and the unsavory acronym culinary students use to remember them (which involves an unfortunate young lady named Beth). He briefly discussed the derivative ‘small sauces,’ as you would expect. He mentioned Escoffier, as one usually must. He offered lots of practical sauce-making advice. But besides all of that, he also offered some more philosophical observations from his nearly 20 years in cooking.

Continue reading ...