Thursday, October 16, 2008

Charleston Report - Day 2

Oh my... there's so much to report and so little time. I do need to sleep, after all.

Today started bright and early (7 am) with continental breakfast, group introductions (some of the chefs had not come to Tuesday's optional sessions) and housekeeping details (sign ups for dinner out in Charleston, most importantly).

We then listened to Chef Mike Monahan of Chefs USA, who shared his motivational secrets to success. Next, Anne Willan of LaVarenne presented stories and recipes related to her "Country Cooking of France" book. She's led an incredibly rich life, and says she's been very lucky, landing prestigious jobs such as teaching the Mexican staff at the palace at Versaille how to cook French food; and answering letters and writing recipes for Gourmet magazine, before launching her cooking school in France.

We tasted some wonderful dishes from the cookbook, which Chef Willan, her assistant Christine and two of our PCN chefs (Connie and Jewels) prepared: Aunt Louie's Cheese Balls; Daube of Beef with Green and Black Olives; Gratin of Red Swiss Chard; Tomatoes Stuffed with Goat Cheese; and Flemish Spiced Cookies. (The photos above are of Chef Anne Willan and Chef Peg Nelson; and the Stuffed Tomato. I think you can figure out which is which.)

If you've never heard Chef Willan speak, she has what I guess I'd call a British accent and as well as lovely speaking voice. We couldn't help but laugh as she recalled the selection of foods at the local market, the Piggly Wiggly, which came out "Pigg-a-lee Wigg-a-lee" when she said it.

After our tasting, one chef commented, "Those cheese balls made me long for a glass of red wine." Another agreed, adding, "Me too. Then again, Grape Nuts make me long for a glass of red wine." A third chimed in with, "Waking up in the morning makes me long for a glass of red wine." So that's where we're at. And it wasn't even noon yet.

After lunch, Chef Adriana Mullen of PCN presented an informative class on Food Photography. Adriana has an abundance of talent in this area, and was generous in sharing her tips and techniques with us. I have some mediocre photos I took of her presentation, which I don't dare post. One thing to know: Adriana does not like napkins in her photography. She emphasized that point, so that's why you will NOT EVER see a napkin (or dish towel or place mat) in one of her pics. Take a look at some of her photos.

Next, Chef Cathy Garossino led a speed-session in knife skills, covering more ground in an hour than I would have thought humanly possible. I think everyone in the room learned at least one thing they hadn't known before.

Time to hit the beach? Nooooo. Next up was PCN Chef Theo Petron, who animatedly told us about his journey from a career in advertising to his latest venture, marketing himself as a celebrity chef. Keep your eyes open for Theo; he's coming soon to a network near you! He can currently be seen on "Cook What You Catch," a sports/cooking show that airs on the Fishing Network and various other markets, as well as here.

Finally, the wonderful Denise Vivaldo returned for a late-afternoon workshop called "Large Scale Catering and Wedding Workshop." As always, Denise entertained and informed us as she spoke about achieving success in this segment of the industry.

With our daily agenda over, the chefs were ready to kick back... but the bus was leaving in 40 minutes for our restaurant reservations in Charleston. TO BE CONTINUED!

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