Sarasota Chefs Share Their Secrets
It’s the tools. Really it is. Oh, and of course the expertise. That goes without saying. But, it’s really all about the tools. That was part of what I discovered this past week. The other part I’m still trying to process.
I love to cook. I’m not a chef even by any liberal definition. But, I consider myself to be a moderately capable home cook. I can chop, saute, whip, and poach. Meaning, I’ve semi-mastered most of the basic skills it takes to prepare a meal in the kitchen at my house. My house is not a restaurant. That was made pretty clear when I attended a couple of cooking classes held by two Sarasota chefs.
Day 1 – Gourmet ++
That’s Chef Raymond Arpke. Yes, all the way in the top left corner, trying to hide behind my Pinot Noir. He’s a bigger than life Sarasota food personality. So, it’s not easy for him to hide.
It might not look like it. But, he’s attempting to instruct a class of amateur cooks on the finer points of making Euphemia Haye’s Famous Roast Duckling. Not an easy task. Especially, when there is wine mixed into the equation. But, Ray soldiers on. His informative, but, homespun humor takes all of the pretense out of the room. Euphemia has a well-deserved reputation for being pretty upscale. So, his disarming approach to a complicated dish makes everyone at ease. Oh, the wine helps too.
Chef Ray methodically works his way through a super complicated process. At one point he almost had me convinced that I could pull this off myself in my woefully under equipped kitchen. On second thought, maybe I have all of the tools necessary for this. I’ve got pots and pans. A good food processor and a more than capable oven. I can do this!
Weaving a culinary path through prep to stock making to stuffing and duck boning (or is it de-boning? I’m never quite sure which is appropriate). With a final stop at sauce making. This is the route you must travel if you would even like to attempt to make one of Euphemia’s signature dishes. When all of the steps have been crossed off the list, this is what you should be staring at.
That is Chef Ray’s duck. Not my attempt. Mine will come later when I don’t have 30+ people watching my every move. In anybody’s book that duck above is an unqualified, delicious success. Here are two pieces of good news. First, if you want the recipe, here it is.
Second, if you don’t want to go to all of the fuss of preparing this yourself, the chefs at Euphemia Haye are more than happy to cook one just for you. It’s on the menu every day!
Oh, I almost forgot. We had some dessert too. As you would expect at a fancy place like that…
This was their last cooking class for the season. But, fear not. They’ll be more opportunities next fall. I highly recommend that you check one out!
Day Two – Wok Wok Baby
My depth of knowledge about the art of Asian-style cooking is pretty shallow. I’ll admit that. I LOVE the cuisine. But, have no real idea how it should be prepared. I mean, yes, I can re-heat some leftover pad thai in my microwave. I think we can all agree that’s not cooking.
But, I have a little secret (OK, maybe it’s not so secret). It’s not what you know, but who you know. And I know Chef Lam Lum. And, you should too!
That’s Chef Lum doing what he does best. Again, tools come into play here. And, he knows how to use them! When you watch someone do something that you know is complicated, but made to seem so effortless, it’s like watching a magic trick.
Take a fairly standard list of ingredients, add some specialized techniques, and, voila! MAGIC! Oh, it helps to have some special tricks up your sleeve.
Alright, don’t panic. You can get these ingredients locally, just not at Publix.
Anyone who has eaten at Taste of Asia has experienced the result of that kitchen magic. And, that result is really, really delicious. So, I was super excited when I (and a room full of other aspiring amateur chefs) got to see what it looks like when you pull back the curtain.
Relax. Yes, you can have the same experience. This isn’t some super insider, one off, VIP thing. Taste of Asia hosts cooking classes! This particular session featured their locally famous Cauliflower Rice. Which, I happen to be a BIG fan of.
The Taste of Asia culinary class experience is decidedly hands-on. Everyone gets their very own things to prep. There’s expert some guidance of course…
That’s Chef Lum and his wife Selina. If you were to ask chef who runs the restaurant he would probably say, “Selina”, If you were to ask her, you would probably get the same answer. It’s always good to know who’s in charge! Between the two of them, they put on an entertaining class. Sure you get all of the cooking essentials you need. But, you also get a mini comedy club. It’s fun! I guarantee you’ll have a good time and learn some things too.
That’s the result of all that chopping. A big community bowl of raw cauliflower, broccoli, onion, and garlic. It’s just about now that the magic starts.
See all of those folks on the wok line. They’re magicians in training. I warned you that this was hands-on, didn’t I? It once again looks like the tools come into play. I don’t have that kind of a stove in my kitchen. But, I do have a propane turkey cooker!! I’m thinking outside of the box here. You’ve got to innovate if you want to succeed!
That’s the finished product. For the die-hard traditional rice folks out there, here’s the deal. This isn’t rice. Just start with that concept. But, it’s a low-carb, delicious and satisfying alternative. It’s my Taste of Asia go-to for every dish I order there. Once you give it a whirl, you may never go back. I mean that.
If you would like to attempt Chef Lum’s famous Cauliflower Rice (and I think you should), CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE.
Taste of Asia has classes that run on Mondays. It’s a fun and filling evening! And, you may even make a new friend or two.
The bottom-line. You want to up your cooking game. There are lots of fantastic options in town. There are more, maybe we’ll get to those another day. All you really have to do is sign up and soak up all the knowledge that our local Sarasota chefs are more than willing to share.