A Celebration of Chefs

cecilia-chiangMy daughter has the kind of relationship with her grandmother that I envy. I have only one memory of my maternal grandmother; she’s lying in a hospital looking small and old offering me Schrafft’s sourballs out of their clear glass jar. At 55, after birthing 13 children, she died of breast cancer. My paternal grandmother lived with us for a year when I was a girl so I have more memories of her. In each one she is wearing black from head to toe and in all of them, clutching her rosary beads.

Besides the black outfit and the constant Hail Mary’s, I remember my mother describing her as “straight off the boat.” (From Ireland) I also remember the nasty “game” my sisters and I played on her the year she lived with us. We would steal her eyeglasses, hide them and then collect a dollar from her for finding them. That’s it, my pocket full of grandma memories.

My daughter, Siena, though, has a grandmother who, at 93, is very much alive and kicking…and getting awards! Lucky girl, not everyone gets to have the famous recipient of the James Beard Lifetime Achievement award, Cecilia Chiang, for a granny. More of a rock star, Cecilia was never the kind of grandmother who knit booties or baked cookies. She gave gifts of green jade and cooked dim sum!

And I was never the daughter-in-law she could relate to. Back tracking a bit here let me say I’ve had three mother-in-laws and all three have been pretty much the same person only with different cultural backgrounds. A coincidence? In therapy it’s called a pattern!

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kitchenmysteries.jpg“Two eggs – any style”.  If you see that as an option on the menu and your breakfast companion is French culinary chemist superstar and founder of Molecular Gastronomy Dr. Hervé This (pronounced “Teess”) – I’ve got one word for you and it’s “Run!!!” – unless you aren’t doing much for the next three years.  This This sees egg like a bull sees red.

Hervé This is the reason I flew to San Francisco from Los Angeles this past week — to sit at the feet of the master in this sold-out event.  Other spectators ranged from Los Angeles Top Chefs Walter Manske (Bastide) and David Myers (Sona/Comme Ca) to Bravo Top Chef 2nd Season foam finalist with the meringue-peaked hair Marcel Vigneron.

Hervé was in town hawking his recently published English edition of "Kitchen Mysteries – Revealing the Science of Cooking" - and he was also there to change the way the world cooks.

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grannycartI set my tool bag down, tip my granny cart back to its resting position, brush the city off my face, and ring the bell. It is two hours before the guests arrive. My client opens the door, clearly grateful that I do exist - that I did show up - and studies me for a second. I always wonder what image they had of me after only chatting with me on the phone or email. I bet it’s very different than my grinning, artistic, fake-redheaded appearance. Were they thinking gorgeous Giada would arrive? Or, god forbid, some female version of Chef Curtis Stone?

I bet the granny cart throws them for a sec - because it seems like there should be a higher form of transportation for a professional chef and caterer. I’d like to be effortlessly wheeling a stainless steel fridge into their apartment, but New York elevators being what they are… my granny cart is the only way to go. They show me into the kitchen and I survey the immaculate area. Oh, this poor little room doesn’t even know what’s about to hit it. I thank my client, pull a few bags from my cart, and crank the oven on full blast. It’s go time.

The menu for this cocktail party is a progressive pass, which means that, while all the apps are easily eaten while standing, they will become more and more filling as the evening progresses. We’ll start the pass with something light, like a bruschetta with drunken fig paste, fresh ricotta, and red pepper flakes; or nori handrolls filled with an edamame, spring pea puree and topped with avocado mousse and pickled ginger.

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