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What to cook when chefs come to dinner


Fat Guy
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Here's an interesting twist on this thread. What if you actually did cook for someone who was a really famous chef? What if you actually made something that they specialize in, and their own wife liked your version better?

Happened to me when I made a dish for a famous chef about 20 years ago.

And Fat Guy, you hack around on the piano, huh? Don't sell yourself short. I was playing guitar for a very very famous guitar musician about 10 years ago. I'd only been playing for about a year. I wasn't trying to impress him, but was excited to have the chance to play in front of someone professional and recognized as such.

When I got done playing for him, he said "Well, sxxx Man, I've been playing blues for 55 years and I can't even play like that!" and he walked off and wouldn't speak to me for the rest of the 3 day festival.

So, a chef may be experienced, but that doesn't automatically make him "good". There's carpenters out there been carpentrying for 30 years, and they can't build anything decent. Check the BBB.

That's one reason I kind of bristle at the "aplomb" that someone calls themselves "chef" like it automatically means they're great. Like any profession in the world, there's the good, bad and the ugly.

doc

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BTW, here is a perspective that I just remembered... <and excuse the slight rant>

When I was catering professionally in Los Angeles, in between gigs I would often have friends over to experiment with on new dishes or simply to throw a lavish meal for the fun of it. I realized after some time that most of these friends rarely reciprocated and I was getting a chip on my shoulder (the Emily Post in me and all that...)

Finally, one of my friends said something like, "Gosh, Carrie, we'd have you over but we can't serve you anything nearly as good as you cook for us!"

I responded that it was the thought that counted and that I had received so little reciprocation that I would be willing to eat rubber - you know, it is the thought that counts. This particular couple's husband was going blind and through the Braille institute, learning to set-up and utilize his kitchen; essentially being taught to cook from scratch. They invited us over for dinner and he prepared the entire meal himself, sans sight. Being Japanese, he prepared an especially interesting dish of skewered glutton; jokingly telling me that I said I would eat rubber.

It was actually really tasty and one of the most memorable meals I've ever had!

Lesson learned: Don't discount inviting a chef to dinner because you think you can't please him/her. The comraderie, friendship, and effort means infinitely more than how the food tastes.

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Don’t do what we did after inviting a food professional (okay, not a chef, but y’know) to dinner: cook several untested recipes from an untested cookbook. Um, not sure what I was thinking, except I didn’t quite realize the guest’s background when planning the meal. Fortunately, everything turned out nicely, but it was more of a white-knuckle dinner than usual.

SIL was a pastry chef, but she is family so we just make our usual meals when she visits. In general, going with what you know and avoiding direct competition/comparison with your guest’s specialty seems like the best strategy.

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I really understand the "I'd be afraid to cook for you" attitude because I've met it many times. I always told these people that everyone who cooks has something they do very well and I would appreciate it.

As to cooking for "chefs", I've had many a wait person turn in an order and tell me that the guest told them that they were a chef. I always replied that they would get what everyone else got because I did the best I could for everyone.

I always figured they probably worked at Denny's.:biggrin:

When I dine, I never tell a staff member that I have been in the business.

As to anyone who came this week, it would probably be Santa Maria style Tri-tip. That's what we gave our last guests and they loved it.

A big group would get pulled pork or Texas brisket.

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Pretty much everything I wanted to say has been said.

I'm having 3 chefs over this weekend (amongst a larger group) and I'm going what Susan & Mike would do ... smoke meat!

I have a few friends who are chefs, and the way one of them handles this issue is anytime he and his wife get together for dinner with friends, only one meal is allowed: spaghetti. That goes for the chefs too. That way, nobody has too worry about the food.

I experience a similar situation because I'm a kitchen designer. I've had friends (family too) tell me they feel self-conscious inviting me over because they feel their kitchen doesn't "measure up."

A.

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I make enchiladas

and we sit on the floor in front drinking beer

Invite me over! No, really.

As far as the topic goes, I agree simple is best. Experimenting with untested recipes for a dinner party is never a good idea. Use yourself and family as the guinea pigs first!

I'm a pastry chef, and my sister loves baking. At ever family get together she will usually have homemade cookies and dessert out....so I always offer to make bread, unless specifically requested to bring something sweet. I can show off anytime I want....at work.

If only I'd worn looser pants....

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I've never had a chef over for dinner, but if I did I would just make them some simple home made korean food...basically stuff I grew up with. It seems like they would be into simply made home cooking that you grew up on. Plus if I were to make food like that it would be easier for me to not screw it up

Edited by SheenaGreena (log)
BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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Believe it or not, chefs tend to have big egos, especially when they are around other chefs. A lot of times, a chef will invite another chef over for dinner for multiple reasons, one being the inescapable ability to "show off," but also to give the other chef(s) a look at what another is capable of.

I just recently (this past Monday) had that opportunity here in Germany to cook for a Michelin 2 star chef, his wife the Pastry Chef, as well as his Sous Chef, my sister and her husband.

3 Hours and 6 courses later everything went very well and according to plan. The only criticism was that my pickled rhubarb wasn't cooked enough and was still too crunchy. When a chef cooks for a chef, its all fun and champagne on top but underneath the ego is hard at work.

Off topic, if anyone wants the menu and/or photos, I'd be happy to post.

-Chef Johnny

Edit : 100 posts!!! w00t! :

Edited by ChefJohnny (log)

John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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PICTURES ... yes please

where in Germany are you again?

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

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Personally, I think the whole "chefs love simple food and cook whatever you're comfortable with" is just a TINY bit of a white lie. People are so intimidated with cooking for a chef that they're going to say anything to make people feel more comfortable. But I would say the best thing to cook is still something rustic and homey but is a bit different and requires a bit of skill. Honestly, almost any idiot can braise short ribs and make mashed potatoes and have it come out pretty decent and, unless you're a savant, it's pretty hard to make them taste exceptional. Instead, I would do something like smoked ribs or cassoulet or even a risotto. If you are adept at any forms of ethnic food or have a traditional family recipe that you're proud of and is a bit different, by all means cook that. I just can't imagine being a chef and being AS excited to be eating another braise or lasagne or mac & cheese as I would something a bit more out of the ordinary.

PS: I am a guy.

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Honestly, almost any idiot can braise short ribs and make mashed potatoes and have it come out pretty decent and, unless you're a savant, it's pretty hard to make them taste exceptional.

My feeling is that, unless you can do better than pretty decent braised short ribs and mashed potatoes, don't try. Because pretty decent braised short ribs and mashed potatoes make for a terrific meal, whereas pretty decent bouillabaisse isn't really worth making or eating.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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On the subject of short ribs, over the years I've developed a small repertoire of dishes that I cook when I have super-serious food people coming over. These are dishes I know I can execute at a high level of technical accuracy, in part because they don't require a lot of skill. And they're the ones that have gone over the best with audiences of culinary professionals (judging not by praise, which is always suspect, but by how many people clean their plates and go back for seconds and thirds). Okay, so I can make this virtual guarantee: if you have chefs, food writers, deans of culinary schools, etc., coming to dinner, you can't go terribly wrong with the following:

Short Ribs with Lentils

Mise en place:

Start by simmering a huge quantity of beef short ribs -- twice as many as you think you'll need -- fully submerged in a good-quality beef or veal stock for about three hours. Yes, you need to have made the stock yourself already. This dish is very dependent on good stock, as you'll see.

Remove the short ribs from the stock, strain the stock, and refrigerate the short ribs and stock separately overnight.

The next day, when you have time for prep, dissect the short ribs. You want to create four piles: 1- the bones, 2- fat, 3- odds and ends of short rib meat, and 4- really nice thick rectangular chunks of pure short-rib meat. Freeze the bones for future use in stock, give the fat to the dog, dice the odds and ends into 1/4" or smaller pieces and refrigerate, and separately refrigerate the really nice big chunks.

Defat the stock and leave in the fridge.

To make the finished dish, simultaneously do the following:

Cook up a bunch of lentils, using the stock instead of water. You don't need to use any veg in the lentils, but if you want to use finely diced onions and carrots it's nice that way too. Make sure to add salt and pepper at the beginning, in the middle of cooking, and at the end. Some fresh thyme towards the end is nice too. You want your lentils to end up somewhat wet -- not lentil soup, but not just a pile of lentils. This is a dish served in a bowl, not on a plate. So if you need to add stock partway through, go ahead. About ten minutes before you think the lentils are going to be done, add in all the diced up bits of short rib meat.

At the same time, in a pot of the stock (with some salt added), gently reheat the big rectangular chunks of short rib meat.

To serve, ladle a bunch of the lentil-and-beef mixture into a bowl, and top with a couple of the really nice pieces of short rib meat. Ladle a little extra stock over the whole thing. Garnish with fresh thyme.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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No, though I make stock with plenty of mirepoix so that flavor is imparted to the dish.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I only know one former chef (although he would say cook, we banter about this!) who once made me one of my food fantasy meals (all in public, sheesh!).

I always make brownies when he's in town. He loves them.

If I were having serious chefs to dinner, I'd probably do what I do when I have anyone over to dinner: keep it simple. Grill meats, roast cauliflower, make a salad, use some interesting spices that I know work well with whatever I'm serving.

The dinner I worried about the most wasn't about the food...it was about the wine when we had a winemaker friend and his wife staying with us. I don't have an extensive wine cellar (it's a rack in the basement so I can call it a wine cellar!), but fortunately I had been putting down some pretty good cabernets over the years. He declared it quite drinkable and gave me some advice on the other wines I had.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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I think a lot about the food I prepare, regardless of who will be eating it. I tend to obsess about menu choices, how to best make each dish, how to serve it all, about all aspects of a meal. I haven't cooked for three star chefs, but I have cooked for people who I feel do far better than I do in the kitchen. Not surprisingly, they are just as food obsessed as I am and we all tend to agree on what the finer and not so stellar parts of a meal were. What I serve depends on so many things, but I can't say that I've changed things around significantly because someone more culinarily gifted than myself was going to be eating.

Edited by tejon (log)

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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Twice I have cooked for a professional. I was rather intimidated the first time and thought long and hard about what to make. They were coming to visit on St. Patrick Day so I went with a 'traditional' Irish menu. Everything tossed in the crock pot first thing in the morning and don't think about it again until after work for the day. I am good with flavours and textures but presentation is not my thing. Cabbage and carrots and corned beef out of a crock pot is plenty tasty but if there is a way to present it beautifully I haven't figured it out yet. I made a loaf of soda bread to go along side and served with a few pints of Guiness. It made a great meal and there was no stress or worry with it. Once it all went in the crock pot and I went to work for the day there was little I could do to mess it up!! I was worried that I'd nerve myself out and spend too much time stirring and thickening and seasoning until I had ruined whatever I was trying to make. So I went with dump it in the crock and walk away.

The other time we went downtown to the St. Lawrence Market and everyone picked out good looking things to have for dinner. Again it worked out very well as everyone had picked out things they liked and we sat down to a great meal mostly of appetizers and dips and fresh bread and produce we had purchased. Maybe I didn't really cook for a professional that time but we certainly shared a meal at my place that everyone really enjoyed.

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  • 1 month later...

My first thought is to think about ingredients, top quality, seasonal ingredients.

I might do something as simple as some really tasty carnitas with some homeade salsa's, a poblano rice and some tequila friolles charros. Or I might go local fish, satueed and served with a nice butter sauce. Or I could go with short ribs which seem kind of obvious but they will never get old to me.

My main focus on just about everything would be as freh as it can be. Probably goes without saying but I would drive all over town and stop at several places to pick up ingredients.

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This happened at my last bbq.

I told my dad he could invite whoever he wanted (so he invited 15 people and didn't mention it to me until the morening of the event)

"dad you know bbq takes 18 hours to cook right?"

"yeah"

"um"

"OH....hmmm, we'll have plenty...and did I tell you Daniel is coming over, wouldn't that be cool! he loves bbq!"

Yes, folks, Daniel Boulud.

He didn't show... but it was a white knuckle ride for the first few hours. It would have been what I cooked had he been a guest anyway but even more soignee.

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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My husband is a former chef and we love to entertain at home. Our friends rarely reciprocate because they are "scared", even though he's no longer cooking professionally. Honestly, we are just really happy to be invited to someone's home. We might critique it a bit on the way home, but I bet everyone here does that. :)

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When you ask most chefs what they like to eat? It is usually something and very classical French. Steak Frites, Cote de Bouef or a roasted chicken. For Ducasse, a simple roasted chicken. For me a burger and fries.

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Seriously, if I knew a badass chef I would cook for him as much as I could. I would do something simple then something crazy. As long as he/she was cool with educating I would cook...cook...cook. I would pick their brain for more knowledge, it would be endless.

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