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Crazy yes, but determined

post #1 of 59
Thread Starter 
First, I hope I will not have upset this particular forum within Chef Talk by posting this post. I felt though that this was the best place to post my question.
My wife and I are visiting friends in the south of France in late June, St Tropez area to be more precise. My wife loves to cook, the friends who we are visiting (they live in Paris and spend time in the St. Tropez area off and on during the summer) are Parisian, and are very good cooks. There will also be two other lovely Parisian friends of theirs who will be there at the same time and THEY are pretty darn good in the kitchen. Every time we visit them it’s a culinary experience, my role though is just going along to the markets and carring bags.
What I want to do is cook one complete meal for the six of us, me alone, no help. I think it makes sense to suggest that I work with what is in season in their area and to prepare a meal that has roots in the South of France. Can I pull something like this off and in the time frame I have to prepare? I think I can, but I’m going to need help. As far as working with my wife on this I’d like to compare that idea with driving with your father in preparation for a driver’s test, not a great idea. What I would really like to do is work with a local chef here in Toronto who would teach me how to prepare and cook this one off meal for six! Is that a possibility, or am I nuts? Is it possible that the ingredients that are native to the South of France can be found here?
When I was single I was quite comfortable in the kitchen, I know I can do this, but I need help.
Thank you for any ideas.

Mario
post #2 of 59
Don't think just because a forum is for general cooking questions that you cannot get great advice there.

OK, so you can't cook and now you want to go to the South of France and bust out the moves? :D

My advice is to just learn to cook. Learn how to handle ingredients and learn the preferred preparation methods. For example, lettuce is for salad, you don't saute it right? What about persimmons? Start simple, learn how to handle your ingredients and you should be fine. Roast a chicken. Learn to saute chicken breast. Deglaze the pan, and make a simple pan sauce.
post #3 of 59
Thread Starter 
"OK, so you can't cook and now you want to go to the South of France and bust out the moves?"

Kuan, that mad me laugh out loud! :)

I hear what you're saying, and what you say makes sense, but I just have 2 months. How I use these 2 months to prepare is I guess the big question.

Is it crazy for me to think that I can pay a chef to work with me in order to produce my "Big Night"?
post #4 of 59
Thread Starter 
My wife watches just about every type cooking show out there. I'm just thinking that there has never been a show where a single or group of individuals had to start out from scratch (no real knowledge of cooking) and create a meal within a certain time frame for a group of professionals. Yes there's Top Chef, but those are experienced chefs. If some enterprising chef reads this and creates a series around the concept don't forget to say where you got the idea. :)
post #5 of 59
I'm probably going to get flogged for going off-topic following your tangent... but... I think that's an awesome idea! Pitting non-pros against professionals... kinda like a reverse- "Throwdown" concept, but maybe more Iron Chef-ish in nature. We should talk to the Food Network and become millionaires... LOL

As for myself, I'm basically self-taught with the help of my grandmother (she teaches Wilton decorating classes to ladies at her church), so I'm far from "pro" in the sense that I've never gone to culinary school, but I'm trying out the entrepreneurial thing right now and loving it.

One book I would recommend, if you can get your hands on it, is "Professional Cooking" by Wayne Gisslen. It's got a lot of step-by-step instructions on foodservice in general (it's part of the culinary arts curriculum at several institutions) and it's centered around the classic French methods of cooking. Has a lot of simple recipes with recommendations for variations, and I'm sure you'll find something that your guests will enjoy. Also, if you have a creative spirit and *some* food knowledge, it gives you a great jumping-off point for several dishes. I found my copy at a library book sale; I might suggest checking your local college for availability of a used copy (new they are EXPENSIVE).

I'm interested to see how it turns out! Keep us posted :-)
For the best cakes in Spokane (and all the "weird" designs that other bakers won't do) visit www.cakes-by-sarah.com !
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For the best cakes in Spokane (and all the "weird" designs that other bakers won't do) visit www.cakes-by-sarah.com !
Reply
post #6 of 59
Bon Appetit magazine has been doing a series each month called "Cooking Club". They present a theme and then layout how to prepare everything with simple and exact instruction. February was "Earth Friendly Dinner for 6" and I believe the previous month was Thai. They break it down for you: Starters, Main & Sides, Desert and Drinks. Instruction includes what you can prepare ahead of time, etc.

Check the BA website or go to a library and look through back issues. There might be something that you can use. You should plan on using fresh seafood and that will be easy to buy fresh and can be simple to prepare. Food doesn't have to be complicated to make it special.

I believe everyone can cook. Personally, I would look for a cookbook, check these out. If you have some time and money, you could take a cooking class with Patrica Wells. ;)
post #7 of 59
Thread Starter 
It seems CakesBySarah that almost anything goes these days when it comes to television programing, so this variation could be the next big hit! lol I have to tell this board that my wife watches just about all food related programming on television, as well she subscribes to a number of magazines and of course not to mention the books, oh my gosh...the books! I think there's been 1 cookbook delivery per week since we've been married, need to reinforce the floor below the library. Oh, and let's not forget all of the printing of recipes from foodnetwork.com. Okay, I'm not complaining, my wife truly loves her kitchen and she loves to cook, that makes me so very happy...and I love her cooking. By the way I enjoy some of that TV stuff as well. :)

Thanks for your suggestions.
post #8 of 59
Thread Starter 
Thank you shakeandbake, I'm going to look for those specific Bon Appetit articles and also I will look for Professional Cooking" by Wayne Gisslen that CakesBySarah suggested. I'm getting excited. I'm going to pull this off, I'm very determined.
post #9 of 59
First buy some books. First get Escoffier's book "Le Guide Culinaire" in English. I just saw a reprint at B&N. Then get Joy of Cooking and read the sections on ingredients. That should get you started.

Week 1

1) Learn to saute, deglaze, and make a pan sauce.

2) Learn to roast, deglaze, and make a pan sauce.

A combination of the two is saute or searing, finish in oven, deglazing and making a pan sauce.

3) Learn to make a roast chicken stock by following the method for making veal stock, but let the stock simmer for four hours.

4) Learn to reduce stock.

So first, try Chicken Marsala. Next, do a roast chicken (learn how to truss it and roast until it's properly done) and make a mushroom sauce.

Next, read http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/food-...than-norm.html

Next learn to make veal stock. If you want you can use chicken bones first if your veal bones don't arrive at the butcher in time.

All of that should take about a week if you're good and focused.
post #10 of 59

quick study

If it was possible to learn, in two months, to cook well enough to impress Semi-Pro French Cooks, then all of us lifers would have to hang up our spats and find another profession. People go to restaurants because it's easier (and maybe even cheaper) than learning to handle food properly. Good luck! You'll need it!
post #11 of 59
It's not like he's trying to start a restaurant or become a private chef. The guys just wants to cook a meal for 6 people. FIRST STEP: be confident you can do it. Today, all around the world, meals are being prepared by common folk and enjoyed with friends and families. Making a good meal is not rocket science.

If you want to keep your project a secret from your wife, find a friend who likes to eat and/or cook and get them to work on this with you. Go over to their house twice a week and prepare one dish to start and expand it from there. The worst thing you can do is make something that doesn't taste good, toss it and learn.
post #12 of 59
Thread Starter 
Chef Norm, I hear you.

I don't want anyone to feel that I'm making light of this wonderful art form by my idea. I have a tiny idea of what it takes to make it in your industry, I can only imagine that it's probably one of the toughest paths to follow.

If I can suggest to the board this idea, and ask for your thoughts. I should mention that I have told my wife that I want to do this, but on my own. Her face lit up when she heard, then she started drinking...just kidding. I actually have some skills, I have followed recipes in the past...but well in the past. It might make more sense for me to define the menu first, then as shakeandbake suggests, do it over and over until I get it right. I can do it here in my own kitchen...whoops, my wifes kitchen, and also as shakeandbake suggested at a friends house. Also, I'm thinking that this will be a meal where everything is placed on the table at one time...then I yell Come in git it!... En Francaise. I envision myself beginning to work early in the morning preparing while the 5 guinea pigs are working at the beach. Yes, they will be tempted to stay and eat at Club 55 (famous beach club restaurant) but guilt will set in and they will do the right thing. St Tropez has a quite a nice selection of shops, I gather that what I will need I will be able to buy the day before the meal, leaving only things that should only be bought on the day of...bread and so on. Dessert? Yikes!!
post #13 of 59
Thread Starter 
Chef Norm, I hear you.

I don't want anyone to feel that I'm making light of this wonderful art form by my idea. I have a tiny idea of what it takes to make it in your industry, I can only imagine that it's probably one of the toughest paths to follow.

If I can suggest to the board this idea, and ask for your thoughts. I should mention that I have told my wife that I want to do this, but on my own. Her face lit up when she heard, then she started drinking...just kidding. I actually have some skills, I have followed recipes in the past...but well in the past. It might make more sense for me to define the menu first, then as shakeandbake suggests, do it over and over until I get it right. I can do it here in my own kitchen...whoops, my wife’s kitchen, and also as shakeandbake suggested at a friend’s house. Also, I'm thinking that this will be a meal where everything is placed on the table at one time...then I yell Come in git it!... En Francaise. I envision myself beginning to work early in the morning preparing while the 5 guinea pigs are working at the beach. Yes, they will be tempted to stay and eat at Club 55 (a famous beach club restaurant) but guilt will set in and they will do the right thing. St Tropez has a quite a nice selection of shops, I gather that what I will need I will be able to buy the day before the meal, leaving only things that should only be bought on the day of...bread and so on. Dessert? Yikes!!
post #14 of 59
Actually, it is possible; I've trained people in the past who have become quite proficient in the kitchen because I taught them all the "why's" that recipe books don't teach you, and more importantly, how to taste food. This is home cooking afterall. What chefs do different is speed, running a brigade, writing/changing menues, ets etc.....

Flash, if you want to chat, PM me.
post #15 of 59
Thread Starter 
Chef Norm, I hear you.

I don't want anyone to feel that I'm making light of this wonderful art form by my idea. I have a tiny idea of what it takes to make it in your industry, I can only imagine that it's probably one of the toughest paths to follow.

If I can suggest to the board this idea, and ask for your thoughts. I should mention that I have told my wife that I want to do this, but on my own. Her face lit up when she heard, then she started drinking...just kidding. I actually have some skills, I have followed recipes in the past...but well in the past. It might make more sense for me to define the menu first, then as shakeandbake suggests, do it over and over until I get it right. I can do it here in my own kitchen...whoops, my wife’s kitchen, and also as shakeandbake suggested at a friend’s house. Also, I'm thinking that this will be a meal where everything is placed on the table at one time...then I yell Come in git it!... En Francaise. I envision myself beginning to work early in the morning preparing while the 5 guinea pigs are working at the beach. Yes, they will be tempted to stay and eat at Club 55 (a famous beach club restaurant) but guilt will set in and they will do the right thing. St Tropez has a quite a nice selection of shops, I gather that what I will need I will be able to buy the day before the meal, leaving only things that should only be bought on the day of...bread and so on. Dessert? Yikes!!
post #16 of 59
Thread Starter 

Chef Norm

Chef Norm, I hear you.

I don't want anyone to feel that I'm making light of this wonderful art form by my idea. I have a tiny idea of what it takes to make it in your industry, I can only imagine that it's probably one of the toughest paths to follow.

If I can suggest to the board this idea, and ask for your thoughts. I should mention that I have told my wife that I want to do this, but on my own. Her face lit up when she heard, then she started drinking...just kidding. I actually have some skills, I have followed recipes in the past...but well in the past. It might make more sense for me to define the menu first, then as shakeandbake suggests, do it over and over until I get it right. I can do it here in my own kitchen...whoops, my wife’s kitchen, and also as shakeandbake suggested at a friend’s house. Also, I'm thinking that this will be a meal where everything is placed on the table at one time...then I yell Come in git it!... En Francaise. I envision myself beginning to work early in the morning preparing while the 5 guinea pigs are working at the beach. Yes, they will be tempted to stay and eat at Club 55 (a famous beach club restaurant) but guilt will set in and they will do the right thing. St Tropez has a quite a nice selection of shops, I gather that what I will need I will be able to buy the day before the meal, leaving only things that should only be bought on the day of...bread and so on. Dessert? Yikes!!
post #17 of 59

quick study

Hey, no offense intended! The key word in my first post is "impress." Remember, they're French to begin with (lousy soldiers, but innovative cooks), and you're trying to "outdo" them in their own back yard, with their regional style of cooking--my French friends might even be somewhat offended that you were so presumptuous as to try something like that--your efforts might be received more favorably if you made hamburgers and "French" fries, or Pot Roast and Mashed Potatoes. Be who you are!
post #18 of 59
Mario

Don't be intimidated, you are not learning to be a pro chef for goodness sake, you are talking about cooking one meal. Firstly decide what you want to cook, the style of the meal. Is it a casual lunch? A formal dinner? if you want ideas there is a wealth of knowledge on this forum. Secondly plan it, again there is plenty of advice here, and thirdly, practise, taste, and enjoy it. You don't seem to have a specific question that you need help with.
post #19 of 59
Yeah pot roast would be awesome. Do it the California way. Puree the mirepoix for hte gravy and don't use a thickener.
post #20 of 59
Thread Starter 
Very good points.

My father was from Calabria and my mother is from Le Marche. My mother and father were avid cooks, always dueling with southern and northern dishes. So, I do feel a strong connection to that type of cooking.
post #21 of 59
Thread Starter 
Bazza, I think initially I was looking for feedback on the idea of cooking a meal that is local in nature. Also, I was looking for direction on how I would best make this happen in the time frame that I have, basically two months. I think there is something to what Chef Norm says, however I would like to achieve a certain level of sophistication. I know that sophistication can be applied to the hamburger, but the Pot Roast is a distinct possibility.
post #22 of 59
Sounds like you have a good background in cooking, how about the French Pot Roast, Cassoulet?
post #23 of 59

pot roast, et al

Again, I don't really understand the idea of trying to make something that your guests are probably expert at, and maybe even tired of by now...what's wrong with making something you know already, and that you feel confident with and proud of? Not for nothing, but I thought Cassoulet was more like "Meaty" Baked Beans than Pot Roast, but what do I know?
post #24 of 59
learn the way i learnt, my mom has a big supercook recipe series (20 books in all) its 1metre of solid recipes.... thing is, each section (cakes for example) starts of which a description about methods, types of cake, creaming, the other ones (ok so i didnt memorise it...)

im gonna go to the food network in my country (uk) and bug them into letting me do a show (uktv - food is the channel)
post #25 of 59

another angle

Let me put it to you this way--if these French friends came to visit you wherever you are, how would you feel about them insisting on making you bacon and eggs, or a chicken fried steak?
post #26 of 59
Chef Norm I was responding to these posts, however I do see your point. Did you see what happened when Ramsey tried it?
French reviewers give Gordon Ramsay a taste of his own medicine - Times Online
post #27 of 59
Touché indeed...I'm sure Gordy knows he's inviting criticism by opening a "French" Restaurant in France--to his credit, the Scots haven't won any more wars than the French, but at least they don't just surrender when they see a little fireworks! I hope our friend Flashinthepan is prepared for the fausses louanges, pretty much no matter what he makes, and, hey, I love the French (for lunch). I vote for Fried Chicken.
post #28 of 59

on a humorous note

Hey, when I was in St. Tropez in the 70's, it was a big hangout for nudists and "free thinkers," much to my delight. Whatever Flashinthepan serves, it should definitely include breasts, legs, and thighs! Or is that too racy for this thread...
post #29 of 59
Thread Starter 
Wow, after reading that Ramsey story I've put off ordering a Salamander for the kitchen, and I'm not going to order a chefs hat with my initials on it.



I want to again thank everyone for taking the time to post their thoughts, its given me much to think about. If I may I'd like to follow up in a day or two with where I may be going with this. Also as this moves along I will be updating my progress, I'm also going to ask my wife to post her experience of the event, regardless of what happens.

Mario
post #30 of 59

deference

You, my friend, are a true Glutton for Punishment (literally and metaphorically)
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