Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Feed a Chef Month

No one wants to cook for a chef.

Unless it’s another chef. Because we understand that (a) no one wants to cook for us (b) what we really want to eat is a really well-made omlette and (c) we like to impress each other with our well made omlettes.

During my 2nd quarter at culinary school, I had a dinner invitation from a friend who had recently purchased a house. I accepted. It had been a rough week at school, and I was happy to have someone feed me. Then he called back and said, No way am I cooking for a chef.

I was not a chef. I was merely a student of a chef. And a bumbling student at that. I had burned and cut myself that week. I had used the wrong greens for a salad, thereby taking someone else’s greens and getting us both into trouble. I was utterly incompetent in rice preparation. I asked ridiculous questions of the Chef, (Should I stir this? being one I recall with a cringe).

I assured my friend that I was not a chef, that I’d be pleased as punch to eat whatever they fed me. But he stood firm. I, the destroyer of Basmati, was too sophisticated to feed.

I did a quick poll of some of my fellow students and found a similar pattern. Dinner invites down, restaurant visits up, and we all cooked for other people.

The care and feeding of a chef is not rocket science. We eat pretty simply, to be honest. Ferran Adria, that bringer of foams and gelee to the hungry masses, probably ate the Spanish version of a BLT for dinner last night. Tony Bourdain wants beef bourguignon. You can never go wrong with pancakes. I recently asked a local chef well known for his complex and intricate tasting menu, What did you have for dinner last night? And he said: Hot Chocolate and toast with jam.
We salivated in unison.

Look here, I took two pieces of flat bread, some leftover ham, spinach and shreds of gruyere and cheddar, then I pressed it into a delicious warm sandwich. Less than five ingredients and something I’d serve to anybody. You can do it, too. I used a wide skillet on low heat and piled a stack of pots on top.

So I’m declaring May Invite a Chef to Dinner month. Don’t dig deep into your Special Recipes. Just go to the farmer’s market and get some fresh asparagus, broil it, dress it with salt and lemon zest. Sauté morel mushrooms and press it on bread slathered with fresh goat cheese and then passed under the broiler. Uncork a bottle of light red wine. Play some good music. Break out the limoncello. They’ll be thrilled and grateful.


Anonymous Peter Hertzmann said...

I have a similar problem, Kat. I receive about one invitation for the twenty I give out, and I'm not even a chef. People are so easily intimidated—even though I like a really good hot dog. Maybe the problem is that I tell people that it doesn't matter what they make, as long a they care about it?

May 5, 2009 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Very interesting - I wrote about this exact subject in a recent blog entry. I think people are a little intimidated to cook for people who cook well, in general. I LOVE when people cook for me! Make me a hot dog! I'll compliment you on it! But it's rare, as you indicate. It's far more common for me to do the cooking and entertaining. But nobody should hesitate inviting cooks over for a meal. It's not a contest, it's a treat to be cooked for.

May 6, 2009 at 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Chef Danielle said...

I so appreciate this post and hope all of my friends will take your advice! I find that most any food that I do not have to cook always seems particularly delicious!

May 7, 2009 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger this week for dinner - jane maynard said...

you're invited to my home! since you've planned the menu already it should be a cinch. ;)

May 13, 2009 at 5:52 PM  

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