Counting Our Blessings

Considering what we're thankful for in the local food scene

Trial by Fire

Cooking is one of life's joys, something I do daily and enjoy over and over and over. Growing up, my family wasn't into food. My mother, a chemist by trade, found the whole thing frustrating, retreating to a "if it's Tuesday, it must be stuffed bell peppers" concept. After I got married, my interest increased. Emily and I started taking a cooking lesson here and there, mostly at Leslie McGrath's Blanco River Cooking School. I loved the process, but wanted something more. Then the cooking school at Central Market placed a small ad asking for volunteers. I signed up and showed up for training day. They lectured us on cleanliness, timeliness, and how to watch the guest chef's clues about what they might need next. They presumed we knew how to handle a knife and perform basic cooking tasks. From there on, it was trial by fire.

Since then, I've had the opportunity to work with some of America's top chefs. We show up four hours before the show starts, and the chef shows us how to prepare the dishes, step by step. The chefs range from the sweet (Caprial Pence, as nice as she seems on TV), to the piquant (bantam weight Barbara Kafka with her 14-inch cook's knife and razor-sharp wit) to the frightening (Giuliano Hazan, who bid me make custard for 35, in front of the class, with no hint of how). I learn even more from Roger Mollett and his staff, as they navigate a busy kitchen and still put out a quality product. To me, this is as good as a bachelor-level physics major getting to rub shoulders with Einstein. It's hard work for no pay, but the true wages are something far better.

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More by Wes Marshall
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