Who me, a chef?

Who me, a chef?

Before we jump into the story, there are a few things you need to know about me.

  1. Cooking is not something that comes naturally to me. Don’t get me wrong, I can make a mean chicken patty and sometimes I will even get creative by cutting up my chicken patty and putting it in mac-n-cheese. However, outside of that my kitchen skills are pretty limited to things that go in the microwave or toaster oven. The best chance you have of getting something more than a frozen pizza out of me is to give me a detailed recipe to follow and pray I don’t mess it up. 
  2. I love trying new things, unless it comes to food. I am a pretty adventurous person most of the time. If a group of people are going somewhere that I have never been, there is a good chance I am trying to help organize that trip. If there is an opportunity to have an experience that I have never had before, I am doing everything I can to make sure it works out. But, you put a new food in front of me and chances are I will do everything I can to get out of trying it. I don’t know why, but as far back as I can remember, I have a mental block when it comes to exploring foods. 
  3. I have the pallet of a 5-year-old. When I say that people think I am kidding, but then we go out to eat and they realize that most of the time their 5-year-old eats more things than I do. There have been numerous times that friends have invited us over for dinner and when planning the menu, my wife Kelsey will be asked “Will James eat this?” Most of the time, it comes down to different vegetables and meals with cheese in them, but it can still make things difficult. 

Knowing all of these, it probably surprises you that I would sign up for a cooking class that required me to cook a full meal, including herbs I had never tried before and brussel sprouts (which I have been adamantly against forever). I know it surprised me. It was one of those things that I agreed to do because my friends were involved, but I did not process that it involved cooking and eating new foods, the exact things that I usually don’t like, until much later. In fact, the moment it clicked in my head that I may have made a huge mistake was when I was given the grocery list and asked to go shopping. Here I am, in the middle of COVID walking around the grocery store like a lost lamb looking for ingredients I didn’t know existed. In the end, I got everything on the list and headed home to a wife that was extremely excited about putting everything together in a meal later that week.

The night of the cooking class we double-checked to make sure we had everything we needed, got our counter set so we had space to work and logged into the zoom call that had been set up for our class. Immediately Chef Jereme welcomed us and made us feel extremely comfortable. From the start, it was clear that he knew what he was doing and I was a fish out of the water, but that is ok because all of our friends who were also in the class were equally out of their element in comparison to Jereme. Furthermore, from the first instruction to the final product, Chef Jereme talked us through the process step-by-step so that there was very little chance we messed up what we were doing. He was quick to teach new techniques, explain how the ingredients complemented each other, and answer any questions the group had. 

Something funny happened inside me during the experience. Here I was in the kitchen, preparing a zesty panko encrusted tenderloin, with charred brussel sprouts and fingerling potatoes, which were all going to be covered in a homemade dijon dill cream sauce. Preparing these things meant that I not only saw how good they looked as they came together, but also smelled them. Before smelling the dijon dill cream sauce simmering on the stove, I would have told you that I am not a huge fan of dill. Why don’t I like dill? It’s obviously because I don’t like pickles and pickles are made with dill. Not the best logic, but it’s how my brain works. Well, it was how my brain worked, until I started to smell the dill coming together with the dijon, white wine, and the cream in the sauce. At that moment, for some reason I can’t explain to you, I was extremely excited to try this sauce that we had created. 

It was at this point that Chef Jereme told us to toss our brussel sprouts in the preheated cast iron skillet and burn them. On one hand, I was telling Kelsey that it was a good thing she liked brussel sprouts because there was no chance I was eating them, and on the other, I was puffing my chest out as I showed off my skill set of burning things. 

Then it happened. 

Out of nowhere, I said the words that I swore would never come out of my mouth, “I think I am going to have to try these.” I wish I had captured the look I got from Kelsey as those words hit her ears. But at that moment, as I looked at the brussels and listened to Chef Jereme talk about the flavor they would have based on how we prepared them, I wanted to try them. 

So, when it came time to “plate our meal,” which is how they say “make your plate” in the culinary business, I put on the potatoes, brussel sprouts, panko encrusted tenderloin, and drizzled the cream sauce on top. Everyone on the call with us transitioned from their kitchens to their tables and, at the same time, we all took our first bite. It only took one bite and everyone knew that we had made a good choice by trusting Chef Jereme. One of the couples involved had made enough to feed 2 other couples at their house and, while eating dinner, their friend questioned if they had really made the meal from scratch multiple times. 

As an avid anti-brussel sprouts person, the moment came where it was time to bite the bullet. I really did want to try them, I had said out loud that I was going to try them, and everything else tasted so good I trusted these would be no different. But…they are brussel sprouts. Knowing that I could not turn back now, I went for it and I actually liked what I was tasting. Not only did I like them, I told friends who had subbed them out for another veggie that they were missing out. 

As I sit here at my computer over a month later, my mouth is watering as I tell you about our experience. What made it so memorable? Why do I smile as I look back and remember that evening?

  1. It was a new experience for Kelsey and I. With a two year old at home, routine is our best friend and being at home during the COVID quarantine routine meant no date nights. Even before COVID there was a list of things Kelsey and I would do on date nights and a cooking class was not on it. But, from the comfort of our own home we got to share a new experience together and with our friends. Even when making dinners, normally it’s just one of us in the kitchen as the other chases our son around the house. But, this evening we both got to be in the kitchen, working together to build what we would later recognize as a masterpiece. 
  2. We learned things. From knife skills to how to “cook down a sauce” I felt more confident in my cooking skills after the class than before we started. In fact, I was pretty confident in my skills to replicate the full meal, not just the charred brussels, without the help of Chef Jereme. Not only had my skill been improved, but I was also given an awareness of why we were putting different flavors together and how the ingredients worked together to make the final product. 
  3. Chef Jereme was an incredible host. Like I said previously, from the time we logged in, to the time we logged off, Chef Jereme made sure that we had everything we needed and felt comfortable. He was knowledgeable, patient, and excited to see us accomplish each step. There were times when someone needed extra attention and Chef Jereme was able to keep the rest of us moving while helping the others get caught up. Never did I feel inadequate or out of place in the class. 
  4. The food was amazing. It was honestly the best meal I have ever eaten at home and I am shocked that I was the one that put it together. There is not much more I can say. It was delicious. 

As a guy who does not enjoy cooking, trying new foods, and has the pallet of a 5-year-old, I can confidently say that Chef Jereme’s cooking experience is one that everyone needs to try. It does not matter what the dish is, you don’t want to miss it.