Chef Academy's Leo and Suzanne

Several weeks ago (just before I got a job and still had time to do these sorts of things on a Tuesday afternoon, let alone write about them in a timely fashion), I went to a cooking demonstration by two stars of Bravo's Chef Academy: Suzanne Winn and Leo Goodloe.

I meant to watch an episode or two before the demo, and ended up watching the whole series in three days or so. It's easy to become addicted to any reality show, but when the people you're watching are likable and deserving of the spotlight (Jersey Shore crew, I'm not talking about you), you don't even feel guilty about it.

Leo was focused and professional throughout the show. He rarely had anything bad to say about anyone, and though he was always at the head of the class, he wasn't cocky. Suzanne, love her, has a Real Housewives of Orange County look (because she's a mother in the real OC), but the woman didn't go that route. Instead, she enrolled in an intensive culinary program and subjected herself to some rigorous kitchen work. Ok, yeah, she got in trouble for wearing too much lip gloss and for meeting with a tailor in the middle of a lesson…but how much of that is orchestrated by producers anyway? She didn't seem like a ditz to me. She seemed smart and funny and incredibly charismatic. I really wanted this woman to do well.

And you know what? Leo and Suzanne made an even better impression in person. After the demo, I waited to talk to Suzanne, who was talking to a group of women already. “Come join the circle, sweetie,” she said, motioning me over. Then she hugged me and thanked me for coming. Leo was equally gracious and easy to talk to. Both were so encouraging and forthcoming with stories and advice for me.

The food didn't disappoint, either. Dark chocolate pots de cremes with rock-your-socks butterscotch sauce and vanilla bean whipped cream. French bread slices layered with goat cheese, freshly made tomato sauce and melted fontina. Either of which I could die happy after. (Some recipes from the demo are here.)

My point is, I don't want this to be the last I see of Leo or Suzanne. Give them a book, a TV show, a catering/party-planning company…I'd support any of it.

You can find Chef Academy reruns on Bravo, iTunes or here. Check out Suzanne's Meals in Heels demonstrations on YouTube.

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And watch my favorite clip of Suzanne on Chef Academy here at the 6:08 mark.


Dan Perlman — Chef, Sommelier and Owner of Casa SaltShaker

Dan Perlman talks to students about removing skins from roasted peppers

While I was in Buenos Aires, chef Dan Perlman was kind enough to let me observe one of his cooking classes and talk to him about his in-home restaurant and other enterprises.

Casa SaltShaker is a restaurant in Buenos Aires popular among in-the-know tourists. It’s a cooking school for many expatriates. It’s the office of writer Dan Perlman. And it’s the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his partner Henry Tapia.

Casa SaltShaker is the place Perlman dons his many hats. In 2005, the American chef/sommelier/writer moved from New York City to Buenos Aires, where he added a few more slashes to his title: restaurateur/instructor/food blogger/author.

Tired of working restaurant hours, Perlman focused on freelance writing for Time Out Buenos Aires and other publications but kept cooking as a hobby. On weekends he had friends over for multi-course dinners as he had been doing in New York since 1994. In 2006, Perlman decided to turn his dinner parties into a business. Friends invited friends and so on until Casa SaltShaker became a destination for hip porteños, expats and tourists.

Dan Perlman and students in Casa SaltShaker's kitchen

The media has since described Casa SaltShaker as part of a new trend of “restaurantes a puertas cerradas” (“closed door restaurants”). Perlman says there’s nothing secret or underground about his or most other in-home restaurants in Buenos Aires.

“People forget that restaurants started in homes,” Perlman said. “We just stopped doing that as things became commercialized. But it continued that way here (in South America).” Continue reading “Dan Perlman — Chef, Sommelier and Owner of Casa SaltShaker”

Food Network Recipe Developer Sarah Copeland

Ex Says Never Getting Back Together Lyricsalign: left;”>Sarah Copeland, a fellow graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, was kind enough to take a break from her fabulous Food Network job to talk to me and offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of our favorite cable network. (Photos courtesy of Sarah Copeland)


On the opening day of Julie and Julia, Sarah Copeland tried to make clear why her husband needed to buy tickets in the morning. He just laughed.

“But everyone is talking about it,” she said, worried the movie would sell out and ruin date night.

“You just think everyone is talking about it because you work at the Food Network,” he said. It isn't Star Wars, he reasoned.

For Copeland, whose 9-5 job and greatest passion is food — both cooking and growing it — it's easy to get caught up in the culinary world. Professionally trained by the Institute for Culinary Education, Copeland worked as a personal chef in France and has experience in the famed kitchens of Savoy and Café Boulud. But as a recipe developer for the Food Network, she has to cater to a broader demographic. Continue reading “Food Network Recipe Developer Sarah Copeland”

Cinco de Mayo Cooking Demo with Chef LaLa

With a name like Chef LaLa and a cookbook called Latin Lover Lite, Laura Diaz-Brown highlights her funky — and easily marketable — side. But after a Cinco de Mayo cooking demonstration, I found more to admire about the woman.

Chef LaLa cooked and spoke at an Inside Columbia Magazine event Friday night. She was also in town for the Speaking of Women’s Health conference. In an hour, I learned she used to be a pop singer, went to med school to be a heart and lung specialist, became a certified nutritionist and studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

She also made four dishes in real time — without the tricks cooking demonstrators usually use. On her menu was:

  • Coca-Cola-Marinated Pork with Fruit Salad
  • Chicken Fajitas
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • Colorful Bean Salad (Recipe on her website here.)

Continue reading “Cinco de Mayo Cooking Demo with Chef LaLa”

Brook Harlan loves his job

Brook Harlan, Culinary Arts Instructor from Michael T Stonacek on Vimeo.

Brook Harlan, CIA graduate and all around awesome dude talks

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about what its like to teach kids how to cook at the Columbia Area Career Center.

UNRELATED SIDENOTE: We made burgers tonight with buns made from Shakespeare's dough and Goatsbeard Farm cheese I got from Jenn and Chert Hollow Farm chives from Eric. They were phenomenal. Thanks Farmers Market!


Craig Cyr’s East Meets West Salad

I am sure this salad sets the record for most ingredients — steak, mushrooms, goat cheese, hard boiled eggs, pecans, bacon, sage, cilantro, chives, basil, lavender, honey, croutons and many others. But Craig Cyr’s point was to show off the great local products from Saturday morning’s farmer’s market. It worked. The executive chef

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and owner of The Wine Cellar & Bistro in Columbia put on a cooking demonstration using almost entirely fresh and local goods. He made the most elaborate salad I’ve ever seen, but it was one of the best I’ve tasted, too.

“The market this morning seemed to scream salad,” Cyr said. But with a slight chill in the air he decided to make a warm vinaigrette for a hearty lunch or dinner salad. The idea gradually came together at the market and in the kitchen, then continued to evolve as he prepared the dish in front of the crowd.

He put an Asian style marinade on the flank steak from Show Me Farms. Then he sautéed mushrooms in butter and white wine, and made a red wine vinaigrette with bacon and chives — very French. Thus, he dubbed the salad “East meets West.”

I loved that every bite was different from the previous. Sometimes you got a lion’s mane mushroom and lavender-scented pecan. Then it would be a bite of cilantro, bacon and egg. You’d get steak with goat cheese. Or spinach and a crouton. There were different textures, and the sweet, sour and savory balance was perfect.

Craig and Sarah Cyr, owners of The Wine Cellar & Bistro
Craig and Sarah Cyr, owners of The Wine Cellar & Bistro

I don’t know how much of each ingredient Cyr used, but I’ll go through the ingredients and process he went through. You can try to create something like it, or at least try some of the elements in a salad of your own.

Continue reading “Craig Cyr’s East Meets West Salad”