July 8th – 12th I attended a Culinary Camp in Seattle hosted by James Beard award winning, Seattle chef Tom Douglas. As I mentioned in Part 1, this was a pretty amazing as well as overwhelming event. I certainly considered myself the underdog and I was the youngest attendee. Since the camp, people have asked me about my experience. This was not your home cook, Sandra Lee, Safeway sponsored style affair. This was a professional chef, Food & Wine, restaurant level tournament of all things foodie and delicious.
I feel very lucky that I was able to run with the big kids as it were and what’s more, they were happy to have me. I experienced many things I have only seen on TV, such as blood sausage, menudo and some of the more questionable cuts of meat. I now have an odd sense of unique belonging, as if I’m the new member of a secret society and survived a mild version of basic training.
Synopsis of My Opinions
Over the last several days I have come to realize just how little I know about food and cooking. Honestly, this is not a new notion to me. However, it really hit home sitting with food and cooking enthusiasts, as well as watching up to 8 hours of cooking demos a day. Who can really know everything concerning food and cooking? While the volume of information I don’t know is very intimidating to me, it is also refreshing that you never really stop learning. And the journey is never-ending. Take just a moment to consider the culinary vastness within each of these general words.
Something I realized at camp whilst looking down a long table of some of the more questionable and gnarly bits (liver, kidneys, etc.) is that as a cook, you really have to be open to the experience of new things. The world of serious cooking is really not for the faint of heart. You are going to get your hands dirty, you are going to get intimate with your food and you will be expected to, at the very least, try new things.
I believe I have a pretty open mind, and am certainly curious and willing to learn. I will pretty much try anything once, within reason. Nothing last week scared me, and I do not pretend to be ignorant about what a raw animal protein looks like or its insides. Such things do not make me squeamish. There is very little room for an unwilling attitude, or at the very least, you’ll be extremely limited in your offerings as a cook.
I found myself excited in anticipation that I was going to get to sample blood sausage. At nine in the morning mind you, but I was game. Come to find out, nine AM was a bit early for blood sausage. I’m more of a sweet breaskfasty person, but I’d love to give it another go, perhaps later in the day. My point is that I’d love to try many of the famed dishes with peasant roots and gnarly bits, such as Haggis, Sweet Breads, or Tripe. I’d certainly try it. It may not be for me, but I’ll be able to tell you why I don’t like it instead of simply saying, “I just KNOW I won’t like it.” Yes, an oyster looks gross, but boy do they taste amazing!
Seeing the magic of it all with freshmen eyes.
Deboning a rabbit
Dinner at Lola with Andrea
Smoked Chocolate & Salted Caramel Milkshake by Hot Cakes
Anise Ganache Fig by Chocolopolis paired with a wonderful 20 year Port (see photo)
Special dinner for campers at The Coterie Room with Margaret
Sushi Demo by Shiro (oldest sushi master in Seattle) and sushi lunch
Avocado (Top Chef style) Challenge
Dinner with my brother, Ian at Lecosho
Demo by Armandino Batali, Salumi
Camp Graduation & Closing Party
One of the many exciting things I heard at camp was that the culinary world is currently fixed on Seattle. Perhaps this couldn’t have been a better year to experience my first Tom Douglas Culinary Camp. Many chefs from Seattle and the Pacific Northwest are gaining national and perhaps global notoriety. Tom Douglas just won a James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurateur. Matt Dillon (Sitka & Spruce) also won a James Beard award for Best Chef Northwest. Cormac Mahoney (Madison Park Conservatory) won Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chef. Also, it certainly doesn’t hurt that a well-known food TV show is currently filming here (under the cloak of secrecy) and soon will bring even more attention to this area.
Seattle is a hot place to be eating right now. In my opinion it always has been, but for some reason people who don’t live here seem to think Seattle is on the other side of the world. I really feel blessed to have experienced this educational and yet gut busting five days of darn near all things food and magical tastiness. I am also very proud to support Seattle and her new found food fame. I feel the level of excellence has always been here, we just needed to wait for the rest of the world to notice.