Gifts from the Earth...

We got there a bit late...unorthodox. A gathering of chefs, all present and in motion for the mission to cook their respective menus for the purpose of helping to raise funds for South Seattle Community College's culinary arts program in West Seattle. Enter Gifts from the Earth. The brainchild of the foundation, it helps to provide scholarships, tutoring, classroom and kitchen equipment as well as instructor support and education. Our 4th year running, it is always a great gig. This year, I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by our sous chef; Rodolfo Guerrero and one of our ace cooks; David Tangkilisan. Good times. I seem to be the only SSCC alumni, but does it matter...not. The chefs still seem to enjoy the camaraderie and chance to cook for a great cause and with only two tables of 10 each, one can play. Not all so, or so it seems. Some keep it simple and to be quite honest, boring and unimaginative, as if it were work. We always come to play, and play hard. Serious fun and serious cooking is our label, and why not? Work is only work if you would rather be doing something else! Some of the chefs I see, appear to be just going through the motions, almost because they had to. It is always nice, however, to see our peers and professional associates, no matter the aura. It gives us a chance to connect and reflect on what's new and happening. Gotta run. We have no time to waste. We have our plate full, no pun intended, alright maybe. We have again taken on a 7-course experience for our twenty guests, waiting at the nicely set tables like some young teens waiting for Nirvana to go on stage, albeit a bit more polished. We started with an amuse of Savory White Chocolate Mousse with American Sturgeon Caviar(from Seattle Caviar), Smoked Paprika Syrup, dressed Demi Daikon Radishes and Mauve Radish Sprouts and lastly a couple of wispy chips of crispy Salsify. We then progressed very rapidly into our Inverted "B.L.T.", (a broiled lobster tartine), it consisted of a smooth puree of Roasted Beet, a Roasted Beet and Papaya Salad, Yuzu and Lobster Oil dressed Maine Lobster, Banana "Guacamole"(thanks aki and alex), Beet "Caviar", made from beet soaked Tapioca, our custom micro greens and a Beet Cous Cous Tuile. This was before anyone else had really picked up any of their courses. We were working fast and in tandem, keeping a keen eye on the pulse of the event. We have a lot ahead of us, and need to finish before they go into the end of the auction. Next was our Seared Foie Gras course, accompanied by a Roasted Apple Jam Ravioli, sandwiched together by Honey Glazed slices of Pear, a crisp Shallot "Financier", Micro Burgundy Amaranth, a savory Cider Foam and a drizzle of Mosto Cotto and Olive Oil. The room filled with that marvelous foie smoke and aroma, and all chefs now at a full-blown hustle putting dishes together, we move into our fish. A beautiful European Daurade, seared then poached in Olive Oil, adorned with roasted Russian Banana Fingerling Potatoes, Crosnes, and a delicate melange of Demi Root Vegetables from the Chef's Garden. A scattering of Micro Celery rests on top as the poisson "floats" on a pool of Roasted Onion-Apple Water, speckled with Rosemary Oil. We are now into our main savory course of Cocoa Nib Crusted American Bison, flanked by a swipe of a silky Celery Root-Walnut Oil Puree, sauteed Wild Mushrooms(think Hedgehog, Honshimejii and Cinnamon Cap), a robust Porcini-Oxtail Abelskiver and a couple of liquid elements of Black Peppercorn and Oxtail Cuisson. As we move into dessert, we notice that some of the chefs are starting to pack it up. Of course, they only did 4 courses. As we plated our "Bite of Silk and Faberge Egg",(a marriage of Valrhona Manjari and Cinnamon Sablee, and a Hazelnut Custard Filled Egg with Dark Chocolate, Fleur de Sel, and a Coffee Foam) we could sense that there was an obvious buzz in the dining room about our tables' experience, and that was the word coming from other tables! I think they were jealous. Hell yeah! The dish became complete by the addition of a saucing of Cocoa Caramel and a Mixed Preserved Berry Essence, Truffle Salted Popcorn, Wild Huckleberry Sherbet, Melted Grapes and Cocoa Paper. As the dessert was meticulously presented to the tables, I could see that the other tables although had desserts, they were curious, if not envious of what was being delivered. That suit followed by our addition of mignardises, which was comprised of Pomegranate Pates de Fruits, Almond Macaroons and Salted Caramels. What a night, and what a blast! I conversed with our guests and made new acquaintances and reconnected with old. I also noticed that there were a good handful of our members in attendance...all at other tables. Bummer. As we made the short drive back to the club, we unanimously agreed that it was a great and awesome showing of our craft. Probably the best outcome of the whole evening to me was the ability and opportunity to spread some of the passion and influence towards our two dynamite helpers; JT and Mike, etudiants de cuisine at SSCC. I truly believe they were inspired. To see them stoked on the whole ordeal, in a word, awesome. To see other students gather 'round our plating table with cameras clicking and questions abound was so invigorating, it only propelled us into the next realm. What a "gifting feeling". It should have read...Gifts from the Heart, because that is what it felt like I was giving to these students. We should all be so fortunate. And so it ends, for yet another year, with all the ideas harvested, and the memories put away for future recollections and inspirations. I bid you adieu.


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