Learn from the best
The 2008 Guest Chef Series kicked off March 27 at Carmel’s spacious HOMEexperience (14300 Clay Terrace Blvd.). Morton’s entertaining Executive Chef J.P. Jones kicked off the series with his “Surf and Turf” program that taught the 20 or so close-by classmates how to make the steakhouse’s signature jumbo lump crab cakes, rich, tender Steak Diane and award-winning key lime pie.
OK, we really ran out of time before the key lime pie. That’s mainly because the demonstrative Jones took his sweet time getting personal with his small, cozy audience. Decked out in the HOMEexperience’s kitchen, he was flanked by Assistant Manager Howard Mitchell, who brought plenty of wine to complement each course. Jones also took plenty of time in between courses, while, say, the jumbo lumps were still cooking, to allow people to get refills on their wine, take a potty break — but really, to tour the space and “go shopping,” as he urged us.
You will not have hands-on experience with this cooking series. But at the one Jones hosted, you didn’t really need it. The space was small and the cook careful and slow-paced enough to cover all steps, answer every qualm and give insider tips. Questions, answers and even well-timed punch lines from audience members warranted Morton’s swag, which Jones threw to lucky individuals. CDs, T-shirts, even Morton’s Steak Bible (BTW: It is their 30th anniversary) were given away with abandon.
“How’s everyone doing today?” Jones started his session. He repeated the question after receiving a lackluster response. Midway through the show, and after more than a bit of wine that was supposed to have been reserved for specific courses, Jones had no problem eliciting responses.
If this series has one strong point, it’s that its chefs’ personalities and insights can really shine through the small, intimate space. And Jones had a big one (personality). He enlightened us that some seasoning salt isn’t as high in sodium as others; that you should rub your grill down with your steak’s peripheral fat to season it; and that you can make your own “wet aged” steak with a vacuum sealer and extra plastic space for the meat’s juices to flow through. Oh, and don’t forget to leave your steaks out an hour to an hour and a half before cooking, to make sure everything cooks evenly.
With local “celeb chefs” at the helm, you get the nitty-gritty tips of their trade. This program seems to attract people who are at a level where they can appreciate such insight.
But it’s also accessible and advantageous to all walks. There was no information overload. The two hours allotted for the class cushioned Jones’ instruction nicely, allowing him to cook each of his courses while fielding questions (he had to make the dessert on the fly, however).
We picked up a bit of wine knowledge from the knowledgeable Howard Mitchell, assistant manager. He brought some bold and fresh reds, a buttery Chardonnay and a delightful dessert wine by the name of Mer Soleil, a Viognier that burst with thick, heady apricot flavors. Mitchell’s explication of his booty made the course complete.
As for the damage: It’s a mere $40. That’s reasonable when you compare it with other classes, which can run you upward of $70. You will taste, but probably won’t go home full. (Did I mention the wine is unlimited?)
Of course, the classes could be highly variable depending on the chef. But the all-star lineup is promising: Future dates in the series include May 15, hosted by Ryan T. Nelson, executive chef of The Oceanaire Seafood Room; and July 17, hosted by Freddy Sanchez, chef partner of Adobo Grill, along with Executive Chef Javier Fuentes. Watch our Culinary Calendar for more details as the dates approach.
I’m sure those will be great, too. But you should be sorry you missed this one.
And while we’re talking about Morton’s …
If you’re a Russophile (and who isn’t, after witnessing Maria Sharapova’s beauty and talent), Morton’s Vodka and Caviar event is next Thursday, April 3. The event features Imperia Russian vodka with decadent, seafood-dominant creations. Expect “Mortinis” of Russian Raspberry, Thyme Lemon Drop and cucumber. Petrossian caviar and tuna tartare canapés further the decadent theme. Cost is $45 per guest. Call 317-229-4700.