Tuesday, June 3, 2014
I made a new recipe this weekend: A batch of sun-dried tomato pesto. The recipe was prepared by culinary artist Michelle Roberts at Thursday’s Taste of Home Cooking School hosted by The News. Robert’s pesto is a twist of my favorite, which is made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil. Roberts’ recipe was heavy on sun-dried tomato but equally delish!
Roberts spent two hours preparing savory dishes on stage as an eager audience watched and learned. But her stage performance, which ran without a stitch, could not have been successful without the dozen or so assistants behind the scenes.
The work began the day before as office staff bagged hundreds of gift totes - one for each attendant.
On Thursday, the office crew was back at the Kingstree Rec lining the chairs with VIP tags and flipping through a long checklist of things to do before the big show. As for Roberts, her crew was none other than the ready, willing, and able Williamsburg HomeTown Chamber members. Three crews worked from that morning right up to the first batch of béchamel sauce.
There were moments worth remembering. For instance, chamber member Lou Easterling was charged with rolling out pastry dough. Having never experienced the culinary art of creating a perfect pie shape (including me), she is to be commended for her brave attempt. She was a real champ - head held high - gallantly smiling as Roberts scraped the sticky blob from the sheet of plastic.
The cooking school began at 6 p.m. At 2 p.m. Roberts was in need for additional help so I called my daughter who lives in Charleston. She arrived at 4p.m. believing she would fill in as needed. I didn’t lie to her. I promise I didn’t know - but the moment she walked through the door, poor Mo found herself staring at a six page instruction sheet outlining the steps each person was responsible for, while taking in a plethora of when-to-do-what as Robert’s recipes unfolded. She also found herself on stage with Roberts, shoulder to shoulder with a professional chef, looking all professional herself, as she creatively laid stuffed cannoli in a greased glass baking dish. All the while staring a hole right through me.
Because of the assistance of Chamber Director Leslee Spivey and her team chopping, cutting, slicing, and dicing, the cooking school would not have happened. I hope they enjoyed the experience as much as I did and learned some new techniques along the way. I learned a few cool things, like placing cherry tomatoes between the tops of two plastic containers then running a knife through the middle.
Roberts is no doubt a pro at this, having dished up delectable menus for audiences for the past 12 years. She also has a comedic side to her, making jokes about the fancy names given to familiar things like the béchamel sauce, which is nothing more than milk gravy. She engaged the audience as well. In order to receive a door prize the winner had to jump up and holler “I love food!:” And mean it!
When the cooking school was over all the cooked dishes were given away to lucky attendants. As Roberts passed the mini meatball sandwiches laced with that sun-dried tomato pesto to a man, I honestly considered offering him a monetary exchange for his tasty treasure. Guess I’ll just have to wait till next year.