A culture of celebrity has taken over the world we live in, and no matter where you turn it is present. As anyone who has been awake in the last ten years knows, the food, restaurant and hospitality industry is no stranger to the phenomena. For every lawyer, hospital or police drama series found on TV today, there are at least five cooking shows that feature a celebrity chef or icon of some sort. The Chairman, Mr. Orange Clogs, Semi-Homemade, The Bam Man and R2 are just a few. You have to think that Julia Child, the original TV chef, is most likely turning over in her grave like an over done omelete with the thought of it all.
With that in mind, last week I checked out a series featured by The Boston Center for Adult Education titled “Behind the Line.” The concept is that students get to spend time behind the line with a chef, and this most recent class was with Chef Jason Santos, who found the starlight after an open casting call for Hell’s Kitchen. Santos came in second during season seven of Hell’s Kitchen and can be found behind the line nightly at Gargoyles on the Square in Somerville’s ultra hip Davis Square, where he as been since 2005. He is no stranger to the kitchen, and at the BCAE he had ten newbies to bring up to speed.
The forumla for the BCAE class, dreamed up and organized by Brehon Garcia-Dale, is interesting and works very well. There are two different groups that come together for the evening, and each play an integral part in the dynamics of the night. The first group of ten arrive, done aprons and then proceed to spend the evening “Behind the Line” with the chef, preparing dinner. Santos joked with them that “it wasn’t a vacation” back in the kitchen and that everyone was going to have to do their part in order to get the food out and ready on time.
After a couple of demonstrations, and a kitchen trick that more than one person said, “was worth the cost of admission,” the place was humming with activity. Participants were given stations and prep lists as “guests” started to arrive. Chef Santos then showed the class how to make homemade mayo (7 oz. of oil to one egg yolk) and explained that once you got the proportions right and you had your basic mayo, a truffel aioli (what we were making this evening) or any kind of aioli was at your fingertips, and you were only limited by your imagination.
The guests for the evening were a second set of ten participants in the class, but their participation was limited to eating what was being prepared. I think the set up, with ten people cooking and ten people eating is a novel way to appeal to a larger group of people. Not every kitchen area can handle more than ten people, but this way more people were involved in the evening, but there weren’t too many cooks in the kitchen, besides not everyone wants to put an apron on and get dirty, but you still get to taste some great food.
As the kitchen students prepared and plated the first course, Lobster Risotto, Chef Santos greeted the second set of ten students, and answered questions about the meal and Hell’s Kitchen. The kitchen students stood and ate around the cook top, much like working in a kitchen, and Chef Santos had to light a fire under them to get the second course out on time. ”They’re almost done” he said, “so eat quick! This is behind the line, not some beach vacation!”
I had a great time at the class and want to thank Bre and Chef Santos for giving me a peek into this great local resource for people interested in cooking or simply eating while they learn a thing or two. That trick that was worth the price of admission? Putting grapes between two food covers and running your knife between them to slice a whole bunch of grapes in half in minutes, compared to the drawn out task of cutting them one by one. Check the BCAE’s site for up coming classes in the food and wine program, and sign up for something fun.
Remember, Food is Love!