I'll admit that I'm no domestic diva. So when my uncle, the new Executive Chef at the Biltmore Hotel here in Coral Gables invited us to an interactive cooking class a couple of months ago, I was a bit apprehensive. Although I consider myself a "foodie," its purely from an end-user standpoint: I like to eat, but I can't cook. My husband, however, was elated because he's more of an all-around foodie: he likes to cook and eat.
These cooking classes are actually for members of the Biltmore's Cellar Club. Luckily for us, or at least my husband, in this case we knew the right person and the chef had reserved a table for us and several other family members, including my grandmother and the chef's in-laws. This would seem to be a fairly pleasant mix of people, but as we were to find out, we had mostly "chefs" at our table and not so many cooks.
One way that members are put into the right frame of mind before firing up the old bunsen burners is copious amounts of champagne. Although I was pregnant at the time and not drinking, I never saw a nearby glass even half empty before it was refilled. I guess the thought is that if your version of the food comes out tasting less-than-celestial, you won't really notice because your taste buds will be numb.
I'll have to thank my husband (again) for capturing the profound moment below. Other unnamed family members will joke that this was my reaction to being told that I would in fact be cooking. However, not only did I cook, but I volunteered to cook the hardest of three courses - Cajun Jambalaya. This is where I found out that my previously docile cast members were really irascible French chefs in hiding. Everything from the burner flames to the spices and cooking time were scrutinized with no regard for the word-for-word instructions that I was getting from my uncle who stood 10 feet in front of me. Apparently the champagne was working.
But despite the well-intentioned commentary from our table, and the reduction of spices to about one-third of what we were supposed to have, the jambalaya, while smelling great, was inedible. If watering eyes and perspiration are any indication, this was about an 8 on the thermal Richter scale. I'm sure champagne consumption increased after this dish. Luckily we had all eaten the first course along with plenty of bread, so none of us were starving. What can I say, my uncle likes it hot.
And here above is my dear Paola, who now looks like this: