Crash Course. If you’ve been paying attention around here, you know I attended Honey Summit 2011 at The Culinary Institute of America, Greystone. I enjoyed an amazing dinner at Wine Spectator Restaurant. I had a liberating trip to a bee farm. And considering I signed up for Honey 101, I knew we’d have to hit an actual classroom at some point.
A lecture from Chef Instructor, Almir da Fonseca has me scribbling notes in my CIA binder like a kid.. there are 1600 commercial honey farms in the US that produce 167 million pounds of honey. Queen bees lay 3,000 eggs a day… Pastry Chef and National Honey Board Spokesperson, David Guas shares even more data. The class marvels at the findings of a Cornell University study that states, “the monetary value of honey bees as commercial pollinators in the United States is estimated at about $15 billion annually.” We learn that honey is the only pantry item with an unlimited shelf-life and listen to mouth watering descriptions of brines, glazes and ice creams that Guas uses in his restaurant, Bayou Bakery. Cooking demonstrations from Chef Instructors Kelly Mills and Patrick Clark (above) round out the lecture portion of Honey 101.
And what learning experience is complete without a little
hands tongues on activity? A honey tasting has us smelling, examining, and of course tasting, different honey varietals. The type of flower a bee pollinates determines the honey varietal. We sample Avocado, Buckwheat, Star Thistle, Alfalfa, Clover, Wildflower, Eucalyptus and Orange Blossom. A new taste to me and many of my chef classmates is Buckwheat, which generates quite the buzz.
The next thing I know, we’re drawing numbered spoons from a cup. We are divided into teams. I’m the home hack amongst professional chefs and now a supreme disadvantage to Team Three, Helene Kennan of Google and James Barrett of Westin Annapolis (above). I apologize for handicapping their team, they laugh nervously. We head from the classroom to the kitchen and put on our toques.
Each team is assigned several recipes. I confess to Helene and James that I’d feel the most comfortable with dessert so I’m given the task of creating “Creme Frite” with Honey Braised Rhubarb. Wait. What? We’re talking deep fried pastry cream, people. And rhubarb. Rhubarb? Really?
Just as I am plotting an escape route through the dish room window, it’s David Guas to the rescue.
The resident Honey Ambassador and rock star Pastry Chef chooses to be on our team.
Something tells me he might know a thing or two about pastry cream. And honey. And hopefully, rhubarb.
Chef Guas takes charge of the recipe and our plan of attack. He’s certainly not afraid of a little pastry cream. Or rhubarb!
What happens for the next two hours is the most personalized, in-depth, insightful cooking lesson I’ve had since my Mom taught me how to make an apple pie. Chef David has way better lambchops than my Mom though.
As David and I wrangle our rhubarb, the rest of the chefs are hard at work creating the other components of the honey-buffet-extravaganza that is to be dinner.
The large, industrial kitchen of the CIA goes from bustling chaos to focused production. The air seems to soften with plumes of steam, sweet and savory aromas and the hum of ventilation. Chef Instructor Almir checks on Team Two, Rita Dever, Keith Brunell and Anibal Rodriguez (above). Before long, it’s time to eat… and eat…
Tagine of Lamb in Star Thistle Honey Broth — Get the recipe here.
Buckwheat Honey-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Black Truffle Oil — Get the recipe here.
We sit down to enjoy our “one bite of everything” plates. We are exhausted and fulfilled. We learn that we’ll be back in the kitchen the following day, on the same teams, but this time with a basket of mystery ingredients. Our final challenge is to create dishes based on the secret ingredients. Do I survive my final day at the CIA or do I get Chopped? Stay tuned…
Photos #7 #8 #23 credit Andrea Schepke, EvansHardy+Young.