Listen to Chef Eric’s full interview with Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef, here. “People can derive a great deal from the art of cooking,” shares Eric. “The ultimate reward for me is seeing the sense of confidence and pure joy that my students experience when they master the life skill of cooking through my instruction, and to help other chefs follow in my footsteps to create their own businesses and careers.”
Last week, along with other members of the press, I took part in a cooking and wine-pairing class at Chef Eric’s Culinary Classroom in west L.A. Eric Jacques Crowley is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, who apprenticed at some of the most acclaimed restaurants in Europe before going on to supervising event catering for the Patina Restaurant Group. He’s been teaching both professional and recreational cooking since 1999 and he’s a gifted and very patient teacher. With constant encouragement of “great job” and “that looks terrific,” he makes his students feel they’re ready to apply for the job of sous chef at Spago, even if all they’ve done is chop a few mushrooms or sear a couple of scallops.
Those are pretty much the chores I took on during the three-hour class and dinner. The menu included eggplant and zucchini fritters, fennel-dusted pan-seared scallops with grilled wild mushrooms, homemade pasta with tomato and olive tapenade sauce, a braised lamb stew and sautéed chicken breasts with sunchokes.
There were ten of us amateurs sharing kitchen duties, along with Chef Eric’s very talented staff. By the time we sat down to enjoy our repast, we had all gotten to know each other a bit and learned a few tricks along the way. My favorite: to peel a large quantity of garlic (for, say, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic), simply remove the outer tissue from a head or two (you can do this by smashing the clove against a work surface). Grab two metal bowls. Place the garlic heads in one, invert the other to form a lid, and shake the bowls up and down like crazy for 15 seconds or so. (You can also use a sealed Tupperware container in place of the bowls.) Uncover the bowl and-voila-perfectly peeled garlic cloves.
Chef Eric teaches dozens of team-building cooking classes every year for clients like American Express, Honda, IBM, MTV and Merrill Lynch. The classes can be completely customized, with gluten-free or vegan menus, Iron Chef type competitions or lessons in preparing hors d’oeuvres with an emphasis on pouring wine. I can attest it’s a delicious way to mingle with colleagues old and new. Shelley Levitt
Editor California Meetings + Events
Listen to Chef Eric’s December 4, 2004 appearance here.
Eric Crowley owns Eric’s Culinary Kitchen cooking school. For more information, call 310-470-2640 or go online at CulinaryClassroom.com Cake Tips/Shortcuts
Make as much ahead of time as you can
Freeze the unfinished cakes wrapped several times in saran wrap for up to one month
Some frostings can be up to one week ahead and refrigerated in a plastic container with Saran wrap pressed into the frosting to make it airtight. Then bring the frosting up to room temperature, lightly whip and frost. We did this with the Lavender Devil’s Food Cake with Orange Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting with great results
Fresh is always best but not always possible for fillings or pie crust
If don’t have time to make crust, make Tarte Tatin by using pre-made puff pastry instead – Quick & Easy
Make crust and freeze in pie tin, double-wrapped in Saran wrap for up to one month
Make 2 at a time — one for now, freeze one for later
If making top crust, too, can freeze that in a disk shape or rolled out on a cookie sheet well wrapped in Saran wrap
You can also split one pie recipe into 4 to 6 smaller, individual pies in tart pans. They take less time to bake, look great and you get more crust per serving
Some fillings are pretty easy and quick to make, and can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container. It also helps if you bring it up to room temperature before putting in pie pan
If you aren’t able to get fresh fruits due to seasonal availability, natural or specialty markets have canned or jarred fruits in natural juices that taste great.