‘Garlic!’ (Applause)

By Beacon Staff

As a television chef I usually have a silent audience of four – the cameramen and my producers.

As a demonstration chef – appearing in supermarkets, fairs and other venues – I have the privilege of interacting with live audiences, some small and some more substantial in number.

There’s a big difference between performing “live” on tape and performing live and in person.

When Emeril Lagasse took his show live on the Food Network a number of years ago, every time he would add garlic to something, his studio audience would break into wild applause. I never understood that. Neither did any of my fellow chefs, especially those of us who were used to doing live demonstrations of the culinary arts.

So a couple of weeks ago when I appeared live at a well-attended county fair, I thought I’d perform an experiment. I did three shows a day for two days. As part of my demonstration, I made a roasted red pepper and tomato soup, one of my favorite things to make in summertime. My recipe calls for six large cloves of garlic that get mixed up with lots of other ingredients in the food processor.

I added my roasted red peppers. I added my tomatoes, the basil, the broth, the salt and pepper, a little hot sauce and then held out the garlic cloves in my hand.

“And finally,” I announced, my voice coming to a crescendo: “SIX CLOVES OF GARLIC!!”

Nothing. You could hear a pin drop.

Okay, so garlic doesn’t get applause anywhere outside of Emeril Lagasse’s studio. Lesson learned.

Next challenge: Rachael Ray made a name for herself preparing 30-minute meals. Normally, in my demonstrations I would show how to make chicken three different ways or three different preparations of pork chops. This season, I decided I’d do a full four-course meal.

And to make it interesting, I thought I would issue a phantom challenge to Rachael Ray. So I would appoint someone in the audience as timekeeper.

With only one exception, my timekeepers lost track of the time. I know I at least matched her in five of my outings just by a casual check of my own watch. The sixth one – the one where the timekeeper actually did his job – I beat her by 18 seconds. Whew! That was close!

By the way, here’s the menu: Appetizer: Garlic Shrimp with Seasoned Breadcrumbs and Black Pepper Aioli; First Course: Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup; Entrée: Cinnamon Beef Tagine over Couscous with Dried Fruits accompanied by Brussels Sprout Hash; Dessert: Banana-Pecan Spring Rolls in Caramel Sauce.

Did I mention that I do this with a “handicap” of having only two propane burners and no oven? Pots and pans, spatulas and spoons, whisks and knives are flying everywhere.

Despite the crude set-ups, the gerry-rigged “kitchen” set up on what normally are basketball courts, dance floors, exhibition halls, and the like, I get to do what I love to do – cook for people.

And it really doesn’t matter that my garlic additions get no applause.

Follow me on Twitter: @KitchenGuyMT

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