Chef Megan. It has a nice ring to it, right? When an email from Robert Rivard with that subject line popped up in my inbox, I was intrigued. Inside was an offer I couldn’t refuse: the opportunity to take a weeklong Boot Camp at San Antonio’s Culinary Institute of America, and write about the experience for the Rivard Report.
The four-day course, “Best of Boot Camp,” focuses on the basics and fundamentals of cooking. Day one is culinary basic training, day two is Italian cuisine, day three is bistro and French cuisine, and day four is my favorite: dessert.
Class starts today. I spent the weekend preparing, so that I can make the most of it. First, I strolled over to my favorite restaurant, Gwendolyn, where Chef Michael Sohocki and his team were prepping for Friday dinner service. Michael is always insightful and he graduated from the CIA in ‘02, so I thought he’d have some words of wisdom. He suggested I think about my goals for the class and write them down. So, I put pen to paper and came up with three:
- Learn how to handle a knife. My mom cut everything with a steak knife and she was very skilled at it. I didn’t realize other knives existed until I was in my 20s. I did not inherit my mother’s steak knife skills. I hack, not slice. I need help.
- Be able to put together two fantastic meals without reading a recipe. I am pretty good at making two meals — my mom’s amazing chicken parm and a mozzarella-stuffed turkey meatloaf recipe I found in an issue of Cooking Light. This goal will help me increase my repertoire by 100%.
- Learn how to make a delicious, chocolaty dessert. There is no reason for this other than I love chocolaty desserts.
On Saturday, the hubs took me to a Date Night cooking class at Sur La Table – Taste of Thailand with Chef Chris Kidd, a local chef with 17 years in the industry. We had a great time with the other couple at our worktable. Over the course of the two-hour class, we made papaya salad, steamed mussels in chili-coconut broth, pork tenderloin with red curry peanut sauce and fried bananas served with an amazing fresh ginger ice cream.
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This experience was a lot of fun (definitely recommend it; make sure to bring a bottle of wine!), but it also highlighted my need to learn the basics in this week’s Boot Camp. I couldn’t help but notice that Chef Chris looked directly at me as he said, “I noticed some of you are at risk of losing a digit when you are using a knife….”
So, here’s to day one of class. Wish me luck. … Stay tuned to learn more about how it goes!
Megan O’Kain Lotay and her husband, Jesse, have lived in San Antonio for two years. Megan works in Marketing at USAA and in her spare time keeps a blog, The San Antonio Palate, to chronicle her dining adventures. She is also working on a local arts and crafts startup, localoodle.com.