I thought I’d try to get back on my regular rotation of posts in an effort to finally ditch my writer’s block. Let’s hope it works!
It’s Monday, so technically it’s Chef’s Night Off, but I won’t be having many of those this week! This is the week I teach our Level 3 Culinary students about wine… the same two sessions for all three of our program rotations, day and night… that means that within 5 days I will do the same two lectures and tastings 3 times each. It’s a very good thing that this is my favorite part of my job!
It’s not your basic wine class – I’m teaching wanna-be chefs as much as I can about wine flavors and flavor dynamics (how food and wine work together) in the course of two hours a night for two nights (Day students actually get me for an extra 1/2 hour per class – every little bit counts). Some students want to be there and are very engaging, others could care less – convincing them that a future chef needs to know about wine is sometimes half the battle (making sure the spit is the other!). Regardless, the conversations that arise in that classroom have fuelled many long-term discussions and created a few friendships as well. Teaching adult students in such a creative environment is infinitely rewarding.
The first class focusses on flavors associated with grape varietals, fermentation, and basic tasting. The second class is where we really get to enjoy the process. After we talk about terroir, Old World vs. New World, and a little bit about regulations (usually the students’ nap time), we start talking about how the flavor components of food and wine work together… salt, acidity, sweetness, spiciness, and fats (the basic food groups). To appeal to their kitchen instincts, I have the students mix up little “recipes” using 7 flavor components – lemons, butter, Siracha, red currant jelly, salami and smoke-house almonds. From those simple items and plenty of imagination, we create numerous “dishes” to taste alongside the evening’s wine selection, discovering the intricacies of how flavors play off each other.
I’m working on coming up with a few new options using other ingredients… chocolate, smoke powder instead of the almonds, and some type of seafood (maybe bay scallops?)… The possibilities are endless and the process of discovery – finding just the right balance, making flavors “pop”, or debunking food pairing myths – is the most stimulating part of my career! I only wish I could do this all the time instead of only 6 classes every 4-6 weeks!