Okay – let’s admit it – we all watch Top Chef. Even if we can’t make our way through every episode, we keep up with who got cut and who made it through.
It’s always intriguing to me – why would anyone put themselves through the craziness of the challenges? I suppose some do it to make a name for themselves, others crave the challenge, or perhaps there is a business rationale working itself through.
Regardless of the reason, once you are on – it is GAME ON. Apparently, you are completely cut off from any sort of contact from the outside world and must create recipes and cook on the fly. And one of the reason why the show is compelling is that there is a meritocracy plainly at work. Either your food is good or its not and you are voted off the island (to mix my reality show references).
One of my favorites contestants was Edward Lee from TC season 9. Even before the show, he was making a real name for himself with his mix of Korean flavours with Southern sensibilities. The TV show confirmed that his approach was no gimmick – but reflected a deep respect for Southern ingredients and Asian culinary traditions.
Earlier this year, he released a cookbook, Smoke and Pickles, that drew on his unique point of view and highlighted, in personal stories, his culinary and personal journey forward.
I gotta tell you – the cook book is one of the best things I have read, period. The stories, which also frame a key ingredient or technique, are wonderfully written, deeply personal, and honestly insightful. They tell the story of what it means to grow up Asian in America, to fall in love with food and cooking, to understand what real success is, and how to connect with the world around you. It’s absolute genius.
So when I heard that Barbara Jo’s was hosting an Edward Lee event – it was no brainer that I would attend.
Actually – it was a bit of a Top Chef Twofer, with TC Canada winner and local golden boy Matt Stowe in attendance and cooking recipes from the book.
They served Pork Pies, Adobo Fried Chicken and Waffles, Chilled Buttermilk Soup with Bourbon Cherries – plus Matt Stowe’s own take on Southern food with Pork Belly with Fresh Grits. I’ll apologize right now that I did not take pictures of the last two items – I was too busy wolfing them down.
Everything is was utterly delicous. And that’s the thing about these recipes – they work. A friend of mine made pickled peaches with jasmine tea, and they are awesome. The fried chicken gets a wonderful lift from the spikey adobo sauce and Matt Stowe’s version looked just the cover of the book (obviously – my photo does it no justice).
You could not ask for a better evening than this. It turns out that Edward Lee was a Lit Major in College and his writing skills come naturally to him (What is it about English Majors and cooking? I know two others chefs who have followed this path). The room was packed and lively – full of really enthusiastic food lovers. I can’t recommend enough attending one of these events at Barbara Jo’s. The value for dollar proposition is pretty amazing ($50 for this particular event which included food, drinks, and a cookbook – what a deal!).
COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST
Okay – so here’s our question. It what city did Edward Lee grow up and first develop his love of food. First correct answer below wins a signed copy of Smoke and Pickles!