Dining in the Kitchen, Golden Oaks Media Event

Welcome to our dining room

We welcomed a group of guests in our kitchen last week for a fabulous dinner.  When we have the chance to host guests in the kitchen, the vibe and passion is extraordinary.  The entire team works on planning, setup and menu writing.  Then the chefs take creativity to the next level, going back and forth about cooking techniques, flavor profiles and presentations.  We work together bouncing ideas until we get goosebumps from excitement!  Having the opportunity to play and create is the driving force in our kitchen.

We are ready with our toys!
We used Evo Grills, Sous Vide Tanks, a Rotary Evaporator and Smokers to make the meal into an experience!

First Course is Prison Soup.....We went with that theme when we chose the underliner!

Chef knows how to capture an audience before the first course even hits the table!
The kitchen transforms into a dining room that one would find in a home.  The guests also get to know the chefs and service staff as you would at a dinner party at someone’s house.  We love to be able to interact with our guests, as it helps to create this unique dining experience.

Rotary Evaporator!

This is what we used to create the first course “Prison Soup”.  The tomato puree in the lower bulb rotates; with pressure and heat, the vapors drip into the bulb on the left.  Like in prison, the first course was bread and water….only our clear water was tomato flavor….
Fresh, a-la minute cooking!
We cook everything in front of our guests, taking questions along the way!

Speck Ham Fritters

Speck Ham Fritter in a Squash Blossom and Spicy Cream

Filled with beauties…
This course is one of our favorites; the payoff of the guests expressions of delight provides us immediate satisfaction!

Making it happen!

Get your cell phones/camera's out....

Chilled Salad Course!

This dish was awesome! The guest loved it and were happy to tell us!

"Ok Chef, I am floored!" - Priceless

The details of executing an event like this are fine tuned.  The coals on the grill have to be in perfect sync with the flow of the evening.

Hibachi Cooking!

Finger Limes- These are sweet and tasty small beads, so perfectly delicate!

We work closely with our vendors, which helps in our never-ending thirst of new products and knowledge!  These limes are new to me – they come from Australia and are relatively new in American cuisine.

Crispy skin-on Wreck Fish after the sous vide bath!

Beautiful Chef's Garden garnishes!

Key West Wreck Fish, Sous Vide and Crisped Skin! Perfect!

The care in planning and design of these dinners starts way before we even know about them.  Take a look at these beautiful radishes, the farmers and their teams put such love into the products that land on our plates!

Chef's Garden Cherry Bomb Radishes!

Plenty to pick from!

Can you say truffles....

Pasture Prime Waygu Beef – Southern style!
This beef comes from Florida, and is 100% DELICIOUS!

Cheese Course- Full of flavors!

Smoking Cheese
We love cheese, actually can’t get enough and are always looking for something new.  We fell in love with Southern Belle Goat Cheese this week- it is awesome….guarantee you cannot walk away after one bite!

Tiffen Box Take Away, filled with Ginger Marshmallows, Cake Balls, Artisan Truffles, Sea Salt Pretzel Sticks and Florida Strawberries!

Our guests had planned a fireworks cruise, and sadly for us, requested dessert on the go.  While we missed sharing another course with them, we did love the opportunity to create some magic for them to take away!
The event was a great success, as I told the Executive Chef, “I’m not sure who had more fun, the guests or the chef’s!”

Life in a Bakery

I'm surviving in a bakery! Cake ball Ninja! 🙂

In case you don’t know, working in a kitchen is like no other job: the atmosphere, the pace, the inappropriate jokes and banter, let’s just say it isn’t for the meek.   I believe it is these things that keep chefs going back every day; let’s face it, it isn’t the burns, the sweating on the hot line with no break or the long hours.  Nope, it’s got to be the creativity, the adrenalin, the comradery, and the fact that we eat great food every day that keeps us in the kitchen.

I’ve worked in many restaurants and catering kitchens, and adapted pretty quickly to each one, found where the china caps were, what cooler the herbs were in and found where the cambro of chocolate covered almonds were in the dry storeroom.  But it wasn’t until I went to Ohio that I ever got a chance to work in a bakery – the land of measuring cups and recipes – a bit of a foreign thing to a savory chef.  I’ve done a lot of baking at my home, but not the type of production that equivalates to parties of 1500 people.

Pre-meal at Sweets by Maggie!

That display case is making me hungry!

It turns out I managed to hold my own!  My friend Maggie has a great thing going at her shop, Sweets by Maggie; she has talented bakers, a great PR Rep and her invaluable family behind her and the counter!  Despite the stress and time constraints, the Sweets by Maggie crew manages to have a ton of fun and amazingly, remain thin!

Top Secret Cake Recipe in the works!

The shop is as cute as the cupcakes!

Maggie has an awesome story, a “feel good story” if you will.  After going thru some tough times in Florida, she returned home, to Lorain, Ohio.  At home Maggie had the support of her family to help out with her two young sons while she settled into a new life.  With a stroke of luck she found herself working at the CVI, the Culinary Vegetable Institute.  At the CVI, she made a ton of contacts, worked with talented chefs from across the country and had fresh, beautifully, grown on site produce to work with.

The Real Cake Ball Ninja! I tried to keep up....tried...

In the weeds!

Maggie also had time to revisit her passion for baking, a trade she learned before going to the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute and falling in love with the savory side of cooking.  Her rediscovered talent was not kept secret for long; Maggie soon had constant requests for her goods.  The home kitchen soon became a bakery, her dining room table became a cake decorating table and her car became a delivery truck.  With her at-home business booming, Maggie said farewell to the CVI and focused on her dream of opening her own shop.  After a year of planning and penny pinching, that dream came true.  Sweets by Maggie was open in October of 2010.  The store is adorable, her crew is loyal and talented, her family support is endless and most of all- her sweets are A-maZing!

The Help! It is truly a family thing...

The Master- Whoop whoop!

I have never been more proud of a friend, and I am so glad I was able to see her success first hand and test my baking chops at the same time!

Hard work is rewarded at Sweets by Maggie! Another round, Yes, please!

Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration, with Sweets by Maggie!

My girl Maggie came down to Florida a few weeks ago for a visit and over a few glasses of our beloved sangria, she told me about her upcoming event at The Chef’s Garden.  Wow!!! I was excited to hear that she would be participating in The Veggie U Food and Wine Celebration, an event I have been hearing about for many years.  The event is put together to combat childhood obesity, with chefs, wine vendors, and food & beverage companies all participating to make the magic happen.  There are wine seminars, chef demos, book signings and of course, lots of tasting!!  By the end of the pitcher of sangria, she had me convinced, I must travel to Ohio and help the Sweets by Maggie team!

The event kicked off with a welcome reception for all the participants and their teams!  The scenery was lovely; the wine was flowing and the buffet was plentiful.  The host of the event, the staff of Veggie U, The Chef’s Garden and the Culinary Vegetable Institute welcomed us graciously.  It was a perfect summer evening to meet many new friends and reconnect with old ones!

The Culinary Vegetable Institute, also known as CVI

Welcome to Ohio Chef Brian!! Maggie and Brian worked together years ago at WDW. I guess it IS a Small world after all ;-/

Birds eye view of the dining room at the CVI. The chefs were finishing up their prep for the evening before joining the welcome reception.

Chef's finish your mise en place!!

The Grand Tasting Tent- this is where the action would take place! Vendors, chefs, sponsors will thrill guests with their bounty from The Chef's Garden!

Our favorite sales person, Michele!

We were home from the welcoming party by 12:30 AM, grabbed a quick nap before heading to Maggie’s shop at 3:00 AM.  (My friends at work thought I was taking a vacation, hahaha).  We made up batters, beat buttercream, baked cupcakes, packed all the equipment and shoved it in the car by 1:00 pm.  And we were off to the races!

The Subaru was loaded! But it all fit! And that is the lovely Cheryl, who rocked all weekend long with us! Attention Wrigley, you have a new Life Saver flavor!

The Culinary Vegetable Institute, I ran by those chairs all evening long....tempting!

The Reefer Truck- It was refreshing to run and get supplies from the truck, despite the distance, as it gave me break from the heat!

Port Wine Brownies by Sweets By Maggie- We prepped in the reefer truck and were able to keep the desserts from spoiling....mostly... I ate the other ones! 🙂

Wine Seminar Tent - This was great because we were very close to it, while I was busy being a Cake Ball Ninja, I listened closely to the Master Sommelier Serafin Alvarado!

The gardens around the property were gorgeous! I love that you can see people hustling in back before we get started!

Such a beautiful setting to work in!

The Sweets by Maggie table! Getting close to opening, JUST a few friends to feed! 🙂

The tent before the action started.

Tart Cherry Cupcake with Grand Marnier Buttercream; and Lemon Lavender Cupcake with Local Honey Buttercream! They were fabulous!

Port Wine Brownies. I gotta say, the reduction was beautiful -hollllaaaaa!

Cake Balls! There were teams developing amongst the guests, arguing which one was better. (It was a tough decision, but I finally sided with Team White Cake Ball)

Sea Turtle Cake Balls, caramel, pecans, chocolate, sea salt, a few other things and of course, love! Just make sure you don't call them Sea Turtle Balls- I got a few looks when I quickly spieled the desserts.

Salted Caramel Cake Balls! These are soooo good, unfortunately I didn't have any to bring home to my friends in Florida! Hoping Sweets by Maggie starts shipping soon!

That's me- Cake Ball Ninja

Pipe Away Maggie!

I did manage to slip away before the event got going, taking a tour of all the chefs and what they were serving.  The caliber of creativity and culinary responsibility (local, sustainable, fresh, ect…) was extreme!  So many dishes I could not wait to try!

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, by far the best thing I learned about on my trip north. (Excluding everything I learned at the Sweets by Maggie Shop)

Flavors from Jeni's treasure chest!

Jeni's Sweet Corn and Black Raspberries Ice Cream. This will be in my freezer by the weekend. It was A-maZing!

Rockmill Brewery- I can't say enough about this brewer, every brew I tasted was...sooooo good.

Our new and old friends! Brian from Gary's Seafood, Chef Brian and Chef Garrett. We knew there was a great chef next to us, but was delighted when Garrett shared his beverages with us too!

Whoop, Whoop!!!  The event was amazing, the Sweets by Maggie table had guests raving….A complete SUCCESS!!! And like after any huge event, it is time to join in the party!

Welcome to The After Party!

The After Party! Good times were had by all!!


Steelite International was a sponsor of the Chef competition. The award was a trip to Alinea!! #Awesome! Congrats @Jonathon Sawyer!!!

The After Party! The winning chefs were announced, the volunteers, chefs, participants gathered as a team, broke bread, drank wine and relaxed!

By the end of the evening, with the bustle winding down, I was able to look around and soak in the atmosphere, the friendly faces, all the talent and passion in one beautiful field.  Knowing that all the effort that went into the event was going to fight the rising epidemic of childhood obesity was “icing” on top!

To learn more about Sweets by Maggie, take a look at the http://www.sweetsbymaggie.com website or “Like” them on the Sweets By Maggie Facebook Page.

Chefs Table Site Visit 6.6.11

A few nights ago, we had an event in the kitchen.  Now, we do these Chef Table Experiences fairly often, but so far they haven’t gotten old.

We push the stainless prep tables out of the way, throw down a rug, move our “On Stage” cooking stations into the kitchen, hang a chandelier and put in a dining table and chairs….Voila, kitchen space turns dining space.  Our guests love it, we can seat something close to 30 people, and more if we go the reception route.

Thru the Chefs and Sommelier spieling courses and pairings, we establish a relationship with our guests.  Some experiences are interactive for the group, rubbing truffle oil on pulse points or discovering the Miracle Berry, we create our own Umami. Storytelling and personality keep the crowd engaged and by the end of the evening, the entire staff has connected with the guests, leaving us all with wanting more.

Of course the food is the star of the show, take a look at some of the dishes from the other night.  Then go straight to the kitchen and cook 🙂 Bon appetit!

Truffle Caviar, Mozzarella Basil Salad, Tomato Water

We put a bit of liquid into the bottom of the Nitro Bowl, and add a few dry ice chips to keep the salad properly chilled! Awesome presentation with the fog spilling out onto the table! @kingfarmmyakka

Coconut Smoked Key West Wreckfish, Pepperdew Jicama Slaw, Black Currant Bursts

@thechefsgarden Fiddlehead Ferns are just about done for the season

Braised Mangalista Pork Belly, Garlic Herb Gnocchi, Zellwood Corn Puree, Chive Oil

Braised Pork Belly

Strawberry Nitrogen Sphere, Citrus Foam, Hot Chili Pearls, Smoked Hawaiian Sea Salt. Have to admit, I didn't get to it fast enough to get a good picture- but you can get the idea.

@copperriverwild - Copper River Salmon All the Way!

Sir Ahmed and the Chicken. Could be the name of a storybook, haha!

Chicken feet for tomorrow's soup!

Sous Vide Whole Milk Fed Chicken Breast and Thighs-

Whole Milk Fed Chicken- Leg Confit Stuffed Squash, Sous Vide Breast and Thigh, Scarlet Runner Bean Hash, Hen of the Woods Mushroom, Absinthe Gastrique

Sweet Endings

Everything but the Lemon- This was so good- SOO good!