I had dinner with a few clients last week that were not only interested in planning their potential event; they also loved food- what a great conversation we had! One of the questions they asked was how all the food based reality shows affect us, as Chefs. I told him that most of us love it; the rise in foodies is great, as we now have even more opportunity to talk about our trade, our passion! Most Chefs love what they do; they have to love it to be ok with the lifestyle it provides and we are more than happy to talk food with anyone and everyone.
Another question that was asked was what dish am I known for, as a chef. I’m not sure if I was just nervous, or my mind went blank but I really struggled with this question. I gave a few answers after stumbling for a couple moments, but the question stayed with me causing me to think about the years of my career that led me to where I am, and what dishes or events stood out to me as milestones.
Way back in 2006, I was working at the Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which not only catered in the convention center, but Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, Richard Petty, and the Polynesian as well. And in some cases we also would travel to one off locations- Orlando Science Center, private homes, even to the trails of Disney’s Wilderness Preserves. One event in particular that stands out to me is a backyard holiday party that we catered. It was at a lovely private home in downtown Orlando, with a beautiful yard and the most gracious hosts. We drove our huge truck thru the old narrow neighborhood streets, and unloaded a kitchen, bars and tables up thru the driveway into the backyard which was transformed into a gorgeous dining venue under the old oak trees.
A few hours later as the guests arrived, we were filling the backyard with scents of seared lamb and grilled beef. I was busy roasting mini pumpkins and filling them with the soup I had made, which the guest adored. Seconds and thirds were donned out with such pleasure. There is no better reward for a chef then to have someone comeback for more, especially when you are just in the beginning of your career. After the party came to a close, we packed the trucks up and drove back to the resort to unload. Sitting next to the chef on the way home, he put his hand on my shoulder and told me I had done an incredible job, that’s all I needed to hear to fuel the culinary passion.
The next week came and Chef asked me to write down my recipe for the soup; there was a food writer at the event and they wanted to share the recipe with their readers. After I was sent a copy of guidelines for published recipe writing, something I still use today, I quickly sent off the recipe. When I saw the recipe here I was pleased as punch.
I would say this is one of my first dishes that I have been known for, and the best part is that today, almost 6 years later it still is a timeless dish!
- 8 mini pumpkins
- 1 teaspoon minced shallots
- ½ teaspoon olive oil
- 2-3lb pumpkin peeled, seeded, and diced ¾ “pieces
- ½ cup brandy
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 ¼ cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon white wine
- 1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
- Cut small round in pumpkin and remove the top. Clean out the seeds and pulp. Brush with a bit of olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the 400 oven for about 20-25 minutes before serving.
- Sweat the shallots in oil until translucent. Add the fresh pumpkin and sweat until fork tender. Add brandy and allow to cook, reducing volume by half. Add chicken broth and pumpkin puree; simmer for 30 minutes.
- Puree the garlic and combine with the wine and set aside. Puree soup with hand held blender in batches. Adjust to desired consistency with more chicken broth or water.
- A ½ hour before serving add a couple of tablespoons of the ginger and wine combo, cinnamon and fresh grated nutmeg to reach desired flavor.
- Serve with a spoonful of mascarpone cheese on top.
** Note: Adding the ginger to early or using the powder form can result in a spicier soup. With the dry ginger the longer a soup cooks with it the more of a peppery flavor it gets.
Serving the soup in a mini roasted pumpkin is not only a creative vessel; but the flesh of the pumpkin enriches the soup adding an earthy complexity.
To answer the question of what dish am I known for, this may be one of them, but to me it is more of an accomplishment that encouraged me to continue the path I was on. We all have points in our career that are highs and lows, I would like to think both the highs and lows are equally important as lessons.
Welcome to pumpkin season!