Standing in a food seminar during the Atlanta Food & Wine festival this past June, I watched a fellow wielding a knife with such alacrity that it seemed to be an extension of his fingers. His shirt was unbuttoned further than normal fashion codes permit. His smile was more than averagely wide.
His fingers fumbled, his smile remained, and he made a joke about which would be worse: chopping off his fingertip or ruining the beautiful fish he was currently filleting.
This moment was akin to watching a star athlete make a blunder and having the good nature to laugh it off.
New Orleans chef Ryan Prewitt had just won the James Beard award for both Best Chef: South and for Best New Restaurant (Pêche Seafood Grill), and he was doing a heck of a job of making all us “home-cooks” feel at ease while teaching us valuable skills.
As Prewitt cooked his dish, our collective attention was turned to Jeremiah Bacon, the celebrated Charleston chef who has twice been a semi-finalist for a Beard award and whose restaurant The Macintosh was also nominated for Best New Restaurant when it opened in 2012. Bacon spoke about the importance of sustainable seafood, peppering his dialogue with dry humor and enlisting audience help as he cooked his dish. The seminar proved what their accolades imply: these two chefs are amongst the best in the South. They are culinary superstars, yes, but they are also real people who want to engage and teach and have fun.
The best experiences in my life are those involving great food, genuine laughter, and useful information. I want to learn, I want to laugh. I want to eat well.
Because of my job, people often ask me what I am excited about, food-wise. They ask me what I would not miss, which chefs I most support. My answers are usually diplomatically non-committal. But I do occasionally flat out declare favorites.
The Local Palate specifically asked Chefs Ryan Prewitt and Jeremiah Bacon to cook at our Feast of the Fishes dinner in Charleston, South Carolina, this December 11th for our sake and for yours. So do come along: we’ll learn. We’ll laugh. And we’ll eat very, very well.