My TCC Cleaver & Cork Experience

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I had a blast at TCC Foundation’s Cleaver & Cork events, and I’m already looking forward to next year!

First and foremost, a huge thank you to TCC and The Moore Agency for hosting myself and a friend at the festivities. We had an amazing time, and I appreciate them inviting me along for a lot of laughs, delicious food, tasty adult beverages, and the incredible opportunity to meet Iron Chef and Chopped superstar, Geoffrey Zakarian! I remember looking at all of the Cleaver & Cork pictures online last year thinking, I sure hope I’m able to attend someday. Here I am, a year later, an invited guest. I was so honored to attend!

All proceeds from this year’s events benefit the Tallahassee Community College Foundation’s athletics program.

Thursday Afternoon – Interview with Chef Zakarian

I spoke to Chef Leon a few months back about his interest in interviewing local chefs to air on our new FoodiesFlix social channels (follow along at Facebook and Instagram). I’m so on board with this idea, and hope to have some fun collaborative shows coming soon for you all.

The day after we spoke, The Moore Agency gave me a call and asked if I would be interested in interviewing the TCC Cleaver & Cork event’s featured chef for 2021, Geoffrey Zakarian. A DAY AFTER I spoke to Chef Leon about interviewing chefs. The timing was perfect, so meant to be! I immediately responded with, I know this would mean a lot to Chef Leon, and I hope we can offer him the opportunity to interview on behalf of Foodies. I’m so very happy they said yes because I immediately called Chef Leon to say, how about Chef Zakarian for your first FoodiesFlix interview???? What a thrill!

I showed up to TCC Thursday afternoon to say hello to Chef Leon, to meet Chef Zakarian, and to eavesdrop on their conversation. Leon is currently editing the interview, and we can’t wait to share it all with you very soon.

Thursday Evening – Cooking Demonstration featuring Chef Zakarian

Now, we all know that Chef Zakarian is outspoken, bold, fun (and side note, super stylish), but given all that, he was super nice in his approach when he let us know, we’re doing it all wrong! The cooking demonstration was a blast! I now know how to make a simple carbonara, and I can’t wait to give it a try at home. Chef Zakarian is best known for developing outstanding dishes using only a few, simple, yet high-end ingredients.

Chef Zakarian took the stage with his Sous Chef Eric Haugen leading the meal, giving us one amazing tip after another as they wow’ed the crowd. Here’s what I learned – some useful kitchen tips, others are fun facts about Chef Zakarian as he answered questions from the audience. Here are my quick notes:

  • Don’t buy the massive jugs of olive oil and store it in the pantry. Never buy more than a quart, it’ll go rancid. 
  • When asked what are his 3 favorite ingredients, a nod to his time on Chopped, Chef Zakarian’s responded with, “olives, vodka, and vermouth”. 
  • You know you’re at a good bar if they use pourers for every ingredient. A drink should be poured the exact same way every time. It’s a well trained bartender that uses pourers. 
  • À la minute cooking style – never drain pasta, always use the water for the sauce! Boil noodles vigorously in highly salted water. Cook 85%. Finish it in the sauce rather than ever cooking the noodles and sauce separately, and then serving the sauce over the pasta. 
  • When asked, “what’s the number one thing any chef should know how to cook?”, Chef’s response, “Omlettes are hardest thing ever”. He was sure no one in the audience can cook a restaurant worthy omelette. Green salad is next. And a roast chicken. He’s made 30k roast chickens (just a fun, exaggerated number he threw out). He exclaimed that every single roasted chicken he’s ever made was different than the previous. 
  • Never twist pasta with a fork in a spoon. In Italy, they’ll know you’re American. Twist pasta onto your fork using the side of your bowl. 
  • You can’t just throw a bunch of different “types” of salad greens into a bowl and expect them all to work well with the salad dressing. Salad dressing reacts differently when used with different greens, depending on the greens’ water levels. Use mixed greens with the same “water level”, and then use a proper dressing per those greens.
  • Pat dry scallops, heat a “high heat oil” to 450 degrees, leave the scallops alone so they can caramelize and they will release on their own.
  • Always use a high fat, high quality butter. The cheap butter you’re probably buying at the grocery store is mostly water, so you’ll use more, which ends up costing as much as the quality butter that you use in smaller amounts. 
  • Chef Zakarian uses only two types of salt. He buys Kosher salt by the case and uses it for cooking. He uses a higher cost sea salt for finishing the dish, just a touch of sea salt at the end for a steak or salad. 
  • Steaks should be room temp, out of the fridge 2 hours before cooking. This is the only way to get a mid-rare steak from top to bottom. 
  • Your Thanksgiving turkey – the thickest part of breast should be 155 degrees. Always rest the turkey after cooking for an hour and a half. You think this will be room temperature, but you’re wrong. After an hour and a half, the juices will have soaked back in and the skin actually gets crispier.

There was so much more, but for the most part, I just listened and enjoyed. There was also a sampler reception after the demonstration where myself, Chef Leon, and our admin Becca enjoyed scallops, salmon, and a blood orange beverage, all featured in the cooking demonstration.

Saturday Afternoon – Uncorked at TCC Food and Wine Festival

I headed back to the TCC Campus Saturday afternoon for Cleaver & Cork’s first annual Food and Wine Festival. It was raining the entire way there, and the second I got out of my car, the clouds literally parted so fast, leaving us with blue skies and an enjoyably warm afternoon.

Guests were greeted with a fun goodie bag full of tasting tickets to exchange for samples at the tents, a trivet featuring the Cleaver & Cork logo, a sampling glass, a program, and of course, I added to my bag, a signed copy of Chef Zakarian’s latest book written with his children, The Family That Cooks Together! I was so happy to support the Foundation’s cause with this book. I can’t wait to dive in and start cooking with my kids.

The outdoor event featured so many of our favorite local restaurants serving up samples of their best food, wine, and craft beer. There was a live band, tables for gathering with your friends, and indoors, there were master classes featuring Chef Zakarian, Chef Brian Knepper of Savour, Chef Leon, and Shannon of Tally Cheese Boards.

This was Cleaver & Cork’s first Food and Wine festival, social distanced outdoors, a huge success… I can only imagine how next level this event is going to be next year!

Thank you again so much to the TCC Foundation and The Moore Agency for inviting myself and a friend to this year’s Cleaver & Cork events. I had a blast!

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