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3 Courses, 1 Hour

Last night I was hungry- it happens to me most nights. I couldn’t decide what to make. After a lot of going back and forth, I decided to use up some fresh basil from my garden to make a fresh spaghetti in a simple olive oil sauce. I went to the store to get a few ingredients. My trip to the grocery store was uninspired. I returned home un-excited to cook. I thought that maybe cooking in real-time “against” the contestants on MasterChef Season 3 would be fun… Could I pull off a fresh extruded pasta in an hour? The question was exciting, but the more I thought about it, I just didn’t want to cook.

I had tweeted about live tweeting an hour of cooking and there seemed to be some interest so I thought it would be fun to do eventually. But not that night… I ate leftovers last night.

Tonight I was ready to cook. A long day at work and I wanted to unwind- cooking relaxes me. I decided to up the ante and shoot for three courses in one hour. They would be simple(ish) courses, but all three in an hour from scratch would be aggressive to say the least. Spoiler: Dinner was excellent. But it wasn’t smooth sailing, here’s what happened along the way (and a few tips that can help speed up your cooking).

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Alinea!

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30 days before my trip to Chicago I got extremely excited. I had scored a reservation for two at San Pellegrino’s best restaurant in North America (#7 in the world) Alinea. A meal at Alinea is one of the few things that were truly on my bucket list. I had followed just about everything that Chef Grant Achatz had done in the past few years. From his lectures at Harvard to you tube videos to reading his (auto)biography Life on the Line. I was more than excited to experience this ground breaking restaurant for myself.

What do you say about eating at Alinea that hasn’t already been said?

Suffice to say, I had high expectations for the food, service, and experience. In fact, I had concerns that. O matter how good everything was, that it might not live up to the hype I had built up in my own head.

SPOILER: I was blown away.

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Staging in Graham Elliot’s Michelin Starred Kitchen

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days working with the kitchen team at Graham Elliot in Chicago. Many of you may know Chef Graham Elliot as one of the judges on MasterChef. Chef was kind enough to invite me into his restaurant in Chicago to work and learn from his crew. It was a great experience, and a true pleasure.

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Dinner at WD~50

Dinner at WD~50

Last Saturday, I hopped on a plane to NYC… three hours later I was in a cab headed towards Brooklyn to drop my luggage off at a friend (and fellow MasterChef Contestant)’s house. We quickly got aquainted… no caught up, that’s one of the unique things about my MasterChef family; despite the fact that we had virtually no interaction on set (she was eliminated in the apron round) she still opened her home to me and was a more than gracious host.

An hour after dropping my stuff of, I was on a subway train to go meet Max Kramer, Jennifer Behm, and a few other MasterChef contestants for dinner. Wanna know what we ate? Here goes… (I apologize for the dark photos, it was quite dark in the dining room)

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Post #MasterChef Update…

I thought that I’d fill you guys in (a bit) on life after reality TV. Contrary to popular belief, once you’ve appeared on national prime time television, the offers do not come rolling in (unless A- you win, B- you’re Ben Starr and America falls in LOVE with you #IveBenStarrStruck).

 

For the rest of the cast, we have all been working tirelessly to maximize our fifteen minutes and make life changes that point us in a direction somewhere in the vast culinary world. I’ve had a couple projects that you’ll see the fruits of soon… videos for a few companies that make some GREAT products.

 

Apart from receiving a few lovely gifts (Thank you PolyScience, Fagor, and Jacob & Co) I’ve been a bit confused on the culinary path I want to take… I’ve opened a private chef/catering company. Building a small business from the ground up is an exciting challenge. I’m often asked, “when are you going to open a restaurant”… The truth is, I do not know ANYTHING about running a restaurant and/or professional kitchen. But that dosen’t mean I can’t learn… As part of my culinary wandering, I’m pursuing this knowledge in a few ways- books, talking with chefs, and most excitingly, Staging (kitchen apprenticeship, pronounced “St-Ah-je”)

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#MasterChef Memoirs Pt. 12: Cast Back On Set

“Cast back on set” 3.22.11: We meet for lunch at 11:30. We pile into a couple of familiar white vans and head to a California Pizza Kitchen. We start walking to the door, when the PA’s call us back to the van- we’ve gone to the wrong restaurant. We get back in the vans and drive another 10 minutes to a CPK that was closer to the hotel… WTF?! We sit and order… no Hollywood lunch is complete without libations so we all order drinks. After a few minutes, one of the PA’s comes and says we’re limited to one drink each (even though we’re paying for them ourselves). This dosen’t sit well with the group. While we all LOVE all of the PA’s, people are no longer on their best behavior- the fear of being kicked off the show is no longer… we all have between two and five drinks with lunch;) This is going to make for better TV right?