Cooking With Top Chefs

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - August 29, 2007
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I have this food fantasy that comes most to mind when my deadlines are piling up, the children are fretful and a trip to the grocery store to pick up food seems more like a expedition to Mount Everest than a simple excursion for provisions.

When my stress ducks are lined up in a row, I escape by imagining myself at a cooking class. Not that I’d ever have the time to go to one, but I enjoy imagining time spent in an air-conditioned room in New York or Dublin learning how to de-bone a chicken and make a perfect soufflé; or the late afternoon breeze blowing through a kitchen window of a villa in Tuscany, where I’m on one of those week-long gourmand adventures.

Chef Roy Yamaguchi is a serious judge and a great teacher
Chef Roy Yamaguchi is a serious judge and a great teacher

I usually snap out of it somewhere around the time I catch Finlay trying to open Safeway chocolate chip cookies or Max battling him for ownership of those incredibly annoying little plastic car grocery carts. (Whoever invented them needs to be shut in a room with 12 4-year-olds for a very long time - but that’s a whole other column).

It’s unlikely that I’ll have time to take a series of cooking classes until 2022 when my sons will hopefully be headed to college - but by then, of course, I’ll be too old to want to cook anything.

Nonetheless, I was cheered when Hayley Matson-Mayes invited me to a series of master classes being held at Kapiolani Community College next month. The classes are sponsored by Hale Aina Ohana, the culinary non-profit foundation dedicated to furthering education among local students. The sessions, hosted by food writer Joan Namkoong, will give guests the opportunity to watch chefs at work, ask questions and taste the results. Philippe Padovani is the first guest chef on Sept. 1, and he’ll be talking about fish, locally grown hearts of palm, and chocolate - a personal passion.

Padovani is a great teacher and one of those chefs who takes every opportunity to share his knowledge with anyone willing to listen. I once saw him host an impromptu class in the middle of the Aloha Stadium Parking lot - he was there as guest chef of our tail-gate party - and he turned the event into a fun 30-minute demo, much to the delight of the crowd. Not the usual pre-football game festivities, I admit, but great fun.

The Sept. 15 class should also be a sellout as Roy Yamaguchi takes the reins. Yamaguchi, host of his own cooking series on PBS, author of several beautiful cookbooks and, of course, owner of more than 30 restaurants, is absolutely fabulous to watch. He has the most dazzling smile I’ve ever seen - but mostly looks incredibly serious and quite grumpy when he works. Get him laughing during a cooking demo and it should be an educational - and fun - couple of hours, not to mention a rare opportunity to connect one-on-one with one of our culinary masters.

The classes, which cost just $25, are open to culinary professionals - but I think that the Ohana is quite kind about bending the rules for dedicated amateurs. At least I hope they are - I can’t wait to leave my stressful life for two hours and drift off to someplace heavenly, via food.

More information at 941-9088.

Happy eating!

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