In which I was invited to participate in a cooking contest and, as of the typing of this post, no one has declared my meal a public nuisance. So, woot woot!
So. Y’all remember that I was a competitor in a cooking competition? Here’s how the event went down.
After spending the day trying to pretend that I was not feeling nervous and scared and questioning myself with “What the Bleep did I get myself into?” all day, The Bee and I arrived at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College to mingle with fellow competitors before the actual cooking was to begin. Real talk: I was feeling out of my league. In spite of some prep (and by prep I mean borrowing scores of books from the library if they merely mentioned the words “key lime”) and knowing that this was a friendly competition, some of my competition scared me. They are honest to goodness food bloggers. You know the ones with Pinterest worthy recipes and are able to whip up meals with one quick glimpse into the cupboard and three ingredients? Plus, the Restaurant school is OMG-Holy Batman-beautiful with chefs wearing chef hats and coats and after a brief moment of wanting to run screaming from the building, I got out of my head and enjoyed the moment.
There were light refreshments available to nosh on and we were invited to tour the space. The school is gorgeous. From the outside it can be easily dismissed as one is zooming pass it down Walnut Street but inside…holy moly! The school houses so much and it’s really a little gem in West Philly! There are four different restaurants which are available to the public to dine and reserve should you want an elegant night out. There’s a pastry shop (which is open six days a week and incentive to get my self out and running) and the vibe is so relaxing and chill one could almost pretend they were dining at cafe in a foreign city instead of Philly. To see the restaurants, visit Walnut Hill College and take the virtual tour.
We were taken on a tour by the admissions director, Lisa Baranbei, who chatted with The Bee about high school and then shared with us the Summer Institute for rising seniors. It sounds like a pretty sweet deal in which The Bee would have a three day hospitality program with hands on experience. You can check out the program here and see if this is something your teen would be interested in. (My teen is interested and so long as things go as planned, I can just taste dinner being prepared, not be me, in the nearish furture!)
After the tour the reason for our being at the school began…the cook-off! We met Chef Bobby Stoky, one of the judges and a cookbook author and owner of 8 (EIGHT!!) restaurants who gave us an overview of the night. Bobby talked about the way the night would go: we would bake the pie with our secret ingredients and then prepare a fish dish while the pies were cooling. Bobby prepared a dish with red snapper and gave us tips for preparing out own meal and we were able to dig in. Even The Bee dug in for a taste (and declared that she wanted more!) After a few more words of advice it was time to take our places.
The 24 contestants were split into three groups of eight and shown into our assigned kitchen and station. The stations were set up so that we had everything that we would need except the secret ingredient that we could bring from home. (My secret ingredient was granola and I will share this how I used this granola in a later post.) More real talk…I loved that my area was set up, everything was measured and portioned and there were students from the school on hand to assist with whatever we needed. It helped ease the growing thought that I was COOKING. There was no need for the worry; it was so much fun and I may not be B. Smith but I *can* cook.
While the pies were cooling, we mingled with our competitors and tried some of the food prepared by the students from the school. The chefs even made a tray of dairy free fish tacos for The Bee and made sure she had appropriate drinks! We met some local celebs, among them I Heart Radios Mina and Nicole (who were both so sweet to The Bee that I just wanted to hug them) and then we had to prepare our fish dish.
I’m going to spare you my attempts; part because The Bee didn’t snap a picture (ok she did but I do not want to end up on some website which will make fun of my food) and part because I want to recreate the dish again. I attempted to recreate the meal that Chef Booby shared with us, a pan-fried red snapper filet with spicy salsa atop a fried banana. This sounds busy but whoo mama, while not pretty, it was delicious!
Once the fish dish was cooked and awaiting judging by the chefs, we sliced our pie for the judges and headed downstairs to the main part of the school for the cocktail competition, more noshes and dessert.
By this time I was exhausted but completely satisfied with my efforts. I chatted with a few friends, took in more of the gorgeousness that is the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College and even met Pat Croce (former Sixers owner and all around positive dude).
This was such a wonderful experience getting a taste of the Florida Keys, learning about a new spot to check out in Philly and meeting up with blogging friends!
Below is a video from the event. Take a peek and then check out Florida Keys and Walnut Hill College on social. Even though I didn’t win the big prize, that honor went to Colleen Kennedy who writes the blog Souffle Bombay, I did manage to get out of my head, spend some time with The Bee and, yo…I was in a cooking contest!