First off, Timmy was an hour and a half late. However, by the end of the evening, Timmy, in his black suit and regal purple tie, was a star. During the live auction, he pulled money out of the crowd like a professional pickpocket. I was in the kitchen with our competitors when judge and Viking Cooking School director-chef Sharon “Cordon Bleu” Van Meter unveiled the market basket. The place went silent. Notepads came out. Stefano “Stud Muffin” Secchi, of Ferrari’s, looked like he’d just showed up for a final exam and forgot to study. Mercury Grill’s Chris “Sweet Pink Cheeks” Ward’s face turned to stone — as if he was concocting a cure of cancer. Rivers of sweat poured down Nick & Sam’s chef Samir “I’m Not Just A Steak Guy” Dhurandhar’s forehead, while Tillman’s Roadhouse’s chef Dan “Boy Next Door” Landsberg’s sweet smile quivered as he scratched his head. The Mansion’s John “Don’t Call Me The New Kid” Tesar’s eyes fixated on the lamb loin, the evening’s mystery ingredient that each chef had to incorporate into both of his dishes. Gilbert “Cool as a Cuke” Garza, from Suze, was the only one in the room who spoke. In fact, he shouted, “I need soy, sesame seeds, and wasabi NOW.”
The clock hit 7:15 and the chefs rushed to the market basket and loaded their hotel pans with goodies. They had one hour to create two dishes. Meanwhile the crowd gathered around the six stations to watch the live action. And Timmy did his thing. I have to give it to young Timmy. He’s a born showman.
Our marketing mavens, along with the Junior Leaguers and the incredible staff of the Viking Cooking School (Hi again, Mynetta!) insured a smooth flowing event.
Two chefs — Stefano and Dan — had gangs of groupies who kept charging the kitchen like drunken cheerleaders. (What were those cherry red drinks everyone had? I got a hangover just looking at them.)
I made the rounds with the TV crew and tried to heckle the chefs. Didn’t work. I thrust a microphone in Chris Ward’s face and he didn’t say a word. Samir said two: “Going Mediterranean.” John Tesar, who had the disadvantage of cooking in the main drinking room, remained calm. By the time I got to him, he was totally organized and his “cold lamb three ways” was well underway.
“What the hell is that?” I asked Dan Landsberg. He said, “Fig ice cream.” He shot me a look that said, “Duh, you silly broad. Don’t YOU know fig ice cream when you see it?”
Judges Bob Sambol, Gene Street, and Monica Greene wandered about, checking out the action. “There are some guys here with some great technique,” said Monica. To which Street said, “There are some guests here that have some great technique.”