kitchen chaos

The stories have been told for years.  They are usually told as we lean back in our chairs, full from dinner and looking into the kitchen to see the less glamourous side of entertaining.  It would appear that, regardless of extent and complexity of the meal we have just enjoyed, every pot, every knife, every platter is piled up waiting to be cleaned.  In addition, a trail of flour, vegetable peelings, oils, and spice provide the visual evidence that Claude has been cooking.

We ask Claude’s mother:  “When did this start?  How come he never learned to clean up after himself?”

She explains that even as a young teenager, his creativity in the kitchen resulted in chaos:  “It would be 10:30 p.m… Claude would start baking.  I would get up in the morning to sweet treats and a sink full of dirty dishes.”  Despite the exasperation of the mess and despite the work to clean it up, the creativity and passion remains the star ingredients.  She goes on to say:  “That’s how Fearless began.  I am so very proud of my son the chef.  His pizza and homemade pasta are to die for.”

There is of course the time Claude prepared a grilled-cheese sandwich for lunch.  Two frying pans, a cutting board, three knives, bread crumbs and mustard drips on the counter.  The mess was epic, but mark my words – it was the best darned grilled cheese sandwich to ever come out of that kitchen.  And there in lies the conundrum:  would a push for a tidier, less tornado-esque Claude jeopardize the spirit and soul of the food?  For now, we are pushing for an evolution, not a revolution and are thankful for dish soap and scouring pads.

wine and laughter

IMG_1275Tonight, we are very happy to host our friends David, Allan, and Rachel.

On the menu (despite it being 28° and 100% humidity) is spare ribs, baby potatoes, and coleslaw.  Tonight, we get to do one of our favourite things… sit around a table, break bread and spend time with friends.

There will be wine and there will be laughter.  Life is good.

unknown outcomes

“I am totally fearless! Well, of course, I’m not totally fearless. I worry constantly and obsess over things, but I just don’t let fear stand in the way of doing something that I really want to do.” – Tom Ford

 

Often expressed in food and entertaining, Claude’s approach to life is consistent – take a challenge, dream or goal head on and just make it happen.  In preparing for the MasterChef Canada adventure, Claude has invested much time in preparing.  He has reviewed past episodes, done a lot of extra cooking and tried a number of new cooking techniques.

Yesterday, his colleagues were treated to chocolate cupcakes with dulce de leche buttercream frosting.  It is not so much that making cupcakes is fearless, it is that standing in front of friends, family and strangers in a very public way allowing the for possibility of judgement is fearless.

MasterChef is an extreme version of this same process.  Claude is walking head on into a competitive experience designed to push a person to the edge of abilities.  The outcomes are real.  The outcomes are public.  The extraordinary part of all this is that Claude walk’s into this adventure in spite of any fear and unknown outcomes.

guest post – it begins

There is something infinitesimally wonderful about a friendship that is formed on common likes and dislikes.

glfac2When I first meet Claude, we were ever so skeptical of each other.  This big strong fabulous man was coming into my inner circle with a claim on my best friend’s heart.  Love was in the air and I wasn’t sure I liked that one bit.  As it turns out Claude felt a similar skepticism regarding moi.  Who was this best friend and why did she seem to be such a solid team with his beloved?

Well it wasn’t long before our shared curious nature had us laughing together as if we were friends of old.  I knew in those early moments, I’d been gifted with a best friend within a best friend.  As precious as pink diamonds, Claude and I formed a friendship that simply stated, is the best thing since sliced bread.

Even though our common interests match up on a multitude of fronts, none run as deep as our love for hospitality and entertaining.  Together we rival the likes of even our mentor Martha Stewart.  That’s right, we own the entire collection of Living from its inaugural issue, in duplicate.  We have tested more cookie recipes then Betty Crocker and we’ve whetted every stone and queued every Barbie over our near double decade friendship.

The reason “we” work is plain.  Claude is better than me.  And to put a finer point on it, we, happily, both accept this.  It’s not my desire to be the best, its Claude’s. It’s not my desire to go so far outside of our skills et that we spend oodles just on practice rounds, its Claude’s. Its not my desire that makes us take on more then we can possible chew, its Claude’s. He is the visionary leader of our improbable duo and he is the master of all our plans.  I aim only to keep up.  Well that’s a lie; I aim to keep pushing him up.

Claude, my kitchen companion extraordinaire, I would go anywhere, do anything, and chop a mountain of onions to save your eyes from weeping, just to see you achieve one more culinary feat just to hear those stodgy ole scotch drinkers we love so much say ‘that was incredible!’.  (Let’s not ever tell them how much we spent on that Christmas dinner that cost us several hundreds of bucks in ingredients for four people, ok?)

If you’re following à la Claude for the first time, put your seat belt on, your about to have the time of your life and yes, pyrotechnics are included.

– Sherri G.

guest post – chez claude

One of my favourite things in the world is to be invited to dinner chez Claude.  The opportunity to be wined and dined and fêted by Claude and his extraordinary staff is too good an offer to pass up.  Given that Claude is fearless in the kitchen, at times it can also be good for diners to also be fearless.  I like to think I’m a fairly adventurous eater within reason.  I’ll eat nearly anything I’m given, but I have given Claude the caveat that my food must not still be alive and able to try to run off the plate.

Thanks to Claude, I’ve tried a variety of foods that otherwise never would’ve found their way to my plate.

  • baby octopus:  Did you know that baby octopus is available in Winnipeg? And that sometimes a bag of them is on sale? Much to my surprise baby octopus stew is a good thing, the eyes thoughtfully removed (even C was uncomfortable with the idea of all those octopus eyes staring) and such a flavourful broth.
  • fennel: I thought I was familiar with fennel, but after Claude’s ministrations it was totally unfamiliar to me. Fennel purée is wonderfully smooth and rich. I’ve also had it in a variety of other forms, including braised, pickled, salads and slaws, all good.
  • sardines: Not the sardines that those of us from the Prairies are used to. These were about 12 inches long, and barbecued whole. Consensus that day was that they tasted okay, but it was just too labour-intensive to deal with all those tiny bones.
  • crispy fish skin: – I thought I had experienced crispy fish skin, but when I had it chez Claude, it was unlike any I’d had before. I finally truly understood why the judges on Chopped get so very excited when crispy skin is done right. It takes on a whole new flavour, becomes something totally different, and is amazing!
  • champagne jello: having grown up with Jell-o and Bill Cosby, I thought I was experienced with jello. Once again, C proved me wrong. It turns out that it can be transformed to an elegant dessert, especially good on a hot summer day.  The addition of champagne and tiny grapes, and topped by vanilla bean whipped cream makes it one of my all-time favourites.

Claude and Linda P.

It’s to be noted that guests will be invited more often if they are open to trying new things. Claude fearlessly finds ingredients he’s never tasted or cooked with before, and for these experiments sometimes a little bravery is needed. But for those willing to try, they’ll find that it’s always delicious, and they will get invited back more often. I think C does better when he has complete freedom and doesn’t have to be distracted by restrictions.

Every time I dine chèz Claude, I come away feeling full, happy, content and ready for the next time.  It is also to be noted that Claude’s sous-chef provides the most excellent service and that the two of them will make sure at the end of the night that you’ve have a lovely evening, and that you’ll come away feeling great about life and the world.

– Linda P.

(Oh!  I didn’t mention the Cocktail of the Day.  That’s for another day.)

kumquats and green papaya

What would be a fun way to challenge Claude?  I know… drop a few mystery ingredients on him just before he starts to cook Sunday night scrabble dinner.  Claude is planning ahi tuna and roasted red peppers.  Rachel brings kumquats and green papaya.  What to do?

Kumquats

First off, he juices the kumquats as a base for what will become a sweet tangy dressing over a green papaya slaw.  Add apples,  kohlrabi, red chills, fish sauce and sesame oil.  Fresh and lovely to accompany sesame seed encrusted seared tuna.  All as if it were part of a master plan.

What is interesting to me is the apprehension before the ingredients appear.  “How am I supposed to plan?” he says.  “Can you find out what Rachel is bringing?”.  The unknown feeds the anxiety, but in true style, the fearlessness take over and we dine like royalty.

 

again and again

What are Claude’s specialities?  That is actually a tough question to answer because the cornerstone of being fearless is pushing the envelope and trying out new things.

So, I’m going to ask a different question:  What are the things that we always want Claude to make again and again?  The short list includes:

1.  Pretzels

PretzelsNo doubt that the best time to eat pretzels is just a few minutes after Claude pulls them out of the oven.  Although for one person, making pretzels can be time consuming, Claude had discovered that having guests help roll and tie them makes for a great event.  Laughing as friends new to pretzels figure out their own technique.  Inevitably, the more creative souls will tie non-traditional knots and try to convince the rest of the guests of the ‘new’ way.

Once cooked, before cool, Claude cuts a slit into the fat part of the dough and inserts a pat of butter.  The dare is to only have one…. or only have two….  or even only have three.  Few succeed.

2. Champagne Jell-o

Guaranteed.  Champagne Jell-o is as extraordinary as it sounds.  Crisp, tart and refreshing, the dish comes with floating green grapes which crunch and burst with flavour as you bite into them.  Claude serves this desert with fresh vanilla-bean whipped cream.

Variations include using a sparkling rosé or red, using champagne grapes or red grapes.  The consensus is still that the original is best.

Remember to ask Claude his trick to remove the jell-o from the ramekin ensure the most sophisticated and tempting presentation.

3.  Gnocchi in brown-butter sauce

Here is the problem with gnocchi in brown-butter sauce:  There is but one person important enough to get access to it.

We’ve been lucky enough to smell the sweet creamy flavours wafting through the kitchen.  We’ve watched rolling and cutting of little dumplings.  But, as is always cleverly planned, dinner is served after all but Claude and Linda have left for other plans.  We’re sure they must drown in the guilt of not sharing this treat with friends.  But, then we’re sure it passes.

What is the recurring them here?  Friends.  Entertaining.  Laughing.  Eating.

masterchef adventure

The website is being set up for friends, family, and supporters to watch and participate in Claude’s adventure.   Please share your stories, comments and tweets about Claude to show your encouragement and support.

Claude is auditioning for MasterChef Canada, a competitive cooking game show.  Auditions are underway for Season 2 and Claude is gearing up for the adventure.  http://www.ctv.ca/MasterChefCanada.aspx

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When asked:  “Why do you have what it takes to be the next MasterChef”, Claude says: “I have what it takes to be the next MasterChef Canada because of my outlook on life in the kitchen. I think MasterChef is an opportunity for me to think quickly on my feet and show Canada that cooking good and interesting food is accessible with some imagination, creativity and hard work. I am motivated in the kitchen to provide my guests with a good experience which in turn drives me to explore new techniques and ingredients. I must confess there are some culinary misses – but happily, they are fewer than the masterpieces.”

When asked:  “What has been your greatest achievement in the kitchen so far?”, Claude says: “My greatest culinary achievement was catering the New Year’s Eve wedding rehearsal dinner for my sister-in-law, Julie, and her husband, Paul.  This might not seem like much of an accomplishment, but it was in downtown Toronto and I live in Winnipeg.  The event went off perfectly with an array of finger foods such as mini-toutières, lamb-stuffed grapeleaves, seven-layer salmon stacks, pork, chicken sausage rolls, gougères, iced J and P sugar cookies, and blue-cheese truffles.”

When asked:  “In one word, how would you describe yourself in the kitchen?”:  Claude says: “Fearless”.