Sure, we did some work, but we also dined, wined, saw the amazing Cirque du Soliel show, Mystere.
As is traditional at our gatherings, we also learned. Each year we meet focuses on some part of our development as bloggers, personalities, and cooks. Last year, for instance, the focus was on video, with a training and (gentle) critique session with former anchor Elizabeth ONeil. Her new cookbook, the Slim Down South, is doing very well.
This year we were lucky to have a joint cooking lesson by Chef Ramos at Le Cordon Bleu paired with a food photography lesson by photographer Matt Aremendariz, who wrote Food Photography for Bloggers. Chef Ramos, who I totally wanted to hide in my luggage and take home with me, took us through two dishes - a seafood boullion - cooked in a really cool origami parchment box - and a skirt steak with thai chili butter, served with and sauteed vegetables and shaped sushi rice.
This is what my two final dishes looked like. As usual, it was challenging to take photos while cooking. I'll be doing a separate post on how to make the origami parchment boxes.
Matt naturally talked about composition and lighting. He gave us great tips for whether we were shooting with a phone camera, or something better. I tend to obsess about lighting and want to work on my composition this year. The new camera has helped my photography tremendously. Check out the dessert!
Then they brought out dessert. Oh yeah. It was gorgeous and just begging to be photographed.
The students took turns telling us about the process. They were nervous, which was sweet, but also reminds me of how so many in the cooking profession don't seek the limelight. They like it back in the kitchen, protected by those swinging stainless steel doors. The Food Network, blogging, and social media have made cooking this very public profession. Hopefully, there will always be a place for the shy wallflowers who quietly do their magic. I'm much more trustful of their talents, far less of those that spout at the top of their lungs.
Our teachers were of the former ilk. Kind, seemingly humble geniuses. Chef Ramos was one of those chefs with this calm humility, while underneath I imagine he was shaking his head, laughing at all of us running around his kitchen, making a mess, missing steps because we were too focused taking pictures (me), or unable to do an entire dish without written instructions.
It was truly a special experience and just one of the reasons I love working with Char-broil. The other reason all the fun I have with my fellow all stars. But what happens in Vegas...well you know.