Thursday, December 9, 2010

Playing Chef for a Day at the McGladrey Culinary Challenge Boston

By: Finance Foodie

Since I started this blog, a question that I often get is: “If you love food so much, why not cook more?” My answer has always been that a) I work about 70 hours a week in my day job – so last thing I want to do is come home and make a mess/clean up a mess in my kitchen b) Why cook something mediocre, when I can enjoy a meal done well by a professional? This is not to say I hate cooking, in fact it’s quite the opposite – I totally love firing up the oven and sautéing the greens…I only wish I didn’t have to clean up afterwards! 

Luckily a few nights ago, my wish came true when I was asked to be the “sous chef” for Chef Dante de Magistris at the McGladrey Culinary Challenge in Charlestown. This evening of delicious dishes paired seven local renowned chefs with seven charitable organizations to raise funds in support of community-based projects in the Boston area.
"Media Celebrity" at work
And the best part? I was not just any “sous chef” – I was the designated "Media Celebrity Sous Chef”, along with other notable Boston personalities, such as TV Diner’s Billy Costa and former WCVB anchorwoman Natalie Jacobson, selected to be paired with each of the seven chefs! How did I get the gig? Well I'd like to think it's cause of my good looks and charm, but I was most likely the "on reserve" candidate after a bigger star dropped out.  Now if only getting off the grad school admission waitlist were as sweet and lucky...
Chef Dante and team - the real cooks!
Team Dante, led by Chef Dante de Magistris, chef and co-owner of Restaurant Dante in Cambridge and il Casale in Belmont, was raising money for the Boys and Girls Club of Boston. Our team served up a three cheese ravioli with wild mushrooms and a candied pancetta (Italian bacon). Personally, I thought it was one of the Top 3 dishes of the night (and I’m not saying that just because I was the team's sous chef). I especially loved the sweet and crunchy pancetta – it really gave the rich ravioli a nice sugary kick!
Photo courtesy of: Will aka The Boston Foodie. As I was too busy "sous chef-ing", I forgot to take a pic of the dish!
During the hustle of serving the hungry guest, I chatted with Chef Dante and learned a few tidbits about this chef turned restaurateur.

**Dante is a self-taught chef and has no formal culinary school training. But he does come from an Italian family that loves to cook so he had plenty of practice growing up.
**Chef Dante is Massachusetts born and raised – he grew up in Belmont and now lives in the North End.
**This chef’s got a lot of fans – not a second went by without a party guest coming up to complement him on a fabulous meal experienced at his two restaurants.

Besides my duties as a sous chef, I also got to walk around to some of the other tables. Here was the scene outside of the Dante booth:

Chef Anthony Caturano of Prezza’s crispy shrimp and Italian slaw
Chef Frank McClelland of L'Espalier’s smoked salmon and ruby red grapefruit
Chef Lydia Shire of Towne, her media celeb sous chef Natalie Jacobson, and helper cooking up a lobster popover, risotto, and duck [dish not pictured but it was well worth the 30 minutes I spent waiting in line for a plate!]
It was super fun playing chef for a night, as well as tasting all the yummy creations from the other teams! Our team didn't win the friendly challenge (that honor went to Chef Chris Damian from the Legendary Restaurant Group and his charity the Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries -- CONGRATS!), but the event still raised over $60,000 that night for the Boston community. So cheers to great food, great charity, and a great way to spend a Tuesday night!


Unknown said...

i am so jealous of your life - you do the coolest things!

Unknown said...

Dante is one of my favorite restaurants - their gnocchi is the best!

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

Um, this is AWESOME!

Lisa Johnson said...

Great post! It was a good time! ; )

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