Pinch Me… I’m Cooking with Kristen Kish

When I say that I’m a food blogger, most people assume this means I can cook.  I have to clarify that I’m a restaurant review blogger, and much more interested in consuming as opposed to preparing food. I do enjoy watching people cook, however, and make no secret of my devotion to Bravo’s “Top Chef.”  When Living Social offers a chance to cook with ‘Top Chef’ Season 10 winner Kristen Kish, I seize the opportunity.There aren’t many things that can get me out of the house on a snowy Sunday evening. But anyone who knows me can’t be surprised when I venture out alone on a dark and frigid night.  Even I question my sanity when I realize I’m the sole passenger in my Metro car.  My concerns melt away as I enter the appealing Living Social space at 918 F Street in the District.
We are led to the third floor of the historic building. Cooking stations are set up in rows with two people at each station.  Before us is a mise en place (set up) with ingredients for our first dish.  I am paired with a young man who is also on his own.  I’m not sure how much skill is going to be required, but I’m hoping he’s up to the task.  The thought of making pasta particularly petrifies me.  I’ve been there, done that.  And I’ve failed.Chef Kish takes her place in front of the room, and asks politely if anyone minds if her language gets salty.  She is breathtakingly beautiful, and at the same time seems totally approachable.  The excitement in the room is palpable with the realization that we are about to cook with this impressive “Top Chef” winner.  I am silently congratulating myself on my decision to brave the elements, and the class hasn’t even started.

For the next two and a half hours, the chef takes us through the preparation of a three course menu that includes red snapper and glaceed oyster mushrooms, semolina pasta and braised lamb ragu with Chinese eggplant, and olive oil cake with passion fruit curd.  The best part of the class is when Kish comes around to each station to check on our progress.  She brings along a sample of her own dish, so we can see how it’s supposed to taste and feel.  Some class members ask her about the “Top Chef” competition as she circulates, but I have more fun asking her if my sauce is the right consistency. Because really, how often do you get to ask a “Top Chef” winner that question?

Kristen Kish with pasta
Kish is not a fan of recipes, and her cooking advice is simple.  “Trust your instinct.  If it tastes like shit, you did it wrong.  And…it’s just food.”  My favorite tip is how to add a pinch of salt.  “Use three fingers, like you are pinching someone’s ass,” she says.  Ass-pinching and salting are now forever entwined in my brain.I appreciate that all ingredients are pre-cut, and we can spend our time perfecting techniques such as de-glazing, searing fish, and making pasta shapes.  I am an absolute failure on the fish (way overdone) and the pasta (the shapes I make are thick and clumsy).  Still, the recipes are simple and even with my errors, everything tastes great.
Seriously, have you ever seen pasta shaped like this?

Seriously, have you ever seen pasta shaped like this?

At the end of the class we are offered the opportunity to take a photo with Chef Kish.  I hesitate, but I can’t resist adding to my archive of photos with “celebrity chefs.”

 Kristen Kish and me

I wander out of the Living Social space back into the icy streets of DC, and smile contentedly as I reflect on the delightful experience.  I recall a snowy night a few years ago when I took a cooking class with Carla Hall of “Top Chef” and now ABC’s “The Chew.”  My car got stuck in the parking lot, and Carla helped push it out into the street.  I still apply some of the lessons learned on salting and seasoning.

I sense a pattern here.  If I can find a few more “Top Chef” cooking classes to take on snowy nights, one day I really may become a well-seasoned food blogger.


Blog post:  The Night I Was Pushed by Carla Hall


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