>> Thursday, August 2, 2012
|Chef Jeff Rossman|
Price: $65 per person
Location: Catalina Offshore Products, 5202 Lovelock St, San Diego, CA 92110
Collaboration Kitchen website
Terra American Bistro website
The Quick Bit
+ top quality fresh seafood products
+ interactive session with a professional chef
Δ courses could have been paced when the chef was not talking so that guests could mingle and enjoy the full dining experience
Collaboration Kitchen is a monthly cooking demonstration program put on by a partnership between Specialty Produce and Catalina Offshore Products. Each month, a chef from one of San Diego's top restaurants conducts a cooking demonstration and answers questions from the audience. It's very much like being on a live cooking show such as Emeril. (Update: It is also an event where proceeds benefit children for the Monarch School Backpack for Kids program. (I didn't receive a charitable donation receipt 501(c)(3) as a part of the event though))
The past month's demonstration was held by Chef Jeff Rossman of Terra American Bistro. Chef Rossman has no formal training in cooking, but instead worked his way up from a dishwasher at his family's restaurant. Eventually he learned from Boston Chef Michael Schlow before returning to San Diego to establish the Pam Pam Cafe and Grill. After that restaurant's success, Rossman convinced his family to open Terra, which he now owns and operates. Chef Rossman's style uses all the elements of farm to table and integrates flavors of contemporary food from North, South, and Central America (I guess this means he cooks just about everything).
While I didn't really know what to expect coming into the event besides a lot of seafood, I did find the format a somewhat refreshing change of pace. The entire Catalina Offshore Products team played a large role in the entire dinner, and a team of volunteers prepared the food in the rear while Chef Rossman gave the demonstrations.
|Tommy Gomes of Catalina Offshore Products|
When arriving at the event, each person is given a printout of the recipes along with a plastic fork and spoon. No alcohol is served at the event, but guests can bring their own alcohol and are free to share. However, no glassware/stemware is provided so those wishing to have that will need to bring their own as well.
|scallop crudo - sprout salad, dijon vinaigrette, champagne grapes|
The scallop was a high quality while the sprout salad brought a bitterness to contrast the sweetness of the scallop. Overall, the scallop was the star of the dish.
|seafood sausage - lobster, fish, pickled cucumber, tarragon|
While the menu spoke of lobster sausage, we ended up with a mix of lobster and sea bass. For me, this combination didn't work as the fish seemed to dominate the entire preparation. Additionally, the balsamic reduction on top of the sausage was perhaps uncalled for as the stronger flavor masked the delicate flavors of the seafood.
|white sea bass - lobster spaetzle, uni sauce|
This was the best dish of the evening. Specifically, the preparation of the lobster spaetzle was incredible. The spaetzle were cooked perfectly and really conveyed a flavor with the essence of lobster - they even worked well with the uni-sauce as a sort of pseudo-starch. The sea bass was cooked perfectly, but I'm not sure I found the flavor worked in harmony with the uni sauce. The richness of the bass had a minor skirmish with the richness of the uni, but this didn't detract from the overall impact of the dish.
At this point, some pomp and showmanship occurred as an entire yellowtail was brought out.
The Catalina Offshore team quickly broke down the fish and made a quick yellowtail crudo for everyone to enjoy.
As there was a large line around the crudo, I unfortunately didn't get a picture of the final dish. The crudo was excellent as the sauce was a great mix of soy with sesame and light wasabi. The freshness of the fish really came through and was the star of the show.
For the final dish, Chef Rossman brought out an assistant to help grill some of the yellowtail that had been broken down. To accompany the yellowtail, Chef Rossman made a Thai coconut curry sauce
|grilled yellowtail - coconut milk, cucumber, carrot|
Each plate came with three slices of grilled yellowtail. After eating the crudo, I felt that perhaps the fish was a bit overcooked. Ultimately, this dish lacked some seasoning as the flavors didn't really come out and sing. As the yellowtail was being grilled, there was a lack of seasoning in the cooking process, which detracted from the end product.
Overall, Collaboration Kitchen was a nice change of pace. Apparently this format has been going for the last two plus years, and each session has always sold out. While there were some great elements to the meal, there were some other elements flawed to the point where I somewhat question the price tag of the experience. (Update: Even with proceeds benefiting charity, I still feel the price was high when compared to a comparable event)
One thing I did enjoy was the interaction with the Chef. A lot of times, the Chef is hidden behind in the kitchen and you really don't get to know the Chef. Listening to Chef Rossman, I was able to get a nice idea about his personality and how his passion for food comes out in his recipes. For this reason, I would highly recommend attending a Collaboration Kitchen if one of your favorite Chefs is the one giving the demonstration.
I was still happy that I was able to have this experience, and look forward to dining in Chef Rossman's restaurant some time in the future.