A Hot Environment Full of Fire, Knives & Yelling

A Chef’s Calling
Chef Craig Sharpe started out in a different profession, wasn’t happy and was exploring new career options.  He took a temporary job in a kitchen where he experienced the “hot environment full of fire, knives and yelling”.  Funny place to find your calling; he immediately knew he was home. Fast forward a few years and Craig is the chef at Terra Waconia.

Appetizer Class at Terra Waconia
Terra Waconia is one of our favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities area.  We love the rural location, the small dining room and the everchanging menu supporting local farmers.  We especially appreciate the warmth and welcome from the staff, led by Tracy LeTourneau.  Recently, Terra Waconia has started offering occasional cooking classes at the restaurant on Tuesday evenings, when they are normally closed. During a normal evening at the restaurant, Chef Craig is back in the kitchen, so the class is a great way to get to know him better and gain some insight into how he and Tracy run the restaurant.

Terra Waconia: creative dining outside the city!

Terra Waconia: creative dining outside the city!

The theme for the class was appetizers and hors d’oeuvres we could make at home with ingredients we could find in a normally equipped grocery store. Because the kitchen is small, they clear out the dining room just for the class.

Tiny kitchen?  No problem, convert the dining room to the classroom.

Tiny kitchen? No problem, convert the dining room to the classroom.

Step 1: Slice the Bread
How many appetizers involve a piece of bread or toast?  Craig started us out with the best way to slice baguettes from a pre-baked or par-baked loaf.  So simple, but important! Main lesson: slice before you bake, or bake and wait for the bread to cool completely.  Bonus points for cutting on a double bias.

Properly slicing the bread. Chef Craig Sharpe showed us how good technique is a great start.

Properly slicing the bread. Chef Craig Sharpe showed us how good technique is a great start.

Wine Pairing
Terra Waconia’s approach to wine pairing is to start with wines similar to their food suppliers.  Wines made by person who cared, someone who’s life is committed to their product.  The wines don’t need to be expensive, they need to be a product of a person or a family, not a corporation. Then pair the food & wine, and adjust the food a bit if necessary to improve the match. (click on any photo to start the slides)

In the Twin Cities, you should make your way to Terra Waconia for dinner, or watch for a class on a Tuesday evening. You never know what you might learn!  Beyond just being a restaurant, Craig and Tracy are committed to supporting local family farms.  They are the driving force behind the creation of a farmers market in the town of Waconia, and Tracy was a US Delegate to the biennial Slow Food World Conference Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Italy this fall.

Your guests will love these steak & aioli toasts

Your guests will love these steak & aioli toasts

Check out Terra Waconia’s Facebook Page for updates on classes and dinner specials.  If you see this in time, you can still sign up for the Endangered Foods Feast on Nov. 19.  Craig will be preparing some foods in danger of disappearing (NOT from overharvesting!!) and Tracy will be sharing some insights from her trip to the International Slow Foods Festival.  I hope I’ll see you there!

 

Comments
3 Responses to “A Hot Environment Full of Fire, Knives & Yelling”
  1. Wow, I have been cutting my bread after I bake it! This class looks like it was so much fun. I don’t know of anything like that here.

  2. thesageowlblog says:

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing.

  3. We loved hearing Chef Craigs story of how he came to cooking, so rare to interact with the chef!

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