On Tuesday April 26th, 2016, I had the pleasure of delivering Private Chef Services for the Walsh family party of 8 (including myself). I drove up the pavement and and noticed a beautiful home with a perfectly landscaped exterior. When I got out of my car, I was greeted by a young man, who took me through the secret "cool people entrance." Upon entry I was given a warm welcome by Kyle, Kevin and Casey Walsh, who were NOTHING short of amazing. Casey gave me a quick walk-through of her kitchen. From alphabetized spice drawers, to beautiful porcelain dishes, I was literally in "Private Chef Heaven." It wasn't long until I shifted my question from " Casey do you have...?" To "Casey, where can I find...?," because she literally had EVERYTHING!
Shortly after my arrival, Executive Director at The Social Enterprise and Training Center, Jennifer Lawrence, graced our presence with her son Anthony and the newest addition to her family, Frank, of Beijing China. Frank is a foreign exchange student who joined the Lawrence family for the American experience. Being new to America, It's probably safe to say that Frank's palate had been well adjusted to food native to his culture. All I could think was "Boy do I have a fun challenge ahead of me." I had to impress 7 different people, with 7 different palates, who have had 7 different experiences with food. Not to mention, 1 one of them was an executive chef at One Caroline Street Bistro in Saratoga New York and 3 of them were kids (typically the most blunt critics, and by far the most difficult to impress). While helping me prep one of my dishes (a very hands-on part of the 8 Count Kitchen experience of course, LOL), I looked over and noticed Kyle's perfectly peeled potatoes. I muttered a very pleasant, "Oh no, don't worry about them being perfect. The dish is pretty rustic," to which he responded, "Really? At my restaurant, leaving the skin on peeled potatoes would get someone in BIG trouble." We both chuckled as I thought to myself, "Ok Jermaine, no pressure here!" Lol.
Prior to my visit, Casey and I had been in conversation about a menu for a couple of weeks. We finally decided on a 3 course menu filled with a few of my favorite signature dishes. As an appetizer, we had my signature 5 Cheese Mac and Please with Jalapeños and Bacon, the exact dish that ranked me Top 4 on Food Network's All-Star Academy, to which Celebrity Chef Alex Guarnaschelli commented "Mac and Please...For a classic American dish, I think Jermaine is on to something." For the entree, I did one of my favorite Caribbean comfort foods. I prepared my Indo-Caribbean spiced Curry Chicken with Chick Peas, Potatoes (Perfectly peeled might I add, Lol) and Thyme Butter White Rice. And for dessert... Lord have mercy. I did my oh-so-sinful decadent Oreos fried in a Cinnamon Brown Sugar Pumpkin Spiced Pancake Batter, with Chocolate Sauce and Confectionery Sugar. I really don't think they knew what they were getting themselves into lol!
Anyone who knows me, knows that I cook with tender, love, care and soul! They also know that I LOVE to plate. Plating is one of the most enjoyable (and time consuming, Lol) processes of food service for me. Similar to my friend Lisa Washington, cast mate and co-competitor in Food Network's All-Star Academy, who sets her table with love, I plate mine with a similar kind of love... the warm and fuzzy kind of love that makes you get all bubbly inside. It's that first date kind of love! That "can't wait til the second date," kind of love. That, "I don't mind paying an $100 restaurant bill" kind of love. That... Ok you get the point, Lol! But in all seriousness, we all know that before you fall in love with how a dish tastes, you have to fall in love with how it looks, because we eat with our eyes first.
Before the first course went out, I made sure that it was plated with "Simplistic PERFECTION." One of my biggest take away's from working directly with celebrity chef Robert Irvine on Food Network's All-Star Academy, is that there's something very SEXY about "simple." Some of the simplest plates are comprised of delicate ingredients, and the most complex of flavors. I plated my dish in a 4 ounce ramekin, layered it with my cellentani pasta, then cheese sauce, then shredded cheese, and finally piled it to the top with even more cheese. Once they were ready to go, I baked them on 350 until the cheese melted and oozed from the sides. I then broiled it briefly to give the cheese some color. For my final touches, I topped it with the bacon, and the jalapenos that were sauteed in the bacon fat. Mmm Mmm Mmmmm... If you could only see how good it looked... well I guess you can, with the photos below lol.
After everyone finished eating, I gave the table a quick scan...the food was completely gone. There was no evidence that Mac and Cheese had ever existed in those ramekins. As clean as those things were, you would of thought they were something straight out of a Museum. The kids (including Frank) even pulled me to the side and said "This is the BEST Mac and Cheese EVER!" With smiling faces, empty plates, and positive commentary, the Walsh family was ready for dish #2.
It wasn't until I started plating dish number two that I realized I made enough Indo-Caribbean Curry Chicken to last a month! With keeping leftovers in mind, and recognizing the amount of unforgivable sin in dish number one, I decided to plate this dish a bit more petite than my normal portion size. I used a smaller dish to create the rice molds, and served the chicken in a half moon instead of a full blown lunar eclipse. I then garnished the thyme butter rice with dried cilantro and fresh thyme for color and freshness. After a couple of bites, and great conversation, I quickly scanned the table. Before I knew it, Kevin was on plate number 2, and everyone else fell victim to empty plates and cleaned chicken bones. My heart smiled, as I released an unforgettable cheese smile that I fought to remain hidden. I gave a quick "who's ready for dessert?", which to no surprise, everyone yelled "ME!"
I hate to brag, but my Fried Oreos have really made a name for themselves. My Oreos are fried to perfection in a generous coat of Cinnamon, Brown Sugar, and Pumpkin Spiced Pancake Batter, drizzled with Chocolate Syrup and then Dusted with Confectionery Sugar. LORD...HELP...US...ALL!!! I prepared the batter, fried them up, and set them in a basket of paper towels to dry all of the excess oil. I plated them with temptation in mind. With 2 Oreos, one stacked on top of the other, a Zig-Zag Chocolate Syrup Drizzle, and a quick Confectionery Dust over the top. MAN, did they go like HOT CAKES! Again...another successful dish!
By the end of the night, everyone was STUFFED! We took pictures, recorded videos, shared laughs, and created memories. Speaking of which, one memory that I will never forget is the DEATH of Casey's Bennington Potters Blue Agate Baking Dish. At this time, we would like to have a moment of silence.................................................................................................................................Thank you!
Yes... I was the culprit, and I felt TERRIBLE! But Casey and her warm spirit found it in her heart to smile and say "Don't worry about it...It was ready to go anyway." I released a sigh of relief, went back to cooking, and made sure to leave the rest of the dishes FARRRR away from the ledge!
To say my experience with the Walsh Family was AMAZING, would be a complete understatement. Casey was a fabulous host, Kevin was a great conversationalist, Kyle was inspiring, and Jennifer was the life of the party. The adults had a great time, the kids THOROUGHLY enjoyed their meals, and Jennifer Lawrence even posted the following on social media:
"This was so much fun! Thank you for the great time Casey Mulligan Walsh and Kevin Walsh! We loved, laughed, had great cocktails, ate an amazing meal, enjoyed seeing the boys bond in their own way, mourned pottery that is no more, and you all even got me out of the literal ditch!"
She then continued to say:
"This was a WONDERFUL night! Casey Mulligan Walsh and Kevin Walsh are the best hosts and Jermaine MrSikcess Wright lights up any kitchen he uses-- making the entire night an experience. If you are looking for a fabulous guaranteed success dinner party --book Jermaine MrSikcess Wright "
Special thanks to Jennifer Lawrence, and thank you to the Walsh family for inviting me into your home. Until next time!
For inquiries about Private Chef and Catering Services, or for bookings, visit us at www.8countkitchen.com or email Jermaine directly at firstname.lastname@example.org!