Monday, January 12, 2009

Relish Culinary Mushroom Cooking Class with John Ash

It's rare that I get to sit in a cooking class. I am usually the one at the front of the room doing the talking. But I just had the chance to attend a cooking class by local, and big deal, chef John Ash. I have known John almost as long as I've been in Sonoma County, which is about 20 years.

Three times I have been a finalist in the KSRO recipe contest that he and co-host Steve Garner have each year. This year I was the grand prize winner for my Spicy African Sweet Potato, Tomato and Ground Nut Stew recipe. The topic was peanuts or peanut butter and this recipe contains the latter. Read my post for more info about my winning.

As a result of the win, I got tickets for a cooking class at Relish Culinary in Healdsburg, a cute little town in Wine Country, just 15 minutes from where I live. The tickets were originally for a Wild Game class with John but I was not wild about that idea so I waited for something more apropos. And mushrooms it was.

Next week is SOMA Mushroom camp where I am the sous chef -- 2nd in command, putting out dinner for about 200 people. This is my big cooking gig of the year. I know a bit about mushrooms and if you want to learn more in-depth information by reading about them on The Veggie Queen site.

I wanted to be anonymous in the class but Relish owner Donna del Rey introduced me fairly early on. Then John mentioned that I am a Registered Dietitian and he deferred to me more than once. I felt quite honored.

John did a great job entertaining and educating the group about mushroom cooking and used a variety of mushrooms from Gourmet Mushrooms in Sebastopol plus dried wild ones that included porcini, black chanterelle and candy cap. The food was rich and delicious and accompanied by fine local wine.

Chef Ash (someone asked a question of him as Mr. Ash and I felt kind of strange calling him John at that point) shared his tips and techniques for making food taste great such as adding sugar to balance flavors and using citrus juice to perk things up. He even commented on his irreverence in teaching, which appeals to my sense and sensibility (if I have any).

It was a divine evening for me. I even had my friend and assistant Ellen accompany me, and she drove. This made winning the recipe contest even better.

I am going to do another post about John Ash and sprouting, so watch for it.

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