The Teen Chef's of C'est Si Bon and Friends
Three weeks came and went at the speed of light. It seems like it was just yesterday that I arrived in Chapel Hill and with a blink of an eye I was back home in sunny (and HOT) South Florida. My last week at C’est Si Bon was something to remember. Some of this years Teen Chefs came from New York, Michigan, Kentucky and of course, North Carolina. The teen’s started to arrive on Sunday while Emily, Aileen (assistants) and I prepared the first meal for them. Smoked turkey legs, grilled squash and eggplant, shrimp with a remoulade and 7-Up pound cake for dessert (and yes it is made with 7-Up soda, it's a southern thing). The dishes were to take center stage in the Teen Chefs first lesson of the week, food photography. When all the teens had arrived they were introduced to photographer Eugene Paul Cottrel and each given a dish to photograph. They spoke about tips, lighting, and the importance of food photography in the modern world. After the lesson dinner was served and the teens and I were off to Fickle Creek farm where we sleep for the week. On Monday morning the teens got up early to cook breakfast with Ben (one of the farm owners). Eggs with Swiss chard, yogurt with fresh fruit and granola were on the menu. The first cooking class of the week was given at Watts grocery by Chef and owner Amy Tornquist with Sous Chef James Naquin.
Sous Chef James Naquin demonstrating at Watts Grocery
They focus on using local and fresh ingredients, not something you see very often in restaurants, but it is a growing trend. They made a grilled chicken with a blackberry sauce, squash gratin, hickory grove (local cheese) biscuits with shrimp and bacon. For dessert we made a lemon curd mousse with blueberries. This meal was so filling and delicious it set the standard for the meals yet to come. After Watts it was off to see Jack Tapp, the honeybee keeper at Busy Bee Apiaries. I know Jack from previous years, and every time I see him he always has something new and exciting going on.
Learning about Bee's and Honey (yes, those are real, live bees)
He is currently working with the State of North Carolina and different universities on continuing the art of Bee Keeping and how bees can further benefit society. The Teen Chefs learned about how honey is harvested and about the lives of Queen Bees. They also got to taste honey directly from the comb itself (you cant get any fresher than that). We took away a whole new perspective on Bee’s as well as some blueberry honey, creamed honey, and honey vinegar.
Back at C’est Si Bon the teens sat down for a lecture with Mr. Page “Cackalacky” (that’s really not his last name), the owner and inventor of the famous hot sauce made from sweet potatoes called Cackalacky (now my brother’s favorite choice of hot sauce). Afterwards the teen’s cooked Grilled Zucchini Flan, Chicken and Dumplings, and Ginger Chess Pie. Tuesday consisted of cheese and lots of it. First we were given a tour of Fickle Creek Farm and got to see the sheep, pigs, and chickens. We also got to collect the eggs just as they were laid; it was worth a couple of pecks on the hand.
Freshly laid eggs at Fickle Creek Farm.
A tour of Chapel Hill Creamery taught the teens how milk is produced and harvested and then made into cheese. We tried their Farmer’s Cheese (tangy and smooth), Hickory Grove (consists of a washed hard rind and a butter like inside), and everyone’s favorite Feta Cheese. The Teens then headed back to the school for a lesson on Nut Cheeses (vegetarian cheese), given by Chef instructor Kelly Taylor. Next, we made a Tangerine Tapioca, with a cashew cream and banana’s but we nicknamed this delightful concoction “Puddin” (this continued to be an ongoing joke throughout the week). On Wednesday we learned about bio-fuels, composting and potatoes (yes, potatoes) at the Abundance Foundation in Pittsboro.
Farmer Doug and Teen Chef Meagan at the Abundance
Afterwards we headed to the Carrboro Farmers Market where the teens did a cooking demo/cook-off against each other. They were split into teams of 2 and given ten dollars to shop their way around the market and create a unique potato salad. One team made a Summer Potato Salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and Cackalacky sauce. The other team made a BBQ Potato Salad while another made a Blackberry Potato Salad. They all seemed to be big hits with the farmer market crowd.
Teen Chef Cook Off
Dorette and Teen Chefs at Carrboro Potato Salad Cook-off
Teen Chefs Naomi and Taylor with their Blackberry Potato Salad
Dinner on Wednesday was at the famous Crook’s Corner on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. The late, acclaimed Chef Bill Neal who started the local food movement in Chapel Hill, originally owned Crook’s Corner. His food was southern and hearty with a French influence. I had seared scallops with spinach and hominy (type of corn). The other teens had pasta with peas and quark (like sour cream), fried chicken livers, and shrimp and grits.
Dinner at Crook's Corner
Early Thursday morning we took a tour of the Weaver Street Market (local grocery store) bakery and pastry production site. Most of the bakers arrive at the bakery at 3:00 in the morning and don’t leave until late at night (talk about dedication). Next on the schedule was Sunshine Lavender Farm. The teens learned about Culinary Lavender and the different uses it has. Chocolate Lavender Truffles, ice cream, pasta, salad, etc. are just some of the dishes that Lavender can be incorporated in. After we left the farm I fell asleep in the car and not because of all the food and busy days but because of the soothing smell of lavender (go figure).
Later that evening we headed out to Anatoth Community Garden where we cooked dinner for the locals using most of the fresh produce from the farm. After a year of construction they finally completed building their outside brick pizza oven. We all took turn’s managing it using a very large wooden peel/paddle. We cooked sausage and zucchini, corn and potatoes to top the pizza along with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes.
Taylor prepping ingredients for the Pizza's at Anatoth
Naomi, Megan and Jeremy Making the Pizza's
In goes the Pizza into the Brick Oven
Friday was our last day at Fickle Creek Farm, we ate our final breakfast and said our goodbye’s to Ben and Noah (The owners of Fickle Creek). We had our final cooking class at Miel Bon Bons where the teens and I painted fondant frames, decorated mini cakes, and made chocolate truffles (a very high sugar rush followed).
The Teen Chefs and their creations at Meil Bon Bon's
The week ended with a Grand Finale Gumbo Dinner. Most of the farmers and chefs from the week attended along with parents of each teen. Spicy Seafood Gumbo with okra was served over rice. Someone added a little to much spice to one of the gumbos so we labeled it “rather spicy” but surprisingly a lot of people enjoyed it. For dessert they served “puddin” this time made with pastry cream and a chocolate pecan pie. At the end of the night we said goodbye and we completed yet another year of teen chefs.
The Finale at C'est Si Bon
Each teen was unique and took away a whole new perspective on food and cooking. I left Saturday afternoon with my farewell to Dorette and C’est Si Bon, promising to return next year. I hope I got to inspire the kids and teens but I truly was inspired by their desire to Keep on Cooking and bring together a greater awareness and community of kids and teens in the culinary world.
Au revoir C’est Si Bon and as always.................
Keep on Cooking!