Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Rick Bayless Dinner @ Cooper's Hawk

The Hackknife travelpalooza has continued into the first week of August as we are now in-between the North Carolina trip (which ended this past Sunday - full posting of foodie notes soon to follow) and my good friend Jaime's bachelor party in Vegas (which begins tomorrow morning). To avoid REALLY falling behind, I wanted to throw up a quick post chronicling our recent dinner event with local celebrity chef Rick Bayless, which took place two weeks ago.

Mrs. Hackknife and I belong to the wine club at a local winery restaurant, Cooper's Hawk. For those of you unawares (and I don't think anyone in my meager list of regular readers falls into this category), I was previously employed in the tasting room at Cooper's Hawk flagship restaurant in Orland Park from July 2007 through December 2008, so I have extensive experience serving customers at their associated wine club events. This, however, was my first club event as an ex-employee - I must confess, it's much nicer to be on the other side of the bar for a change. Anyway, Cooper's has started a "guest chef" series where different well-known chefs come in to do a cooking demonstration/meet and greet for club members and Rick Bayless was their inaugural guest chef. Having just won the Top Chef Masters competition on Bravo last season and having cooked at a White House State dinner in April, this was a pretty significant score for them (of course, the event sold out very quickly).

Inconveniently for us, the event took place at the CH S. Barrington location, which is a good 75-minute drive from the commissary. Once arrived, though, it was well worth the hassle. The demo was in a large party tent outside the restaurant - luckily, it wasn't too hot by the time everything got underway (and the sangria helped take the edge off of the ambient warmth). Rick and his assistant cooked up a roasted poblano gazpacho and a crispy shredded flank steak dish with golden onions and red chile salsa, both of which we got an opportunity to sample and both of which were delicious (I probably could have had about 6 of the steak shreds instead of the 1 that was served). Throughout the demo, the chef was talkative, self-effacing, kept things very light and casual, and seemed to genuinely enjoy being there, which made it nice for everyone attending. After the demo concluded (it took about 45 minutes), additional food was served buffet-style and the chef stuck around to sign copies of his new cookbook (as well as our old menu from Topolobampo). In addition to getting a cool photo with the guest of honor (see above), I also greatly enjoyed visiting with a few of the higher-ups from the Orland Park restaurant (i.e., my ex-bosses) that were in attendance and helped organize the event.

Unfortunately, we're going to have to skip the next Guest Chef wine club event (featuring pastry chef Gale Gand from Tru) in late Sept. as we'll have just returned from London earlier in the week, probably broke from spending too much on high-falutin English food (like fish and chips). We very much, however, look forward to subsequent ones after that.

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