Day of the Week: Friday, 11/16
Total Cost: $120 with LivingSocial voucher (usually $240)
Breakdown: 2-hour cooking class/meal preparation with wine pairing at our house
Verdict: Mind-blowing. Maybe even life-changing.
Back in February, LivingSocial had a voucher for a “Two-Hour In-Home Cooking Class for Two with Wine Pairing ” with Chef Jorge Marquez. I thought, that sounds different, so I bought it. I had this voucher for EIGHT MONTHS before we finally got our act together and used it. Boy do I regret waiting so long.
According to Chef Jorge’s site, he is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu. He worked in Regions Bank’s private kitchen, as Shakira’s private chef, and at the Ritz Carlton South Beach. So I figured the guy knows what he’s doing. After some e-mail correspondence, we decided on ceviche as a starter and a seasonal dish using chicken or pork as the protein (I let him choose). I told him I felt my knife skills were lacking and I’d love some pointers. Then I cleaned the house and nervously awaited his arrival.
I don’t think I’ve ever known an actual chef, someone with a formal education and professional experience at Jorge’s level, which is why I was so nervous. My kitchen is functional but we don’t have the latest or most expensive appliances or granite countertops. What if he didn’t like my pots and pans? What if he thought my oven was shit?!
So I had a couple beers to calm my nerves while we waited.
Jorge arrived (in his chef’s coat) and our three dogs greeted him at the door (a shih tzu, a pekingese, and a chihuahua). I tried to shoo them away and said something like “They’re harmless”…then he bent down and started petting them and said he has a shih tzu too. I was so relieved.
Jorge met Hubby and we went into the kitchen. Hubby offered him a beer, which led to a tour of Hubby’s beer collection, which basically led to us having a blast. He asked Hubby about beer, we asked him about his favorite restaurants (small ethnic joints!), and we talked about food all night (duh). Jorge literally could not be a nicer guy. Hubby is always skeptical of new people (and an excellent judge of character) but he warmed up to Jorge instantly. By the end of the night, one of our cats had taken up permanent residence on Jorge’s lap.
But of course the true test of a chef is not his personality. If it was, Gordon Ramsay probably wouldn’t have made it as far as he did. Or, from what I hear, Guy Savoy. The test of a chef is his food. Jorge does not disappoint.
We started with a tilapia ceviche. Jorge showed me how to slice the fish and helped me get it into the pan properly. We were using red onion as a garnish, so he showed us that to keep onions crunchy but soften their bite you should put them in a bowl of ice water for a while after you slice them.
After the ceviche was in the refrigerator “cooking,” we started on the main course: a roasted pork tenderloin with maple-glazed apples, butternut squash mash, and sautéed turnip greens. One thing I really appreciated about Jorge is that he’s not a micromanager. He understands that in a setting like this one it’s about having fun and learning a little. He really got us involved. I mashed and seasoned the squash, I helped sautée the greens, he showed me how to cut the silverskin off the tenderloin. Time flew by.
Before we knew it, dinner was ready. We asked him to eat with us because we were enjoying his company so much. Hubby poured us all glasses of the Estancia cab Jorge brought to go with the meal (perfect) and then we took our first bites. It absolutely rivaled the finest restaurants I’ve been to. The ceviche was so fresh with the brightest flavors. Sometimes ceviche is overwhelmed by a particular component (usually the citrus) but this was perfectly balanced. Then Jorge served the main course, which he plated beautifully (picture below). I cannot describe how amazing each thing was, not only individually but all together. There was not one morsel left when we were done.
Bottom line, we both adored Jorge and are hoping to arrange a dinner party/cooking class with him for a group of friends. If you need cooking classes, want to host a dinner party, or need basically anything else having to do with food, you need Chef Jorge.
(Postscript: When we told Chef Jorge about our blog, he said, “Great, now I’m going to be nervous all night because I know I’m going to be reviewed.” Chef, I hope you liked your review. I mean every word.)