Soud Chef Re-Cap
UPDATE: We raised a total of $1826. If you are looking to donate to the Haiti Deaf Academy, visit their website here.
I still think about that Saturday night, however as the weeks go by, the extremity of the challenges I underwent was becoming more and more of a blur. That was until photographer, Vero Kherian, sent me the notification that the photos of the night were ready to be viewed and downloaded. Upon exposure to these shots, which you will see in this blog post, I was in complete awe. Still am. So now I believe it's time to go over the details of the night.
As my memory of the evening comes and goes in pieces, please forgive me and the disorganized text I'm about to preform.
Days before the event, if I was not prepping, I was getting the timeline and recipe instructions put together. All of this was placed in sheet protectors and organized into a binder that would be ready for use come the night of the dinner. Each recipe had a list of tools needed, ingredients to gather and color coded instructions assigned to each team member.
As soon as my team and I got into the kitchen, we got started on a list of things that I had hoped to prepare before the event began. It took a good thirty minutes for me to get fully into the action as I was getting used to the kitchen I barely stepped into once before. First we gathered all the tools and placed them on sheet pans for easy access. Then my father and I got started on the creme brûlée. Around this time, Vero showed up and was not afraid to step into action.
About 25% of the things on this list of hopeful preparing did not get done, including the plantain waffles, cutting the butter into perfect square shapes, salting the steak, and slicing the bread. I was not too concerned at that point because I was confident we would get to it. At about 6:30pm, all guests had arrived and it was time for me to welcome them.
Cassava Taco with Sweet Potato + Mango
This dish was so simple yet incredibly delicious. It was also the only dish I did not have a plating strategy for yet, as it was the last dish added to the menu. My dad suggested making the floret-style radishes. The beet puree was a plus as I had beet juice for the coconut creme which is spread underneath the sweet potato mixture.
My husband was in charge of the getting the plates hot out of the oven. Our friend, Carlos was at the stove with two skillets toasting the tortillas. And my dad was in charge of the avocado slices to put on top before the dish was served. "Avocado!" I'd yell when I had finished plating.
Aubergine Casserole with Adventure Bread + Pasture-raised Egg
When so many things are going on in the kitchen, you kind of forget the important things, like getting a pot boiling with water for the eggs. When I realized this missing element for the second course prep, my blood pressure dropped. I knew it would take at least 10 minutes for the water to start boiling but after that realization, I told myself 'just get through it.' Once the eggs were thrown into an ice-bath, my dad began peeling slowly, as soft boiled eggs are not something you can smash on the counter and expect the shell to come right off. In addition, they were beautiful pasture-raised eggs, donated by Vital Farms, so it was important that each one survived the peeling process.
The aubergine casserole was mostly cooked the day prior. I roasted the eggplant for two hours and cooked it with garlic, over-fried onions, and cabbage. Once the first course was out, I added the rest of the ingredients to the dish and found that it was not as thick as I hoped. No problem. It still worked out right. Flashback to speech class at community college, 'if you accidentally leave something out, don't worry, no one will know what was missed." No one expected the casserole to hold like a sandcastle, they just wanted to eat delicious food and that was exactly what I was prepared for.
Steak (or Marinated Tempeh) + Epis cooked with Honey
When I opened the wrappings of the 6 pounds of chateaubriand steak, I was thrown back by the thickness. Holy shit. They were so thick, I had to rethink the cooking process. My biggest fear was serving something undercooked. I could count the times I've cooked steak skillet>oven method on one hand only, so I had to wing it.
Carlos, the taco truck guy, was given the task of roasting the vegetables. "Like fajitas?" he asks. I plated the hot plates with a spread of romesco sauce, while the epis was being heated up in a sauce pan, having roasted it the day before. The steaks came out of the oven and I stabbed it with a food thermometer. 145. Perfect. I cut into it and found that it still wasn't totally medium-rare, but more rare and some raw. I threw the steak back into the pan and back into the oven. I burned myself multiple times during this process.
Once the vegetables were done, I appointed Carlos to get started on the waffles. Panic came over me, but we were all laughing and smiling and having all the fun we could possible have.
Fried Chicken (or Tofu) + Plantain Waffle with Rosemary Syrup
I looked at the clock. 8:35pm. Wait, no. That can't be right. It's 7:35 pm. Right? No? OH MY GOD. We busted ass to get the chickens fried and into the oven. I heated up the rosemary-maple syrup and Daniel poured them into little condiment cups. My dad began plating and I fried the tofu. At this point we were all delirious, joking around with vulgarity and praying that we would get this dish out by 8:45. And so it did.
Remember when I said my biggest concern was serving anything undercooked. I honestly thought the chicken was undercooked but I had no choice but to get it out right away. When the 18R servers returned from the room, they told me everyone licked their plates cleaned. I nearly cried.
Burnt Cream + Fresh Ginger and Spices
Once the main course was out, I was able to relax as the dessert was basically done. We just needed to toss some sugar on top, which the boys did, while I torched it and my dad finished plating with flowers. It was 9 o clock at this point. I went out to conclude my speech with a special thanks to the kitchen staff. Applause. Applause. I mingled with a few folks and personally thanked them for coming. Lots of positive feedback on the dishes and a lot of "you must be exhausted!" But honestly, I had so much adrenaline, I could continue cooking for the rest of the night.
The flowers and vases were donated by Home Sweet Flowers and I was told they came from Lorena's (lead designer and co-founder) very own garden. When I mentioned this in my welcome speech, I received the most 'oooh/ahhs' from just that information alone. The arraignments included lilacs, buttercup, and the most random addition, mint.
Before the dinner began and after the dinner ended, we played 3 videos, edited by Evelyn Mendoza. The video contained footage I took on my last Haiti trip. When I returned home from that trip, I attempted to put together a video, sometime I haven't done before and found myself drowning in basically millions of clips containing various scenes. I turned to my husband and said, 'I have no editing style, I am never going to finish this.' Luckily, within a few weeks, I began planning Soud Chef and knew Evelyn would be just the person to take my files and put them together in some creative magical way that will make your heart flutter and the hairs on your arms shoot straight up. The videos can be viewed below the gallery.
Haiti through my lens
Food + Staff Appreciation Meal
Dancing + More
All in all, I am extremely satisfied with how the night turned out. While there were things that could have been done differently, I don't regret any moment. It was a pleasure to work with my team in the kitchen and the 18 Reasons staff. Would I do it again? Probably. But for now, I seek other opportunities on my mental vision board.