Most of us were still gulping our French-press coffee, but chef
George Mavrothalassitis was already buzzing, diagramming his
intricate jasmine squab with a black Crayola.
“I want you to have some emotion,” he said, scribbling lines and
circles like a football coach. “You have to feel what is good with
Sixteen of us had gathered early on a Saturday morning on the
island of Oahu to cook with the 2003 James Beard-award winner known
for his innovative merger of French technique and Hawaiian
ingredients. And even though I knew immediately that none of what
we were about to learn would ever happen in my own kitchen besides
the squab, our lunch would consist of coriander-crusted onaga and
“chilled pear cloud” that wasn’t really the point.
The point is to be backstage at the foodie equivalent of a rock
concert. Gourmet Cooking Hawaii has been inviting people into the
kitchen with Mavro and chefs from two-dozen other upscale Honolulu
restaurants since 2003. Clients who like to cook or even just love
to eat will enjoy watching a chef peel, core and dice a pear in 20
seconds, or divulge cool tricks you can use at home. (I can now
make a perfectly round poached egg.) The classes are also a
hands-on way to learn about Hawaii’s haute cuisine and its roots in
local food. And Mavro a French guy with a Greek name who cooks
Hawaii Regional Cuisine is a show in himself, making his class the
agency’s premier experience.
Clients can choose to watch or do. Excited by the six-ring
cooktops, the walk-in freezers and the immaculate stainless-steel
counters, I started out doing, but was sort of fired. (That poached
egg? It took me a couple of tries.) But, since I vowed to never
make any of this at home anyway, watching and listening was a great
On TV, Jacques Pepin can debone a chicken in 30 seconds while
talking about his childhood, but Mavro was there, live, using a
scimitar to fillet a 10-pound onaga like it was a minnow.
“I want to tell you something very important,” he said, pushing
cropped silver curls from his forehead. “If you like fish well
done, eat something else.”
Mavro’s rules are simple.
“If you don’t have time to cook, don’t cook,” he said, doing a
hilarious imitation of a TV chef chopping away with machine gun
rapid fire. As he does this, the milk on the stove boils over,
making it feel even more like you are just sitting in his kitchen
having a casual chat.
|Chef Mavro’s Helpful Hints|
When simmering pears, apples or any fruit that will turn black,
prevent discoloration by cutting a hole in a disk of parchment
paper and placing it on the water’s surface.
To crisp the skin of a chicken or other bird, start on high heat
and then turn it down.
When making a stock for sauce, reduce it to a nearly dry pan three
times to get the maximum amount of caramel from the bones.
For perfectly round poached eggs, line a ramekin with plastic
wrap, spray it with non-stick spray, crack the egg into the ramekin
and tie with a string. Drop the package into gently simmering water
and cook for 7 minutes. For extra richness, add a dash of truffle
oil and salt before tying the package. If preparing the eggs in
advance, cook about six minutes, and then plunge into a bowl of ice
water. Drop back into the simmering water for about one minute just
Never buy a knife advertised on TV for $19.99.
Gourmet Cooking Hawaii offers a 12 percent commission to travel
agents who arrange private classes for a group. Chef Mavro’s
classes are $150 per person with a 10-person minimum. For other
experiences, the price is $2,200 for up to 20 people and $110 for
each additional guest, with no minimum number of participants.
Classes last about 3 hours.