May 07, 2006

Playing at Professionalism - Taste of Pleasant Hill

Every time I've been downsized, right-sized, or for any other reason found myself contemplating career options (more than once across my adult life), I wonder how life might have been different if I'd discovered culinary school (or taken the concept of "leisure studies" seriously) when I graduated from high school. During my brief period of unemployment in the heart of the dot-com bust, I explored culinary school as one option -- and was sobered to learn that it rivaled the cost of my undergraduate degree in price, for a two year program. So I returned to the tech life and live my food industry fantasies vicariously through my friends in the restaurant industry.

Some people live to know how their cars work -- to be able to disassemble and reassemble them. I'm content knowing where to put the gas and how to check the oil and leaving the rest for the professionals. But when it comes to food, every little thing about the industry intrigues me. How it's grown (though with my black thumb, I'd be hard pressed to grow it myself). How it's prepared. And to tour a professional kitchen, in action? That's *my* personal Disneyland.

So when Daniel invited us to assist with his demonstration at this year's Taste of Pleasant Hill, we didn't hesitate to opt-in. On his tasting menu for the day, Daniel has chosen blue cheese & wild mushroom tartletts and some delightful leek and lamb turnovers. Yum! Spanning two tables, sandwiched between Pasta Pomodoro (serving meatballs and dessert bites) and a pizza joint (serving uninspired iceberg lettuce salad with prepared dressing), we weren't sure what to expect. The event serves as a fundraiser for the local preschool, so there were a lot of the under-10 set in attendance. With that demographic, it was fascinating to watch the public respond to Daniel's food. People fell into two camps: they either "got it" or they didn't. The best moment of the afternoon -- when a fourth grader's eyes lit up when she tasted the 'meat pie' and enthusiastically came back for more. Yeah, I could enjoy that part of the restaurant life...