In the End it is About People not Food
Saturday morning and afternoon vanished in a haze of cooking. Ed arrived a couple of hours before everyone else to prepare two different shrimp appetizers and after David arrives with his Bourbon Yams most of the food is laid out on our dining room table.
The first hour or so is very calm with only a few guests and I have time to remember to put out some of Annie’s mustard for drizzling over the salmon and to pick up my iPad and get my sister on Skype. I’m only an hour late for our prearranged call. Laura and I are able to talk for a few minutes until the noise level suddenly rises and we can’t hear each other. Seemingly all the remaining guests have arrived at once. Cynthia is among this throng of new comers and she ushers in her husband Mitch explaining that this is where they are having dinner for the night. While clearly surprised, Mitch doesn’t miss a beat. He walks in and both his physical and mythical presence fill the room. Mitch Omer is here. At my house. I shake his hand quickly and dash off to the kitchen to put the last touches on something, maybe the salmon, but I don’t really remember. As I am heading into the kitchen the voice which until now has only given me cooking advice from the written page yells out, “Don’t %@#$ it up!” My quick reply is , “Too late.” We get the rest of the food out for everyone and the last item to place on the table is the bear. The question I get from almost everyone is, “Where did you get the bear?” Which is a great question because I have a story for it and Tim is standing nearby so I can point out who saved the day. For the next hour or so I am in the kitchen talking with Mitch as he sips on a Red Bull. Someone has managed to get a beer for me, which is good because I don’t leave from my corner of the kitchen for some time. I’m too excited to eat so I don’t bother getting a plate of food. Because I am standing next to it I sneak a few pieces of bear meat from the cook pot until Kira takes it away to refill the plate in the other room. The conversation with Mitch is all over the board. He is doing most of the talking, which makes sense given our personalities. At some point he asked me, “What made you decide to do it?” I tried to think back to last December and I told him my standard line about letting the cookbook sit on the shelf for a year. With hindsight I realize my answer should have been, “Because I like to eat good food.” At some point the beer in my hand changes to a cider with Jameson, which means that Chris has brought me a drink.
I finally make it into the dining room to put together a plate of food and I realize that we may not have made enough. Many of the platters are empty or half empty. When I talk with my Mom and Dad later that evening they reassure me that this means the food must just be really good. I really hope that was the case and that everyone got enough to eat. My typical mode at a party is to hide behind the host duties or bartending, but for this party Kira, Tim and Steve were taking care of everything for me. After all of the brioche bread was eaten they were in the kitchen cutting up another loaf of bread and toasting it.
When I made it back into the kitchen Cynthia handed me the gift she and Mitch brought. I ripped it open to find a book on knife skills that will allow me to continue on my journey to being a chef. The book was signed by Mitch and inserted into it were some gift cards for Hell’s Kitchen. The title of the book led to Mitch telling us about learning knife skills from Jacques Pépin and a great story about doing a cooking demonstration with Jacques where they both ended up bleeding.
I manage to pull myself away from Mitch for a bit and talk with some of the other guests. When we cross paths again, he asks me if I can, “get everyone in one room so he can bark at them.” Mitch gives a toast and says some amazingly nice things, telling me how honored he is that someone would cook their way through his book. I give a toast to him and to everyone who is there because they have all been a part of the Mike/Mitch project in some way. I think someone has the toasts on video. Maybe I’ll post them someday.
There is more. The party goes on for several hours. I manage to get Laura back on Skype and pull Mitch aside to introduce them. The three of us have a great conversation and for a a few minutes it is like she is here. We bring out a cake for Kira’s Dad because it is his birthday and for Tim because it is his birthday in about a week. Other people have brought me gifts. Mary Jo has brought me a shirt combining my homage to bacon AND vegetarianism. Jerry and Patty have brought me my next project (or so they say), a cookbook of recipes from Around the World. Walt Disney World that is.
At some point Mitch and Cynthia say their goodbyes and people start to trickle out until there is only a few of us left. It is quieter and easier to have a conversation, but the energy of the party is gone. We ended the evening drinking wine and eating the bag of M&M’s I forgot to put out. It was a great night and it is something I will always remember.
It was delicious.
Damn Great Chef Quote of the Day:
Mitch Omer makes Anthony Bourdain look like an altar boy. His individualistic, personal, and idiosyncratic cooking is that of a man who is larger than life, big-hearted, generous, and wild.”