The art of the Grill

Cold crisp air, cracking of leaves and the smell of charcoal in a grill. Really, does it get any better then that? Maybe except when the foods being grilled are pulled off the grill and enjoyed.

To truly claim the title of “king of the grill” you need to use the grill for more then just burgers and steaks. Smoke a chicken, roast a pork loin, do a clam bake think outside the box, which reminds me bake a pizza from scratch out on the grill you will never go back inside the oven. So grab a sweater your tongs and a bag of charcoal and get out and have fun and truly taste the season.


birds of a feather. . .

I have come to the conclusion that birds do not flock together, rather they attract other flocks.  Have you ever noticed that people that entertain have friends and associates that like to attend parties but for the most part do not host.  Or the ones that attend events, like finding individuals or couples who like to host parties and get-together’s.  Heck even couples are that way, one loves to entertain the other curls up into the fetal position and starts a mental breakdown when an event is planned.

So what can we do with this info? Hire out. . .  find event planners, caterers, dj, decorators anyone who can help you in hosting a gathering. Life is about living together and sharing the good things that this world has to offer.  So as Wyane and Garth so elegantly declared, “Party on Wyane, party on Garth.” And I say to you party on and happy holidays.


One of three, Epitaph to Chef Trotter

The passing of Charlie Trotter hits home to me, not that I knew him or that he even new I exist. But in a professional, creative manor he was one of three look up to’s. 

When I was a poor college kid going to culinary school, I would save up to buy the new Trotter cookbooks. Entertain using his ideals, techniques and most importantly flavors. During the second year of schooling I convinced a couple of other poor classmates to save up and shoot the moon with me at Trotter’s. I still have the signed menu hanging in my house. It is, to this day, the most awe inspiring dining experience I have ever had. What really made it was what happened after a conversation I had with our head waiter, “that this table is filled with culinary students, whom are wanting to be like Charlie.”  Chef Trotter heard about our conversation and took our experience for a ride of magical and mystical proportions. He added four or more plates to the menu each more delightful the the last. After the meal Chef Trotter sent someone to personally give us a tour of the restaurant, gardens, wine cellar and kitchen.  Once we were in the kitchen clad in stainless and copper with an aroma of heavenly proportions surrounding us, while still be in the middle of the rush, he paused to shake our hands, introduce and sign our menus.  The energy, calm, control, poise, and dash of arrogance melded together so perfectly to give three budding Trotter-esk Culinarians a moment and meal that will last a lifetime. I hope I can give someone a moment in time they too can cherish forever. 

Charlie Trotter September 8, 1959~November 5, 2013

Think it, feel it (sorry Nike) just “do” it, cooking of course

Ever walk through the woods and take a big breath and instantly and without trying create the evening meal or concur up a new concoction to create in the kitchen? Ever just get the feeling to make a batch of cookies or at least the dough or maybe it is a cake, a roast who know what but you just felt it come over you to make it? Cooking it is truly an amazing craft, skill, passion, art, entertainment, release, business, obsession and last but not least a necessity.   Just doing it can be easy to do, as you float through your day, week, month, year, life; but, once in a while to create, be inspired is awesome. Every time I host a cooking class, or cater a dinner party I always get the, “this is nice but I don’t have time, I work have kids. . .” so do I truth is so do many people but making a “real” meal from scratch can give you so much more then just food.  Many studies have concluded that homemade from scratch foods are healthy, and because you can actually spell and pronounce all of the ingredients you actually know what you are putting in your body. So take five and cut an onion, crack an egg or smoke a roast whatever you think of, feel like and most importantly going to do, do it with passion. 

The equation of love, food, life

If food is made from ingredients and with love and memories are loving thought of the past it makes great sense to say memories are love of food.  When is the last time you made a batch of chocolate chip cookies and did not think of your mom, grandma, dad or a childhood friend?  What makes what better? The snack to bring back a memory or the memory that the snack brought back? That might be one of the unsolvable rhymes of life but at least this unsolvable comes with a wonderful aroma, taste and hopefully a shared smile.

Get your weekend cooking juices flowing

Fall weekend menu


Smoked pheasant melt

~ Hearty wheat bread, sliced smoked pheasant, fontina cheese, caramelized onions, roasted peppers relish ~


Roasted winter squash bisque

~ Acorn, butternut and ambercup squashes blended with toasted brown rice finished with sage Chantilly cream and cumin tossed  roasted squash ~


Grilled cowboy steaks

~ Bone in rib eye beef steak with maple-balsamic marinate served with fire roasted pearl onions, roasted garlic and mushroom compote, blue cheese baked potato, and creamed hardy greens ~


Honey custard Sundae

~ Honey custard with salted pear caramel, peppered black walnuts and cayenne pear chips ~

Upcoming Places to see Chef James

Dinners with Class will be cooking it up at Riveredge Nature Center on October 5th at their Frothy Forage hope to see you all there walking through a prairie and tasting local craft beers and eating food, one word.  .  . AWESOME! 

As chef Gusteau suggests I too concur

Cook with your heart, not with your measuring cups. I wish I had a dollar for everyone who has told me “I can’t cook, well I can make some things but really cooking nope not me.” Cooking comes from the heart and a childlike sense of care free thinking and not worrying if it is not perfect. Very few things in the kitchen turn out “perfect” the first time just as in life practice makes perfect or at least more tasty. The goal for most people should be to put more of themselves into the food they make, not try to be famous chefs, it takes too many years to do that. Take a food you know and add an ingredient you love start small and see where it takes you. Bon Appétit