Top Chef’s Gerald Sombright



Episode 012- Top Chef cheftestant, Gerald Sombright is a regular guy who made his bones in the professional cooking world, not by flashing a degree from a fancy culinary school.  Instead, he worked his way up from the bottom rung of the kitchen hierarchy.

On this episode, he takes us on his food journey, working his way up from restaurant work in Saint Louis to being Chef De Cuisine at Ario in Marco Island, Florida to being a  contestant on what is arguably the best cooking competition show on television, Top Chef.

He’ll give you the inside scoop on what it’s like to be on the show and how he almost didn’t make it past the application phase, but for his Indiana Jones-like determination.  You’ll also find out his biggest challenge and what he would do differently if he were to do the show again.  Note: The Top Chef Season 14 finale is on Thursday, March 2nd.

Also, if you listened to Episode 011 of Guys and Food, you know that I was on a  pie kick during the last week (Psssst– I still am).  It had me looking at some of my pie cookbooks.  I was intrigued by a few different recipes for maple pie.  Many of these recipes call for the darker and robust tasting Grade B maple syrup. When I asked the folks on one of my Facebook food groups where one might be able to locally source the harder to find Grade B syrup, I was told that the ABC grading system for maple syrup no longer exists.  Just like everyone gets a trophy these days, so too, all maple syrup is now Grade A.  Here is an article explaining the new grading system and how to distinguish one type of maple syrup from another.

Remember, if you are an interesting food guy (or you know one), find out how to become a guest on Guys and Food!

John Tompkins- Wall Street Exec Turned Candy Man



Episode 011-  As Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, one’s mind turns to the “go to” food gift, chocolate and candy.  When thinking about chocolate and candy, my attention turns to John Tompkins, owner of JT’s Confections in New Jersey.

In the spirit of full disclosure, John and I went to college together at Buffalo State.  I wouldn’t say were were drinking buddies, but we were friendly, traveled in similar circles as we both were Resident Assistants, and we shared some mutual friends.  After graduation, he went to work on Wall Street and I ran my circuitous journey. Over the decades since graduation, I think we saw each other maybe at one or two alumni things.

When I started Guys and Food, a mutual RA friend asked if I knew that John started a candy business;  I did not.  But I found him on Facebook and we reconnected.  After so many years, it’s nice to know that he did not lose his characteristic Tompkins charm and wit.

In this episode, John shares his very interesting story of burning out from the rough and tumble of the concrete jungle, leaving that, and creating his candy business, JT’s Confections.  He has a storefront but his bread and butter is in mail-order and corporate sales.  He is also using it as a vehicle for helping out veterans and local charities.  Good for him!

This week was pie week for us.  It was kind of blustery and I was in the mood for a pie.  I opened up my King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion book as it was on my kitchen table.  The book magically opened to Tourtière .  For the uninitiated, it’s a French Canadian pork pie that is totally appropriate during the cold winter months.  I was going to use the recipe in the book when I remembered that my friend, Greg, made this dish pretty regularly.  I asked and he sent me his family recipe.

Since there was no recipe for the pastry included in Greg’s, I used the pastry recipe from the King Arthur Flour cookbook.  Here the pie crust is made with shortening that is melted in boiling water.  I never tried that technique before. I have to say I was very pleased. It was crisp but not flaky and a perfect match for the tastily seasoned meat filling. It is a new family favorite.  Merci to the Methot/Grenier family!  Here is a picture of Greg’s version of the dish:

One pie was not enough.  In an effort to use a bunch of Granny Smith apples that were laying around, I decided that I needed to make an apple pie.  I used a recipe for Washington State Granny Smith Apple Pie from my favorite pie guy, Ken Haedrich’s book Pie (page  221).  It is a single crust pie (made with butter and vegetable shortening) with a crumb topping.  The pie was not too sweet, not too tart.   In truth, I think that I could have kept it in the oven a little longer to get the crust a little more brown.  Nonetheless,  my wife says it has been a long while since she has had an apple pie that was this delicious.

A handy tip for pie bakers: One challenge that many have is transferring the newly rolled-out pie pastry and getting it into the pie plate without it tearing or falling apart.  Instead of folding it into quarters (risking creases and cracks) or balancing it precariously on your rolling pin (risking dropping and crumpling), try what I refer to as “The Haedrich Maneuver.”  Simply roll out your pie pastry on a sheet of lightly floured wax paper instead of your counter top or wherever you roll things out.  When you have achieved your desired size (for example, 13 inches for a 9 1/2 inch pie plate), transfer it, turn it upside down over the plate, remove the wax paper, and tuck it neatly where it’s supposed to go.  It’s that simple!  Save yourself a lot of stress and try this the next time you make pie.

Two pies were not enough.  I also made Shepherd’s Pie from a recipe in The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham (page 190). This is a misnomer as this dish is neither a pie (it’s a casserole), nor does it contain any shepherds.  Still it was simple to prepare, hearty,  and delicious.  It tasted even better the next day when we had leftovers for lunch.

Programming Alert:  On the next Guys and Food episode, you’ll hear an interview with a cheftestant from this season’s Top Chef! Can you guess who it will be? (Hint: It will be a guy.)


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