Dine and Learn
Knives sans wives: A group of local men gather to cook, laugh and learn
What happens when you throw six guys together in a kitchen with a bunch of knives? No, this is not a segment on Top Chef or a “do not attempt this at home” moment. Instead these six men men — a former pro athlete, a telecommunications executive, an importer, a lawyer, an insurance executive, and an entrepreneur — are gathering together once a month to prove they can bring home the bacon and fry it up, too.
Armed with mixing bowls, sauté pans and a food processor, the group was on a mission — guided by fearless leader Chef Brady Gibbs — to make flash-cooked ginger beef, spring rolls with shrimp and peanut sauce and Asian slaw with creamy jalapeño dressing.
This hodgepodge of men meets at a different home every month to prepare a gourmet meal selected by the host. Gibbs, a private chef and the owner of Fine Home Dining, attends to all the details, from the grocery shopping to the accouterments. And she does the dishes, too. “The guys are my most attentive students,” said Gibbs, who, in addition to personal and group cooking classes, also provides classic gourmet catering.
This hodgepodge of men meets at a different home every month to prepare a gourmet meal selected by the host.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Gibbs headed to the West Coast, where she attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She then worked at the Hyde Street Bistro in Russian Hill and the Pier House Resort Resort Restaurant in Key West before returning to her hometown of Austin to work as pastry chef at Tocai. Now, she has grown her business and spends her time educating families about food and providing no-fuss meals.
Gibbs has a way of putting everyone at such ease that even a novice cook feels uninhibited. As the men sip cocktails and talk baseball and cycling, Gibbs works her magic over the stove. Every once in a while, someone asks a question about an ingredient or preparation time.
When it came down to the DIY portion of the night, this group of thirtysomethings to fiftysomethings ascertain that working with rice paper wrappers — dipping them in water, combining ingredients in an order that makes rolling easy — is not as simple as the Food Network or YouTube how-to videos proclaim. And that’s when a little friendly competition gains momentum. (My husband still insists that his rolls reigned supreme.) No matter the skill level, though, everyone enjoys the company and delightful nibbles.
One gentleman, who told me that he learned how to properly chop cucumbers earlier in the evening, said he doesn’t cook at home. “That’s why I’m here,” he says. To make it easy for students to replicate the menu, Gibbs provides recipes of all the dishes. Over the past couple of months, this men’s group has cooked everything from steaks to tacos to pasta, with many attempting to create some of the entrées and appetizers in their own kitchens.
In fact, my husband couldn’t wait to make the flash-cooked ginger beef in our kitchen the following weekend. After numerous trips to the grocery store for ginger root, rice vinegar, and a few other ingredients we didn’t have in the pantry, he got his mise en place and began his experiment, laboring all afternoon. The aromas wafted throughout the house, creating a sense of anticipation and excitement until it was time for the moment of truth: dinner. One bite and we were amazed.
According to my husband, it was almost as good as Chef Brandy’s version. Sounds like a winner to me — an excellent meal that involves no cooking on my part. I’m looking forward to the next class (Italian, Vietnamese or classic French?) and the ensuing test dinner. Bon appétit.