“I’m going to try something that I’ve never made before,” were the words from Paul Smith, corporate chef for Buzz Food Service and culinary instructor at Capitol Market’s “Let’s Get Cooking” classes.
Smith was speaking of the sugar-to-the-max, old-fashioned Southern delight, chess pie. Plunging toward his new horizon, Smith pressed his homemade pie crust dough into the pan.
Wait. Back up. “Homemade?”
The class/audience witnessed him unwrapping the paper covering of the familiar rolled-up refrigerated pie crust that comes in the long, slim, red box that we all know and love. Can you say “poppin’ fresh?”
He joked with us that he had made the crust the night before and personally folded it into the parchment-like pouch. We chided him back.
But let’s not be too harsh on him. This classically trained chef, graduate of the supremely regarded Culinary Institute of America, has served his time as a pastry chef.
Following his graduation from the CIA, he went to the Christian Brothers Winery in Napa Valley, an institution that houses the pastry school for the CIA.
Smith enrolled, completed his training, and upon graduation was awarded a trophy bearing his name, engraved with the fact that he was first in his class in pastry school.
He just picked the good ‘ol Pillsbury for time-saving convenience. Smith’s pastry experience is heavy, gained by working for several years at the Biltmore in Ashville, covering all aspects of pastry cookery.
“I baked more wedding cakes than I care to remember,” he said. “We also had tea time each day at two o’clock and multiple dainties had to be prepared fresh. I worked two shifts —the early morning and afternoon in pastry, then I covered the grill for the dinner service.”
On this particular day at the market, he was wrapping up his “Baking Made Easy” sessions.
On his previous baking day, the oven was malfunctioning and he completed a peach crumble on the grill (hats off for his grilling background).
Chess pie is a favorite of my husband, Vic, and our daughter, Gina. What’s not to like with melted butter cozying up to lots of sugar? I believe it to be just a halfway pecan pie without the nuts.
I long ago received and tried a chess pie recipe from the Egg Board, pitting it against one that was printed in the Gazette by the then-food editor, Delmer Robinson.
The Egg Board won the family taste test, with the Gazette a close second. Not intentionally plotting to give you a pie overload or to heap confusion, all three recipes are here today.
You get to make the decision that I couldn’t. Do you want to try Smith’s, mine or Robinson’s? I’ll print Smith’s tomato tart, his second demo of the day, in an upcoming column.
The bi-monthly Capitol Market’s free, open to the public cooking classes are presented by Nichole Greene, executive director of the market, and fully sponsored by AARP.
The sessions continue this month at noon on Sept. 21 with “Cooking with Kids & Grandkids” as the theme.
October brings a close to the seasonal classes with gatherings on Oct. 15 and Oct. 26 at noon for “Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice.”
As always, the classes are outside the Capitol Market in empty vendor spaces, rain or shine (or early October snow?).
No registration is necessary, just walk up, have a seat and enjoy Chef Smith’s entertaining rapport with the crowd.
Following that is the most anticipated part of the show — the taste sampling of what he has demonstrated.
You also have a chance to win a prize, no strings attached. AARP, as an expression of their good will, conducts a drawing at the end of the class for either a $25 gift certificate to the market or a gift from one of the vendors. Good luck!