Chefs to delight foodies
When mouth-watering food and swirling wine connoisseurs get Lake Tahoe’s royal treatment this week, they’ll learn what New York executive chef Ann Cooper put in writing.
The author of “A Woman’s Place is in the Kitchen” and many other books has cooked for the U.S. Senate and the Grateful Dead. On Saturday, she’ll grace the South Shore scene for the inaugural Lake Tahoe Food & Wine in the Pines.
The event, which starts Thursday and ends Sunday, is organized by the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority at venues at Harrah’s, Harveys, the Horizon and Caesars Tahoe.
At Caesars’ ballroom, Cooper will present a dinner served up by five of the top women chefs in the nation.
Cooper has come a long way since starting her career about 20 years ago after attending the Culinary Institute of America in the Big Apple.
In those days, women were headstrong in proving they could do the cooking, cleaning and be professionals.
Cooper scoffed at the line: “the best chefs are men.”
“I think contemporarily no one says that kind of stuff anymore,” she said, writing off the reference with the knowledge “women have always fed the planet.”
This line of work has evolved.
When she graduated from culinary school, two women were in the class. These days, most graduating classes are about 30 percent women.
They make up less than 15 percent of executive chefs today, a step up from 20 years ago when there were virtually none.
Her advice to aspiring female chefs is simple.
“Cook — just get in the kitchen and cook. It’s all about the food,” she said.
Still, Cooper didn’t go into cooking to prove something. She wanted to be nurturing to diners enjoying her food. Her desire led to her accelerating in her field.
Beyond cooking for the Senate at the Clinton White House and serving up organic dishes backstage for the Grateful Dead, Cooper drummed up exclusive meals on the Queen Elizabeth II cruise ship and fed 20,000 at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. The Colorado event is billed as one of the biggest music extravaganzas in the nation.
“Anytime you have a craft you excel at and share with people — that’s an honor,” she said.
The award-winning chef now helps cook 1,300 meals a day at the Ross School in East Hampton, N.Y. Aside from cooking, she has also written “The Evolution of Women Chefs” and “Bitter Harvest: A Chef’s Perspective on the Hidden Dangers in the Foods We Eat and What You Can Do About It.”
Cooper makes a point of considering regionally grown ingredients when she concocts dishes. For instance, cooking in New England may constitute a venture into winter squash, apples or scallops.
As for why wine complements food so much, Cooper characterized the beverage as food itself. When combined with other flavors, it works in concert to enhance the meal. She used steak and mushrooms as an example.
The goodness of some flavors has surprised the long-time chef, such as fresh strawberries topped with black pepper.
When asked if knowledge of tasteful blends is learned or instinctive, Cooper said her experience has taught her it’s a little of both.
Cooper will show her stuff during a five-course dinner, along with Sherry Yard of Wolfgang Puck’s in Beverly Hills; Lynn Crawford of the Four Seasons in New York; Christine Keff of the Flying Fish in Seattle; Zo Karamaradian of Zov’s Bistro in Tustin and Helene Jane Kennan, Terri L. Buzzard and Lisa Capozzi of the the Getty Center in Los Angeles.
Those wishing to get a sampling of these women chefs’ cuisine may do so by calling (775) 783-8144 or visiting the Web site at http://www.tahoefoodandwine.com.
Single-event prices for Lake Tahoe Food & Wine in the Pines range from $100 for the women’s dinner, which can make an experience out of beets, to $40 for a seminar of women winemakers.
Organizer Steve Teshara, the TDVA executive director, called the latter a sleeper part of the event billed as “first class.”
“I think we have the indication there’s going to be a lot of walk-up traffic,” Teshara said, adding the best is yet to come.
He acknowledged the event’s debut year will soon give way to a program that develops a reputation with a massive draw to South Lake Tahoe.
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A flash flood watch has been extended for the Lake Tahoe area.