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Biltmore Boot Camp: From Novice Nosher to Culinary Expert

Nothing scares this kitchen crew any more.
Nothing scares this kitchen crew any more.

Photo by Riki Altman

Yesterday, we introduced you to Biltmore Culinary Academy's raison d'etre. Today we're gonna break down what we learned. Yeah, buddy, we got mad skillz now.


Day One: Mise en Place

Marvel at our diced red peppers, sliced onions, and julienned carrots.
Marvel at our diced red peppers, sliced onions, and julienned carrots.
Photo by Riki Altman

First we learned to slice, julienne, dice, chop, chiffonade and segment veggies and herbs. Then we butterflied shrimp to make a beautiful lunch of roasted vegetable soup and seared shrimp with brown butter lemon sauce.

We're happy to report no one cut any appendages off, and forever more we'll know the difference between a scalloped slicer and a santoku. (The latter by the way is a kind of knife. the name means three virtues in Japanese -- chopping, slicing and mincing.)

Day Two: Meat Cuts and Dry Cooking Techniques

Four proteins, five vegetables, one fine spread.
Four proteins, five vegetables, one fine spread.
Photo by Riki Altman

Now that we had knife skills under our barely soiled aprons, each of us was responsible for a pork-, chicken-, beef,- or fish-centric entrée and veggie side dish. We were taught the blender button to hit and which ingredient to add to make the ever-so-slight transition from guacamole to chimichurri and why Mexican crema should be in all of our fridges. The final result was colorful and well-balanced, leading us to believe that no future dinner party would be too much of a hosting challenge.

Which part of Miss Moo do we choose?
Which part of Miss Moo do we choose?
Photo by Riki Altman

A happy chalkboard cow assisted us through the second part of the day's lesson. Castro used Miss Moo to point out where a filet and flank steak come from and which holds up best using whatever cooking technique.

Day Three: Moist Cooking Techniques & Grains

Carb-load-o-rama!
Carb-load-o-rama!
Photo by Riki Altman

Today's focus was on grains, and each of us was responsible for either rice, quinoa, couscous, or orzo, along with a protein-focused main dish accompaniment. Team Miami New Times chose chicken curry and coconut rice, which, blessedly, turned out flawless. As a bonus, we were also schooled in the proper way to make a cafecito, an invaluable lesson for any local. (This lesson was not part of the original syllabus, nor were the stack of deliciouso chocolate chip cookies we became addicted to, so be sure to ask for both if you enroll.)

Aside from all the aforementioned, we also learned interesting little kitchen tidbits like:

  • Put a damp paper towel under your cutting board to prevent it from moving
  • Salt at a distance to cover more surface area
  • Keep onions cold before chopping unless you want to sob like a fool
  • When plating, use odd numbers--it looks prettier.
We earned that meal!
We earned that meal!
Photo by Riki Altman

So maybe none of us left ready to replace Chef Philippe Ruiz, but at least we could whip up some legitimate fare. If Iron Chef calls, we're good to go.


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