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Gustavore Patch: Cooking for A Cause

Five things I learned at a Simple Abundance Cooking Class featuring Chef Joe Truex of Watershed.

  1. For $55, you can enjoy a great meal, learn from a local chef, get 10 percent off kitchen gear and wine, and support a charity all at the same time.
  2. Chef Joe Truex brings a Louisiana vision to Watershed, has vast culinary knowledge and is funny.
  3. Food served in restaurants might be so tasty because it contains heart stopping amounts of butter.
  4. If you win a bottle of wine in a raffle, you will never win anything ever again.
  5. The burger is still on the menu at Watershed.

On a recent Monday evening, we arrive at The Cook’s Warehouse for a Simple Abundance Cooking Class with the promise that ’s new executive chef, Joe Truex, will demonstrate four scrumptious dishes. We’re also hoping to learn how he intends to make his mark on one of our favorite restaurants.

One hundred percent of the tuition paid by students at Simple Abundance Cooking Classes benefits Atlanta’s Table, a project of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. This is possible because the featured chefs donate their time and the ingredients, The Cook’s Warehouse donates the space, cooking assistants donate their time, Sherlock’s Wine Merchant donates the wine, and other sponsors donate raffle prizes and other support.

Bonus: students get a 10 percent discount in the store…so if you pick up $550 worth of equipment and wine, your discount offsets the class fee and that would make it essentially free, right?

The first recipe is for a Roasted Cauliflower Soup with curry and coconut. The soup gets its depth of flavor from the roasting of the cauliflower and the addition of a little curry and coconut milk. The curry and coconut flavors stay in the background for a subtle something extra. As he demonstrates the puree step, Chef Truex advises us to “always leave yourself room to control the process” by pureeing the solids first, with just enough liquid to facilitate the puree. Then you add the liquid to the puree to achieve the desired consistency. As Truex points out, “it’s really hard to take liquid out if you have too much.” Same with salt.

The Baked Oyster with Shrimp and Tasso features Tasso from local charcuterie The Spotted Trotter and this flavor drives the Louisiana flair of this appetizer, along with “the trinity.” Every cuisine has a version of the trinity and in Louisiana, it means celery, onion and green bell pepper. Chef Truex acknowledges that Old Bay Seasoning is a decidedly non-Louisiana ingredient but my husband is exalted and certain in his vindication of his admiration for this spice mix. (I may have, at some point, disparaged Old Bay during a conversation about the composition of quality crab cakes.) My husband hopefully inquires whether Maryland style crab cakes will be appearing on the Watershed menu anytime soon. Chef Truex unequivocally answers with, “Never.”

As Truex begins preparation of the Trout with Crab Imperial and Tomato Butter Sauce, the second raffle of the night is drawn and my name is called! When I return to the table with my prize, the woman next to me mutters, “You’ll never win anything ever again.” This is bitterly disappointing news since my plans to enter the ranks of the super wealthy hinge entirely upon winning the lottery. Knowledge that it is a verifiable fact that a person can only win one thing in his or her entire life would have been a lot handier to have had before I wasted my single winning moment on a $10 bottle of wine. Sheesh.

Fortunately, chocolate finishes the menu and who can’t be cheered up by a slab of fudge with a silky texture somewhere between pudding and frosting topped with sea salt, pistachios and olive oil? Chef Truex takes a taste before he plates our deserts and declares, “This is almost…[long pause savoring chocolate]…too good to give you guys.”

The evening’s butter count: 8 teaspoons per person. That’s 29 grams of fat. I decide to skip adding up all other fats from coconut milk, Tasso, parmesan cheese, mayo, chocolate, cream, pistachios and olive oil.

Fat content aside, we thoroughly enjoy the class. Truex talks and cooks, sharing his thoughts on food trends, his own evolution as a chef, and wine and food. He comes across as accessible, real, knowledgeable, un-snobby. His talents add good Louisiana cooking with a French sensibility to Watershed’s southern table.

But some of the things we love about the restaurant will remain: the absolute best burger in town (and I am unanimous in that) and the restaurant’s farm-to-table philosophy, which has been so since its founding thirteen years ago. Truex jokes about the idea of farm-to-table as a new trend among restaurants, wondering, “where did they get their food before that?”

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