There is something special about a chef. The way we carry ourselves, the knowledge in our heads that is about to spill out some time soon into a saute pan, or the fact that we’ve burned ourselves many times with that saute pan, or the oven, or the grill. Translate that specialness onto television, and you get Superstar chefs like Julia Child, The Galloping Gourmet (Graham Kerr), Ming Tsai of East Meets West, and more recently, Gordon Ramsey, Giada De Laurentis, Jamie Oliver, and Anthony Bourdain (Kitchen Confidential).
Take that Chef, put them in a cooking demonstration in front of 40 adoring fans, watch them cook and talk, and it becomes magic.
So, when I saw the announcement buried in a very small part of a newspaper that Aaron Sanchez would be doing a cooking demonstration in Paradise Valley, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to watch a television Chef present and cook. I want to know how the professionals do it. I want to know if I’m doing it right. I wanted to be next to that guy. I live to bask in culinary greatness, and I’ve been next to some bright stars who you will never see on television, but this was a big opportunity to see a celebrity chef in person.
Seeing him cook and talk up close was much better than on television. I had a great seat and watched as his hands stirred the pot, slathered the tamale with masa, and talked about his grandmother and mother. There were stories in the recipes of Tamales and Enchiladas. He was simple and straightforward, using everyday ingredients. An even and unassuming manner with so much passion released in little ways. Sharing his family culinary history. Giving away a no-fail masa recipe. Smiling when mentioning using duck fat instead of chicken stock in that masa. This was the Aaron Sanchez in front of me for the hour long demonstration! It was hard to contain my fanchef excitement.
But for me, the best part was learning that a cooking demonstration whether done by one of the Sous Chefs for Salsa demo at my work, or done by one of the bright stars of the Food Network, is still a cooking demonstration. The pot still has to be stirred, and the food still has to be passed out and tasted by the guests. And no matter where you cook, a high heat rubber spatula is still the best thing to use in a Teflon skillet.
In Sanchez, I did not see an arrogant or pushy Chef; I saw a humble and passionate man sharing that passion with us through food. After reading his biography on his website, I understand why. Aaron Sanchez embraces Buddhist philosophy. He told us at the end of the demonstration, “Television lets me touch all of you, but what you see there is what you get here. I am the same man.”
When it was over, I was able to shake hands with Aaron Sanchez and introduce myself. That instant bond between cooks was created, and I walked away with an autograph, and memories of him smiling as he rolled tamales and enchiladas telling us his personal story.