Gabe’s Cooking Audition

This comes from my youngest son, Gabriel….

Gabe’s Cooking Audition

On Tuesday August 19, 2008, I was scheduled for a cooking audition between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm at Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery, a local establishment in Chapel Hill, NC. I had no idea what ingredients I might face when I walked through the door.

My instructions were as follows: prepare two servings of one appetizer, one salad, and one entree. And in the three dishes I had to use the ingredients I was given at least once throughout the courses. My ingredients were:

  1. Salmon
  2. Bratwurst
  3. Strip loin (the vein-y end that no one wants to work with)
  4. Shrimp
  5. Red Onion
  6. Poblano Peppers
  7. Artichokes
  8. Chopped Precooked Bacon
  9. Butternut Squash

I played with several ideas for each of the dishes. The salad was the first one that was set in stone, while the other two flipped around a bit. I settled down and set to work.

Grilled Salmon Appetizer

First, I seasoned the salmon with a season I call ‘Powder de Gabriel’ – salt, pepper, granulated garlic (a fair amount), granulated onion, and a pinch of white
pepper. I grilled it on their open flame grill, quarter turning
it to get the diamond effect. Then I sauteed artichoke hearts
in butter with garlic, roast tomatoes, basil ribbons, and chopped
bacon, and laid the saute mixture over the grilled salmon. I finished
the dish with a zig-zag pattern of a Chipotle Remoulade that
Top of the Hill has in house. I reserved one serving and sent the other to the judges.

Grilled Blackened Shrimp with Pesto Vinaigrette Salad

For the salad, I first prepared a dressing by mixing their in-house pesto with their balsamic vinaigrette dressing, adding a little extra balsamic vinegar for flavor. I took the mixed greens they have in house and made a bed for my salad, over which I put basil ribbons, red onions, and sliced tomatoes. I prepared the shrimp with a dry rub consisting of small amount of flour, salt, pepper, granulated garlic and onion, a dash of cayenne pepper, and blackening seasoning (A note to my dad: I would have used curry and cumin but they were not at my disposal). I grilled the shrimp quickly on the open flame grill and scattered them on the salad.

Roasted Strip Loin with Poblano Peppers, Onions,
and Bratwurst Stuffing

I took the strip loin and sliced it into two pieces about eight
by 4 inches wide and about three quarters of an inch thick. I then
pounded it down to about half an inch thick. I season the
beef with their in-house beef seasoning and set it aside.

I sauteed the Poblano peppers with white onion in butter and a healthy amount of minced garlic. While they sauteed, I skinned and quartered the Brats lengthwise, and chopped it into little triangles. Once the peppers and onions were flexible, I threw in the bratwurst. After everything was heated thoroughly I took a handful of the pepper/onion/garlic/bratwurst combination and put it in the center of the beef and rolled
the beef around it, tying it with cooking twine. The meat went
into the oven at 350 for about twenty-five minutes and came
out a medium to medium rare. I plated it with steamed
butternut squash and sent it out front, starting the clock on the hardest 15 minutes I’ve had in a long time. I turned to the other cooks in the kitchen and said, “What do I do now?”

“Now,” they said, “You wait.”

The executive chef showed up in the kitchen about 15 minutes
after my dish was sent out. He called me over and pulled
out the second portions and said, “Let’s talk.”

After we had had a chance to discuss the dishes, he invited all the other chefs in the kitchen to try them. Everyone seemed to think that I had done fairly
well. A half an hour later, I had hours on the schedule at decent hourly rate.

It was a hair-raising, enjoyable experience.

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