I was at the Columbus Health and Fitness Expo in Ohio this past weekend, demo-ing from my newly released Perfect One-Dish Dinners and The Perfect Recipe For Losing Weight and Eating Great.
I love opportunities like this because they keep me on my toes. They’re an exercise in complete trust. Each time it’s a different kitchen, different city, different people. I’m a slow learner but over the years I’ve come to see that no matter what happens, everything’s gonna be alright by curtain time.
Saturday I arrive at the Columbus Convention Center an hour before my demo and the place is bustling. I snake my way back to the Healthy Kitchen Stage and peek behind the curtain. Under the high-top fluorescents this cordoned off space looks more like an airplane hangar-cum-makeshift emergency ward—a freestanding fridge, a four-burner electric stove, a bunch of folding tables lined up back-to-back, a canister of basic kitchen tools, large sleeves of disposables, and boxes of latex gloves.
I step behind the curtain unnoticed—everyone’s scrambling to get the noon act ready. I look around and see familiar but unprepped ingredients. Just as I’m starting to panic, I see two relaxed professionals in their chef whites making their way toward me.
As they come closer, I do a double take. Could it be they’ve recruited Mark Bittman to help with my demo? He’s a dead ringer for my old friend, but turns out his name is Jim Vassar, a second career student at Columbus Culinary School with a passion for pastry. No time to chat now. We’ve got less than an hour to prep three recipes (one of which must be made to serve 100).
Jim’s love may be pastry but he whips his chef’s knife out of his bag and deftly turns bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs to boneless, skinless. Utterly calm he and Nancy get me stage-ready with time to spare.
My next demo: 2:00 Sunday afternoon—another three recipes with 100 tasting proportions of Apricot-Cherry Bars with Oatmeal Crumble Topping which must be baked ahead and cooled. Jim and Nancy weren’t scheduled until 3:00. No problem. Jim said Saturday was his baking night—or maybe he just said that to make me feel OK. My bars just became his new project.
With Jim baking and prepping the bars ahead, we just had fun on day two. I give Jim and Nancy copies of my books. Jim gives me his barbecue sauce recipe that he’ll be using in a rib competition in few weeks—said he’d love for me to use it in a grilling cookbook. No plans for a grilling cookbook, but in the meantime Three Many Cooks is honored to post Jim’s barbecue sauce recipe on our blog.
As they were hooking up my microphone David arrives for a few behind-the-scenes photos. Jim heads to the stage with my “mis en place.” David turns to me and whispers, “Who does that guy remind you of.”