Journey to Cook with John Besh

I was introduced to Chef John Besh when he completed on Season 1 of The Next Iron Chef on the Food Network. He was my pick to win from the first episode; Michael Symon defeated him in the final round to win the title.  I liked his style.  His Southern charm and seemingly laid back personality combined with incredible skill makes him the type of guy you would want to hang out with and cook. Among his passion for local ingredients this Louisiana Chef is skilled at fish and seafood, but those are ingredients I do not eat.

I don’t hate it; I just don’t care for it.
I have not been a fan of eating any type of fish or seafood my entire life; not even fish sticks growing up. I never had a Filet-O-Fish (though I am not sure that is real fish) and I was always picky about tuna in a can. Often people say “Try it here” or “Try it this way,” I assure you I have tried fish and seafood in places known for it around the world. With an exception of an occasional small bite of fresh tuna, either tartar or in a roll of some sort, I simply do not care for it.  Do I like the trendy taste of sushi? I have been known to try a few different rolls, but would not order it for myself. 

I am a firm believer in trying food at least once (just ask my niece and nephews).  When people find out I don’t eat fish or seafood the common questions come out:
“Are you allergic to it?” (No)
“Have you tried ___fill in the blank___?” (Yes, most likely)
“You are Catholic, what do you do during Lent?” (Grilled Cheese! Ha Ha! There are lots of options)

When I go to restaurants and see something on the menu that is described spectacularly but having the fish/seafood I will not order it, but I will hope that someone at the table (or even one nearby) orders it so I can witness the presentation and get their opinion. I am always intrigued to see the presentation of fish and seafood.  I think there are so many great ways it can be prepared and presented, I sometimes wish I could acquire a taste for it.

"It's just not the recipes."
When I pick up a cookbook for the first time I do a quick flip through the pages to look at recipes. Do they show pictures? How are they written? What types of ingredients are used? Do I see recipes I would make from this book? Once I buy a new cookbook I read it like I would any other book- front to back.

“Why did you buy a cookbook [My New Orleans] that has recipes in it for fish and seafood if you don’t like it?”

My New Orleans had me from the moment I picked it up. This isn’t just an average cookbook; it is a story of where the recipes come from and the people who inspire them. I was intrigued by the abundance of pictures and personal stories and an entire chapter on tomatoes.  It was the middle of winter when I first picked up the book and looked at it; I was wishing it was summer and the fresh produce would be in at the local farmers market. I had to have this book, it is beautiful! I wouldn’t sit on a shelf in the cupboard; I would displayed it on my coffee table. Unfortunately, my excitement was diminished because I had just found out that my hours at work were being cut and the thought of spending $45 on a book wasn’t the best use of money.  In July, I found it on sale at Barnes & Noble, plus I had an extra discount for ordering online and gift card to use.  I was ecstatic! I could now get the book I had been dreaming about for six months. I remember the day it arrived in the mail, I carefully took it out of the package and spent the rest of the evening reading the stories, marveling at the photos and deciding which recipe I wanted to make first. I think the thought “Geez John Besh is cool!” went through my mind a few times.  I have made the Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo and the Cherry Tomato Five Minute Sauce as my first recipes.  This book is awesome!

Are you following me?
In addition to catching John Besh on Food Network and in various publications I started following him on Twitter (and he follows me!). I Tweet my blog posts onto Twitter and was shocked when he responded to my post about Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo and asked how it turned out.

I responded by telling him it was wonderful and the only thing that would have made it better would be cooking it with him and that I would love to cook a meal with him one day.  Bold, I know, but I always say "You never get anything if you don't ask." Guess what? He was open to the idea. 

...The Journey Begins...

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