My (Imaginary) Dinner with Graham

My seminary bestie and I recently got to spend some time together, and on a Saturday over brunch, we did some writing together, like we used to do once a week when we both lived in Atlanta. We would write on a prompt, for fifteen minutes, and share our thoughts at the end of fifteen minutes.

This particular day’s prompt was: If You Could Have Dinner With Anyone, Who Would It Be?

I chose Chef Graham Elliott (a Michelin-starred chef and judge on MasterChef).

I feel like any way I choose, some part of me would feel I squandered my opportunity to have an amazing dinner with one person. Therefore, I will have to choose a multi-purpose soul with whom to spend time and learn a bit about crafting a perfect meal.

Cooking has been a very important part of my life, ever since my sister gave me a cooking set for my birthday when I was about 8 and she was 4. When my mom had her first joint replacement surgery, it was around 8th grade thanksgiving break. She said if we wanted thanksgiving dinner, we’d have to make it ourselves.

I rose to the challenge that year and every consecutive year after that. I roasted a turkey, made stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole. One year, for Christmas, I did a roasted goose with chestnut stuffing. Ew. The goose, not the stuffing.

Anyway, a once-in-a-lifetime dinner would have to include cooking, and a fancy schmancy dinner together after spending the day shopping at a pretentious food market.

We begin with a cheese appetizer. We have hard and soft cheeses, figs, grapes, and green olives marinated in dry vermouth, which we have stuffed ourselves, with herbed goat cheese.

Following the cheese board, we spend a leisurely time of cooking in my tiny kitchen. We make tapas-style servings of dishes. First, seared scallops with a smoked pepper crust over a bed of greens dressed with cilantro, lime and honey vinaigrette. Next, scallop ceviche with lime, habanero and pineapple tostadas on homemade tostadas.

Prosciutto-wrapped figs stuffed with goat cheese follow, then skirt steak kebabs with mushrooms, red and yellow peppers, and onions.

All the while, we cook and chat, and I learn techniques I’ve only dreamed of knowing. When everything is ready, we eat. We sit at my table by the window with individual servings of each delicious dish. He’s brought along a Black Oak Riesling that is fruity and delicious.

Chef Graham Elliott is a judge on MasterChef. The nicest judge in my opinion. His restaurant, Graham Elliott, in Chicago received a four-star rating under his guidance. He’s good times. He talks all about chef life and his family, and I take notes on best recipe books to own, how to properly filet a fish and butcher a piece of meat.

I have extensive notes from our dinner conversation on wine and cheese, fish and meat pairings, and techniques for searing, browning, poaching and sauce-ing.

After dinner, we make dessert. A flourless chocolate torte with homemade whipped cream and raspberry coulis. We top the whole thing off with chocolate shavings from a bar of Scharfen-Berger chocolate I bought for a cupcake contest but never used.

Oliver loves whipped cream, so he gets a tiny taste.

A chocolate port finishes off the meal; and our dinner and conversation wind down to a close. Chef Elliott leaves, after telling me I have the makings of a great chef and to keep cooking.

And now, I will clean my apartment and tiny kitchen. My teeny, tiny, cozy home where I just had dinner with Graham Elliott. I ceremonially in my mind mark the exact spot where I was standing when a Michelin-starred chef told me I had the makings of a great.

Thankfully, tomorrow is Saturday. I’m so excited tonight, I won’t be able to sleep for hours.

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