I was at the gym on the elliptical machine quite a few months ago, some time in the autumn. One of the overhead TVs was broadcasting Chef Michael’s Kitchen on the Food Network, and Chef Michael Smith was talking about salads. I’d seen bits and pieces of his show before, also while sweating away on the elliptical, so I knew loosely who he was and what he was about. I’ve always liked him. He seems like a nice guy and I like his laid-back style. I read somewhere that his is the only instructional food show left on the Food Network these days.
That particular episode caught and kept my attention. He was talking about his simple but flexible ratio for making your own salad dressings: two parts oil, one part vinegar, one part sweet, with a dollop of mustard as an emulsifier to keep it from separating. At the time, my salad repertoire consisted of caesar and garden salad, but that day I went to the grocery store with his ratio rattling in my brain and that night we had a yummy harvest salad with kale, apples, toasted pecans and an apple-cider-maple vinaigrette. Fancy sounding, but dead easy and so good!
Over the next months, on Saturday mornings I started making sure I left the house to get to the gym to coincide with the beginning of Chef Michael’s Kitchen. I found his methods easy to follow and he cooked food that I knew the family would eat. Real food! One day I found myself doing an extra 10 minutes on the elliptical so I could watch the end of an episode featuring a fruit crisp that made me drool.
I loved the concept of the show: here’s a simple cooking technique illustrated in one recipe, and here’s how to add a twist. Beloved and I started watching back episodes on the Food Network On Demand, and I tried out more and more of his recipes. The Speedy Tomato Pasta Bake was the first one I tried, and we’ve had it many times since. One day this spring I tried something that had always seemed way too intimidating for me: I baked whole wheat biscuits from scratch. They were dead easy and oh my god, they were fantastic!
I became such a Chef Michael fangirl that the kids started asking me any time something new appeared on the table if it was a Chef Michael recipe. Even if it wasn’t his recipe, though, most of the new things I was trying were at least inspired in some way by the methods I’d learned obsessively watching each episode of Chef Michael’s Kitchen. One day Beloved came home from the library with Chef Michael Smith’s cookbook with “100 of my favourite easy recipes.” A paper cookbook! How quaint! I can’t remember the last time I used an actual cookbook. As I flipped through the various recipes, though, I think I actually started to salivate. I started marking pages with recipes I wanted to try, and by the time I got to a dozen I knew I had to have my own copy. Who the heck buys paper cookbooks in the Pinterest age, I’d often wondered as I breezed through the cookbook section of Chapters on my way to Starbucks. When it’s the right cookbook, apparently the answer is me.
Love this cookbook! We’ve tried half a dozen recipes in the month or two since I picked it up, and every single one has been a success. Two of our particular favourites are the potato, bacon and egg breakfast bake and rustic cherry tomatoes and sausage with penne. Really good REAL food that even the kids will eat.
Seriously, did I mention Chef Michael fangirl?
You might remember one of our first family trips involved stalking another celebrity of whom I am an avowed fangirl. Remember Stalking Stephen King? My mom recently pointed out that maybe we could call this trip to PEI “Stalking Chef Michael Smith.”
I can’t say that we planned our trip to PEI because it’s the land of Chef Michael Smith. I had really only just started to adore him when we booked the trip in January. However, I do admit over the course of planning I did Google to see if he is still head chef at The Inn at Bay Fortune (he is not) and was incredibly disappointed to find out that he is the celebrity host of The Village Feast in Souris, PEI, a community event that feeds 1000 dinners in an afternoon to raise funds for the local foodbank and school cookhouses in Kenya, TWO DAYS AFTER WE LEAVE. Rats!! I even e-mailed his “people” asking if there would be any public events in the week we are there, but no such luck.
We were planning to visit Souris anyway, as it’s really only a short drive from where we’ll be staying, and I read just yesterday on his Facebook page (I wasn’t kidding about the fangirl thing) that he has just this week opened a store called the Flavour Shack right there. I also read that the man himself is jetting off to Paris this week so he won’t be around, but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled just in case.
What, you don’t plan YOUR family vacations around stalking your favourite celebrities??
PS Ahem. #squeeee