Food Events

Inside Tom Douglas Culinary Camp

Just what are they doing over at Palace Ballroom this week?

By Jessica Voelker July 14, 2009

This week at Palace Ballroom, Tom Douglas holds court at Culinary Summer Camp, an annual program that includes cooking demos, cook-offs among campers, (with prizes ranging from olive oil to dinner at the Corson Building) and, I learned, a certain amount of drinking before noon.

The campers pay $2,500 for the weeklong program, and local guest chefs like Maria Hines (Tilth), Renee Erickson (Boat Street Café), and Thierry Rautureau (Rovers), show up to teach and taste alongside toquers from San Francisco, Chicago, and Germany.

The TD entourage—his daughter Loretta, Chef Eric Tanaka, and Shelley Lance (coauthor on the cookbooks), among others—is on hand to participate in that teasy, TD-behind-the-scenes banter that Douglas and staff have practically trademarked.

At the session I sat in on this morning, very enthusiastic TD pastry chef Garrett Melkonian demonstrated butterscotch pudding topped with glazed lardons (Bavarian bacon in a maple, scotch, and coca-cola—“preferably Mexican Coke”—syrup).

Douglas himself then detailed the ins-and-outs of boning a duck (oh, behave), offering up useful details along the way—to facilitate confident carving, for instance, a home chef should have a boning knife with a sticky handle.

(If you love double entrendre, by the way, you’d also love culinary camp. At one point TD held two duck breasts he had seared up to his chest. “How do you like my breasts?” He asked “They’re two different sizes,” replied a cheeky camper. “I’ve found that’s often the case.” Bah dum chish!)

Before I reluctantly went back the real world around noon, my stomach full of duck-egg stuffed ravioli, I’d seen one group of campers do a round of Makers Mark shots, several others swigging on champagne, and I myself had the chance to sample a tasty lambrusco: “La Luna” from Cantini Ceci—a semi-sparkling (frizzante) wine served chilled.

I didn’t catch the vintage but it looks like the 2007 retails for $14.99. I’ll be buying that.

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