Chow, Baby: Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Chef Inspector

Been a busy week for Chow, Baby’s favorite celebrity chefs. Anybody watching tv at 5:51 a.m. last Wednesday? Chow, Baby sure wasn’t, and had to make friends at CBS 11 (Hi, John! Hi, Ram!) in order to score a tape of Fred’s own Terry Chandler acting out on the crack-of-dawn news show. Getting an early start on last weekend’s ZestFest (technically, the International Zesty Foods Show, hosted by Chile Pepper magazine), the outlaw chef whipped up a batch of yummy-looking green chile and goat cheese potatoes au gratin while bantering with newscaster Michael Hill. This dish better be on Fred’s menu the next time Chow, Baby stops by.

Next on the tube: Thursday at 9 a.m. on Good Morning Texas, Jon Bonnell of wild-deer-famed Bonnell’s will whip up his venison medallions with a juniper sage demiglace and his ultra-fab roasted green chile cheese grits. Chow, Baby’s salivary juices are running already.

Alas, eating is one of those activities that just isn’t as exciting when you’re watching people do it on tv. But at ZestFest, Chow, Baby got to participate to its heartburn’s content. Will Rogers Coliseum was packed with spicy-food vendors from all over the world: 175 booths of free tastings! Salsa, spices, pickles, rubs — if it blazes, it was there. But the best part of ZestFest was the cooking demonstrations, because the audience got to both watch and eat. And the best of the cooking demonstrations was Terry Chandler’s, ably assisted by acting sous chef and demonstrations-coordinator Michael Thomson, chef-proprietor of Michael’s Restaurant & Ancho Chile Bar. First Terry demonstrated how to make a messy roux, which Chow, Baby already knows: Heat up some oil and dump flour all over the stove. But then, while Chow, Baby was enthralled by his early-years anecdotes (“Granny was a cook on the Pitchfork Ranch ...” began one), Terry turned this humble roux into sourdough-battered chicken-fried steak with chipotle cream sauce. Sautéed prickly-pear cactus made a purple-juiced perfect side. Chow, Baby had three helpings but still isn’t sure of the ingredients and method. Does anybody have this on tape?

In other news, Chow, Baby finally made it onto Grady Spears’ B-list! Nope, didn’t have to crash last week’s book-release party for his latest, The Texas Cowboy Kitchen, to sneak bites of shrimp ceviche and stuffed crab claws. Chow, Baby was invited. And just $35 later, Chow, Baby is the proud owner of an autographed coffee-table-worthy cookbook, with Erwin E. Smith photographs from the Amon Carter collection and well-crafted down-homey prose from co-author June Naylor. The recipes — Chisholm Club favorites like beef tenderloin with hollandaise diablo, smoked salmon chowder, and West Texas brownies — look scrumptious, and the instructions are thankfully entry-level. And Chow, Baby’s powerful cravings for Jon’s green chile cheese grits and Terry’s sourdough-battered chicken-fried could likely be satiated by Grady’s versions. But frankly, cooking is one of those activities that Chow, Baby likes to watch.

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