Foodies are some of the easier friends and relatives to shop for, with limitless varieties of kitchen gadgets, accessories, rare spices and condiments on the market. And then there are the gastronomes who already own it all: the best knives, an arsenal of cookware and a library of cookbooks. For such true epicureans, consider giving the gift of an unforgettable culinary experience cooking alongside a reputable chef.
Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Blue Hill at Stone Barns, one of the first restaurants in the country to revolutionize true farm-to-table cuisine, offers many seasonal classes in cooking, gardening, foraging and creating cocktails. At Four-Star Rialto, executive chef Jody Adams leads a demonstration for an intimate class prior to a multi-course lunch. And Four-Star Blackberry Farm, situated in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, offers an opportunity for guests to work side-by-side with its chef for the day.
However, Brennan’s of Houston was one of the first restaurants in the country to open its kitchen to guests for educational (and entertainment) purposes. Sister restaurant to Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Brennan’s has been serving elegant Creole cuisine in midtown Houston for more than 40 years. The Sunday Creole jazz brunch has been a traditional for generations, and many a celebration has been spent in their refined yet inviting dining room.
Brennan’s “Chef for a Day” program ($1,475) gives participants a chance to spend a full day alongside executive chef Danny Trace. After a tour of the lavish New Orleans-style building, with its brick exterior and luxurious chandeliered Southern interior, guests will don a personalized chef jacket with checkered pants and spend time in several different kitchen stations, preparing various lunch courses.
The kitchen at Brennan’s is huge, which allows ample space for chef Trace and his temporary protégé to work on dishes while the well-oiled machine of a restaurant operates as usual — which typically means a full house in the dining rooms while multiple events take place in the upstairs banquet areas.
“No two days are ever the same in the culinary world,” explains chef Trace. “Although we have a certain formula for the ‘Chef for a Day,’ fires will still have to be put out, which adds to its realism and excitement for the ‘Chef for a Day.’ We are prepping and cooking our dishes on the same live stations and stoves used for our à la carte guests.”
Next, bar manager Richard Middleton will demonstrate how to make several New Orleans cocktails, such as Sazeracs and the brandy milk punch for which Brennan’s is known. And the last lesson of the day takes place in one of the wine rooms with sommelier Jason Sherman, who guides the temporary toque in tasting different varietals and identifying good pairings.
The special day ends with a six-course dinner (including wine pairings) for the “Chef for a Day” and five guests in the Brennan’s dining room. After this truly delicious finale, the guest of honor will leave not only with personalized chef attire, but also with a chef’s knife as a gift from the kitchen.
“Through this program we have a genuine opportunity to make some of the fondest culinary memories of their lives,” describes chef Trace, who says he’s made lifelong friends through the experience. “As a chef, this is about as rewarding as it gets.”
For more information on Brennan’s “Chef for a Day” program, or to purchase a gift card, fill out the Chef for a Day inquiry form on the restaurant’s website.
Photos Courtesy of Veronica Meewes