Big Beers and Lessons I Learned Cooking for a Crowd by Ginger Johnson

 

P1120047I’ve decided I don’t want or need to be a candy maker. Let me explain.

A short while ago I presented at the fabulously flavorful Big Beers Belgians and Barleywines Festival held in dreamy Vail, Colorado USA. It was the second time I’ve done so and both times have been superb due to the organizers, volunteers, and other supporting characters that make this fundraiser sing.

In plotting and planning for this years session, Wandering Around the Kitchen With Ginger, I had hit upon what I thought were 3 grand recipe ideas. Featuring beer in the prep and cooking, these three candidates excited me: Ceviche with chili beer, polenta with both a savory and sweet sauce made with a barrel aged stout, and fruit muffin made with barleywine and stuffed with blue cheese.

IMG_4266Alas! One of the powers that be, above my direct report, saw to it to squash that whole menu, pulling, in my professional opinion, an unnecessary and selfish stunt only 10 days out from the fest.

Why not spread your arms wide and say, “We’re so glad you’re here. What can we do to help?” instead of pulling the power ripcord that sends others into a tailspin? That kind of unprofessional behavior ticks me off. And it furthered my resolve to make sure I took care of my client – the organizers – not the ones pulling strings to make us dance. Onward. Go ahead, try to control my creativity. I can work with anything.

Once I was given a redirect, and got my extraordinarily altered menu approved (!), then I was off and running. Again.

Beyond the message above (to support and foster vs. push and set up gates), I want to share what I learned in preparing and experimental cooking for this fantastic event this year.

  • Candy makers are a special breed and talent. I set out to make candied fruit and candied citrus rind. Knowing a dash of chemistry and a whole load of patience is involved, I’ve found out it’s not for me. I have a newfound appreciation for candy makers, home to pro.
  • Rehydrating vegetables is a fun pursuit. As a lover of cooking, it’s not hard to convince me to try something new. The aha! moments come when you let go and do just that – try. The mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes I rehydrated were a hit, idea wise for all, flavor wise for some. Regardless, they all tried it – that’s the key.
  • There are always others going through the same obstacle course you are. I found one of my comrades in cooking with beer had gotten a lot of crappy pushback when designing his menu too. Both of us are pros, both are willing to flex and collaborate – and we both decided to move forward and figure out how to do it rather than dwell.
  • People like to be entertained and learn something neat, clever and new. Okay – so I know the entertainment factor is high on the list. It was affirming to get the comments from attendees that they didn’t normally eat/try the vegetables, yet they did so and their eyes were opened. I tell people the best tool for tasting is an open mind, which leads to an open palate, and it’s true.

P1120071I’ll go back every time I am invited to this well run, well-done community benefit. With that one rare exception, everyone was gracious, helpful and understood we were there for a bigger reason: To help the community by participating in a fun and delicious event.

Till the next glass ~

gcj

You can find Ginger at the links below and also follow her on Twitter. 

Entertainer, Flavor Maker, Speaker & Presenter, CEO Ginger Johnson & Women Enjoying Beer TEDxNapaValley  Talk

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