“If there’s a food you like, you’re going to have to learn to make it yourself.” This is the philosophy that Restaurateur and Food Network star Jet Tila shares with his kids in their home kitchen in Los Angeles, and on Sept. 26, he shared it with a group of fascinated attendees at an Evening of Culinary Excellence Cooking Demonstration and Dinner held at Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay. The event serves as a fundraiser for the Westminster-Canterbury Foundation, which makes the Virginia Beach-based life plan community accessible to people regardless of financial means.
Interaction and food education are important to the Thai chef and author of the book 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die. This was apparent during a special cooking class luncheon earlier in the day when Tila worked with a group of C-Cap (Careers through Culinary Arts Program) students as well as some Westminster-Canterbury residents. During the session he focused on cutting techniques—and some life lessons on believing in yourself—while preparing his Chinese Chicken Salad.
Later that evening he was the host and guest of honor for an Evening of Culinary Excellence. Known for his appearances on “Iron Chef America,” “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen,” Tila is used to cooking for an audience, and tonight’s attendees were eager to interact with Tila, watch the demo and, of course, taste the results.
The evening was packed with nonstop entertainment. As Tila was preparing his cooking demo and conversing with the audience, an Iron Chef Challenge was happening on either side of him where two competitors were given ingredients to make sushi: rice, sesame seeds, seaweed paper, cooked shrimp, raw tuna, avocado and more. The contestants busily rolled, sliced and garnished their sushi plates to be judged on creativity, taste and presentation as Tila put on a show of his own and answered questions from the audience.
As the presentation wrapped up, it was time for dinner to be served. The first course was Dim Sum Drum Dumplings (sew mai) with a tasty hoisin peanut dipping sauce. Next up: Drunken Noodles with Shrimp, which presented a nice, spicy kick on the finish. The main course was Jet’s Thai BBQ Chicken with Sweet Chili Glaze, Szechuan Green Beans served with baby corn and bamboo shoots and Kimchi Fried Rice. For dessert—a vibrantly plated experience of Matcha green tea sponge cake, dark chocolate mousse, passionfruit curd, mango foam, handmade chocolate twig décor, fresh berries, violas and micro-greens—a lovely end to an incredible meal.
Following dinner, Tila helped to raise additional funds for the Westminster-Canterbury Foundation by auctioning off items like his personal chef’s coat and a Chef Jet logo. Other auction items included a basket of culinary products so that home chefs will be inspired to create some of the dishes from the evening.
We’re all for following Tila’s philosophy and making food ourselves, but given the chance to have a fabulous meal prepared for us, in the presence of a celebrity chef, while watching an Iron Chef Challenge, and knowing that it’s all for a great cause—well, the choice is clear.