Looks good, doesn’t it? As promised, today is all about the chef demos on the cruise! We were on the ship for all of about 30 minutes, checking out the scene in the Neptune Lounge when I asked our concierge about the Culinary Expo Center. We were informed that there was the Food & Wine Culinary Expo Center on the ship and that there was a guest chef on board. Of course I immediately asked who, and his reply was, “I think, Acheson.” “Hugh” I asked. After a quick check, he confirmed that yes, the guest chef was Hugh Acheson!
Needless to say, this was a fantastic surprise. When my parents booked the trip, they had no idea there was even a culinary expo center on the ship. After a few minutes of me explaining to present company exactly who Hugh Acheson is, they were excited to meet him as well. I would also like to mention that after I went on about him for a good while, it turned out he was sitting right behind me the whole time! I can also tell you that right off the bat he is friendly, down to earth, and humble. Now I’m sure most of you know who I am talking about, but just in case you don’t, I’ll give you a brief run down. He won two James Beard Awards this year, one for Best Chef in the Southeast and one for his cookbook, A New Turn in the South, which by the way is fantastic! He also has three restaurants in Georgia, competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, and currently stars as a judge on Top Chef.
Moving on to the demos, he did two during the week, and they were both great. I love watching demos because it gives you a chance to not only see a dish being prepared, but it gives you an opportunity to learn. During both of Hugh’s demos, it was very easy to see that he truly loves what he does. He is extremely knowledgeable, personable, and authentic. The two dishes he prepared were pan roasted duck with blueberries, frisee, and caramelized vidalias, and Frogmore Stew, both of which can be found in his book. He said during the demo that he doesn’t want Southern food to be generalized. He is about taking the past and showing how it changes over time. Both dishes were fabulous, and showed us his interpretation of Southern food. Using local ingredients that are in season, both dishes were full of flavors that pop, or as Hugh likes to say, “bounce.” Hugh also talked about how he is a “zealot for the economy of local.” It was not only wonderful to hear him speaking about this, but also inspiring.
I also have to tell you guys that he had two awesome sous chefs during his first demo. His daughters Beatrice and Clementine did a great job, and those girls definitely know their way around a kitchen! A good while after Beatrice helped make the vinaigrette for the duck, she went back over, took a quick taste, and informed her dad it needed more vinegar. I though that was great! Both girls are adorable, and his wife Mary is just lovely.
On top of all that, Hugh took the time to meet with me to talk business. The number one reason why I really like Hugh is that he is all about the food, and having the opportunity to get career advice from someone so successful is awesome. Thanks, Hugh! A 7 day cruise to Bermuda was fabulous to begin with, and this made it even better! One last thing I want to mention is if you don’t already own A Turn in the South, you need to. Hugh is truly on every page of that book. Every single detail is on point from the design, recipes, photos, and the stories behind each dish. Whether you are a professional chef or just starting to find your way around the kitchen, you will learn from it. From the gorgeous chanterelles on toast to the soon to be made in my kitchen corn soup, it’s one of those cookbooks that is truly authentic. It makes you hungry, inspires you to get in the kitchen, and makes you laugh.