Have I told you that I'm renovating my kitchen? Well, I am. The design has been tweaked, the cabinets have been ordered, and the second-guessing has begun. Do I want four pendant lights over the bar or should I scale it back to three? Should I splurge for the 60-inch fridge or go with the 48-inch? And last night, thanks to Signature Kitchens in West Ashley, a new question has been inserted into my head: should I get the fancy BlueStar range designed by superstar celebuchef Marcus Samuelsson (winner of Top Chef Masters) instead of the fancy appliances I've already researched to death and am on the brink of ordering?
You see, Samuelsson is an excellent salesman. His demo at the Signature Kitchen showroom on Thursday night was forthright yet subtle at the same time. He's a charming chef. He's passionate about food. He talked about his history and promised that you can cook everything and anything as good as he can. All you have to do is equip yourself with the right tools. You can put a wok right on the fire with this BlueStar range! It was really a nice demo, even though he teased me with the smells of the food. We sat there for an excruciatingly long time not eating anything while he cooked chicken and corn cakes and meatballs. Oy, the meatballs.
By the time he was done demonstrating the total awesomeness of the BlueStar cooktop (I want one!), we were all starving. So we made a beeline for the food stations, which held teeny tiny little plates with itty bitty bites of food. A fish taco was the size of my thumb. The mushroom soup (best bite of the night) was in a small dish the size of my iPhone. The meatball was like a little peanut-sized nugget of delicious meatiness. The good thing was, nobody seemed to be counting how many you took, so we were able to fill up. And the Three-Buck Chuck wine was flowing freely (yes, that would be the notoriously cheap Trader Joe's wine).
Overall, it was a little weird to be at a demo. I wondered how we'd all been chosen to attend this invite-only night. Sure, there were a handful of media types and bloggers. But who were all these other well-heeled folks? Were they customers of Signature, people who'd already had their kitchens done? Were they targeted to be potential BlueStar buyers? What was this all about? I chatted with the CEO who said they do two of these a year, picking a different city each time.
For having been in town merely a day or two, Samuelsson quickly picked up on some key information. He ate lunch at Alluette's, trying her shrimp and grits and getting a lesson in Gullah-Geechee. He asked the crowd whether the local starch was rice or grits and had about a half-and-half response, which he appreciated. You could feel him drilling down into our food culture, trying to get a read on it. And that ability to navigate a new culture is obviously a skill that has taken the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef very far. At 19, he was in Japan working at a sushi restaurant. At 22, he was in a three-star Michelin kitchen in France. By 24, he was the youngest chef to get three stars from the New York Times. His new restaurant in Harlem, Red Rooster, is one of the most popular in New York City. He says they serve 500 people a day, but have 1500 requests. A three-month wait for reservations is typical.
So, needless to say, being at this demo was pretty cool. I may just have to buy one of those BlueStar's to show my appreciation.