Warning: LONG POST AHEAD. (Sorry. It’s worth it: I promise!)
One of my favorite things about being a blogger is that I have been afforded experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to enjoy. My non-blogger friends are often flabbergasted at my stories of, say, driving a car for a week just for the purpose of reviewing it or getting a preview copy of a television show before the general public gets to watch it.
Some of these unique experiences involve meeting people who I wouldn’t normally run across on the streets of Chicago (or the western burbs for that matter). Monday night was one of those nights, and I’m still smiling about it. I was invited by the folks at Cascade® and KitchenAid® to spend the evening at a “VIP Cooking Class” with Chef Stephanie Izard.
Stephanie is known nationally for winning “Top Chef” Season 4 but locally she is known as the dynamo behind the restaurant “Girl and the Goat”. I didn’t even check my calendar before responding “Yes” to the invitation: I would’ve canceled anything else I had going on in order to attend. (Lucky for me, Monday night’s calendar was indeed empty.)
When I arrived at the Reid Murdoch building, I headed up to the Penthouse floor, which is where the World of Whirlpool is located. (another exciting opportunity: I hadn’t yet attended an event there!) It was then that I realized how special the evening would be: I was part of an intimately-sized group of about a dozen bloggers. In fact, there were more brand reps, cameramen, and kitchen assistants in attendance than little old’ us.
We entered the kitchen area that we’d be using for the evening and chose seats that were on the other side of the counter from where Stephanie would be working. Each of our places was stocked with the tools we’d need to do the “class”.
Stephanie told us that we’d be making a recipe from her book Girl in the Kitchen called “Artichoke Fideos With Fresh Mozzarella and Dill”, and we got right down to it: Stephanie first showed us how to clean an artichoke.
I loved Stephanie immediately. She is hilarious, friendly, down-to-earth, and her laugh is infectious. I took a little video so you could enjoy part of her demo, but had to cut it short when one of my friends volunteered me to be in charge of cooking in our area: a job I didn’t mind at all because–HELLO, cooking WITH Chef Stephanie Izard? Yes please!
(By the way, I’ll say it for you: “WTH? Did she just say ‘I do????’” Yes, I did. Shut up.)
Stephanie walked us through the steps of the recipe, sprinkling personal anecdotes and tips into the conversation, and before we knew it, Kitchen Magic had occurred: we were ready to load up the ramekins.
We placed fresh mozzarella on top (with a little salt and pepper) and then they were placed in the oven!
Stephanie, like me–by the way–is very fond of cheese. That’s a random fact, and you’re welcome. Look at that fresh mozzarella. Yummy!
Naturally there was another reason for the event: we learned all about Cascade® Complete ActionPacs™ (which I already use!). These pacs make it so that you don’t have to pre-wash and pre-soak dishes. You’re supposed to be able to just scrape off the plates, put them in the dishwasher, and be done with it. Admittedly, I still do a half-pre-wash, meaning I scrape the plates and use the sponge to wipe off the food remnants–I don’t necessarily use soap for this–and then put them in the dishwasher, but that’s because my dishwasher is twelve years old and I’m not totally certain it could handle what a new dishwasher could. (more on new dishwashers in a minute)
The Cascade® Complete ActionPacs™ have some pretty cool technology going on, which provides these results:
• Power pre-treating removes tough foods.
• Food dissolving power breaks down and dissolves food particles.
• Stain-fighting power helps remove challenging stains.
• ShineShield® formula for a beautiful shine.
• Rinse Aid Power to help prevent spots and film.
The pacs are made of a combination of powder AND gel, which dissolve quickly to get right to work on those dirty dishes. They also contain a rinse aid to prevent spots and film. By the way, I just noticed right now that there is a coupon on the Cascade® website if you want to go and grab it!
We were treated to a video of Stephanie putting some icky, dirty dishes from earlier in the day (they made the same recipe for demo purposes) right into the dishwasher, and then later pulling those dishes out: TOTALLY spotless. It was pretty amazing, considering the condition of the dishes when they were placed in the dishwasher.
We also learned about KitchenAid® dishwashers and I was left drooling. These dishwashers have features like height-adjustable racks, ProDry™ and ProWash™ options for optimal performance, super-quiet operation, ProScrub™ option for cleaning large, messy dishes, extra large silverware baskets with separators (with holes for chopsticks, too!), and culinary tool racks. Sigh.
Even though I really love my current dishwasher (just in case my dishwasher is reading this, you know), I could really get used to one of these new ones from KitchenAid™. Just sayin’.
We all got the opportunity to sit with Stephanie, one on one, and ask her some questions (Including “will you sign this for me?”). I decided to ask her about a couple of things that are a really good fit with what I write about here on Suburban Scrawl. I was very interested in her perspective on her success, and what her ultimate goal is.
I asked her this question: “Although most people would look at your win on ‘Top Chef’ and the opening of your restaurant and assume that those are the instances when you knew you ‘made it’. Is that how you see it?”
She answered (I didn’t take notes so I am representing her answers as accurately as I can): “Not really. I look at ‘Top Chef’ and the restaurant as chapters in my book. I consider the show to be somewhere around Chapter Two and I consider the restaurant to be somewhere around Chapter Five. I have a long way to go and I’m hoping my book ends up containing around twenty chapters or more!”
I then asked her this: “So, that being said, what’s your ultimate goal?”
Her answer made me smile, because it proves that no matter who you are or what you do, all busy people/hard worker types have something in common. She said, “My ultimate goal is to do everything that I do WELL, to the best of my ability. Finding balance in my work and with my boyfriend and my dog is something I’m always working on.”
After we chatted, she signed her cookbook for me, and she signed the apron I was wearing for my sister. And yay: picture time!
Stephanie was telling us that we should find out about going on a tour of the rest of the facility, saying that the clock tower was very, very cool. For reference, here’s what the building looks like:
As it turned out, we didn’t have to ask for a tour: we just got one! We were taken around the rest of the Penthouse floor to check out the brands of the Whirlpool family, including Jenn-Air, Maytag, Gladiator, and of course, KitchenAid and Whirlpool. We then went upstairs and saw a beautiful conference room as well as a “man-cave” type of room in which I would love to hang out (even though I’m a girl). The pièce de résistance? OMG. The clock. We went inside the clock, and I envisioned myself having a small event there. It was beautiful inside.
It was more beautiful outside.
I immensely enjoyed one of the most unique and beautiful views of my city that I’ve ever seen. It was breathtaking.
I have not shut up about this event in the two days since I attended it. I consider this one of the best events I’ve ever attended. Not only was the experience of meeting and cooking with Stephanie just phenomenal, the brands were informative without being pushy, and they presented the information in a memorable and fun way. The support staff, along with the brand reps, really went above and beyond to take care of us. The evening is one I will not forget anytime in the near future.
Stephanie, if you’re reading, it was such a pleasure to meet you. You are a rockstar and I’m keeping that invitation open, to come to my house and help me make that same recipe for my family. I’ll do the dishes, even!
Disclosure: I did receive an apron and a goody bag of various products (including Stephanie’s book) at the event. I was not specifically asked to write about the brands, but I chose to do so. All words and opinions are mine.