The Pitch

“Emulsions,” I explained, “and even back then, I was using your stuff! Since the beginning you’ve played a huge role in how Jaci and I came to be.”

I couldn’t believe I was actually talking to him over a cocktail. Talking might be too generous. I already had a few drinks before finding the balls to approach Grant and so I believe rambling might be a better way to describe it. Before I knew it, our conversation was over, but I left our chat overcome with excitement. His final words were twirling around in my head. “Send me an email. I’d love to hear more,” replayed like a skipping record the entire train ride home.

I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself. Despite his lack of real interest in the cooking, my friend Doug obliged when I asked if he’d want to join me at a Booker and Dax (2012-2016) Happy Hour in April hosted by ChefSteps.com to meet their East Coast community. Being based out of Seattle, the Chefsteps crew doesn’t make it to New York often. They were in town to attend the James Beard Awards Ceremony after receiving two nominations (one for Instructional Visual Webcasting, another for Visual and Technical Excellence; unsurprisingly, they ended up winning in both categories). In true ChefSteps spirit, they threw a party. I was grateful for Doug’s company, since Jaci had class that evening and I’m not certain I would have made the trip by myself.

Its rare for me to get overwhelmed at the sight of a celebrity—its just not usually my sort of thing. But walking into the bar and seeing Grant Crilly and Chris Young hanging out and chatting with guests and other giants in the industry like Dave Arnold and Wylie Dufresne ended up being one of those teenage heartthrob moments for me. These are guys who are changing the world in such a basic way that its amuses me that few know who they are and even less may even care.

Over the past five years, I’ve become engrossed in the world of food and the modernist food movement we seem comfortably in the midst of. Talk about culture, and you’ll have a pretty difficult time separating out the culinary component, because food and drink are the mechanisms for expressing culture; Celebrating culture through annual gatherings with family and friends are how traditions become so.

There’s a well-known saying, ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’, and I’ve always thought the sexist bit to be somewhat tragic because, if we’re being honest, breaking bread is the way to everyone’s heart. We blow out candles on a cake to celebrate anniversaries of our births. We carve a turkey with cranberry accompaniment to celebrate family and our blessings. We grill hot dogs and burgers while anticipating a fireworks display to celebrate America. We pop bubbly to usher in the New Year. Every person I know looks forward to dozens of such traditions each year, each unique to them. But they always involve food! Cuisine is inextricably intertwined to living because food is sustenance. Tradition is created when we celebrate and mourn to memorialize important moments. And culture is the overlap of tradition and cuisine.

These guys are changing culture, modestly from the ground level, but dramatically when observed from a bird’s eye. You can tell I drink the Kool-Aid, so I’m pretty certain it wasn’t the centrifuged cocktail turning my knees into putty that evening.

I was excited to share this passion with Doug.  As we met several community members I felt as though I was giving color commentary to him as topics shifted from  incredibly nerdy kitchen topic to even more geeky focuses. Every new conversation was made with one goal in mind: to inch my way towards Grant, who appeared larger than life outside his normal home of beautifully saturated-in-light web-videos. Yet, I hadn’t really considered what I would actually say if I ever made my way through the crowd. Just as lawyers don’t want to talk about the law outside of work, I imagined the same would be true of chefs. Or would it? I began to panic.

Eventually, after chatting with Reva and Hans who led the video and sound production for the team, I clinked glasses with Grant and words came out of my mouth a mile a minute before catching my breath. I explained the way his site had impacted my life and my perspective on food. “My girlfriend and I started dating around the time ChefSteps launched and we’ve both grown in the kitchen over this time. In fact, Jaci was only a casual fan of cooking before dating, whipping out her skills sparingly, only when she craved something not easily obtainable through other means. Now, she jokes that I’m her sous chef.” I remember Grant laughing at this, but that’s probably more of a testament to his unbelievable kindness than to my punchline actually being funny. Hey, I was starstruck, cut me a break!

In my ramblings, I explained how the first time I cooked for Jaci, I prepared a ‘cooking class’ for her to show off. I prepared several courses, teaching her about emulsions, making a vinaigrette for our salad, mayonnaise we used in a hollandaise sauce for the crab cakes we made , along with chocolate mousse and whipped cream. A lot of the theory was taken from their site and perhaps this was what captured Grant’s attention slightly. In retrospect, it seems fitting that the first time Jaci and I spent together in the kitchen was to make emulsions—the coming together of two liquids that by themselves are generally immiscible. Sure it’s corny (and ridiculously academic), but corny love is the best type, right?… Right?

Anyway, at some point, I mentioned to Grant that I was beginning to think about proposing to Jaci and had an a very halfbaked idea of somehow connecting Chefsteps influence upon the development of our partnership in the kitchen to the loving relationship we’ve built outside of it. So when those words came out of his mouth, I experienced shock.

“Send me an email. I’d love to hear more.”

Oh my god! He wants to hear more! Could this be happening?

A few days later, I emailed him.

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