Recently I had the pleasure of attending an incredible event hosted by Jennifer Thompson (JT & Company) and Walmart Canada. Okay, incredible is probably not the right word because frankly, this event blew my freaking mind. From the venue to the free-flowing margaritas, and hilarious conversations, it was truly a night to taco’bout 😀 . I’m a very lucky girl to have found myself at an exclusive cooking class with celebrity chef, Graham Elliot, on a rainy Thursday night in Toronto…and I won’t soon forget it 🙂 .
Now, before I break down Steak-Cation 2017 for you and get to all the juicy (pun intended) tips, I want to take a moment to talk about the event itself. Upon exiting my taxi in front of the venue, I was greeted by a well-dressed gentleman in a top hat. He immediately held an umbrella over the head of my friend and I as he guided us to the entrance. He took our coats and scarves, with an exquisite amount of charm, and told us to ‘enjoy!‘ before returning outside to escort more attendees.
Ummm can you say VIP treatment?! Kudos to Jen and Walmart for making us feel fancy as hell 🙂 .
Much to the delight of my girl Kristal and I, the drink station was set up just inside the entrance. Nobody likes to navigate to the back of the room to find the bar, so setting us up with a bevvy right before we begin the mingling is just plain sensible LOL. We found ourselves with a seemingly endless supply of margaritas, Corona, and bottles of that awesome Mexican soda, Jarritos. Actually, having gotten to know Jennifer a bit, I wouldn’t be surprised if the supply really was endless haha! #HostessWithTheMostess
We grabbed some margs, and headed in to explore the rest of the event. I was immediately pleased to see that Graham Elliot was mingling amongst the crowd casually, like a normal dude. I have limited experience with celebrities, and most of that experience comes from my time working the reservations department of a large Toronto hotel, so suffice to say I was impressed with how laid back Graham was. (Having later chatted with him about his time living in Hawaii…it does make a lot of sense 😀 ).
After downing our margaritas in under 10 minutes, we were soon back at the bar. But this time, we decided to create our own concoctions. Before long I had the bartender mixing us a bottle of Pineapple Jarritos with the tequila that was meant for the margaritas. Let me tell you, it was an excellent decision on my part. Which later led to me asking for a mix of Mango Jarritos, bar lime, and tequila… PER-freaking-FECTION!
Before we knew it, Kristal and I had a number of attendees, including Graham himself, asking what we were drinking 🙂 .
“…Influencers influencing influencers” I later told Jen Thompson with a tequila soaked smile.
On to the food!
Soon we could see the sous-chefs hustling away in their kitchen area preparing the food for the crowd, and Graham’s delightful assistant, Matty, setting up the Chef’s demo station.
Matty from what we gathered, seemed to play a bit of a jack-of-all-trades role in Chef Graham’s cooking class. The kitchen, which was incredibly high tech and digital often had Graham laughing and calling for Matty’s IT help while prepping. The two clearly work well together, and their bro-like chemistry definitely added something cute and zany to the class.
As a long time fan of Masterchef and Graham himself, getting some in person cooking tips from him was an absolute thrill for me. And I won’t lie, definitely the highlight of my blogging life thus far! Not to sound like a total fan-girl, but watching him cook was actually like watching him cook on TV. Fast, precise and dressed with the long perfected skill of improvising flawlessly on the spot.
Though I primarily stuffed my face with the food prepared by his sous chefs for the excited (and buzzed) crowd, I did have the divine privilege of tasting some of the steak cooked by Graham himself in the demonstration. No offence to his team, who truly were AMAZING cooks and fed me well…but eating Graham’s steak was probably as close as I’ll ever get to eating like Beyoncé. #JustSayin’
Through all my drinking and drooling and face stuffing, I did actually manage to learn a thing or two from one of the great’s. So without further rambling from me, here are four steak cooking tips straight from Graham Elliot!
1. please don’t season your food like Salt Bae
It’s all fun and memes until your food tastes like poop and you’ve got salt all over the floor. Graham hilariously told us this as he explained the best way to season is loosely and generously.
“I always see people doing this..” he says as he as he puts his face and hand within an inch of the steak and seasons it slowly. “Don’t be so careful with it, let your hand flow freely…but not like the guy in that GIF. Don’t do that.” he continued through laughter, gesturing wildly like Salt Bae.
Graham also told the group, when asked by one of the observers, not to be afraid to be generous with the salt when seasoning. According to him, the salt not only aids in the cooking process, but the majority of it does fall off into the pan while cooking.
2. sear the edges of your steak
“A lot of people don’t take the time to sear the edges,” Graham tells the crowd, “but it’s essential to get that perfect crisp yet juicy finish”.
After eating way too many pieces of the steak he prepared before our eyes, I can definitely attest to the accuracy of this statement.
It’s not something I ever thought to do before, but crisping the edges with the oil and seasoning in the pan before plating is a total taste game-changer. Just take the time to do it, I promise you won’t regret it!
3. Those pretty black grilling marks actually serve a purpose
While preparing his 3rd and final steak of the evening for us, he took the time to mention that the cross pattern marks he was making on the steak with his grill pan were there for a specific reason. And it wasn’t just to make it Instagram-worthy :p. The ‘X’ (cross pattern) helps ensure your steak is evenly cooked throughout.
Graham did advise that the cross-hatched marks aren’t necessary and if you choose to include them in the grilling process, focus more on creating an opportunity for evenly cooked steak and less on the aesthetics.
4. Be creative with your sides—steak & potatoes don’t always have to be paired
Graham also encouraged us to be creative when choosing sides. So instead of pairing his perfectly grilled, 100% Canadian AAA Angus Beef, with a standard summer salad and mashed potatoes, he chose a hummus base and a refreshing chickpea salad. Hummus in place of the potatoes was suggested as a healthier alternative…again, something I’d never thought of doing, but totally genius.
Plus, a suggestion like this has so many possible variations! A quick Pinterest search of “hummus recipes” and I’m already daydreaming about steak over a scrumptiously pink, beet hummus.
And there you have it,
my grill-loving friends! My first (and certainly not my last) SteakCation…now if only Graham Elliot, Walmart Canada, and Jennifer Thompson could host all of them for me! Or am I just getting greedy now? 😀
In all seriousness though, there are some people that deserve some huge appreciation! Jason of Walmart Canada was not only incredibly sincere but also graciously allowed me to continue rambling, for a solid 5 minutes, before I realised I was actually blocking his route to the washroom. Jennifer Thompson for being the Queen Hostess with the Mostess, seriously, if you get an invite from her to ANYTHING, just say yes. Walmart Canada for feeding me and keeping the drinks flowing all night (and for that badass goodie bag 😀 ).
And last but not least, Chef Graham Elliot! The most chill celeb around, who’s really just a down to earth family man at the end of the day. Really, guys, you should have seen the way his face lit up when he spoke about being a dad, it was the sweetest.
Now go forth with your new found steak grilling knowledge, and make something awesome for dinner on the patio this summer!
The photo below was captured by my friend Kristal, it is the moment both Graham and I agree that adding tequila to our Jarritos was the best idea ever.