Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Earn a Tassle for Your Toque with Gaylord Opryland's Michael Swann

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 8:05 AM

I never really got the whole "pay somebody for the opportunity to cook your own food" deal at places like the Pfunky Griddle or the Melting Pot. I saw too many drunks at the old Prime Cut downtown yanking $30 cuts of beef out of a cool fridge and throwing them straight on a red-hot grill while seasoning themselves and their steaks with Bud longnecks. Thanks, but no thanks.

But in an educational setting, that's a different story. (Ha! You thought I was going to say "a whole different kettle of fish." That would be nasty.) Paying for an instructor to teach you kitchen tricks and knife skills at some place like Salud! or Viking Cooking School can be an entertaining way to spend time with friends and get a good meal out of the process. Many of the instructors at these schools are fresh out of culinary school themselves, so what they may lack in experience they make up for with enthusiasm.

Taken to another level, the chance to learn from an executive chef with years of industry experience is an opportunity to jump at. As part of the upcoming Southern Food and Wine Festival, Michael Swann of Gaylord Opryland Resort is offering 10 lucky students a shot at being "Chef for a Day." You'll get to spend the day July 31 in their professional kitchen with Swann, executive chef of Gaylord Opryland's award-winning culinary team, for a hands-on experience of planning, shopping, cooking and then feasting on the dinner you've prepared.

If you choose to take on this assignment, you'd better pack comfortable shoes, because the schedule is full.

click to enlarge Swann.jpg
You'll spend the morning discussing menu planning with Chef Swann, traveling to Whole Foods and the Farmers' Market downtown to sample and shop for the ingredients for your feast and returning your booty to the larder at the resort. After a leisurely lunch reminiscing about the good times you had, oh, an hour ago, you will depart for Arrington Vineyards to sample a variety of the great local wines produced there and select wine for your evening dinner.

Finally, with the benefit of somebody else driving you back from the tasting, you'll return to the resort kitchen of Gaylord, where you will work with the Opryland Culinary Team to prepare your magnificent meal and enjoy the fruits of your labor in their special VIP Tasting Room. Don't worry...it's an open-book test. They won't let you screw it up by pouring beer on your filet.

The access to the tools and facilities of the kitchen in a major resort would be enough of a perk to make this a novel experience. The opportunity to learn from and ask questions of Chef Swann really puts this over the top. He is known in the hospitality industry as an engaging instructor with over two decades of experience in the field.

The staff at Gaylord recognizes their responsibility as members of and employers in the food service industry in Nashville and want to encourage local participation. They also know that we blog readers (and writers) have a tendency to procrastinate. Unfortunately, the deadline for early registration has already passed. If you call Chef Swann at (615) 458-1365 and tell him you saw this on Bites, however, he will waive the $100 late fee just because you're special that way. He will dock you a letter grade, though.

It's still a pricey proposition at $399. But for a full day of learning, shuttling between venues, shopping, drinking, cooking and eating, it might be the treat you deserve. All participants will also receive their own Food Network Southern Food & Wine Festival chef jacket and souvenir photo as mementos. Think how your neighbors will quake with fear as they see you step up to the backyard Weber flashing your Gaylord colors.

For a full schedule and more info, head on over to the Gaylord website here.

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