Report for duty at military chef’s Thai cooking class
One of the top military chefs in the country will demonstrate Thai cooking and serve up five dishes for your eating pleasure during a class Saturday, June 8 ,at Pies & Plates in Punta Gorda.
MSG Master Sgt. Rene Marquis, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y., and has served his country as a U.S. Army chef and cooking instructor for almost 20 years, will present “Exploring the Flavors of Thailand.” Participants are invited to bring their own wine to enjoy — at ease — as they learn how to prepare these dishes at home: tom kha gai (coconut-chicken soup), yam neau (grilled beef salad), the popular noodle dish pad Thai, Thai chicken curry with jasmine rice and muang sangkhaya (mango custard).
The folks at Pies & Plates say Chef Marquis has “a big personality, so it will be loads of fun.” Stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, the awardwinning chef has taught cooking at P&P before and said he developed the Thai menu by popular demand.
DREW STERWALD / FLORIDA WEEKLY “I can cook any cuisine, but I love Asian cuisine,” Chef Marquis said last week in a phone interview. “It’s the fresh flavors. It’s light, not full of butter. You can feed a lot of people with a small amount of food because it’s based on a lot vegetables and rice.”
Since enlisting in 1994, Master Sgt. Marquis has taught the flagship culinary course for all of the military services, the Advanced Culinary Skills Training Course, which focuses on mastering the fundamentals of cookery and pastry preparation. He’s a certified executive chef, certified culinary educator and personal certified executive chef through the American Academy of Chefs, or AAC. In 2005, he was inducted into the AAC, the honor society of American Culinary Federation, or ACF. He also serves as an ACF judge, one of four on active duty in the Armed Forces.
The Maine native also has participated in many national and international culinary competitions, which he said helps him to stay on top of his game and to keep up with current trends. He applied to Bravo TV network’s “Top Chef” reality competition but said he was told he was overqualified. He stars in 30 “Dinner Boot Camp” cooking videos on YouTube. And recently he did Skype interviews for two major network competitive cooking shows and is waiting to hear if he’ll advance.
“I think my reason for wanting to be on a national TV show is to show Americans that the U.S. military has great chefs. Not every one is great, but there are some. I’ve had the advantage of traveling to a lot of different areas of cuisine. We’re very diverse.”
Chef Marquis soon will retire from the military but plans to continue competing as well as teaching at places like Pies & Plates. He likes the direct impact of imparting knowledge and skills to people hungry to learn more about food and cooking.
“It’s a very self-rewarding type of profession,” he said. “I will definitely continue teaching. It’s empowering people. It makes them better food enthusiasts and better cooks. When I teach, I teach things I love to eat. It shows in your food.”
As for his “big personality,” check out his YouTube videos.
“I have a lot of experience in competition. I have a big bat and I’m not afraid to swing it,” he said. “A lot of people (just) talk about doing things. I’m one of those guys who is gonna do it.”
Sir, yes, sir.
To register for “Exploring the Flavors of Thailand” and find information about other cooking classes, go to www.piesandplates.com and click on “cooking classes” on the left side of the page.
BOGO at Opus
Opus in Punta Gorda has launched a BOGO deal that should ensure a steady lunch business through the dog days of the summer restaurant industry.
From 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can buy one lunch and get one free. The offer runs through October; a beverage purchase is required and business lunch plates are not included in the deal.
To whet your appetite, here are some highlights of the new menu: Polynesian grilled shrimp salad, Baja fish tacos, beef tenderloin salad, hazelnut-crusted chicken salad, Asian duck salad, pulled chipotle pork sandwich, honey cured ham and Cheddar melt, grilled chicken flatbread and vegan portobello mushroom wrap.
Opus is at 201 W. Marion Ave. Call 575-2352.
Soup contest winner
As part of its 10th anniversary celebration in April, Pies & Plates held a soup contest and the lucky winner’s recipe is being served this week at the bakery-café-kitchen store.
Valerie Colbert won first place in the competition with her take on broccoli cheese soup, which will be on the menu through Saturday.
Sue Paquin won second place with her sauerkraut soup, and Linda Abridello took third for “Grandma’s Saturday Night” soup.
Owner Cindee Murphy liked Ms. Colbert’s version of a soup that is typically one of P&P’s most popular when it’s on the menu.
“It was so well prepared,” Ms. Murphy said. “It’s hard to get cream soup just right, but she did. It was not a heavy, gooey, clumpy soup. It was well balanced.”
Here’s the recipe:
Valerie Colbert’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup
1½ cups water 1 cup grated or chopped broccoli 2 beef bouillon cubes 2 tablespoons grated onion 2 tablespoons grated celery ½ teaspoon salt 1/ 8 teaspoon pepper 1/ 8 teaspoon chopped oregano 2 cups milk 2 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons flour 1- 2 cups of shredded Cheddar cheese
Combine first eight ingredients and simmer about 30 minutes.
In a separate pan, combine milk, butter and flour and stir until well blended and mixture begins to thicken. Add to soup. Stir in cheese in handfuls. Do not boil after adding cheese.
Cook’s notes: Add more or less oregano and basil to your personal taste. Works well with other cheeses also (spicy cheeses give it some kick and are quite good). Using a combination of broccoli and cauliflower works well, too. ¦
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