In A Chef’s Kitchen

Recently, I had a rare opportunity to watch a prominent chef make several salsa dishes right in his workplace kitchen. As if that wasn’t enough of a treat for me, his kitchen is on the grounds of the fabulous and famous historical Biltmore Estates. Roger and I joined the Biltmore Estates as annual pass holders when we moved to Asheville because they offer so many different events, outings and seminars. Then, there’s the house tour and beautiful grounds and restaurants for when guests visit us.

Luckily, we only live about 10 minutes from the Estate. I drove onto the property, showed my pass and followed the signs to the Lioncrest building where the cooking demo was being held. It’s always a magnificent, peaceful drive around the grounds. This time of year, the trees and flowers are so vibrant. Then there are the horses….if this isn’t a relaxing sight, I don’t know what is!

Chef Kirk Fiore heads up the catering department for the estate, with a team of uber-talented sous chefs and cooks. That’s a hug job. While I completely respect and admire the work he does, my head spins at the thought of creating a menu, preparing and cooking for hundreds of people! TV chefs I’ve seen under these circumstances are usually frantic, yelling and will run over anyone in their way….not Chef Kirk.

He welcomed our group of about 20 into his workplace kitchen like this was his personal home. We listened to him tell us about the four different salsas he would be making that day, in a soft-spoken and easy voice. He had his mise en place trays laid out carefully at the front of the prep table. All were bursting with fresh, colorful vegetables and fruits.

We watched a perfectly orchestrated, finely tuned machine as the Chef and his Sous Chef, Spencer worked together seamlessly and silently, creating one amazing and flavorful salsa after another. Meanwhile, Nathan hovered gently over his cutting board, dicing vegetables with great precision like he was performing a delicate surgery!

After 50 minutes of talking with us and answering our questions, the Chef had four amazing salsas using ingredients like peaches, plums and blueberries, grilled watermelon, fresh smoked and grilled corn, cilantro, basil, nuts, and heirloom cherry tomatoes. The other fun ingredients included pink peppercorns, bourbon and Verjus, which was a new one for me! He created and served each purposefully prepared salsa to compliment three different proteins. The plating was as delicious to the eyes as the salsa flavors were to our tastebuds. I spooned each salsa onto my small plate and savored the freshness of each ingredient.

When asked how he comes up with flavors and recipes, he tells us he “loves creating dishes, using locally-sourced and estate grown produce whenever possible”.

What a fun experience for me to meet Chef Kirk Fiore, who I’ve also included on my Wall of Fame. Watching a true professional make cooking and creating look effortless and easy is inspiring.