The Grandest Paella of all Time, and the Most Fearless Cooking Achievement in my 40 Years at the Stove

At the annual Wine and Dine for the Arts dinner in Albany a couple of years ago,  Yono and I were responsible for preparing a giant paella from which hundreds of entering guests would be offered a taste. This grand paella was prepared in an enormous paella pan (paellera) too large to fit into a normal commercial oven.  Yono, the most fearless of all my cooking friends, said we could prepare this glorious monster by placing the pan on a rack over about 20 stereo (canned heat) canisters.  Franco and Chris Schenker were the primary executioners of Yono’s fearless method, which was to cook the paella entirely uncovered in the reception room where it would be served.  None of our great Signature Chef colleagues (and friends) on that occasion believed Yono’s idea could be achieved.  The first photo below shows Franco (showing no trepidation) beginning the process by arranging the sterno  in the reception area just outside the Hilton Hotel dining room.  Next, our intrepid heros are stirring the emerging masterpice, about 3/4 through the process. And finally, the masterpiece complete, gilded by a small suckling pig that we had roasted separately and artfully positioned as if it were emerging from this “grandest of all paellas,” and surely one of the finest examples I know of fearless cooking.  Honestly, 300 guests were dazzled and delighted; we cooks were euphoric.  Let me know what you think, especially if you there to see and enjoy it. Cook fearless. Jim

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