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Food & Drink

Future Star Chefs Show-off at Texas Cooks' Co-Op

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

These behind-the-scenes dudes deliver forward-thinking cuisine with the Texas Cooks’ Co-Op

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

High-end plating and adventurous cuisine at TCCO’s dinners

“It breaks the monotony, so I don’t mind,” said Colon of the late night meetings, “We get to do things that we don’t get to do at work.”

Another factor that might keep members away is that this isn’t a for-profit venture, at least not in cold, hard cash terms. Once a feasible amount of dishes are set, after Naylor gets his liquor budget for opening and closing cocktails and only when Vinously Speaking owner and wine-provider Cecilia Baretto gets her budget for wine pairings, does the group decide a price for the dinner. The overall budget comes from the Co-Op members’ own pockets, to be reimbursed after the dinner is finished. For instance, September’s Back to School dinner at The Richter Co is priced at $65 to include eight dishes with wine pairings (instead of the usual 12) and a cocktail. That’s truly one hell of a deal.

This month’s dinner will be held Sunday, September 22, and will focus on the first few lessons all culinary students learn in school, like roasted chicken, consommé, French mother sauces, braising, eggs Benedict and crepes. The idea to previously host the dinner at The Art Institute came from chef-instructor John Tamez after he attended a dinner last year. For Tamez, the dinner serves as an extra tool that helps some of his 500 students see how other cooks and chefs in town work.

“There aren’t big name chefs yet, so the students aren’t too intimidated. I can only teach them so much here,” Tamez said. “They’re regular guys that let the food speak for itself.”

Menu planning is when the cooks get a chance to get those creative juices flowing. Each member chooses a number of dishes to take on: a risotto appetizer and a cassoulet main for Perez; Linquist persuaded herself to take on two dishes while trying to figure out a way to make a dessert variation on the classic eggs benny.

Colon, a molecular gastronomy nut who’s completed stages at John Shield’s Town House in Virginia as well as Grant Achatz’ Alinea in Chicago, took on a main and a dessert.

On game day, the team makes it to the month’s location with several hours to spare. A walk-through takes place a few days beforehand to make sure everyone knows where the silverware and plates are located within the kitchen and the layout of the dinner.

“We usually walk in with about 85 to 90 percent of the product ready-to-go,” said Colon … that is when everyone shows up.

There have been no-shows and tardy members before, and Colon’s lost a few menu items out the back of his truck, but still the TCCO delivers.

It’s during dinnertime that the TCCO membership’s varied backgrounds and skillsets really come into play.

Naylor opens the dinners with a cocktail paired with a hors d’oeuvre prepared by the host location. Guests, who have ranged from family members and friends to local gourmands, have a chance to mingle before taking their seats. Once courses begin trickling out of the kitchen at 5:30, each chef presents his or her own course.

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