I love the cooking process. The chop of vegetables, the sear of meat, the sizzle of oil, and the aromas filling the kitchen. Unfortunately, my “kitchen” is actually just a stove in a hallway and bumping into hanging pots and pans when I turn to grab the salt makes the whole experience a lot less pleasurable. When I was presented a chance to try my hand in something a little spacier, I jumped at the chance.
Sure, the folks at Campbell’s aren’t technically in Philadelphia, but just a quick trip over the bridge in Camden, you’ll find the Campbell’s Campus complete with kitchens, cafeterias, and kettlebells (well, I’m not sure about the last one, but they do have a gym for the employees). Their kitchens are where the magic happens, and thanks to a partnership with Camp Campbell’s last year, I was able to visit this cave of wonders with the wizards themselves. Certified Master Chef Tom Griffiths, Executive Chef Maria Gamble, and Chef Carrie Welt brought the heat (get it?! kitchen humor!) teaching us about how and why the chefs at Campbell’s “Own the Flavor”.
We started out discussing the importance of the entire sensory experience, and there was even a little sniff-off.
Half of us were blindfolded, and the other half administered “the test”. Guess who didn’t miss one?!
Wanna know my secret? Every single ingredient has been in a cocktail I’ve enjoyed lately. Finally, being a part-time cocktail queen pays off!
My prize was yet to come, but I did get a hint…
Before we got too sweet, though, we had to get a little savory. And, for savory, we went to the sea. Namely: Scallops.
We learned how to yank the muscle out of the scallop and we prepared these bad boys for cooking two ways:
- Poached in green tea
- Sautéed in brown butter
Poaching is something that I typically only equate with eggs, but Chef Tom let us know that it can create a clean, fresh take on seafood. Green tea poaching was something I’d never considered, and the scallops came out of a brief bath with a hint of earthy lightness (think the suggestion of grass).
We were momentarily sated.
And then the butter came out to play. Sorry, green tea, but you really didn’t stand a chance.
I ate more scallops this evening than I may have ever consumed in my life, total. And I thought I couldn’t eat any more. But when Chefs Marie and Carrie let us know things were about to get sweet, I somehow found some room.
After discussing the differences between dark chocolates, and how well they pair with Port (spoiler alert, very well), Chef Marie got to serious business. The business of honey tuile cups and macerated fruit, of homemade ricotta (and the subsequent homemade ricotta ice cream), and of washing it all down with sweet, rich Port.
The trip was, to say the least, incredible. Eye-opening. Decadent. We saw the kitchens where products I’ve eaten my whole life were tested (I practically grew up putting way too much Prego in my pasta!) We met the folks who eat, sleep, and breathe food innovation and creation.
These aren’t the chefs that are touted in magazines for using molecular gastronomy to create the most sublime tasting menu (for a paltry $300 [$450 with wine pairing]). These are the men and women who are striving to make flavorful and nutritious accessible to everyday men and women cooking for their families. Sure, they served us scallops. But they demonstrated how the same techniques could make a piece of cod sing with flavor. Chef Tom proved that cooking time and proper seasoning makes the difference between green beans that taste like they’re from a can and those that are crisp and zippy.
Real food that matters for life’s moments. Doesn’t get much clearer than that.
And brown butter.