The Great Courses: The Everyday Gourmet. Essential Secrets of Spices in Cooking.
Chef-Instructor Bill Briwa
The Culinary Institute of America (@CIACulinary)
Chef Briwa’s credentials:
- Graduate of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA)
- Over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry.
- Resident chef for The Hess Collection winery in California’s Napa Valley.
- Executive chef for The Wine Spectator Restaurant at the CIA at Greystone.
- Officer on the board of the St. Helena Farmers’ Market.
- 6 lectures of approximately 30-35 minutes.
- Each lecture focuses on a different spice cuisine.
- India—Heart of the Spice World
- China—From Peppercorns to Tea
- Mexico—Chiles for Every Palate
- Mediterranean Spices—Exotic Blends
- Treasured Spices in Northern Europe
- New American Cuisine—The Global Kitchen
- Available to watch online and optional download features as a video or audio file in different formats.
- It comes with a PDF course guide.
The lectures have a hybrid format between a cookery show and a gastronomy class which gives a good opportunity to go beyond the pantry and into an exploratory spice journey.
If you are already interested in exploring international cuisines it won’t be a problem to go the extra mile to hunt for exotic spices in gourmet stores (which is no chore at all!) but you will need a well-stocked spice rack.
Chef Briwa has clear experience as a teacher and he cooks as he explains but it is not necessarily a cook-along course because obviously one has to deal with cooking times, but directions and gadgetry are very straight forward and make it that much appealing and simple for the home-cook to try these new recipes.
Things I wanted more of:
The course does include a detailed guide with ingredients’ lists, clear instructions and additional information. However the videos aren’t structured in the same way and there’s no presentation in advance of which dishes will Chef Briwa cook, ingredients are mentioned as they’re used so unless you’re watching the lecture and reading the guide at the same time it can be hard to anticipate what will come next.
That of course is a technicality that can put off beginners, but if you are a keen food show watcher you can easily relax and just enjoy and drool over the recipes as you take some notes.
What they get right:
I really liked the authenticity of the dishes, since it is of course an adaptation of traditional cuisines, Chef Briwa makes a neat job by simplifying the utensils and adapting techniques to make every step of the food preparation easy to follow for the average westerner cook.
The chosen recipes are easy to follow and fit into a weekly meal plan. Most of the episodes include main dish, sides and drinks which make it all the more attractive for preparing a themed dinner party or a special meal.
Why do I think you should buy it:
Once I got over the absence of initial dish descriptions and ingredient lists, the cooking techniques are very clearly explained and Chef Briwa makes it seem simple because it actually is!
He does insist on the fact that beautiful, nutritious, traditional foods require time and effort if you want to recreate memorable dishes to bring people together and celebrate our shared gastronomic heritage.
This is definitely a nice introduction for the curious cooks who haven’t dared cooking with staggering amounts of spices with actually sophisticated results.
I particularly liked the last lecture where Chef Briwa re interprets each presented cuisine with a staple combo: chicken and slaw. He takes the essential flavour palette of each cuisine and adapts it in a very creative and practical way to present quite achievable and original dishes.
I watched the course in two days, this was also part of my birthday gift (Food: A Cultural Culinary History was the other course).