The Lee Bros. cooking class at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
A Southern Season – Chapel Hill, North Carolina
I recently had the great opportunity to attend a cooking class at A Southern Season located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As expected, it turned out to be one more great evening and, I wanted to share it with you here on Taste of Southern this week. I don’t have a lot of pictures but maybe I can give you a glimpse into what took place.
I’d been saving my Christmas of 2012 Gift Certificate to ‘A Southern Season” for just the right occasion. I’d been wanting to attend one of their many cooking class offerings and, the moment I learned The Lee Bros. were coming, I called and made my reservation. Good thing too, the class completely Sold Out in a very short time from what I hear but… more on that later.
Meet Matt Lee and Ted Lee. (Photo copyright: The Lee Bros.)
The Lee Bros. are from Charleston, South Carolina. They are self-proclaimed, home cooks and they have just published their third cookbook entitled “The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen.” Did I mention they are from Charleston, South Carolina?
Let me sum that up for you. They cook, they have THREE cookbooks AND they are from Charleston. Oh wait, they are contributing editors at Travel + Leisure, have written for The New York Times, Bon Appetit and many other publications. They won the 2007 James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year and… the list goes on.
I’ll let you visit their website to learn more about them. It’s at: www.mattleeandtedlee.com You can read all about them, see lots more pictures, check out their cookbooks, even order Boiled Peanuts from their online store. That’s right, they sell already cooked Boiled Peanuts -or- a kit so you can make your own. And, if that isn’t enough for you, they even have a Twitter account. How cool is that?
The guys are brothers, grew up in Charleston, moved away for college, got a bit nostalgic for the foods of their homeland and, started an online business to sell Boiled Peanuts and other Southern goodies. They were asked to write a story about road-tripping the foods of South Carolina for a travel magazine and that launched second careers as food and travel journalists. It’s quite an interesting story and I encourage you to check out their website to learn more about them.
I became a Twitter fan of The Lee Bros. sometime back and follow their cooking adventures via Twitter, their website and, all the numerous news stories they keep showing up in. With the just released, third cookbook, the guys are currently touring the country and A Southern Season was on the list. Actually, they spent several days around our area with various book signings, dinners and cooking demonstrations. I just like to think that A Southern Season was the highlight of their North Carolina visit and, I was able to be there.
I could write a ton of information about them but, again, I’ll just invite you to visit them at www.southernseason.com and spend some time browsing all they have to offer. They too have an online store and you can order all kinds of really neat “kitchen stuff,” from them online.
On the left side of the above photo, you should be able to see the Weathervane at Southern Season Restaurant. It may be a bit upscale for a country boy but, I may actually have a very special member of the family that is a manager there. OK, I also have another one that works in the restaurant as well. Just sayin’… and I’m very proud of both!
I could spend all day in this place. Not just because I’m old and moving slowly these days but, it just has so much… kitchen and food stuff. They also have a LOT of cooking classes. I’ve been wanting to take a class at A Southern Season for quite some time and as I said, when I learned about The Lee Bros. coming, I used my Gift Card and made a reservation. Let’s go inside.
As soon as I walked in, I spotted The Lee Bros., working their magic in the kitchen.
This place was totally awesome. I must go ahead and tell you that I have dreams of having just such a place of my own like this one day. Can’t you just picture it… The Taste of Southern Kitchen Store and Cooking Classes? There… I said it.
The classroom had a large counter at the front with a couple of cook-tops in it and lots of prep space. Right behind that, I could see a range, sinks, commercial refrigeration units, all kinds of appliances and a microwave. Not sure about the microwave though… do people really use those?
Large mirrors over the counter would give a great view of what was being prepared. Two large TV monitors would also give close up shots of all the action once class started. It was high tech and I was eager for it all to begin. In my typical fashion, I arrived just a minute or two before class started. I had just been given a tour of the Weathervane Restaurant and sampled some of their delicious Sweet Potato Fries. Only a few though because, I didn’t want to spoil the evening.
I quickly found a seat and placed my camera down on the table. I was invited to some Iced Tea or Water by members of the Cooking Class Staff and accepted the tea as I sat down. I wont get into the fact that they only served Unsweetened Tea, at least not right now. Dim the lights, its Show Time!
OK, so a lot went down between the last photo and this one. I’ve already mentioned that I didn’t have a lot of pictures though. See that? That’s Matt Lee on the right hand side of the photo. He’s looking right straight into my camera. Direct eye contact with my lens. I can’t help but wonder what he might have been thinking. Ted had a knife in his hand so I’m glad he wasn’t looking at me right then.
Matt had told us earlier about his last visit to the cooking class at A Southern Season. Seems he was trying to remove a large seed from an avacado or something and, when he went to chop into the seed with his knife, he missed and hit his hand instead. Ouch!
Sorry Matt, I felt it was important to relay that story. It’s always good to stress proper knife skills but, like the rest of us, accidents will happen in the kitchen some times. Not only do these guys show you HOW to cook, they teach you how NOT to do some things as well.
In this photo, Ted is beginning to demonstrate a recipe using Brussels Sprouts. He’s listening to a question from a member of the audience at the moment. It was great to be able to just interrupt and ask a question. It was like we were all right in the home kitchen of the Lee Bros. I managed to squeeze in a few of my own throughout the evening.
On The Menu:
The class was called “Flavors of Charleston.” Recipes were taken from The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen Cookbook. Here’s what was prepared and served to those attending the class.
1. Boiled Peanuts: Each of us received a small dish of The Lee Bros. prepared Boiled Peanuts. What a great way to start.
2. Henry’s Cheese Spread: A cheddar cheese type dip served with round crackers. I make no apologies that I did not try this dip. It is made with an “ale” type of beverage. Since I’ve never touched a drop of this stuff in my life, I passed on this one. I try not to judge anyone on what they do, its been my personal choice to refrain and I’m proud of my record. I knew this would be a part of the class offering going in and that there might be something prepared that I wouldn’t try. I did enjoy the crackers though.
3. Brussels Sprouts with Benne and Bacon: As you can see in the photo above, Ted is just beginning the process of making this dish. As with all the dishes prepared, The Lee Bros. shared a bit of history and some stories behind the recipes. For reasons unknown to me, Brussels Sprouts are one of the few “green” vegetables that I actually enjoy. I don’t eat them a lot but that is about to change I think.
4. Skillet Asparagus with Grapefruit: A bit of a unique combination in this recipe. Again, I enjoy Asparagus every now and then but not on a regular basis. And, I have never had it with grapefruit before. Hmmm.
5. Shrimp and Grits: I was sooo looking forward to this dish. I read all the time about how popular this dish is here in the South. Truth be told, I had only had it once or twice before this night. Mama never made this for us around our house. Having worked in the Seafood Restaurant with my brother, I’ve fried up tons of shrimp in my day and boiled a bit as well. Still, we never served Shrimp and Grits.
6. Charleston Hominy: The “grits” part of the above Shrimp and Grits dish. An amazingly simple dish… it’s still GRITS. DELICIOUS GRITS!!! I was excited to learn that The Lee Bros. carry stone ground grits from North Carolina in their online store. Sourced from the Old Mill of Guilford, I had the privilege to visit this mill just a few weeks back. I purchased a bag of Stone Ground Grits from their mill store and loved them. Charleston Hominy is prepared using milk instead of water. Mama never made grits with milk either that I can remember.
7. Syllabub with Strawberries. What in the world is “syllabub,” I wondered. Since it was the last dish on the menu, you know it must be a desset of some type. Wikipedia says it’s an English dessert from the 16th to 19th century, usually made with rich milk or cream and, lightly curdled with wine. Who knew there could be such a big difference in recipes between the heart of North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina? Again, this was made using alcohol and I didn’t try it. Its not cooked and I passed on it. It looked a lot like whipped cream over strawberries though. I did ask if it could be made without alcohol. Ted said to try Lemon Tea, he thought that would work well.
The Syllabub Challenge: Matt and Ted had a bit of fun as they made the Syllabub recipe for the class. Each one had their own bowl of ingredients and Immersion Blenders as they whipped up the dessert. It became a bit of a contest to see which one whipped up the best. It was all in good spirits and the class got more than a few laughs from the “competition.”
While The Lee Bros. gave their presentations and prepared the recipes from their cookbooks, the Cooking Class Staff worked right along with them to prepare and serve up the dishes to class participants. This was one well organized machine, let me tell you.
In situations like this, I often find myself watching the off-camera, behind-the-scenes, people doing all that is needed to make a performance flow smoothly. I guess its because of my prior work history but, it fascinates me to watch how everything comes together. If you ever have the chance to see a Ringling Brothers Circus or something like a Disney travelling extravaganza, watch all the stuff that the staff does to keep everything rolling along without a hitch.
So, as the guys prepared the dish in typical serving sizes, the staff went about putting dishes together that would be served to the class. Food was placed on dishes or in bowls and delivered right to our table. Not only did we get to watch The Lee Bros. show and describe how the recipe is made, we got to taste it as well. Servings were generous but I could have certainly enjoyed chowing down on more of those Shrimp and Grits.
I believe there were about 6 or more Cooking Class Staff members working along with The Lee Bros. during the class. There were kitchen helpers and servers. The servers worked quietly and unobtrusively as they served everyone but were very friendly and helpful when called upon.
By my count there were 48 of us attending this Sold Out class with The Lee Bros. We sat three per table, with four tables in a row, each on a step up type level so everyone had a good view of what was going on. You could always look at the large overhead mirrors to see what the guys were doing or, watch the TV monitors for closeups of the stirring, mixing etc. The Lee Bros. had lapel microphones so you could hear everything that was being said without straining your ears. It was just… well… GREAT!
Food Summary: As I’ve mentioned, I passed on two of the dishes because of the alcohol they contained. Again, it was just my choice to do so. You can think I’m a bit crazy if you desire to do so. BUT… I must honestly and truthfully say that everything I DID try was awesome… totally awesome. The Brussels Sprouts were amazingly delicious. I can’t wait to try them here at home and maybe I’ll even do a version for here on Taste of Southern. The Lee Bros. chopped them up very fine and sauteed them in a combination of three different oils and some diced pieces of slab bacon. It was served along with a portion of the Skillet Asparagus with Grapefruit and, I didn’t see any food left on any of the plates as the servers picked them up.
One member of the audience told the guys that her father had never been one to eat Brussels Sprouts before but, he had cleaned his plate. Everyone clapped and gave their approval as well.
The Boiled Peanuts were a great way to introduce The Lee Bros. and I could have nibbled a bunch more of those throughout the evening. I love Boiled Peanuts anyway and the ones we were served were salted just right.
The highlight of the evening, as far as the food goes was, undoubtedly the Shrimp and Charleston Hominy Grits. Best I’ve ever had and again, I can’t wait to try them here at home since I have some Stone Ground Grits from Old Mill at Guilford. I wanted to ask for more but had to restrain myself from doing so. They really were… seriously delicious. The Lee Bros. even shared a tip for preparing the shrimp that they said a chef from Charleston had taught them. I could go ahead and tell you but… you should buy the book I think.
A Southern Season Summary: Thank you to everyone at A Southern Season for a job well done. I had fun from the time I walked in until the time I left. The staff did a great job of serving us all and I can’t wait to go back for another class in the near future. I’ve got one class punched on my card already and I’m looking at your online class schedule, already planning my next visit. I even managed to get a big old slice of Coconut Cake from the bakery shop to bring home. Good stuff.
The Lee Bros. Summary: These two guys were very impressive. They call themselves home cooks as they have never cooked in a restaurant professionally they said. They did say though, they had their first experience with restaurant work just a few nights before with some “pop up restaurant” type experience they presented down around Charleston. I know it’s a lot of hard work but these two could easily have quite a following should they ever venture into the restaurant world. Having spent the last few months travelling some with MY older brother, I can appreciate the way the guys tease each other and work so well together.
As I mentioned earlier, The Lee Bros. have a Twitter account that I follow. I sent them a couple of Tweets in the days before they came to Chapel Hill and they responded to a couple and Favorited a couple. I told them I was really looking forward to the class just so I could finally figure out which one was which. For some reason, I wasn’t finding any pictures of them that pointed out which brother was Matt or which one was Ted. I may have broken an unspoken rule by adding their names to the photo of them in the first part of this story. I just thought you might like to know, in case you were like me and, didn’t know. They Favorited that Tweet.
I also asked if they would be bringing Boiled Peanuts. Another time, when I posted that I was headed to the class and hoped to bring back some Coconut Cake… they tweeted “and boiled p’nuts too.”
When I walked into class and sat down, it didn’t take long before Matt spotted me. I’m a big guy so that wasn’t very hard to do but, he waved at me. I wasn’t sure it was me he was signaling but finally realized that he must have recognized me from Twitter. Later, during the class, they stated the class had sold out quickly following a Tweet I had posted. I’m not sure about that one but, it was neat that they singled me out in that fashion. I sent them a tweet when I first discovered the class coming up and they RETWEETED it. THAT was what got it all started as THEY have over TEN THOUSAND followers on Twitter.
After class, the guys went out of the classroom to a table setup for them to sign books. When I handed them my copy of Charleston Kitchen for them to sign, they said, “you’re Steve right?” I just love Twitter, don’t you? I had never met these fellows before but, they knew who I was and, called me by name, just from a few tweets that I had made to them. Says a lot for how well they care for their “fans,” don’t you think? They were just as down to earth as could be and, that made my first ever experience with A Southern Season Cooking Class… a TOTALLY AWESOME EXPERIENCE. I loved it and as Arnold would say… “I’ll be back.”
Thank you Matt and Ted for the autographed cookbook and the photo with you guys. I stayed up late that night looking through all the recipes. I can’t wait to try some of them.
Your Comments: Thank you for taking the time to read about my first experience with the cooking class at A Southern Season. It was a really neat experience and I wanted to share it with you. I hope that maybe one day, you too will be able to pay them a visit. They are expanding and will be opening a store in Charleston, South Carolina in the very near future and, some others are planned for other areas after that one.
Have you ever taken a cooking class like this one? Did you like it? Did you learn a lot of good stuff? I’d love to hear your comments and look forward to you sharing a few memories with us here on Taste of Southern. It will only take a minute or two to share your thoughts with us in the Comment section below. Please remember, all comments are moderated. That means, I read each and every one of them before they are approved for our family-friendly site here on the Internet. I also try to respond to as many comments as possible so, please come back and check out my reply.
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