Wednesday, June 4, 2008

An Evening with Oliver Friendly

Upon meeting Oliver Friendly, you get the sense that he could have been many things: a salesman, an actor, a lobbyist, a teacher, a PR executive; anything that would have allowed him to thrive as the center of attention. But this graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine loves food, and he enjoys taking care of people. Thus, a natural-born entertainer turned his attention to cooking.

On a rainy Sunday night a few weeks ago, J. hosted a private cooking lesson for 4 friends. Oliver brought all of the ingredients and cooking equipment and showed remarkable resourcefulness when he had to make do in a kitchen that is fairly well-stocked but hardly ever used. I had given him some preferences, but left the menu planning up to him. Our three-course dinner featured a salad with heirloom tomatoes and a living lettuce, heritage pork with fingerling potatoes and asparagus, and a simple chocolate mousse with strawberries. All of the ingredients come from the farmer’s markets in the Washington, D.C. area.

It sounds a bit cliché these days but there is a lot to be said for respecting the ingredients. Oliver’s demonstration (it could have been a class if we had been more gun-ho about participating, but it was a weekend and we were delighted to have somebody else do the work for a change) was all about the stories behind the ingredients that made up our meal. It is a truth universally acknowledged but seldom discussed that most food comes from living, breathing beings, and that the lives that they lead, however short or utilitarian, directly impact the food we eat, be it its taste, texture, price, or overall health.

The evening was well-paced and we were asked to pinch, smell, blanche, and even taste. He told us what he was doing and why he was doing it at every moment. The techniques were simple – he wasn’t out to impress us, but rather to make sure that we deemed food that doesn’t come from a packet or comes from a professional kitchen accessible. I don’t see myself making a prep list anytime soon, but taking the time to cook and enjoy the fruits of your land, especially in the company of friends, is something to smile about.

Oliver Friendly
Personal Chef
Eat & Smile Foods
(202) 270 1018

1 comment:

Amber said...

would it possible for you to add a post to your blog?

This posting is for a food event happening in DC called Chef's Best. The proceeds of the event will go to Food & Friends a non-profit that provides meals for people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging illnesses. I found your blog amongst other foodie blog sites in DC.

This is the info for the event:

Join Food & Friends for our 18th Annual Chef's Best Dinner & Auction on Monday, June 16th. Featuring 60 of the region's brightest culinary stars, guests will enjoy innovative, one-of-a-kind tasting opportunities at the Hilton Washington and have the chance to bid on exciting live and silent auction items.

In celebration of Food & Friends' 20th Anniversary year, we are pleased to welcome comedienne Suzanne Westenhoefer, who has been featured on Bravo, VH1 and in notable stand-up venues across the country. Her unscripted take on contemporary American life is sure to be great fun and add wonderful flavor to our event!

A Washington tradition for 18 years, Chef's Best raises critical funds for men, women and children facing HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses in the District of Columbia and 14 counties in Maryland and Virginia. The only agency in the region to provide these life-sustaining services, Food & Friends hopes that you'll join us for our signature event.

VIP Reception at 5:30pm. Doors Open at 6:30pm.

Contact for Media: Lisa Butenhoff Bandera,

Contact to Purchase Tickets: Dan Bushey,, 202.269.6826