Walking into Pattigeorge’s Wednesday, Aug. 5 to cover the India interactive dinner, I thought I would spend about an hour in the restaurant learning about the event, taking photographs of guests and being a little bit jealous that they were about to cook and enjoy a full Indian meal. Little did I know that I would be invited to cook along with the group and experience the event first-hand.
The evening began with waiters serving such toothpick-speared delicacies as tandoori-seared tuna and Bengali lobster sticks with kasundi mustard. Each table in the dining room was decorated with hand-printed cloth centerpieces and at each place setting were a handmade fan, information about the night’s wine selections and a sheer sachet of sandalwood spice and pretend zills (the mini brass cymbals that belly dancers use). Oh, and two burners and two pans, because at a Pattigeorge’s interactive dinner, you work for your food!
After an hour of mingling and cocktails, the guests made their ways to their seats, and each table picked two of its members to prepare the first course. Each table was assigned a Pattigeorge’s staff member to assist guests with the cooking, and Tommy Klauber, chef and proprietor of Pattigeorge’s, demonstrated the cooking from a burner at the front of the room.
“We have been doing these dinners for the past decade, and this one is a 25 on the interactive scale,” Klauber told the group.
Needless to say, the room was excited and before we knew it, my cooking partner, Manuela Witts, and I were elbow-deep in serrano chiles and the turmeric that we used to flavor our Masala black grouper.
The excitement steadily carried throughout the rest of the night, which consisted of a second course of Kashmiri lamb curry and a dessert of honeyed mango-and-banana flambé. Twice during dinner, the ingredients in the hot pans created a room full of smoke, which threw everyone into a fit of coughs and, afterward, laughs — it gave us a real taste of what it means to be a chef preparing spicy cuisine.
The three-hour dinner was full of great conversation, great drink, great company — and, of course, great cooking! The most important thing I learned that night: If you get the opportunity to be a guest chef at a Pattigeorge’s interactive dinner, you should take it — trust me.