Friday 27 April, 2012

Cookin’ With Jet

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Jet Tila is probably best known as Executive Chef of Wazuzu, the critically-acclaimed Pan-Asian restaurant in the Encore Las Vegas resort. But the LA native's first professional identity was as a cooking instructor, holding classes in his backyard at 22 [He's also gone on to be accoladed for his recipes, blogs, videos, and making the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest stirfry. There are also frozen dinners on the way, I'm told. Here's a bio with more detail than I have the energy to paraphrase.] He moved his classes to Culver City's New School of Cooking quite a while ago, but I only recently got a chance to sit in on a session to check it out. I confess that Thai is one cuisine I've always shied away from trying at home, the best dishes always seemed excessively complex and home versions never seemed to mirror what you could get very cheaply from a restaurant.

Planking chicken

Planking chicken

It's no surprise that with all his experience, Tila is a very effective, entertaining and ego-free instructor. His class has something for everyone from the near-novice (I think the USC student next to me had never seen a stove before, see below) to a vet of the American Stir Fry Revolution (that would be the late 80s) such as myself.

Cover a box grater with plastic wrap and ginger grates cleanly atop it.

Cover a box grater with plastic wrap and ginger grates cleanly atop it.

In particular, I picked up a few good cutting techniques--nice ways to matchstick peppers, mince kaffir leaves, and plank protein, as well as ginger peeling with the unsharpened knife edge, and mess-free grating.

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Within two hours, Tila showed everyone how to season and maintain a carbon steel wok (all students got one to keep), how to buy sauces and noodles, how to filet a medium size fin fish, and how to cook seven classic Thai/Chinese dishes--some much easier than others--including: Pad See Yew, Tom Kha Gai, Prik King, Kung Pao Chicken, Steamed Rock Fish, Shrimp Fried Rice and Pad Thai.

The USC co-ed next to me was poking at her shrimp like they were still alive, lol. That's after she asked if the stove just had an "on/off switch."

The USC co-ed next to me was poking at her shrimp like they were still alive, lol. That's after she asked if the stove just had an "on/off switch."

New School classes are not frou-frou: the classroom is a real industrial kitchen with shelves of equipment, not a home-style show-room. Assistants help with raw materials and washing up, but otherwise, students do the work. One criticism is that they don't supply aprons--seems like if they didn't want to do linens, they could at least offer disposable ones.

My finished Kung Pao...before it got devoured, of course ;-)

My finished Kung Pao...before it got devoured, of course ;-)

Tila is so good at what he does, and so tireless, it seems likely my fellow students will be bragging to their kids about taking a cooking class with him 20 years from now. He's clearly on his way to being the next Wolfgang Puck-meets-Martin Yan... all he's missing is the heavy accent.

thx for photo help, Cari.

chefjet.com

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED MARCH 2011