Event - Chef David Suscavage Cooking Demo (Golden Foodies)

May 29th at 6:00pm = another night of a packed Subzero Wolf West Showroom in Costa Mesa. Of course - why wouldn't it be? The Golden Foodie Awards were hosting their second of the Golden Chef Series events for 2013, this time featuring the talented Chef David Suscavage of House of Blues Anaheim. With ticket admissions to benefit Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry program, the event was inevitably going to find itself the talk of the evening as participants ate delicious starter foods from the program sponsors (Melissa's Produce, Sadie Rose Baking, Addington Toffee, Hawaiian Springs Water, Cabot, and La Crema) while watching a chef make a favorite dish. Charlie Plummer, the sommelier of Jackson Family Estates, was back at it again as the emcee for the evening, keeping the crowd lively and the chef talking. His energetic antics and provocative questions not only educated the audience about what was going on up front but also presented us with insider insight.


The prep work was all ready, the cameras set up, and the audience waiting - showtime started just about on time. Everyone seemed curious about the beautiful dishes presented on the left side of the counter so of course, the curiosity had to be sated. Chef Suscavage pointed out to all of our drooling eyes and ears that these were features from their menu including a Jambalaya (marinated chicken, white rice, andouille sausage, sweet peppers and roasted green onion in a spicy traditional jambalaya sauce) that we got to taste, street tacos with "love sauce" (a citrus-y chipotle pepper cream), a flatbread, and lobster mac and cheese. With the restaurant coming to their 20th anniversary, its menu was sure to abide by their saying of "Let music and food feed your soul." The line is also a part of why for the evening, we were to be treated to a demonstration of their VOODOO Shrimp with Jalapeno Cornbread. As Chef said, it "warms you from the inside out" and is just one of his favorite dishes that's been around since the place opened. By the way, did you know that the House of Blues makes all of their sauces from scratch?


We then learned a bit about Chef David Suscavage himself as well during the event. Currently the Executive Chef of the House of Blues Anaheim, he was a man who found himself often traveling from coast to coast for various stints at specialty restaurants (such as Nassau Inn and Steakhouse at Harrah's Resort) before eventually settling back here in Orange County. No worries - the audience put him to the loyalty test by asking several OC-oriented "this or that" questions. He rightfully picked Gwen Stefani over Lady Gaga, Orange County over South Jersey, and both wine and beer (who needs to choose one or the other for that question?) during this "interrogation." We also got some background on his sous chef Leo Ramirez who has been with House of Blues for about 1 1/2 years and his main prep chef Max Martinez who has been with the business for 8 years. Fun fact about Max whom Chef Suscavage referred to endearingly as their "rescue chef": he started working at House of Blues as a security guard but with his constant peeking into the kitchen during his shifts, the management promoted him to a kitchen role. As Leo describes it, he began "looking for a career, not a job." I had a fun time talking to these two before and after the event.


With all of the friendly banter back and forth, we soon realized that everything was already good to go! Time seemed to fly by so quickly as the prepwork for the VOODOO Shrimp with Jalapeno Cornbread swiftly turned into plating. During the cooking, we learned about the chef's choice for using jalapeno in his cornbread as opposed to other peppers (it's at a heat level most people can handle and are familiar with), the deveining method for the tiger shrimp he was using, the flavor profile of Mexican oregano that steered his choice towards using that in his shrimp sauce (its citrus aftertaste), and why we shouldn't put salt in the shrimp's marinade (it will cook the shrimp prematurely and suck out too much moisture). For the aspiring chefs, Chef Suscavage advised on the realities of not only loving your passion but also putting in the hard work to make it happen; good advice, chef!


Then the challenge arose for emcee Charlie to put his wine-pairing skills to the test. He settled on a white and red (Chef preferred the white) for the plate to appease both wine-loving types. For the white, he opted for a Pinot Gris with high viscosity and full body for its acidic profile that easily cut through the heat of the VOODOO sauce but still managed to complement the flavors well. The red came in the form of a Zinfandel meant to highlight the savory notes in this dish. While the two tested the pairing together in a "romantic" eating-off-the-same-plate moment, we audience members sat back and drooled at the thought of wine swishing in our mouths after a spicy bite of the shrimp. Luckily, we did all get a tasting of the wholesome dish, and yes, it was delicious.


Yet another educational event presented by the folks over at Golden Foodie Awards - thanks to them and the chefs at House of Blues Anaheim for making it happen. If you're curious yourself about the recipe for the VOODOO Shrimp, you can take an abbreviated gander here:
  1. Jalapeno Corn Bread
    Mix together 1.5 cup cornmeal, 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 tsp salt. In a separate bowl, combine 1.5 cup buttermilk, 2 beaten eggs, 1/4 cup diced jalapeno, 1/4 cup grated Asiago. Coat cast iron skillet with 1 tbsp each of butter & sugar. Pour batter in to fill 3/4 of the skillet & bake 25-30 minutes at 400F.
  2. Shrimp Blackening Spice
    Combine 2 tbsp paprika & 1 tbsp each of ground white pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and dried thyme. Include 1 tsp cracked black pepper too.
  3. VOODOO Shrimp Sauce
    Mix together 1/4 can of beer (he used Sam Adams), 1 bay leaf, 1 oz Worchestershire sauce, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp dried basil leaves, 1/4 tsp dried Mexican oregano, 1/4 tsp shrimp base, 1/4 tsp chicken base, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 cup heavy cream. Reduce until mixture coats the back of a spoon. Discard bay leaf.
  4. VOODOO Shrimp
    Devein 6-12 tiger shrimp (16/20) and coat in blackening spice. Marinade for 1-2 hours. Sear in a pan before adding VOODOO sauce - bring to a simmer. Spoon 1 oz unsalted butter into sauce. Toast buttered triangle of cornbread. Add 20 halved teardrop tomatoes (10 red, 10 yellow) to shrimp to toss. Spoon shrimp over cornbread and garnish with long chives.
Enjoy your creation! P.S. According to Chef Suscavage, it is a sin to make that cornbread without a cast iron skillet so make sure you get yours ready when you make this dish!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook.