The other week I enjoyed the opening-night production of "To Master the Art." The play, running at the Broadway Playhouse, tells the story of culinary icon Julia Child and her husband, Paul, when they lived in Paris at the inception of the book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
I was enthralled with the characters and entranced by the aroma of shallots sizzling and the sizzle of eggs scrambling. But it was Julia's mention of mayonnaise that I couldn't shake from my mind. It didn't come during a pivotal plot point or anything, but it stuck with me just the same.
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When I spotted an empty mayonnaise jar in my home recycling bin a few days later, I knew what I had to do. I checked out "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" from the library (I'll have a hard time giving it back) then headed to the farmers market for eggs. My pantry already held the other mayo ingredients -- vegetable oil, lemon/vinegar, salt and ground mustard.
The recipe in the book straddles two pages and isn't meant to intimidate. The directions are long because they're detailed down to the drop to ensure success. Still, I was prepared to fail the first time out, not sure if my arms could handle all that whisking, so I was giddy (yep, giddy, just ask my husband) when the yolks and oil melded into a rich, heavenly spread unlike anything I've found on a store shelf.
Not wanting to waste it on a ham sandwich, I stirred some of it into chicken salad that we ate that evening for dinner. Another large scoop went into chef Lisa Bellan's bacony quiche. There are still a few tablespoons left that I'm saving for tomorrow's ham sandwich.
What a sandwich that will be.
Reality check: If the Cook of the Week Challenge has you hungry for more cooking competitions, a couple of opportunities are coming up.
The window closes Oct. 12 for two-person teams interested in applying for season two of Food Network's "Food Court Wars." Each week the show pits two teams of food entrepreneurs against each other as they develop regional, shopper-friendly fare and battle to win their own food court eatery rent-free for a year.
Producers are looking for local folks passionate about food who own, or who have dreamed of owning, a restaurant. Application details are available at TheConlinCompany.com.
A spokeswoman with the show says producers hope to start filming around here in November or December.
An open casting call for season five of "MasterChef" is set for Oct. 19 and Chicago's celebrated chef and show judge Graham Elliot will be on hand for the auditions. "MasterChef" is the Fox show that puts nonprofessional cooks through their paces in an effort to find the best cook in the country.
If you're interested, head to masterchefcasting.com for casting details and fill out the 10-page application. Then, show up between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, 361 W. Chesnut St., Chicago, for the audition.
Buffalo Grove native Suzy Singh advanced nearly to the finals in season two. Currently working as a research and development chef for Now Foods in Bloomingdale and a judge for our Cook of the Week Challenge, she offers this advice to those considering the opportunity.
• Be yourself: You have a couple of months of auditions and taping; the casting producers would like to have people who are totally authentic.
• Brush up on your culinary chops: You will be doing everything from making eggs Benedict to searing duck to baking a chocolate cake. Make sure you know a little bit about everything!
• Be willing and able to leave your family for two months with minimal communication. It is one of the hardest things in the world to do, but in the end it could be worth it for you.
• Most importantly, get ready for your life to change! You get what you put into the show, so make sure that you take advantage of any/every opportunity that comes your way.
• Good luck and enjoy the journey. It's quite a ride!
Grilling guru honored: In the early 1950s when George Stephen Sr. was tinkering in his Mount Prospect backyard trying to come up with a better way to grill steaks, he had no idea he was on the verge of changing the way America cooks outside.
What started with spare pieces from the Weber Brothers factory is today synonymous with summer: the kettle grill.
Stephen passed away in 1993, but his legacy lives on as Palatine-based Weber-Stephen Products LLC, the world's leading manufacturer of outdoor gas, charcoal and electric grills and grilling accessories. His contributions will be recognized this week when he's inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame at the World Series of Barbecue Championship in Kansas City, Mo.
"My father knew that one of the best ways to bring families together was through a shared meal enjoyed in the great outdoors," said Jim Stephen, chairman of Weber-Stephen Products. Jim will accept the award on behalf of the family.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com/DebPankey.DailyHerald or follow her on Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter @PankeysPlate.