Area chefs star in extravaganza

Benefit: Signature dishes to be a part of charity event to aid Meals on Wheels programs.


It's 8:30 on a sunny Sunday morning, and chef Jerry Edwards is loading up his car with, among other things, a smoked duck, crab soup, packets of diced vegetables, pots and pans and kitchen implements.

When everything is packed and secure in the Chrysler Sebring convertible, Edwards heads from Timonium to TV Hill in Baltimore, where he'll be doing a cooking spot on WBAL-TV's morning news program.

There's more to the occasion than making the show hosts' mouths water: Edwards is one of more than a dozen chefs who will be cooking signature dishes for Meals on Wheels' seventh annual Culinary Extravaganza, to be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow at Harbor Court Hotel. Proceeds from the event will benefit Meals on Wheels programs for the homebound frail and elderly.

Besides Edwards, some of the other chefs at the event will be Linwood Dame of Linwood's/Due; Spike Gjerde of Atlantic; Randy Stahl of the Brass Elephant; Mark Henry of the Oregon Grille; Galen Sampson, Tom Olson and Craig Kepner of Harbor Court Hotel; John Shields of Gertrude's; and Cindy Wolf of Charleston.

Edwards, of Chef's Expressions catering in Timonium, said he became involved in Meals on Wheels several years ago when someone who worked for him also volunteered with the organization, delivering lunches. "I asked him what we could do, what they needed. And he said, 'Well, they have this charity event coming up.' "

At the TV studio, everything that went into the convertible comes back out. A Meals on Wheels representative is there to help him. Edwards has been told his segment will be on about 9:40. His first task is to set up his mise en place -- the food he has prepared ahead of time.

"All they have there is the burners," he said.

The set is small, and "not what you see on TV," Edwards says. "There's a concrete floor and cinder-block walls all around you. And it's really quiet -- because 10 feet away from me they were doing the news."

When he set out all the little bowls with his ingredients, he said, "You need to be real quiet and delicate. You definitely need to be early -- you can't rush in there at the last minute."

As it turns out, it's closer to 9:50 when the cooking spot, called "Sunday Brunch," comes up. Barry Sims, co-host with Julie Chapman, appears in the kitchen area. Edwards, who has had only 10 seconds' warning, looks a bit surprised, but he already has a couple of pans going.

"We're fixing duck," he tells Sims. "We're having golden crab soup with an open-faced duck sandwich. First, we'll get the soup started."

He tosses chopped onion into a skillet. "You add oil, a little bit of cream, a little bit of lemon juice, a little bit of sherry." And he displays another pan with the finished soup. Things move fast on television -- Edwards has just four minutes to do his cooking and make his pitch for the benefit. ("Sometimes they ask you so many questions, it's hard to answer the questions and say what you're doing." But Sims lets Edwards do the talking.)

Edwards moves on to reciting the ingredients for a celeriac (celery root) compote to accompany the duck.

"So," says Sims, "sherry and champagne are part of the recipe? I like this recipe already."

Edwards assembles the duck sandwich, and Sims turns to the topic of the benefit.

"I started doing it about six or seven years ago," Edwards says. "There's a group of us -- it's kind of a reunion. We set up a station and each prepare a dish. This [the soup and duck] is what I'll be doing."

And then it's done. "I think we went a little over" four minutes, Edwards says.

Edwards cleans up, reloads the car and heads back home to wash the dishes.

"For me, it was very smooth and comfortable," Edwards said later of the TV spot. "Much better then when I first started doing it. You don't know what to expect."

Edwards doesn't mind devoting his time -- even his Sunday morning -- to Meals on Wheels, because he admires the organization. "What they do with the little bit of money they have is incredible." And he likes this particular charity event, he said, "because they focus strongly on the chefs, and the integrity of the food. The best dishes show up here."

Another of the event participants agreed. Linwood Dame of Linwood's/Due said, "They have a pretty nice list of chefs, and they make some pretty good dishes. All of the chefs go all-out for this event." Dame will be preparing Maryland lump crab risotto cakes with balsamic glazed tomatoes, grilled zucchini and tomato oil.

Another chef who will be at the event, Randy Stahl of the Brass Elephant, also said he got involved with Meals on Wheels because he knew people who worked as drivers. Chefs get lots of calls to participate in charity events, Stahl said, and some of them have a pretty tenuous connection to food. "But when it comes to hunger and feeding people, that's something we in the food service industry can definitely do something about," he said. He'll be preparing pan-seared Nantucket scallops.

Besides the food, the evening will feature music from the Jason Stevens Trio and both live and silent auctions. Among the items up for bids: dinners prepared in the winning bidders' homes by some of the participating chefs.

Tickets to the event are $125 per person. For reservations or information, call 410-558-0932, Ext. 3025.

Pub Date: 05/12/99

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