Sunday, March 06, 2011

2011 Celebrity Chef Challenger: Hail to the Chef, Chef Jim Turknett

The 9th Annual Celebrity Chef Challenge is coming soon!! Are you ready to find out "Who's Cuisine Reigns Supreme???" 

This week's interview is with Jim Turknett, executive chef at Vizcaya Pavilion and Mansion.

Cakegrrl: What made you want to become a chef?
Chef Turknett:  I was destined to become a chef, I started cooking at age 12 for my siblings. While in high school, I received a scholarship to go to San Francisco City College hotel and restaurant dept. I graduated in 1978 and the rest is history.

CG: Where did you receive your training?
Chef Turknett: I went (to the) San Francisco City College Culinary Program, graduated with a Chef Certificate in 1978. (I) went to work and have worked with a lot of talented people, but (I'm) mostly self taught.

CG: What is a typical day like for you at the restaurant or your place of work?
Chef TurknettA lot of preparation for the next party.

CG: What are/who are your primary cooking influences?
Chef Turknett: I do a lot of private parties this point in my life. My influences are my clients. I like to create special menus and make them happy.

CG: What are your favorite and least favorite foods to prepare?
Chef Turknett: I like desserts, appetizers, and salads. I feel I can be more creative on these items. I don't like doing food that requires a lot of time garnishing each individual item (like canapés).

Chef Turknett (right) pictured with Chef J.P. Khoury (left)

CG: Please tell me about your most overwhelming moment in the kitchen.
Chef TurknettMaking individual soufflés for 160 people on New Years Eve. After I finished them and pulled them from the over, I sent them into the dining room. I followed the servers to watch them be served, and to my dismay the 

soufflés fell one by one.

CG: What is your "can't live without" kitchen tool and why?
Chef TurknettMy 8 inch chef's knife. I couldn't work without it.

CG: If you had a different career choice, what would it be?
Chef Turknett: I've never done anything else. I can't imagine not being in the kitchen, but maybe (I would be) a food salesperson or (do) something involving food.

CG: Best meal ever?
Chef TurknettLe Chamenet in Lake Tahoe. It was my first experience to a great meal, and I still think about the meal 30 years later.

CG: Tell me why are you going to win the Celebrity Chef Event 2011?!?!? :)
Chef TurknettI'm not sure I will win, but this is the 5th time for me competing, so maybe it's my time to win. I also have a lot of different types of experience.

Check out this video of Jim (when he was chef at Chanterelle) making a (savory & sweet) galette with Gwen Schoen (a former food writer at the Sacramento Bee). Happy I found this, as I have met Gwen a few times and truly miss her addition to the Food section of the paper. Enjoy!!

The 9th Annual Celebrity Chef Challenge is at California Automobile Museum from 5:30-9:30pm. You can purchase tickets with your credit card by clicking here (FYI, there is a $2 convenience fee). To avoid that fee, you have plenty of time to pay by check by sending your money here: 

InAlliance, Attention: Celebrity Chef Challenge, 6950 21st Ave., Sacramento, CA 95820. For more information on tickets or ways to pay, click here.

The Celebrity Chef Challenge is the annual benefit for INALLIANCE, a nonprofit organization that provides support programs for people with developmental disabilities in the greater Sacramento area. 

All proceeds from the Celebrity Chef Challenge go towards enhancing the vital programs INALLIANCE provides the community. 

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