My review of Chef Stuart O’Keeffe’s cooking class: I had lunch with a Food Network star!

Chef Stuart O’Keeffe at Macy’s State St

It’s hot outside and you don’t want to eat – and you also can’t for the life of you remember any notable Irish dish other than corned beef and cabbage. And yet, Chef Stuart O’Keeffe manages to pull you into his world of flavors, and you decide that eating on a sweltering hot day is not such a bad idea, after all. Chef O’Keeffe’s food pays tribute to his Irish upbringing, yet it is cosmopolitan in its scope and versatile in its approach. Just like his personality and on-stage presence, his food is vibrant and bubbly, in the best possible way 🙂

I met Chef Stuart O’Keeffe at a cooking demo at Macy’s State St in downtown Chicago one hot summer day. My previous Macy’s Culinary Council cooking class had been amazing, and I was looking forward to yet another exquisite culinary experience.

Chef Stuart O’Keeffe was born in Limerick (a city I loved to visit when my husband and I lived in the UK) and got his passion for cooking from his mother, who was an excellent home cook. Following his long-held dream, he moved to the US after getting his BA In Culinary Arts in Dublin, and he spent years in California defining his own cooking style, which reflects his passion for quality fresh products and a commitment to simplicity inspired by his mother. O’Keeffe became a household name when he was cast in Food Network’s show Private Chefs of Beverly Hills, which originally ran for two seasons between 2009-2010. Since then, Chef O’Keeffe has amassed an impressive list of celebrity clients and has published his first cookbook The Quick Six Fix, which contains “100 fabulous quick-and-easy recipes—using 6 ingredients, 6 minutes of prep, and 6 minutes of clean up.” If you’re a foodie who likes Chef O’Keeffe and would like to see more of him, you’re in luck: starting Sunday August 12, O’Keeffe will host a new Food Network show  which focuses on culinary trends and recipes that are easy to replicate by the day-to-day cook.

Upon arriving at Macy’s, I was treated to a glass of ice-cold cucumber mint limeade to get things off to a good start on a very hot day. As a big fan of limes, I definitely appreciated this drink and thought it was the perfect way to begin a summer cooking demo. Citrusy, cool and refreshing – just what I needed!

Listening to Chef O’Keeffe was so entertaining! Not only was he very precise with his instructions, but he was also funny, down-to-earth and relatable. Who doesn’t like a good story to complement and to enlighten the food? I particularly enjoyed Chef O’Keeffe’s talking about his mom and his aunt as an inspiration for his cooking. Equally endearing was Chef O’Keeffe’s humble demeanor and genuine passion for food – and storytelling!

A good salad only needs a few ingredients to shine, and these ingredients must be fresh and as close to nature as possible. Here’s Chef O’Keeffe’s simple butter lettuce salad with a mustard vinaigrette. So light, so perfect for your summer lunch!

For main course, Chef O’Keeffe made thirteen-spice chicken with crème fraîche. The chicken was moist and brimming with Old Bay seasoning, while the crème fraîche&tarragon-based sauce was an excellent addition and mild complement to the chicken. I was surprised to see the chef use tarragon in both the salad and the main course. I believe fresh tarragon has a very strong flavor, to the extent of being overpowering, and this is why I’ve always steered clear of it. Maybe it’s time to reconsider my view and to buy some fresh tarragon to experiment 🙂

While the main course was light, the dessert – a black & white croissant bread pudding – brought forth creamy, chocolatey sweetness in all its glory. The croissants had a luscious texture and were immersed in a decadent egg mixture, with dark& white chocolate chips, brown sugar and vanilla. Put some quality ice cream on top, and you’re in culinary heaven!

All in all, I had a delightful time at Macy’s Culinary Council’s latest cooking demonstration with Chef Stuart O’Keeffe. As someone who appreciates simplicity and straightforwardness, I thought Chef O’Keeffe’s approach was refreshing, and the delivery charming in its effortless honesty and humour. I also enjoyed the dishes prepared by Chef O’Keeffe, and I look forward to replicating them at home. Over the course of one hour I discovered valuable recipes, heard great stories, and tried balanced, well-flavored food. What could be better one hot summer day? 🙂


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