An Evening with The Surreal Gourmet

image: Left: cover of Bob Blumer’s new book, Glutton for Pleasure (Whitecap, 2010), right: Bob Blumer in the kitchen at Cook Culture. credit: Melody Wey

Cook Culture, Victoria, BC, February 11th: It’s 5:45 p.m. I head into Victoria’s newest kitchen shop and cooking school for a special evening with Bob Blumer.

The class was set to begin at 6 p.m., but glancing at the number of people seated around the kitchen with wine glasses already in hand and the amount of energy in the air, I thought for sure I was late. Everyone had arrived early in anticipation of an evening destined to be entertaining, informative and surreal.

Blumer is the creator and host of two Food Network shows; The Surreal Gourmet and Glutton for Punishment. He was in town promoting his latest cookbook Glutton for Pleasure, (Whitecap, 2010), a collection of signature recipes from his TV shows and previous books.

From the centre of the kitchen, Blumer welcomed us and set the tone by saying “someone has donated three cases of wine and no one leaves this place until every bottle is finished.”

The first culinary throw down of the evening involved proving that it doesn’t take a long to prepare a great meal. Blumer invited someone from the audience to heat up a can of Heinz spaghetti while he prepared fresh pasta in a garlic, shallot and chili tomato sauce. There was no doubt who would come first in this friendly competition, it was only a question of by how much. Throwing down his plate first, Blumer gives us a wink and quips, “If I had 30 more seconds, I’d have added a splash of wine.”

In-between the cooking demonstrations, there were stories: of a stunt man named Eddy and an Australian late night show appearance, of a scuba diving mishap during a previous visit to B.C. and of cycling a stage of the Tour de France.

The showstopper came towards the end of the evening when the Surreal Gourmet demonstrated his Salmon Cupcakes. The inspiration behind this recipe comes from the desire to present creations unlike what they really are. The Salmon Cupcakes are beautifully presented, baked in cupcake liners and topped with either fresh dill mashed potatoes or roasted beet mashed potatoes. The potato mixture is piped on the top of the salmon cupcakes like a swirl of delicious icing.

The evening was highly entertaining, inspiring and a good reminder of how much fun cooking can be. Blumer finished the evening by saying “I’m a walking testament that you can really teach yourself to cook.” And I left Cook Culture in full confidence that I could do just that.

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