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Food with Friends

Chefs are bringing cooking expertise home, offering lessons and making meals for fun
By Catherine Allchin

At the home of party host, Suzanne Stephan . . . chef Bertrand de Boutray shares tips, laughs and flour-covered fingers with his students as thei prepare Sauteed Wild Mushrooms with Sea Scallops, Tagliatelles Pasta in Lemon Cream Sauce with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon, and a Pear Almond Cream Tart . . .
"Let me show you how to chop an onion," says chef Bertrand de Boutray in his thick French accent. "First you cut it in half," he demonstrates on the white cutting board before his expert hands. "Then you make little criss-cross cuts, without cutting through the root end," he says emphatically. A few more swift cuts - and voilà! - perfectly shaped squares of chopped onion. No need to ever cut the ends of onions again!
I am standing in a friend's Laurelhurst kitchen with seven other women who have come together for a three-part "Art of French Cooking" class with Cordon Bleu-trained de Boutray. Today, our three-course menu features the Basque region, and so two of the women dutifully chop onion for an egg piperade.
Meanwhile, I work with my morning's partner, Lisa, as we attempt to remove bones from a king salmon fillet. Bertrand shows us how to extract the slippery needles from the firm flesh using tweezers he had brought. Another team whisks butter, vinegar and tarragon for the Béarnaise sauce, while the other two women cook custard for the buttery Basque cake that will be our welcome dessert.
As we labor for these two hours, we anticipate with each task, our imminent sweet regard: a scrumptious sit-down, three-course lunch with friends and good wine. Not a bad way to spend a Friday.
. . . de Boutray's Seattle business, Bertrand Chez Vous, caters to clients who want a single "cooking together party" or a "cooking together series" in a private home. His classes are hands-on, which means clients actually prepare the entire meal themselves.
. . . If you love food, the next time you want to get friends together, considering bringing a chef into your home for a creative and fun cooking party . . .