It’s still October, but many cooks are already starting to think about Thanksgiving — and dreading having to cook the holiday meal.
For all those cooks out there, Brian Morris has some advice.
“There’s not a lot of mystery and magic behind great cooking. There are just some basic tools,” he said. “And it’s about being comfortable and confident in the kitchen.”
Morris is aiming to make people more comfortable and confident in the kitchen during two cooking shows he will lead the first week of November: The Taste of the Gate City, Nov. 6 at the Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, and Taste of the Twin City, Nov. 7 at the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem. The shows are sponsored by the Winston-Salem Journal and the Greensboro News & Record.
Each event will begin at 5 p.m. with a holiday expo featuring local vendors, food from local restaurants, and samplings of local wine and beer. Morris will give an interactive cooking demonstration at 7 p.m.
“Ultimately, the goal is to make the kitchen a fun place that’s not scary — a place we can go to love on each other and have fun with each other,” Morris said this week from Nashville. “I want to take the stress out of cooking for the holidays.”
Morris is the director of operations for Hattie B’s, a chain of hot-chicken restaurants based in Nashville. But he has plenty of experience teaching cooking to people of every skill level.
After graduating from the French Culinary Institute in New York, Morris worked as a personal chef to celebrities including actress Nicole Kidman, rocker Steven Tyler and baseball star Derek Jeter. While working for Viking Range Corp., a commercial appliance company, he began giving cooking demonstrations in front of live audiences.
Those shows continued when he worked at Relish Magazine from 2008 to 2014 — and he often put on 50 shows a year.
Along the way, he learned how to teach people about cooking without making them feel like they were in school.
“This is not a cooking class,” he said. “I am going to give you a lot of tools to put in your tool kit, but we’re going to have fun doing it.”
Morris loves to interact with his audience. If you come to the show, don’t be surprised if you find yourself onstage having a laugh with Morris as you help him prep a dish. Then again, you might end up singing karaoke and dancing with him, too.
“I’m from Nashville, and I studied to be a musician when I was younger, so I always have a lot of music in my shows,” he said. “I’ve had people come up to me after a show and say they were embarrassed when they were up there dancing or singing, but they were glad they did.”
Music aside, most of the show will focus on cooking for the holidays.
The show will have two halves, he said.
“We’ll pretend that the first half is the week before a holiday party, and we’ll do all the prep.
“The second half is like the day of the party, and the audience will get to see how easy it is to pull all this off.”
He also will offer help for people with dietary restrictions, offering ways to get a lot of flavor without adding a lot of fat, sugar and calories.
“I also want to show people that simple flavors always win. It’s not about fancy for me,” he said. “It’s not about gimmicks and all kinds of garnishes, but doing a simple recipe perfectly.”