Culinary Pavilion at Coconut Grove Arts Festival showcases local talent

Despite the number of spectators bustling from one artists’ tent to the next, the cooking demonstrations at the Culinary Pavilion of the 46th Annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival was not overlooked. Those who made their way to the pavilion found a worthwhile attraction, which the festival added to the lineup just four years ago.

Running along the streets of McFarlane Road, South Bayshore Drive, and Pan American Drive, the three-day festival drew over 150,000 people to Coconut Grove. From February 14 to the 16th, the streets were lined with artwork-filled tents, sidewalk vendors, and sponsored exhibit areas.

Along a pristine portion of Biscayne Bay, festival-goers found the Culinary Pavilion.  A quiet roped off section of the festival, it consisted of a wine-tasting tent, and one specifically designed for cooking demonstrations by local Coconut Grove chefs.

Carole Slonin, a festival volunteer and Miami Lakes native, explained the importance of the Culinary Pavilion.

“Cooking is also an art.  [The pavilion] is important because it is a way to promote businesses in Coconut Grove…especially since now with the economy, people are not traveling as much,” she stated.  “It is a good way to let them know about these great local chefs and establishments.”

Volunteering at the festival on Saturday since 8 a.m., Slonin viewed each demonstration, from Chinese dishes, to fancy dessert creations.

Greg Yu, of Tropical Chinese Restaurant, brought his whole family to assist in their restaurant’s demonstration.  Along with his sister, mother, and colleague, he knowledgeably taught audience members how to make pork dim sum.

Yu’s mother, Lee, repeatedly reminded him of details, which he forgot to explain.  To the amusement of the audience, Yu translated his mother’s instructions with a knowing smile, as if to say, “I know Mom.” Samples of the dim sum dumplings were distributed to audience members at the conclusion of the demonstration.

Of their dish selection, Yu explained, “We chose to do dim sum, because it is something people will enjoy and can make at home.”  He felt the cooking class was a great experience, stating, “I am happy and surprised that the audience was so enthusiastic with questions.  I am glad the festival approached us to teach a cooking class, and that we had this opportunity.”

Audience member, Zach Duhaime of Mansfield, Massachusetts, thought the Yu family “put on a good show and got the audience involved really well.”  “I liked his mom, she was funny-it showed how their restaurant really symbolizes family and is relatable,” he added.

Saturday’s cooking demonstrations concluded with congenial Lucila Jimenez, who operates Sweet Art by Lucila bakeries throughout the Miami area.  With the assistance of her daughter, Cristina, Jimenez showed audience members how to create a chocolate dessert with raspberry pâté.

Jimenez made witty comments as her daughter prepared the molten chocolate, stirring it in a plastic bowl.  “I do the talking, she does the work…that is what comes with age,” she joked.  Greeted with chuckles from audience members both young and old, Jimenez continued to explain in understandable terms how to make the dessert.

At the conclusion of the demonstration, volunteers passed out samples.  The audience was surprised with an additional sample of “Lucila’s Mojito Cake,” as well as a small taste of “Barefoot Bubbly” champagne from the adjacent wine-tasting tent.

Jimenez explained how she was “very surprised and happy” when she approached by the festival to do the demonstration.  “I chose to make the chocolate dessert [for the event], because my family, we are all chocoholics.  When I made this for my family when my children were young, they would scoop out some of the chocolate while it was sitting in the fridge and leave a note-the chocoholic strikes back.  We all enjoy it so much; it’s a great dessert.”

The dedicated chef never received formal training, but took cooking classes whenever possible.  “Whenever chefs would come and do demonstrations, I was always in the front row with the kids and the stroller.  Baking is very important to me and has been for some time,” she stated.

From the hard work and dedication of Yu and Jimenez, as well as all the other chefs who showcased their talent at the Culinary Pavilion, it is evident that each are extremely passionate about their line of work.  They demonstrated a sense of compassion and desire to connect with the audience through the culinary arts.

Through each of the demonstrations, the chefs captured the spirit of the entire Coconut Grove Arts Festival-the appreciation of artistic talent and the importance of sharing it with others.

February 17, 2009


Danielle Kaslow

Senior EDGE Writer

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