Aside from making tamales for his own wedding, Shane Wilson had never cooked under deadline pressure for a critical audience. Yet, there he was, headlining with star chef Celina Tio.
Wilson, whose day job is associate director for user experience at VML advertising agency, appeared only mildly unnerved by the opportunity to serve a three-course vegan dinner at Tio’s Brookside restaurant, Julian.
Wilson initially met Tio through her posts on a private Facebook group, where she invited the more than 3,000 members to share their menu ideas for a chance to host a Guest Chef Dinner. Wilson, a vegetarian who insists salad will never be his idea of a satisfying meal, wanted to produce a dinner that would surprise and delight omnivorous guests.
The night’s three-course meal included jackfruit tamales served with black beans and cabbage slaw, plus a dollop of blended silken tofu with agave and lemon to create a facsimile of sour cream.
“For someone like Celina to let you into the kitchen seems hard to believe. And to be so patient and gracious,” Wilson says of Tio, a James Beard award winner and former “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef” contestant.
Tio asked what she could do to help Wilson, who put her to work blending ingredients and tasting the sour cream, then hand-rolling tamales.
“I just thought it would be fun for people to see what it’s like to work in a professional kitchen,” Tio says of the once-a-month Sunday night dinners.