Chef Cedric Coant peels a turnip while chatting with guests at Soiree.
If you are looking for something really different and fun to do with a group of friends, I’ve got you covered! Have you been to Soiree yet? It’s a combination of a cooking class/private dinner in a charming little spot in the Old City.
Soiree is the creation of Chef Cedric Coant, a Frenchman best known locally for that wonderful little restaurant Le Parigo, which used to be located on Clinch Avenue downtown. It’s not really so much of a cooking “class” as it is a “stand around and watch him cook” experience.
I am a member of a group called “Walking Women.” (No, it’s not athletic! Ha.) It’s just 11 women who live (or used to live) downtown. We formed several years ago with the idea that every month, we would stroll over to the home of one of the members for cocktails, nibbles and fellowship (OK, gossip!). It’s a lot of fun catching up and, since we rotate, it’s not too big a burden on any one person. But there are 11 of us, as I said. And there are 12 months in the year. So, what do we do on the 12th month when everyone already has had their turn hosting?
One of our members, Kim Henry, came up with the idea of going to Soiree. And we are very glad that she did!
Here’s the deal. The place can accommodate 10 people. Cost is $65 per person for a four-course dinner: appetizer, entree, cheese course and dessert. You bring your own wine. Chef Coant will work with you on the menu — we asked for a dinner of fish, for example, and we wanted our cheese course prior to the meal. Both downtown liquor stores — Downtown Wine & Spirits and Corks — are used to taking Chef Coant’s menus and recommending appropriate wine pairings.
Our dinner was fantastic — and the evening was so much fun! So, get 10 friends together and head to the Old City. Soiree, which opened at the end of last year, is located in the courtyard of the JFG Building in the 200 block of Jackson Avenue. Don’t have that big a group? You can go with fewer. Just be aware that Chef Coant is free to “fill in” with other folks until he has a full table. But that can be fun, too! Reservations are required: (865) 232-5419.
Kim Henry, the girl with the good idea, poses for me in front of the door of Soiree. Look for this logo!
A sweet little oasis set up so you can watch the cook prepare the meal or just socialize with your friends while he cooks.
Chef Coant uses seasonal ingredients, so the menu options constantly change.
Our entree would consist of turbot, a mild white fish, served over ratatouille. But, with a twist. Due to what’s in season, Chef Coant swapped out turnips for the eggplant that’s usually found in a ratatouille. And it was even better without the bitterness that sometimes comes with eggplant.
He woudn’t use ALL this Amish butter, but about two thirds of it! You can get salted and unsalted Amish butter at The Market, located on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville.
One of our members, Mary Kathryn Kennard.
Chef Coant trimming asparagus for our salad course. Note that this is a regular home kitchen — with an electric stove. I took great solace in seeing that he turns out wonderful meals in a kitchen much like mine.
The asparagus getting extra crispy in ice water.
From left, Judith Foltz, Kim Henry, Monique Anderson and Jacque Hawks paying attention.
The makings of our cheese course, which we enjoyed while watching the salad prep.
Robin Thomas opening her bottle.
Karen Kluge, left, and Gay Lyons.
We loved this trick. Chef Coant mixed the salad dressing in an almost empty Dijon mustard jar.
He used Grand Marnier in every course, including in the salad dressing.
Prepping the salad plates.
Jacque Hawks, left, and Monique Anderson.
Plating the salad.
Gorgeous. Love smoked salmon at any meal.
When we sat down for salads, the late afternoon sun was streaming in, making sunglasses a good idea! Karen Kluge, left, and Robin Thomas look like movie stars, don’t they?
Meanwhile, the ratatouille was simmering away, getting a toss every now and then.
The finished product.
The onions were put on to cook in some of that butter.
And, after they were done, the turbot, as well.
Following this step, Chef Coant popped the fish into an oven that he had pre-heated, but then turned off. That assured the fish would not be overcooked. Another good tip!
Plating the entree.
Adding beurre blanc sauce.
The finished product. Isn’t it beautiful? Very clever use of those green onions!
Gayle Bustin, left, and Kim Henry between courses.
Dessert was strawberries in Grand Marnier and mint. Oh, and a little whipped cream never hurt anything!
Group shot! From left, Mary Kathryn Kennard, Robin Thomas, Gay Lyons, Jacque Hawks, Judith Foltz, Monique Anderson, Kim Henry, Gayle Bustin and Karen Kluge. The only person absent that evening was Jennifer Holder, who was a little under the weather.
Judith Foltz with Chef Cedric Coant. Thanks for a fun, fun time, Chef!
Don’t have a salad spinner? Just put your washed greens in a kitchen towel and do what Chef Cedric Coant does!