The Chef Apprentice

Join a self-taught cook as he trains at a top restaurant

IMG_6771.JPGMy apprenticeship is entering its final days, but that isn't preventing my friend Paul Canales from throwing a few surprises my way.

Many weeks ago, Canales accepted an invitation for Oliveto to prepare a dish at "A Day in the Country," a fundraiser for the Yolo Land Trust. The yearly event, which will be held Sunday, brings together farmers, chefs, winemakers and others who are committed to protecting Yolo's fertile farm economy.

Paul often overcommits himself, and such was the case this time. Sunday is his day off, and he has family matters that demand his attention. Thus, on Wednesday, as I was returning from a backpacking trip in the High Sierra, I picked up a phone message from Paul asking if I will be manning the Oliveto food booth at the September 13 event.

"I was thinking you could grill some peaches," Paul said. "That should be pretty easy."

How many peaches? The chef didn't say.

As it turns out, I may need to grill a few hundred peaches .

ylt-logo.gifThere was no point in arguing. Paul needed my help, and I was more than happy to assist Oliveto in a charity event for the Yolo Land Trust. So I called Paul back and told him I would be there.

There's only one problem -- I have never grilled peaches before. Figs - yes. Peaches - no.

But it can't be that hard, right? You just slice the fruits in half, remove the pits, oil a hot grill and place them face down for a few minutes. Then you flip them and drizzle them with a reduction of balsamic vinegar and spices. Right? How hard is that?

If you want to find out, you can still get tickets for the event, which will be held at the beautiful Elkhorn Basin Ranch, right across the river from Sacramento. Mulvaney's, Waterboy and Masa's in San Francisco will be serving dishes, along with chefs from other restaurants.

The peaches I'll be preparing come from Full Belly Farm, an organizer of the event. I also plan to use some of Full Belly's produce to prepare a panzanella -- a tomato and bread salad.

Stayed tune for how it turns out.
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About The Chef Apprentice

Stuart Leavenworth, an editorial writer for The Bee, will spend the next several months in the kitchen at Oliveto, a highly rated Italian restaurant in the Bay Area. As an apprentice, Stuart will start as a prep chef, preparing vegetables, soups, sauces and pasta fillings. Then he'll move on to more challenging assignments. He welcomes your questions. Read his first installment here. Email him at

March 2010

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