A Chef Under Glass
…Magnifying glass, that is…
Roberto Cromeyer, Wine Sommelier and host at Franciscan Winery in Napa conducts a lighthearted Q&A with Chef Lee Ann Geneve who really “Dishes it up” !!
R: So Chef Lee Ann, I know you are a self taught baker and chef but who was your biggest inspiration?
LA: My mother…all 5ft of her! She was the consummate ‘Hostess with the Mostest”! She entertained often with true Southern Hospitality and I was her little food taster as well as dish and bottle washer!
R: What happens to be the first thing your mother taught you in the Kitchen?
LA: The POLKA! Mom always danced in the Kitchen, cooking made her happy!
R: Where else did you live?
LA: Honolulu, while dad was in Vietnam ’70-’71. Then our family was lucky enough to live in England and Germany and Japan until I went off to college where I studied Theater and Dance. I supported myself as an
entertainer and performer for the next 15 years with Summer Stock, Dinner Theater, and Musical Theatre Companies.
R: What are some things about Chef Lee Ann that would surprise us?
LA: For several years while in college, I had the extraordinary pleasure of working alongside G.A.M.E. (Great American Mime Experiment) and the opportunity to train and perform as a Tightrope Walker in an original circus production called KIRKOS. A few years later when if not on stage, I worked behind the scenes in the costume dept. for several seasons with the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, Florida. My mama had also taught me to be a pretty good seamstress and I enjoyed working alongside famous names that came through to star in his productions. I was also a member of a touring Mime group named Mastermimes!
R: All that traveling must have introduced you to many new cuisines at a young age.
LA: Yes, It definitely expanded my knowledge and appreciation of all types of cooking so much so that I ended up pursuing a career in Culinary Arts.
R: What were a few of you biggest food related accomplishments?
LA: After relocating to SFO in 1989 I got a job right away as one of the pastry chefs at Jeremiah Tower’s STARS restaurant. It was the “IT” place to be seen! I became the recipe tester and stager for all the photos of desserts and pastries in their new book, STARS’ DESSERTS. A few years later I became caterer for Mr. Charles Schwab and his top Executives. Working within the Corporate World was so different and exciting. I have even had the opportunity to be the chef behind ‘ A romantic dinner for two’ twice for television’s hit shows THE BACHELOR and THE BACHELORETTE, both set at local Wineries!”
R: Every Chef has their most thrilling moment. What about you?
LA: As a pastry chef in SFO I loved creating specialty desserts.so when Gerard Depardieu (my favorite actor of all time) visited the city to promote his new book in the mid ’90’s, I baked him a one of a kind chocolate cake which I donned… “Gateau Depardieu”! I spent hours concocting a Chocolate Truffle crowned Orange-Almond Scented masterpiece and boldly delivered it in a gorgeous Be-ribboned Purple Velvet Box to the hotel lobby at the hotel he was staying. Days went by and after no response, it was pointed out to me that “what celebrity would ever accept, let alone EAT any edible gift from an adoring fan?” I was so Deflated!!! Cooking and baking for who I adore is what I enjoy most in life.
R: You have been a caterer for many years, I’m sure there is a favorite story!
LA: As well as catering I also created one of a kind Wedding cakes. One couple were actually midgets with Barnum & Bailey Circus! Instead of a traditional cake, the bride wanted 250 fancy cupcakes, one for each guest! How sweet! When they entered the the room and saw the towering floral decorated cupcakes, they were in tears of JOY! Miniature cakes for a miniature bride and groom! How fitting! Many of the guests were also circus performers dressed in costume. And as the newlyweds departed, “It’s a SMALL WORLD” played on! We all laughed and cried! I will never forget that scene! It was magical.
R: How about your favorite Foodie movie?
LA: I watch BABETT’S FEAST every Thanksgiving. VATEL-starring none other than Gerard Depardieu,is a true story about Louis the Fourteenth’s personal event planner/caterer in France. Vatel was the creator of many classic foods and pastries we know today. It is an amazing history of food as well as a tragic lovestory. What could be better than that?
R: What happens to be one of your FOOD FANTASIES?
LA: It would undoubtedly have to be set in the year 1912. To have been an invited guest for dinner at the Captain’s Table aboard the R.M.S. TITANIC!!! Oh, to indulge in the opulence and decadence of the menus served on that gigantic Moveable Feast!!!! Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a self-professed TITANIC!
R: How did you end up here in Wine Country?
LA: After living in the Bay Area for 10 years I decided to go where Food and Wine are King! The cornucopia of fruits,vegetables,herbs,artisan cheeses,home-grown meats and poultry……the cascading picture postcard vineyards, no place more beautiful! The pairing of Wine, food, company and landscape makes for an unforgettable time for all my clients visiting this Valley. Makes my work easy! Guests always wish to return. It is my Paradise here, I am truly fortunate.
R: I know you love to cook,but what hobbies do you love?
LA: DANCE!! Being a BFA in theatre and dance, choreography is another passion. In the early 1980’s in my ‘FLASHDANCE’ period, and placing in the MISS SYRACUSE NY PAGEANT, I was choreographer for the county’s Miss America Pageants there for the next few years. Teaching young beautiful ladies to walk and chew gum at the same time was a daunting task as choreographer!
Thru out my life I have had extensive formal training in the basics, Tap, Ballet, Jazz, but also in Antique Hawaiian Dance, Traditional Japanese Dance, Ballroom, Tribal Bellydance, Burlesque, Pole Dancing, and most recently, Argentinian Tango.
R: What does the future hold for THE GILDED GRAPE?
LA: I would like to finally launch EPICUREAN EXPEDITIONS, Take the idea off paper and make it a reality. I recently added this brainstorm to my website. It is a travel company created for FOODIES and professional Chefs that whisk them away to destinations worldwide and can offer culinary adventures. It combines two of my favorite things in life….Travel and Food Globetrotting,cooking classes, and dining off the beaten path are what I want to offer. Already, there have been some contacts made in amazing places that welcome us… the only thing left to do is to put together a small group of hungry chefs!
R: Well I know you have something in the oven to attend to but before you go, what cookbook is your BIBLE
LA: AMUSE-BOUCHE by Rick Tramonto “Little bites of delight” It is a gorgeous book and a constant source of inspiration…..I really enjoy most the theatrics of food.
R: Good to get the inside scoop on you Chef Geneve – now I’m starving, let’s eat!!!
LA: Bon Appetit’!! and remember…….”YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT”!!!