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The Art of Food and Amy’s Underground Decadent Dinner Parties

Posted By Karen Young On August 16, 2009 @ 11:34 pm In Catering,Cooking Classes/Supper Clubs,Cuisine,Eat,Featured,Food,My Daily Find,Restaurants,spotlight | 2 Comments

karenyoung110BY KAREN YOUNG

“I’m really into yummy decadence, not fussy decadence,” says Amy Jurist  as we sit in the modern kitchen of her airy home in the Studio City hills overlooking the San Fernando Valley.

Chef/Caterer Amy Jurist.  Photo: Karen Young

Chef/Caterer Amy Jurist. Photo: Karen Young

 

Placed on the table, surrounding a thoughtfully arranged  centerpiece of lilys and grapes, is a tender chicken and beef satay with peanut sauce, carmelized apple and goat cheese crostini with balsamic drizzle that tastes like candy, and a farm fresh heirloom tomato and pesto bruschetta.  And filling a frosty glass,  is a delightfully sweet and tangy mango and calamansi smoothie.

No slumming on this mid-afternoon snack, that’s for sure. And “yummy” it is.

Heirloom

Carmelized apple and goat cheese crostini with balsamic drizzle and a farm fresh heirloom tomato and pesto bruschetta. Photo: Amy Jurist

 

This is the way of Jurist —owner of Amy’s Culinary Adventures, whose business includes being a personal chef,  caterer and the host/chef of the much ballyhooed  Amy’s Underground Decadent Dinner Parties. (The next one is August 29—information follows below).

Simply, Jurist loves food and everything that surrounds it.  She wants her guests to enjoy  the pleasure of  ”yummy decadence”  which she describes as “indulgent and delicious, beautifully presented but still accessible —not fussy, pretentious or uptight.”

“I like the lifestyle of creating a happy environment with food by making it approachable,”  says Jurist, a warm and engaging woman whose passionate niche is creating new twists to food by creatively integrating simple, fresh, flavorful ingredients that playfully bounce off each other.

Guests gather at One Night in Italy, an "underground" dinner event hosted by Amy Jurist. Photos courtesy of Amy's Culinary Adventure.

Guests gather at One Night in Italy, an "underground" dinner event at the Mandeville Canyon home of a studio executive hosted by Amy Jurist. Photos courtesy of Amy's Culinary Adventure.

 

Jurist has been cooking since the age of four.  She attributes much of her love of cooking to her parents, especially her late father, Ed Jurist (an acclaimed television writer/producer whose 40-year career included 77 Sunset Strip, Bewitched, The Flying Nun and M*A*S*H), with whom she shared joy and devotion to good food and dining.  At one time, they even co-wrote a food column together.

Her career path initially took another route as a successful entertainment marketing executive at FX, The Style Network and E! Entertainment Television.  She’s also a photographer, a food product developer, and the creator of her own fine line of artisanal chocolate truffles.

Moreover, she’s somewhat of a reality star.  No kidding.  Jurist was the first place winner of The Discovery Channel’s National Body Challenge, having lost 70 pounds over a six month period nearly a year ago. She’s been a mentor to thousands of people in their struggle with food, health and exercise.

The Bacon Affair consisted of a a five course meal completely infused with bacon, including cocktails. Said one guest, "

The Bacon Affair "underground" dinner was a huge hit and consisted of six bacon infused courses, including Jurist's homemade Bacon Vodka used in Bacon Bloody Marys, Bacon and Blue Cheese Mousse Napoleon with Heirloom Tomato and Blue Cheese Dressing, Caramelized Bacon Ice Cream Sundae with Chocolate Bacon Sprinkles for dessert.

 

After cooking for friends for years and receiving constant encouragement, Jurist decided to  seriously  pursue cooking as a profession about eight years ago.  She’s studied at The New School of Cooking, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, traveled to France and Switzerland for independent regional courses, and the Professional Program at the Westlake Culinary Institute, where she has was asked to teach classes.

She credits renowned chef and teacher Cecilia DeCastro (who will soon open the Academy of Culinary Education on Topanga Canyon in Woodland Hills)  as one of her culinary heroes — “She really helps me figure out my skills and talents and understands the love  I have for food,” says Jurist.

Jurist learned how to make this Lobster Ravoli was prepared for

Jurist prepared Lobster Ravioli in Cognac Saffron Cream Sauce with Caramelized Mushrooms and Onions and Caviar for the Euro Decadence "underground" dinner. She was inspired by a restaurant she visited in the South of France.

 

It took a leap of faith to pursue cooking full time, but as she relays, “I was thinking about what  I really loved and that is when I decided to figure out a way to make cooking into a viable lifestyle.”

“Amy has a great marketing mind,” states Cecilia DeCastro, who has worked as a culinary advisor to Wolfgang Puck for 30 years. “She has a unique way of looking at food… a lot of people can cook, but to create an event like she does around a meal is very special.”

Laurie Faulkner met Jurist five years ago and first started hiring her to cater for her interior design business and later for dinner parties. “I’ve worked with many other caterers, but the thing I like best about Amy is that she is easy to work with, really creative and thinks out of the box. Her food is always appealing and delicious. She does everything with a twist. The desserts are so beautiful. I love watching my guests’ faces light up when they see them. I have to tell them it’s okay to eat!”

Squid pasta

Mixed Seafood Scampi with Squid Ink Linguini, Saffron and Chive Oils in a Garlic Saffron Cream Sauce from the One Night in Italy dinner.

 

Jurist cooks for individuals,  private affairs and  events of varying sizes, but her centerpiece “event”   is  her “underground decadent dinner parties,”  for  60 to 75 people, which she  has been hosting for five years.

“It’s a one-night-only affair…they’re ‘underground’ because the venues change each time and guests are not notified about the exact location until a couple days before,” Jurist explains. “They’re like ‘food raves’  in really amazing locations ”

All the dinners have themes with four to six courses and includes wine and/or cocktail pairings. Jurist runs in and out of the kitchen to mill around in the group and before each course gives a brief preamble about the food she has prepared.  Previous themes have included The Pan Asian Dinner,  The Euro Decadence Dinner, The Bacon Affair,  The Mushroom Experience, and One Night in Italy. Next up on August 29 — Mingle in the Mediterranean.

Jurist makes unique artisanal truffles for the holidays. This year's flavor collection will be espresso with milk chocolate, toffee crunch with dark chocolate, raspberry white chocolate and chai spice.

Jurist makes unique artisanal truffles for the holidays. This year's flavor collection will be espresso with milk chocolate, toffee crunch with dark chocolate, raspberry white chocolate and chai spice.

 

Dana Levan, a marketing executive who has hired Amy numerous times,  could be considered an underground dinner groupie because he doesn’t like to miss them. “If you go to any Amy event, it enriches your life,” says Levan. “You can spend a $75 at a restaurant or you can choose to spend the same amount at Amy’s event and have a fascinating evening, eating amazing food and meeting a group of eclectic people you  might not have been able to meet otherwise. It doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

Faulker concurs, “There are people with a mix of professions and  of all ages. Everyone is really friendly. People are there to enjoy the food and meet other foodies, but it’s not pretentious. It’s just simply the best time.”

“Every event, every job is like magic to me. It’s for one-night-only. It has to be decadent…and yummy!” exclaims Jurist.

The next Underground Decadent Dinner  theme is “Mingle in the Mediterannean” on Saturday, August 29 from 7pm-10 pm. It’s  a  four course decadent tour of Morocco and Greece all paired with great wines in a fabulous Woodland Hills home.  $75 per person includes all food and drinks.  For tickets: http://mingleinthemed.eventbrite.com Enter MDF in the discount code for 10% off.

For further information about Amy Jurist and Amy’s Culinary Adventures www.amysculinaryadventures.com. Also, be sure to check out her photography website www.ajphotoworks.com

Karen Young is the Publisher/Editor of MY DAILY FIND.

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