Bentley brings cooking talents to the area

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 27, 2000

DONNA KEATING / L’Observateur / June 27, 2000

LAPLACE – Chef Gregory Bentley Jr. of New Orleans has recently relocatedto the River Parishes area. He brings with him a variety of cookingexperiences from New Orleans area restaurants, including The Court of Two Sisters, Crawgators, Zea’s Rotissary and Brewery, Bubba Gumps Gumbo Shop and Margaritaville. His cooking talent can now be experiencedat The Place Restaurant in LaPlace, where customers can taste his original recipe for barbecued shrimp.

“You’ll bite your fingers off trying to savor all the juices,” said Bentley.

When he’s not busy cooking for customers at the restaurant, he does most of the cooking at home for his family – wife Demetria and their children, Derek, Ashley and Arrianne. Of course they have their favorites, forexample, Derek is partial to crawfish etoufee, Ashley likes meatballs and Arrianne likes anything he cooks. Demetria doesn’t care what he cooks – aslong as he cooks.

Another family member, his grandmother Momae’ Jackson of New Orleans, inspired him at an early age. He remembers watching her cook and offeringto help her in the kitchen. Taste testing was also a fun part of helping her.She always said one of the main things to remember about Cajun cooking is don’t burn the roux.

One of the first things Bentley can remember cooking was spaghetti with meatsauce when he was about 10. Bentley, along with his sister GaillenCockrelle and his cousin D’Hania Hunt, wanted to make a special treat for his parents. He said the spaghetti turn out great, but the kitchen was amess. He was grateful that his sister and cousin cleaned up the kitchen.By the time Bentley reached 19 or 20 he began to discover other flavors.

This interest lead him to Cajun cooking, which is his favorite. He enjoyscooking all kinds of seafood, including alligator and turtle.

His interest in cooking continued to grow and he dreamed of becoming a chef. Though he couldn’t afford to put himself through cooking school hedid not become discouraged. With the financial help of his mom and hisaunts he was able to attend culinary school.

While attending the school Bentley was voted sous chef two times by his classmates. As a sous chef he was in charge of planning meals, directingand making sure the food went out hot and on time.

He graduated from Sclafannis Cooking School and also became a certified cook. To become a certified cook you must have 6,000 commercial cookinghours. Once you are certified it is easier to get a better job andpromotions. He has been a professional chef for over three years.Another one of his accomplishments includes winning first place at the French Quarter Festival cooking contest for his crabcakes recipe.

Bentley offers some advice for beginning cooks: don’t rush – sauces take time to come together, and when cutting foods be careful – don’t try to chop things up as fast as the television cooks do.

He said food safety is very important.

“I remember the first Christmas that I was with my wife I made gumbo to bring to her aunt’s home. The gumbo came out fine, but it wasn’t cooledproperly before it was refrigerated, and it spoiled. Everyone there ate thegumbo and got very sick, everyone but me. I didn’t eat any of it,” he said. Here are a few of his original recipes that Bentley would like to share:

BENTLEY’S BARBECUED SHRIMP 3 ounces clarified butter 2 tbsps. Lea and Perrins worcestershire sauce1 tbsp. lemon juice2 tbsps. Chef Greg’s Special Spice1/4 lb. large head on shrimp4 tbsps. cold butterPlace in sautee skillet: clarified butter, Lea and Perrins worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, special spice and shrimp. Cook shrimp until pink on oneside, then turn shrimp and cook the other side until it is pink. Add coldbutter until butter creams.

BENTLEY’S SHRIMP CREOLE 2 tbsps. butter3 large onions, roughly chopped 2 large bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped 6 large tomatoes, skinned and peeled, roughly chopped 1/4 tsp. thyme leaves3 bay leaves 1 tsp. paprika4 cloves garlic, minced 2 tbsps. parsley, minced2 tsps. salt, or to taste1/2 tsp. black pepper1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste3 lbs. raw shrimp, whole peeled and de-headed3 cups hot cooked rice parsley sprigs (garnish) In a large skillet or saucepan, melt the butter and saute’ the onions and bell peppers until they are limp. Add the chopped tomatoes and allremaining ingredients except the shrimp, rice and sprigs of parsley.

Simmer toghether just long enough to eliminate excess liquid. Add theshrimp and continue cooking for a few minutes, or until the shrimp become fully but not over-cooked. Serve each portion over 1/2 cup rice and garnishwith parsley sprigs. Makes six to eight servings.

BENTLEY’S MAQUE CHOUX 3/4 cup bacon drippings or 1 1/2 cups sticks of butter 4 onions, chopped 1 bell pepper, chopped 2 tomatoes, chopped 4 cups corn (fresh, frozen or canned) salt and black pepper, to taste Melt the butter or bacon grease in a saucepan. Add the chopped onions andbell pepper. Saute’ for a few minutes until they become limp. Add the cornand tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and simmer onlylong enough for the corn to be hot and cooked to your desired doneness.

Makes six to eight servings.

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