CAT Pickering graduate, 22, cooks a thank-you feast for 30

Photo by Robert O. Williams/ The Williams Group Chef Gregory R. Williams is the executive chef at the Coventry Tea Room in South Coventry.

SOUTH COVENTRY — Sixth-year culinary arts student and graduate Gregory R. Williams decided to thank his family and friends with something very special. He recently hosted a 30-person dinner party at the restaurant where he is executive chef, The Coventry Tea Room in South Coventry, and he served as chef for the event.

Williams, a graduate of the Culinary Arts Institute at Montgomery County Community College, wanted to thank all of the people in his life who helped him to achieve this milestone. He is also a 2009 Center for Arts & Technology Pickering Campus graduate.

“School was always a challenge for me, so when I decided to major in Culinary Arts back in high school, I received a lot of support from my family and friends,” said Williams. “Frequently, I would stay up for hours in the middle of the night cooking and my friends and family would be my test subjects.”

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Williams, who achieved executive chef status before his May 17 graduation, says he is extremely thankful for his accomplishments.

“I have the love of nurturing parents and a strong family who have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, he said. “I credit my grandmother for giving me the cooking bug. At the time, she was a typical Italian grandmother who took care of me while my parents worked at The Philadelphia Inquirer. I used to stand on a chair in front of the stove next to her so I could see what was in the pots.”

The food bug also bit his parents. His dad, Robert O. Williams, is the arguably the country’s foremost classic diner photographer (his book, “Hometown Diners” is a cult classic among Retro-Americana enthusiasts). His mom is a huge cookbook collector, with more than 1,000 volumes in her library. That went hand-in-hand with their love of then-newbie cooking channel, “The Food Network,” where she and Gregory learned many cooking tips from Chef Emeril Lagasse’s shows.

Williams said he frequently attended cooking events around the country where he had the opportunity to meet his mentor Lagasse on many occasions, and even appeared on his show.

He agreed to share one of his award-winning recipes, Greg’s Maui Wowie Fried Chicken. It’s a dish that looks almost too good to eat, but too tempting to resist.

Greg’s Maui Wowie Fried Chicken

Corn Salsa

1 can of corn (12 oz.)

½ red pepper (diced)

½ orange pepper (diced)

½ yellow pepper (diced)

1 whole jalapeno pepper

(diced)

Salt & pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons sugar

Sauté peppers and corn in

butter. Add pepper, salt and

sugar to finish.

Sauce For Chicken

½ yellow pepper (diced)

½ orange pepper (diced)

¾ red pepper (diced)

1 large yellow onion (diced)

3 tablespoons butter

2 cups of pineapple juice

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

½ cup water

Sauté peppers and onion in

butter. Once translucent,

add pineapple juice & sugar.

Blend cornstarch in ½ cup

of water. Gently add

cornstarch mixture to

broth to thicken mixture.

Fried Chicken Batter

(for 4 large breast portions)

2 cups flour

1 cup half & half

2 teaspoons black pepper

4 teaspoons salt

Blend all ingredients.

Set aside.

4 large chicken breasts

Vegetable oil for frying

Salt and pepper

Rub cleaned chicken with

black pepper and salt. Roll

chicken in batter, then drop

into 12-inch frying pan with

hot vegetable oil (soy

preferable) covering

chicken just over ½.

Cook on each side

till golden.

Finish by crisping

in 350-degree

oven for 10 minutes.

Presentation

Take one whole

pineapple (Shop for

a real specimen.)

Cut it in half and

scoop it out into

a boat (retaining the entire

crown on top). Place two

chicken pieces in the

pineapple and spoon 6

to 8 tablespoons of the

heated pepper & pineapple

sauce over the chicken pieces.

Decorate the plate with the

corn salsa and a few thinly

sliced lime wedges.