Hurricane season food prep tips from a celebrated Tampa chef

After T.S. Colin, Edison's Jeannie Pierola shared advice on how to approach your eats before the next storm.

The irony of driving through the aftermath of a tropical storm to get to a hurricane prep demonstration is almost so annoying its not even worth mentioning.

Almost. It’s one of those things Floridians like me would talk about with a chuckle and a simultaneous eye roll.

Nevertheless, I drove over to Tampa's Edison: Food + Drink Lab Tuesday morning for some hurricane season food preparation tips from celebrated chef-owner Jeannie Pierola, plus a talk about how to generate power after an outage.

Pierola whipped up a three-course meal, showcasing what to do in the kitchen with varying levels of electricity. Without power, she created a shaved sugar snap pea salad, followed by orange pink peppercorn-grilled jumbo shrimp using only a few appliances. Then, for her third dish, the chef served a sous vide and wood-grilled Wagyu culotte steak for when, you know, there's still power.

The whole spread was served on a table peppered with tea lights (a.k.a. those candles stocked somewhere in your closet from the last storm that whirled through).

After the meal, Pierola sat down with CL and shared advice on how to approach your eats during an active hurricane season.

Get a generator

With 11 years of experience at Bern's Steak House under her denim apron, Pierola knows how to handle beef (and the Wagyu course proved that). But when a power outage at the renowned Tampa steakhouse caused the loss of 55,000 pounds of meat, the chef knew she didn't want to be without a backup ever again.

"If that doesn't talk you into a generator," she said, "I don't know what does."

Reps from Generac say there's a misconception about generators — now, they're available in a pretty small size at a reasonable price. There are a number of suppliers in the area, including GenerX Generators, based in Oldsmar.

The salad's kimchi highlights the wonders of fermentation, an inventive way to preserve food before a power outage.

Jeremy Scott

Fermentation is your friend

Many techniques can be used on food to make it last a long time sans refrigerator or freezer. Pierola recommends fermenting or pickling items like fish and vegetables.

"Be inventive," she said.

By creating a ceviche or a kimchi, like Pierola did with the first course, you'll stretch your food supply without needing to rely on rice and beans, though the chef says canned beans are still "the way to go."

Prep in advance

If you're not into fermentation, dry out the goods you have around the house to help them keep.

Slicing up fruits and veggies, transferring them to a baking dish, and placing the dish into an oven on low heat (or leaving them out in the sun) will help you in the kitchen when the power's gone. Your fears of rotting food will be no more.

"It's really just about understanding your products and what you can do with them," Pierola said.

She also recommends sun-steeping tea before it gets too dark outside.

Take out your tools

As the saying goes, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, and the same thing can be said for electricity. Life can get a whole lot more complicated when your electric can opener doesn't work, and you're stuck without a manual one.

For kitchen tools, the chef suggests: knives and mandolins, strainers, food mills, and, of course, a manual can opener for her beans.

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