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PRAISE for Away from the Kitchen “This is a tasty and revealing read that takes you behind the curtain for a valuable peek into what motivates some of the greatest chefs in America. With beautifully displayed heartfelt recipes that connect their food to their memories, Dawn manages to capture each chef’s unique inspiration and aura.” —CHEF SANFORD D’AMATO, Founder, Sanford Restaurant, James Beard Foundation award winner for Best Chef: Midwest, and author, GOOD STOCK: Life on a Low Simmer “This beautifully presented book offers not only delicious recipes and gorgeous photographs but also provides an insider’s look into the minds and workings of these very talented chefs. I love the special tips and stories behind the food which add yet another layer to this truly unique cookbook.” —SYLVIA MAIN, Best-selling author, Fabulous Fairholme: Breakfasts & Brunches, and owner of Victoria’s Historic Fairholm Manor Inn “I opened Dawn Blume Hawkes’s book Away from the Kitchen with curiosity, and almost immediately saw her passion for the food, products, and the chef’s life. This book with beautiful photographs and terrific American and international recipes, will become a great success. I am a passionate collector of cookbooks; this one will definitely have a place in my collection.” —CHRISTOPHE ÉMÉ, Founding Executive Chef and Owner of the Michelin-starred Ortolan, Executive Chef, L’Orangerie, and named one of the 10 Best New Chefs by Food & Wine magazine “Dawn Blume Hawkes has masterfully woven together a dozen North American chefs’ tales with her engaging prose. Although I’ve only met Chef Jason Wilson of Crush in Seattle, after reading Dawn’s cookbook, I feel I’ve had a nice chat with each one of them around my kitchen table. A rich and revealing read, indeed!” —SUE FRAUSE, Photographer, award-winning journalist, and radio host: Around the World Travel, KSER “The photography will make you ravenous, beautiful stories about these talented chefs will captivate you, and the user-friendly recipes will get you cooking. There is a rare charm about this book, making it a welcome addition to a bedside table or kitchen bookshelf.” —NATHALIE DUPREE, Television and radio cooking show host; best-selling author of fifteen cookbooks earning three James Beard Foundation book awards, most recently, Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking; 2011 recipient of the “Grande Dame” award by Les Dames d’ Escoffier International; 2013 Woman of the Year by the French Master Chef ’s of America

To the memory of my father, Godfrey Herbert and my sister, Kristi June .... Away from the Kitchen Untold Stories, Private Menus, Guarded Recipes, and Insider Tips Copyright © 2013 by Dawn Blume Hawkes All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, digital scanning, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please address She Writes Press. Published 2013 Printed in China ISBN: 978-1-938314-36-0 Library of Congress Control Number:  2013946014 Editor: Brooke Warner Copy Editor: Annie Tucker Cover and Interior Design: Julie Valin; Nathalie Gallmeier Running Chef artwork: Amy MacDougall Menu Design: Rachel Thompson She Writes Press 1563 Solano Ave #546 Berkeley, CA 94707

AWAY from the KITChEN Untold Stories, Private Menus, Guarded Recipes, and Insider Tips

Favorite Regional Chefs Reveal, Confess, and Speak Out

Dawn Blume hawkes SHE WRITES PRESS 2013

CONTENTS PREFACE ................................................................................................................................................................. 6 INTRODUCTION .............................................................................................................................................. 11

Chef Stories and Other Juicy Fruit BREAKFAST MENU RECIPES Rob Evans, Chef and Owner: Duckfat, Portland, ME........................................................... 16

Rob’s Menu Story: New England Breakfast............................................................................................ 24 The Recipes ........................................................................................................................................................... 26

...... Robert Del Grande, Executive Chef and Partner: RDG + Bar Annie, Houston, TX ....34

Robert’s Menu Story: Country-Western Breakfast.............................................................................. 42 The Recipes ........................................................................................................................................................... 45

...... Brad Farmerie, Executive Chef: PUBLIC and Saxon + Parole, New York, NY ......... 52

Brad’s Menu Story: Breakfast in Bed ........................................................................................................ 60 The Recipes ........................................................................................................................................................... 63

...... Mike Lata, Executive Chef and Co-owner: FIG and The Ordinary Charleston, SC ....... 70

Mike’s Menu Story: Breakfast in the Lowcountry ................................................................................. 78 The Recipes ........................................................................................................................................................... 80


The Chef’s Speak Out: Things Get Spicy LUNCH MENU RECIPES Maura Kilpatrick & Ana Sortun, Chefs and Owners: Sofra and Oleana, Cambridge, MA .... 90

Maura’s Menu Story: I Stole a Day: A Sofra Feast to Remember .................................................100 The Recipes ...........................................................................................................................................................103 ......

Frank Stitt, Executive Chef and Owner: Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, AL ..... 122 Frank’s Menu Story: Alabama Asado ........................................................................................................ 132 The Recipes ........................................................................................................................................................... 134 ......

Nancy Silverton, Chef and Co-owner: Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, LA, CA .......140 Nancy’s Menu Story: Farmers’ Market Lunch for All Seasons .......................................................152 The Recipes ...........................................................................................................................................................155 ......

Jason Wilson, Chef and Owner: Crush, Seattle, WA............................................................162

Jason’s Menu Story: Lunch on the Yakima River........................................................................ 172 The Recipes ...........................................................................................................................................................174 ......

A Chef’s Yarn or Two More . . . And Amusements DINNER MENU RECIPES Clark Frasier & Mark Gaier, Chefs and Owners:

Arrows and MC Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, ME .............................................................................. 188 Clark and Mark’s Menu Story: Festive Holiday Dinner ..................................................................... 200 The Recipes ........................................................................................................................................................... 202 ......

Roy Yamaguchi, Chef and Owner: Roy’s, Honolulu, HI ..................................................... 212

Roy’s Menu Story: Hawaiian Garage Barbecue.................................................................................... 224 The Recipes ........................................................................................................................................................... 227 ......

Justin Aprahamian, Chef and Owner: Sanford, Milwaukee, WI.................................... 236

Justin’s Menu Story: Grandfather’s Traditional Armenian Feast ................................................... 246 The Recipes ........................................................................................................................................................... 249 ......

Don’t Forget the Dessert: Multi-textured Deliciousness DESSERT MENU RECIPES Gale Gand, Founding Executive Pastry Chef and Partner: Tru, Chicago, IL ............260 Gale’s Menu Story: Divine Desserts: A Heavenly Trio ........................................................................ 270 The Recipes ........................................................................................................................................................... 272 ...... SOURCES: THE CHEF’S ARTISANS AND PURVEYORS ............................................................. 289 INDEX ...................................................................................................................................................................... 301




surmised that if I had a treasure box of compelling food and life stories, the gifted chefs would have them

in spades. If they would allow me to take a journey with them so that I might insert myself into their story—eat their food, walk in their gardens, and, as the private talks took place, look into a few special windows of their lives— something special would emerge. It did! I liken the experience of writing this book to a sublime sauce that complements a dish, or a magical icing on a small cake: it makes the fundamental come to life.



rowing up around interesting people—writers, artists, explorers, and scientists, a truly intellectual, bohe-

mian crowd, obsessed with all manner of food and drink—I, even at a very early age, had an acute sense of the high drama of cooking and entertaining, with all its glorious renditions. From the Felliniesque dining scene to the laminate-and-chrome kitchen table, plates slathered with mac and cheese (homemade, of course), my unsuspecting mentors presented me with the mysterious or simple possibilities of what a meal could be. The mysterious possibilities of food trumping the simplistic came one day while I was rummaging around in my father’s office. I came across a photograph that both terrified and fascinated me—scantily clad natives, interspersed with two men in rather smart-looking safari garb, including the requisite Stanley and Livingstone–style helmets. One of the men in the photograph was the explorer and Believe It or Not! guru, Robert (LeRoy) Ripley. Somewhat later, to fend off my irritating inquiries as to why this starkly exotic photo hung on a wall in our home, I was told the other individual was my father, the Believe It or Not! man behind the man—writer, photographer, and appointed chef for Christmas dinner on the Sambú River in Darién, Panama, a place with a reputation for swallowing up explorers, where yesterday’s jaguars and terrifying bushmasters have given way to today’s guerrillas, drug smugglers, and poachers. Anthony Bourdain, as he approached the Darién jungle in Panama, declared it “a uniquely dangerous place—if you get lost in this 7

jungle, you’re a goner.” Due to his high threshold for “unique” and “dangerous,” the statement serves as my previously lacking yardstick of perspective, although many years later, for the conscious or subconscious factors that may have contributed to the photograph’s indelible imprint of danger and survival on my brain. Once I had some sense of why my father possessed this photograph, I began deconstructing its elements. It seemed wildly improbable that my dad would or could have assembled a feasting table constructed entirely from jungle materials, as well as produced a holiday dinner of delicious interest to the dogs, natives, and Ripley. In the middle of a rain forest, where did he find the ingredients for the feast, and how did he cook them, or did he cook them? What eating-utensil concoctions did he invent on that day? Why couldn’t they simply have plopped into a village chief ’s hut, the restaurant equivalent? These questions that I put to my father always netted me nothing but a Cheshire-cat smile and a young child’s belief that putting together a meal had smatterings of a roasting-black-pig, low-decibel-voodoo-chant affair. To date, nothing has changed; I continue to suspect that chefs who generate creative and delicious food are channeling voodoo magic. The theatricality of cooking with my mother or grandmother was a high point in my life. The enjoyment I derived from a place setting on a table came as a direct result of the creativity behind it and determined its success. I watched my grandmother prepare to entertain: purchasing the food—which is a story unto itself—and setting the table, in heavy baroque style, with old china and family heirlooms, equivalent to a well-thought-out set design for a play. My inclusion in these high-powered dinner parties must have been like watching a bull in a china shop to anyone paying the least bit of attention to what was actually taking place. Although, as I look back, no one seemed to react, either positively or negatively, to my bungling around with a spoon, which, at every opportunity, I dipped into the Époisses Berthaut, or to my taking a drag off some adult’s glass of Châteauneuf. I grew up thinking of all this as standard operating behavior and that all kids did this stuff. Now let’s return to that story unto itself: purchasing the food. The dream team, primarily my grandmother and aunt Berle, attached an incredible amount of importance to quality, market-fresh food. The kitchen credo: The very best ingredients would produce a superior result—as in syncing up a diamond with a beautiful setting. Our little band of soldiers spent a ridiculous amount of time selecting the freshest vegetables and fruits—choosing only those with just the right hue and spring-back in order to pass the ripeness test. Whatever the equation, I have not managed to fully comprehend its high standard. As a child, I felt fortunate (ignorance is bliss) when assigned the job of “market 8

runner.” If the peaches were not de rigueur, then I was sent to find another purveyor with peaches that could pass inspection. My grandmother’s laborious discussions with the butcher always teetered on mania. You can deduce that this kind of training ground could very well have led to a passing of the food-neurosis baton. I suspect that is the case, but they say that obsessions can be magnificent. All the great things happened in the kitchen. Sitting up on a high counter, mixing various ingredients as my mother or grandmother fussed over my food-prep skills, was something I anticipated even as we drove home from the farmers’ market. I knew the delight and high drama of what would come. The way they both infused me with gastronomic lore by enlisting my talents and imagination in the kitchen (I secretly thought they had all the talent and imagination) ranked up there with my top four cool things to do: catch pollywogs and store them in jars under my bed; devise ways to get into all the neighbors’ garages—with the most devilish lot of boys in the hood; climb to the top of our avocado tree in order to throw any and all girlie-type articles—almost exclusively dolls and stuffed animals—into the burning incinerator below; and, with the same garage-trolling ruffians, walk to the town center to see what possible adventure might be unfolding. My food fervor, and what may be the smoking gun in unraveling my obsession, derived from the fact that I lived in Beverly Hills, California, which possessed a startlingly high brat-pack quota. Each family, to ensure initiation into the world of prestigious standing, made absolutely sure their children endured endless and mandatory restaurant indoctrination. What more desirable public avenue to achieve the silly see-and-be-seen objective than the often swanky, pampering, high-profile, “theater of the absurd” restaurants dotting the land at that time? My grandmother and/or aunt scheduled the culinary excursions and frequently included other neighborhood kids, cousins, and miscellaneous specimens. We covered quite a bit of dining territory: the Brown Derby; Andrea’s on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills; Musso & Frank’s; Canters Deli; Chasen’s; the Mocambo restaurant and nightclub in Hollywood; Sardi’s; Billy Wilkerson’s Cafe Trocadero and Vendome restaurant. We also frequented a few watering holes where I could quench my giddy thirst for indulgences: Trader Vic’s sickly-sweet punch drinks—minus the rum, of course—and did an occasional blow-by at Schwab’s Pharmacy for a really gooey ice cream soda. It’s no wonder Schwab’s became the star-discovery mecca, as some important movie mogul often wandered in during the BC-to-present span it took to consume those voluminous fountain treats.


C.C. Brown’s, my favorite magical ice-cream-parlor heaven, had a sparkling, low-lit atmosphere that made everything look so much nicer than Schwab’s. Had the unwritten parents’ handbook for unacceptable adolescent behavior not included uncontrolled self-indulgence, I would have lingered for hours, making myself sick on hot fudge and ice cream, rather than go almost anywhere else. My ice-cream nirvana spot always competed for my affection for Kowloon, on Pico Boulevard, with its Asian-gothic decor, foreign-correspondent clientele, and wildly intriguing, mazelike floor plan of dark, musky rooms. I also relished trips to New York, with visits to the Algonquin for late-night supper and to the Russian Tea Room for lunch, which I experienced as delightfully garish. I would have preferred for my chaperones to include the Stork Club, and Max’s Kansas City, but no such luck—kids not welcome. However, if I had been exposed to that oh-so-adult world in my tender years, no telling what influence all those musicians, actors, and artists would have had on me. The chefs were enough! As the years passed, and no less intrigued with the culinary landscape, I continued to widen my horizons with an ongoing investigation of the professional chef’s life. My fairytale approach grew in scope as I became obsessed with the restaurant kitchen. This new malady triggered a state of oblivion in me evidenced by my complete lack of concern for what conditions were brewing in the kitchen. Nothing else mattered at that moment when I became obsessed with getting into the kitchen of a prestigious chef, always with a request (to my small credit, I never entered without permission) not only to meet the chef, but also to learn a bit of information about some dish that was being prepared or plated. Outrageous behavior, to be sure, but in retrospect, I find it amazing that no one stopped me then and no one stops me now. Regardless of my age, I was, and still am, more than occasionally greeted with an amused smile or an incredulous shake of the head. What’s a kid or an adult to do without boundaries? I am eternally grateful that the chefs never set boundaries for me, as this very fact allowed me to enter the food world in a very innocent and intimate way. The diversity of cuisines around the world and the magicianship of the chef have, to a great extent, been demystified for me. As I have traveled to different towns, cities, states, and countries, relishing both the generous teachings of gifted chefs and the exhaustive trial-and-error method that has taken me through many a recipe, I have become, in exchange, imparted with perceptions, discoveries, ideas, and skills that have enabled me to speak the language and respect the craft. Maybe this book can begin to legitimize my curiosity about the chef’s life by taking you on a very intimate journey. 10



he culinary revolution that began at the end of the last millennium has evolved into the celebrity-chef world

as we know it today. The words “celebrity” and “celebrated” are used so frequently, the implications of these words may be slipping away from us. The term “celebrity chef,” from Wikipedia, applies to a class of chefs who have become well known by presenting cookery advice and demonstrations via mass media, especially television. The term, sometimes used in a derogatory way, implies someone who has “sold out” to the media or the art of cooking and has not learned the craft through years as a working chef in a restaurant. Michelin-star winner Gordon Ramsay does not want to be called a celebrity chef, despite having appeared on several reality television shows. Other accomplished chefs seem to be of the same mind on the subject of celebrity, indicated by Thomas Keller’s candid shout-out: “Of course, what Americans do the best is to elevate things to unrealistic platforms without a lot of foundation behind it. We fall into this trap of having to have celebrities.” All things are not absolute, and the celebrity tag may also be applied to historically famous chefs such as Marie-Antoine Carême and Martino da Como, the fifteenthcentury Italian. Maybe we can sort it out by circling back to a basic truth: Not all extraordinary chefs are deemed celebrities, and not all celebrities are extraordinary chefs. All of the chefs showcased in this book are, without question, extraordinary. According to American standards, many have been judged to be “celebrity chefs,” and I accept that term as an embellishment of their already stellar credentials, saying only that I have admired and selected them for their exceptional talent and vision.



are, first and foremost, to feature extraordinary chefs who have developed their own culinary genetic makeup and refined it into a personal language and style. Broadening my purview—giving myself permission to seek out chefs who have the conviction and courage to pursue something that sets them apart,

y goals for this book


such as preserving local flavors and history or developing a new ethnic forum—liberates both the chef and the writer from the exclusive pursuit of the “star pack.” Secondly, I intend to provide the reader with a glimpse into the joys and pressures of a chef ’s life and, most importantly, to provide a profile of what dreams and talents these chefs possess outside the kitchen, which remain unexplored, mostly undisclosed facts that, to a shocking extent, have not piqued the interest of food TV, food journalists, cookbook writers, or anyone even faintly connected to the culinary world. As the world experiences an unprecedented, almost morbid curiosity about professional chefs, isn’t it a natural progression to move from exploring the chef persona to examining chefs’ uncharted personalities? I imagined the mysteries and surprises that would and did surface. And finally, I seek to create layers of discovery as the book reveals the chefs’ experiences through telling the interesting stories behind their cherished breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert menus. The chefs’ sensory recollections transport them to another place and time, giving birth to the menu stories—just another view into the life of the chef, complete with special tidbits surrounding their favorite dishes, drawn from somewhere along the chain of memories and fixed into a new position for so many to enjoy. Many of these chefs’ recipes have remained cherished and unshared until now, when new creations or old favorites—some almost forgotten, delectable jewels—are put to paper. The fact that each chef included in this book has so generously consented to share such personal dishes and stories is a tribute to their character. But don’t think that’s all. I also persuaded, cajoled, and begged the chefs to offer a few of their unexpected and unconventional tips on kitchen products, equipment, and techniques. Try to imagine a chef’s home and/or restaurant kitchen outfitted with cooking utensils, ingredients, and apparatuses whose use can occasionally be far from evident. By capturing the chefs’ creative endeavors and passions both inside and outside the kitchen, and appealing to those who want it all—the menus, the recipes, and the chef “scoop,”—I have provided you with the unique ingredients that will make the “chef’s cocktail” new and refreshing.



Chef Rob Evans’s bacon poached eggs with red flannel hash + saffron holandaise 15


Duckfat Portland, ME 16



native New Englander born in Southborough, Massachusetts, Rob began his career by training to be an

electrician, but electrical circuitry held nowhere near the interest and passion that he had for food. Working in a restaurant at the age of fourteen set the stage for the inevitable. With an independent spirit that begot a self-taught mindset—mix equal parts desire to gain information and the quest for expert technique—Rob has developed into a talented chef who has garnered more awards and accomplishments than that boy of fourteen could have ever imagined as he peeled potatoes and daydreamed of his next meal. For more than twenty years, Rob’s obsession with food has moved him along an impressive career path as a chef. His transformation revealed to him a whole other side of himself, and to the culinary world a new, talented performer on the food stage. The winding road commenced with Goose Cove Lodge in Deer Isle, Maine. Five years later, he worked with one of the country’s most highly regarded chefs and restaurants: James Beard award winner Patrick O’Connell, of the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia. Rob later threw his gear into reverse and headed across the country to the Napa Valley, California, to work under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. When you train with chefs of this caliber, a formal education in cuisine is beside the point. Gaining knowledge as you work, which Rob did for years, may very well be the more desirable format to keep innately talented chefs inspired and skilled. They say a New Englander is one for life. Rob began to feel the Northeastern tug, and surrender would be sweet. His return to Portland, Maine, and a visit with Johnny Robinson at Hugo’s Portland Bistro, with its colorful history, proved just the right next thing to do—buy the restaurant. Hugo’s Portland Bistro was reborn in October 2000 as simply Hugo’s. Subtracting “Portland Bistro” from the restaurant’s otherwise dynamic “Hugo’s” was only the beginning of an impressive metamorphosis. The signage was eliminated, the inside of the restaurant was completely gutted, and what began to bake, roast, simmer, and boil in the kitchen sparked the Portland food transformation, which, for Rob Evans, must have been like cracking a cold case. The miles were diminished between New York City and Maine—well, between any other big food city and Maine. 17

Those closet foodies who yearned for and dreamed of culinary paradise in New England—and some, ecstatically, in their own city—woke up to a new reality. The ambition was fulfilled when the die-hard meat-and-potatoes aficionados were slowly weaned off the familiar, which allowed them to be converted by experiencing the depth and breadth of what food could be. A trip to Amsterdam proved to be the perfect conceptual catalyst for Rob Evans’s second restaurant. Eating warm frites on a damp Holland day gave way to the idea that a good sandwich and terrific Belgian fries cooked in duck fat would be a great addition in Portland. The restaurant, whimsically named Duckfat, has been a tremendous success from the moment it opened. Having recently sold Hugo’s, Rob may well find Duckfat to be the blueprint for another restaurant where he can practice his craft and values—composting all waste, using local farms, and making everything from scratch—maybe a small, seasonal format that will incorporate his own homegrown produce and pork. Chef Rob Evans’s next culinary venture will factor in his very important ingredient—balance in all aspects of life— family, health, friends, spirituality and leisure. Named Best New Chef in the U.S. by Food & Wine magazine in 2004 and nominated as Best Chef: Northeast by the James Beard Foundation for 2007 and 2008, Rob took home the Beard award in 2009. He continues to be very grateful for all that has been bestowed upon him, and those around him seem to realize that his award-winning streak is just the natural result of his enduring efforts and talent—just part of his long and fruitful journey.



ood—that is, the act of eating food, the grinding desire to eat, the incessant hunger, the obsession with any-

thing edible—is what chef Rob Evans will tell you got him started when you ask the question “What sparked your desire to cook?” Most chefs when asked that question will respond with a rather pretty story of some sort, but Rob reduces it down to the essential—hunger! Getting down to the basics is really quite an accurate representation of his character. 18



as what we’ve already attained. They are the seeds of accomplishment. Frequently, dreams are neatly tied to places. Regardless of the fact that we overestimate or glorify a slice of geography, it is vivid and real to us, and may even include faraway destinations that we’ve never seen. Rob’s “imaginarium” of places he would like to visit includes Africa, which scares him a bit, and India, but, influenced by his study of aikido and his love for all things Japanese, he says his first stop would be the Land of the Rising Sun. Hawaii, although his home for five years, was, and still is, his other dream destination—so much so that if he had unlimited funds, his second home would stand on the Big Island, his favorite slice of paradise. It’s wonderful to have dreams, but life takes one on its own particular course. Rob’s self-proclaimed kismet was his return to Maine, and fate’s bounty netted him a nationally-applauded restaurant, not to mention a landslide of awards. But as realized dreams beget unrealized dreams, another course that Rob purposely set himself on was finding an ideal setting to build his dream home. Where? None other than the state of Maine—specifically, West Limington. These days, and at every opportunity, you’ll find Rob on his eighty-two-acre property, which is filled with the appropriate storybook-setting articles—a carpeting of pine, beech, birch, and hemlock trees; crystal-clear brooks; and the White Mountains of New Hampshire as a backdrop. He’s digging, quite literally, into his new hobby. It’s called “hobby homesteading” and it sounds funny, right? Actually, that’s his name for the adventure he’s undertaken for the last few years and that will most likely, to one degree or another, swallow up his time for the next two to three. Everyone seems to be in awe of Rob’s “going into the woods” and creating a way of living now that will eventually complete his perfect land-to-home dream. If Rob is asked whether he’s going to homestead, his reply is “God, no. I’m too old to be homesteading. I’m hobby homesteading.” Included in that homesteading disclaimer are setting up his own permanent camp; building a root cellar the old-fashioned way; and creating a garden by first clearing a plot with a tractor, then fencing the area in and getting a couple of pigs to work the space for subsequent planting. That’s just the beginning. It also involves constructing a wood shed, digging a well, and building an outdoor shower and bathhouse. These are the fibers of the cloth that cover Rob’s days and tie him to his land in a very personal way. The fruits of his labors will even fill spaces in his professional chef’s life by serving as the garden bounty for his restaurant.

rea ms are as important


Adventure, Rob’s key life ingredient, necessitates the search for continual and increased magnitudes thereof. The short list: motorcycling trips, the Japanese martial art of aikido, skydiving, and scuba diving. His reaction to homesteading is that it contains the same essential: “Wow, what an adventure this is. We’re getting ready for the winter and making sure we have all our bases covered. So I think there has always been a strong sense of adventure, and hopefully that comes through in my food as well—to be adventurous and exciting, always aiming to break away from the normal.”



t’s difficult to find out the truth about what someone’s favorite possession is and why. It can be uncom-

fortable to admit that a first-edition hardbound copy of Heidi is his or her most treasured possession. But let’s go back to the essentials that make Rob Evans who he is: adventurous, focused, and without affectation—truthful and candid. So what is his most treasured possession? His BMW motorcycle. Now, you have to love the “why.” Without even a modicum of a smile, he states quite simply, “Because I get on it and it delivers every single time. Not many things in life deliver so consistently.” Sitting down alone with his wife and having dinner is Rob’s idea of perfect happiness. Rob and Nancy Evans have been married for three years and have known each other since Nancy graduated from high school. Not surprisingly, they met while working in a restaurant; Rob was a cook and she a waitress. Consistent with the “adventure requirement” that runs rampant in this chef’s life, the romance was put on hold for quite a while. There were lands to explore and discoveries to make—that kind of stuff. Fast-forward: Rob and Nancy are thirtysomething but somehow manage to find each other again—picking up where they left off. So where did all this lead? Rob proposed to Nancy on his birthday, saying that he could receive no better gift than for her to accept—a rather clever way to secure one’s own desired birthday present. The answer was yes, but the wedding was worthy of a sky’s prideful-single-cloud mention of its own. It took place in the midst of California’s Valley of the Giants: old-growth trees, a profusion of rose petals sprinkled along a white linen path leading to an alter constructed of tree stumps and more white linen, a white dress, one minister, two friends to witness, and Just Married written with lipstick on the windshields of their motorcycles. Simple, rustic elegance that is so representative of Rob and Nancy’s style. Rob laughs, “We joke that our marriage was just a party. Ten years in the restaurant business is the real commitment.” 20



hat motivated Rob to aim so high? He purposely placed himself in situations that were the gold

standard of attainment. Working with Patrick O’Connell at the Inn at Little Washington and interviewing for Thomas Keller virtually out of the career gate required a strong stomach and rocket-fueled drive. Those are places and chefs that the meek would be terrified to take on. There’s that adventurous spirit again, with a willingness to take risks. Frequently, successful chefs disseminate their motivations in terms of accomplishments, and recognition from the media, as well as their peers. Rob, on the other hand, candidly assures me that he did not aspire to be the best chef in America. He never had dreams of winning a James Beard award (or winning any particular award) or being sought out by the media. His undiluted motivation was a singular element—creativity. Chef Evans describes the creative experience as a continuously playing tape that won’t turn off, and he revels in that fact. When Rob bought his own restaurant and found himself in complete control over the medium, it was a dream come true. Having the insight, freedom, and know-how to create his own style was, in his words, “mind-blowing, to the point where I was completely obsessed for the first six or seven years.” It was heads-down, with a constant stream of fresh ideas. At home, Rob would be thinking about creating his next dish. In the car, he would be thinking about interesting food combinations—breaking down the parts and putting them back together. He could take the creativity of the morning and make it materialize at night and then begin the whole process again. He was constantly moving and evolving— that was the thrill. The wish was for a busy restaurant so that he could continue playing with food. He didn’t think he needed to be concerned with awards or PR. Of course, in hindsight, he is the first to admit what a naive notion that was. Success has shown him that he does need to promote himself in order to continue to do what he does. There is a wistful look in his eyes as he remembers the days when it was the untarnished innocence of creativity that got him— or, we should say, propelled him—out of bed each morning and kept him out until exhaustion took over. Rob’s motivations today are not what they were in the early days of his career. Today, the quest is for balance, which is what motivates him now—balance with food, what the restaurant can handle, what he wants out of life, what he wants in his personal life—finding that’s the real art: to balance all those things. Balance in life is now imperative in his career in order to offset the very unbalanced existence he lived for so many years. Rob openly admits that all he did was cook, which served a purpose at the time but eventually caught up to him. He began to reevaluate his state 21

of equilibrium after herniating a disk as a result of hunching over in the kitchen. He was on a cane for two months. The experience served as a wake-up call with the bitter message that, quite possibly, he would never get back into the kitchen or stand up straight again. With months of physical therapy and a laser-focused will, he did recover and is able to cook again, but, by choice and necessity, no more ninety-hour weeks. Rob will always declare that he had, and still has, an overwhelming love for cooking and where it can continue to take him. Given that fact, it will be a challenge for him to maintain a well-balanced life. As always, he’s up for it.

Notable + UNIQUE


ob is freakish in terms of his natural a bilities, but we’re not going to linger long on what could be a

novelette. One example of these abilities is his unearthly deft hand when preparing food—simple dishes, complex dishes—or engaging in the act of simply dropping a plastic-wrapped egg into boiling water. Anyone who can prepare and plate “crispy pig ears” with a magician’s flair (one forgets the fact that these are the ears of a pig) clearly has supernatural powers that we earthlings should simply marvel at and not question. Rarely have I observed this aspect of a chef ’s repertoire to such a heightened degree: He orchestrates a tour de force, ingredient by ingredient, with such grace and skill as to hold the unsuspecting thoroughly captive. You’ve seen dogs cock their heads to the side when they hear or see some unfamiliar sound or sight. Well, that’s exactly the body language that you’ll find yourself exhibiting if you happen to catch this chef on Food TV or at a cooking event. You can’t resist it, so don’t try—you’ll enjoy it.



food that I always avoid: steamed spinach. Didn’t like it as a kid, and I still don’t like it, unless it’s paired

with lots of animal fat. Favorite food: sushi. I could eat sushi until . . . Biggest food-related surprise I’ve ever had: my tryout for a position at the French Laundry. Favorite childhood food memory: fishing with my dad out in the open ocean and catching cod, trout, and squid. Preparing squid in my own way at eight years old. 22

Worst kitchen disaster: cooking for Dana Cowin and having the entire meal go to the wrong table! Ingredients I have tried together whose combination surprised me: watermelon, white anchovies, radish, tomatoes, and cucumbers with Thai basil vinaigrette. Favorite music, musician, and musical instrument: I always lean toward reggae. I like a local artist, Ray LaMontagne. My favorite musical instrument is the saxophone.

TOOLS + Tips


he chef’s unconventional kitchen tip via an unconventional kitchen tool should not be taken lightly. To

demonstrate that warning, the following may cause your mouth to either drop open or form a smile that will be accompanied by an exclamation of some primitive type. The 1979 Snoopy Sno-cone Machine can still be purchased online. It’s a fun gift for young girls or boys to use in conjunction with their other play-kitchen items, but not something you would imagine in a James Beard award– winning chef’s kitchen, right? Wrong. I don’t ask the chef where or how he came by it. The fact is, he has it and has had it for eight years. He freezes apple juice and rhubarb consommé by pouring it into the Snoopy Sno-cone Machine, and voilà—snow. The fact that it’s hand-cranked is a bonus to Rob—like a welcome old school chum. I can imagine the hand-cranked gadgets that are called to service for his homesteading project—a coffee grinder and food mill—and from time to time, I believe, the Snoopy machine took a brief trip from Hugo’s kitchen to West Limington.


ROB’S Menu Story


y choice to do a New England breakfast menu began when the author of this book, Dawn Blume Hawkes,

asked me what my interests were outside the kitchen. We talked about motorcycles and camping, as I love and do both quite a bit. So, it spurred me to think about cooking breakfast when I’m camping, because it starts my day off well, especially when I am traveling on a bike. The importance of this meal is the main reason I landed on breakfast, as opposed to a barbecue for dinner, which is also something I enjoy when camping. I also thought that developing a breakfast with a New England approach would stand on its own. Who else would be stampeding to this unique category? The ingredients I have used relate somewhat to childhood memories, but primarily to the foods I would usually be cooking for a campsite breakfast. The inspiration for my breakfast dish Steel-Cut Oatmeal Soufflé started with oatmeal, and I thought, what could I do with it? I wanted to elevate this dish to something besides just oatmeal. I’m very happy with the result, because it’s very sophisticated, yet it has that New England flavor. I promise you, this will be the lightest, fluffiest oatmeal dish you’ll ever have. Red flannel hash is sort of a New England classic, with all the root vegetables coming from the wonderful local farms in Maine. As with the oatmeal, my idea was to elevate the standard hash by adding a pinch of saffron to the hollandaise, which brings in a little exotic edge and adds that floral note at the end. Another twist on this classic is Tabasco in the hollandaise; I love to add lots of Tabasco. Once again, if I were camping, there would be no hollandaise! It would be hash with a fried egg on top, and that’s it. The bacon-poached egg, cooked in plastic wrap, just adds a level of refinement to it. The plastic wrap allows you to poach an egg in an exotic oil or fat. The process has a bit of new-age edge to it, but in the end, it’s an egg poached in bacon fat. Of course, the hollandaise with the saffron tops it off. My idea to cook the eggs this way came from my demo on the Martha Stewart show—how to poach an egg in plastic wrap, and the oils that could be used. 24

As for the Fresh Wild Maine Blueberries with Whipped Condensed Milk and Pumpkin Seed Granola—much like some of the other camping breakfast standards, blueberries bring to mind a great story. I went on a three-day hiking trip with a friend of mine through Baxter State Park in central Maine. Our destination was the aweinspiring “knife-edge” segment of Mount Katahdin. Unfortunately, we woke up on the third day of our journey and discovered that there was almost nothing for breakfast and we were quickly running out of food. It was early September. Now for the fortunate part. We came upon a pond that was full of moose eating at the water’s edge. We found a ton of low-bush wild blueberries and picked enough for a big fat bowl for each of us. I had condensed milk in my backpack, so we poured condensed milk over the blueberries. I often say hunger is the best recipe. Not only was it a wonderful experience, the hunger, the blueberries, the condensed milk, all of it together, made it memorable. I developed the rhubarb sparkler because I felt it was an interesting addition. I’ve not seen rhubarb used this way anywhere. Rhubarb is most often used for a dessert. This is an interesting twist.


ROB’S Recipes RHUBARB SPARKLER This drink is incredibly versatile—various seasonal fruits can be substituted for the rhubarb: watermelon, stone fruits, and green apple work well. The level of sweetness can be adjusted by varying the amount of elderflower liqueur. Serves 4–6. RHUBARB SPARKLER 1 bottle prosecco, chilled 6 ounces (3/4 cup) St-Germain elderflower liqueur (available at most beverage stores) 6 ounces (3/4 cup) rhubarb consommé RHUBARB CONSOMMÉ Makes approximately 1 cup. 4 large stalks fresh rhubarb, approximately 1 quart chopped (see Sources: Crown O’ Maine Organic Cooperative)

TO PREPARE THE CONSOMMÉ 1. Trim rhubarb stalks of leaves and discard. 2. Wash stalks thoroughly and chop into 1-inch pieces. 3. Process through a juicer according to directions. 4. In a small pot, heat the rhubarb juice slowly over mediumlow heat until the solids clump at the surface. Be careful not to let the juice simmer. Chef’s note: Do not stir. Do not simmer. 5. Immediately strain through a fine sieve lined with a large coffee filter. 6. Chill juice. Chef’s note: Store in airtight container up to 1 week. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Pour 1 ounce each of rhubarb consommé and St-Germain elderflower liqueur into champagne flutes. 2. Pour the prosecco slowly over the top. 3. Garnish with a lemon twist or as desired.



STEEL-CUT OATMEAL SOUFFLÉ WITH GINGER-INFUSED MAPLE SYRUP This is not a recipe you might make before work on a Monday morning, but it’s great for breakfast or brunch on the weekend. Serves 4. GINGER-INFUSED MAPLE SYRUP 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger 1/4 cup maple syrup

2 egg whites 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar Pinch of salt

TO PREPARE THE SYRUP Combine the ginger and maple syrup and set aside.

TO PREPARE THE SOUFFLÉ 1. In a 1-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, add flour, and cook for 3 minutes; add milk; simmer for 5 minutes. 2. Remove the saucepan from heat and whisk in the egg yolks and cooked oats. 3. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool in the refrigerator. 4. Butter and flour four 4-ounce soufflé dishes or ramekins; set aside. 5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. 6. In a stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form, add confectioners’ sugar, and continue to whisk to medium-stiff peaks. 7. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the rolled-oats mixture a third at a time.

STEEL-CUT OATS ¼ cup steel-cut oats 1 cup unfiltered apple cider 1/4 cup cream 1 cinnamon stick Pinch of salt TO PREPARE THE OATS 1. Bring the cider to a boil; whisk in the oats, cinnamon stick, cream, and salt. 2. Reduce heat to a simmer for 40 minutes. 3. Cool on a sheet pan in the refrigerator. SOUFFLÉ 1 ounce unsalted butter 1 ounce all-purpose flour ½ cup cooked oats (follow instructions on container) ¾ cup whole milk 3 egg yolks 28

TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Distribute the chilled steel-cut oats evenly between the soufflé dishes. 2. Fill the soufflé dishes with the egg white mixture to the very top. 3. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned on top. 4. With a spoon, make a small hole in the top of the soufflé and pour in about 1 tablespoon of ginger-infused maple syrup tableside.

BACON-POACHED FARM-FRESH EGGS WITH RED FLANNEL HASH and SAFFRON HOLLANDAISE I made the egg portion of the recipe on The Martha Stewart Show, and she loved it—I hope you will, too. Serves 4. SAFFRON HOLLANDAISE Pinch of saffron ¼ cup vinegar 1 shallot, chopped 4 egg yolks 8 ounces clarified, unsalted butter, warm (see Syrian shortbreads, step 1, page 119) 1 tablespoon Tabasco Lemon juice and salt to taste TO PREPARE THE HOLLANDAISE 1. Add the saffron, vinegar, and shallot to a saucepan. Reduce until mixture is almost dry but still has some liquid left. Strain. 2. Place a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water on medium heat; add the vinegar reduction, along with the egg yolks. Whisk until ribbons start to form. 3. Remove from heat and add clarified butter in a steady stream while whisking constantly until incorporated and thick ribbons form. 4. Add Tabasco, lemon, and salt to taste and keep in a warm spot until ready to use.

HASH Canola oil 1 small white onion, ¼-inch diced ½ cup scallion, chopped 1 teaspoon fennel seed 1 cup potato, blanched and diced 1 cup beet, cooked and diced 1 cup carrot, blanched and diced ½ teaspoon orange zest Salt and pepper to taste TO PREPARE THE HASH 1. In a large sauté pan over high heat, add canola oil to skimcoat pan. 2. Add onions and reduce heat to medium. 3. Add fennel seed and cook for 5 minutes. 4. Add potatoes and cook until lightly browned. 5. Add beets and carrots; toss and cook for 3 minutes. 6. Add orange zest, salt, and pepper to taste; keep warm.


Bacon-Poached Eggs continued....

POACHED EGGS 4 farm-fresh eggs (see Sources: Crown O’ Maine Organic Cooperative) 1 tablespoon bacon fat (a rich oil or fat may be substituted, such as truffle oil or shmalts, rendered chicken or goose fat) Salt and pepper to taste TO PREPARE THE EGGS 1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. 2. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over a small bowl and make a well. 3. Brush the bacon fat into the well. Crack one egg into each well. 4. Pull up the four corners of the plastic wrap and hold corners together. Pinch the plastic just above the egg and twist to make a rope. Tie the rope into a knot; cinch the knot down to the egg, and tie tightly. Repeat with the remaining eggs. 5. Drop each egg into the boiling water for 5 minutes. Chef’s note: Multiple eggs may be poached at the same time but must be cooked in at least 2 quarts of water that has come to a full boil. 6. Cut below the plastic knot to release each cooked egg into the serving bowl. 7. Season with salt and pepper.


TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Place the hash in four bowls and top each with a freshly poached egg. 2. Spoon the hollandaise over the top. Chef’s note: Feel free to serve this dish any way you like. You can make it more festive if you’re having company for breakfast and want to make a bigger splash (see opening photo of this dish for chef’s plating idea), or just pop it into a bowl or onto a plate, snuggle into a cozy spot, and enjoy. BEVERAGE SUGGESTIONS French press coffee (see Sources: Coffee by Design), and/or Rhubarb Sparkler


These biscuits cook quickly, so you’ll want to plan on serving them warm, right out of the oven. Makes 20–24 biscuits. POTATO-GARLIC BISCUITS 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/3 cup potato flour ½ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon baking soda Pinch of dried garlic 1 ounce butter, cold 2 ounces shortening Buttermilk for consistency (1/3 quart)

TO PREPARE THE BISCUITS 1. Sift together flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. 2. Add the dried garlic and mix. 3. Add the butter and shortening and cut in with fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse meal. 4. Fold in buttermilk slowly and periodically until the dough comes together to form a homogenous mass. Chef’s note: Do not knead. Do not overwork the dough, or the biscuits will be too dense. 5. Roll out the dough to 1-inch thickness and chill thoroughly, about 1 hour. 6. Cut biscuits with desired-size cookie cutter; bake at 425°F until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes.


FRESH WILD MAINE BLUEBERRIES WITH WHIPPED CONDENSED MILK and PUMPKIN SEED GRANOLA Your favorite berries will work, and the whipped condensed milk is wonderful on any dessert. Serves 4, with good potential for leftovers. PUMPKIN SEED GRANOLA 2 cups rolled oats 2 cups honey 1½ cups raw pumpkin seeds ¼ cup soy flour ¼ cup wheat germ 3 ounces canola oil ¼ teaspoon salt TO PREPARE THE GRANOLA 1. Combine all ingredients until just incorporated. 2. Spread the granola on a sheet pan. 3. Bake at 270°F for 20 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes. 4. Flip over all the granola on the pan. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for 5 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes. 5. Bake for another 5 minutes. Let sit for 20 minutes. 6. Crumble all of the granola while it is still warm. Bake again at 350°F for 4 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes. 7. Mix the granola around and break up any clumps to ensure a uniform golden brown. Bake again at 350°F for 4 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes. 8. Repeat the previous step until granola is crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside when cool. 32

WHIPPED CONDENSED MILK 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk 1 cup whole milk ½ split vanilla bean 2 cups heavy cream Pinch of salt TO PREPARE THE CONDENSED MILK 1. Over low heat, steep vanilla in condensed milk and whole milk for 10 minutes. 2. Add the heavy cream and strain. 3. Add mixture to a whipped-cream dispenser with one charge, or whisk by hand, and chill in an ice bath for at least 30 minutes until ready to use. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Add ½ cup fresh Maine blueberries to each serving bowl. 2. Top with a large spoonful of whipped condensed milk. 3. Sprinkle with ¼ cup pumpkin seed granola.



RDG + Bar Annie Houston, TX 34



he funda mentals first—the background work. The starting point is yet another tale of a chef ’s journey

from Point A to Point Chef, although it is important to note, if not completely evident, that each and every one of these evolutional stories substantiates a singular experience. In my quest for superb chefs and fascinating personality profiles, I immediately locked on to the intrigue scientist-turned-chef Robert Del Grande provided. Beyond English and history, Robert has always enjoyed and exhibited a proficiency in science, which made his decision to pursue and receive a BS in chemistry and biology from the University of San Francisco and a PhD in biochemistry from the University of California, Riverside, an easy one. Robert gives me a secret kernel of unexpected knowledge when he reveals that his pursuit of a career in the sciences was a form of escape from the real world. I had the bright idea to temper this comment with the obvious intelligence that his studies provided a lifelong partner, Mimi Kinsman, his wife, whom he met while the two were both working on their degrees. Robert made a bet with Mimi that he would have his PhD before she completed her degree. Bet lost—Mimi finished a year before he graduated and moved to Houston to be with her sister Candice and brother-in-law, Ronnie Schiller, who had already launched Café Annie. In 1981, after a nine-year, force-fed academic diet, Robert hatched a plan. He would visit Houston for a summer, primarily to check in with Mimi, and maybe work in the restaurant Café Annie just to see what it was like, until he found a more permanent job in his field. Work at Café Annie he did, and he eventually became executive chef. Nearly thirty years later, he is still working in the restaurant business and, for most of that time, served as executive chef and partner of the nationally-praised Café Annie. In July 2009, Robert closed Café Annie and opened his new signature restaurant, RDG + Bar Annie, featuring three distinct experiences: BLVD Lounge, a clubby space for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres; Bar Annie; and the RDG Grill Room, a trendy restaurant-bar hybrid carried over from Café Annie. The Schiller Del Grande Restaurant Group continues to evolve with new restaurants featuring an array of exciting foods, from rustic Texas cuisine to handmade Mexican specialties to pizzerias. Robert Del Grande has made a distinctive mark on American cooking with his artful Southwestern flavor profiles, as evidenced by his many culinary accolades, including the 1992 James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Southwest. 35



he sense of great food conviviality that his family enjoyed certainly contributed life experience to Robert

Del Grande’s unexpected career as a professional chef. Both his mother and his grandparents were good cooks, and his family life revolved around food. The rule was: Do whatever you want, but don’t be late for dinner. Robert was born in 1954, in an era when it was particularly important to put the world aside and experience the well-being that the family table and Sunday-night dinners provided. The comfy family-meal halo has always hovered around Robert’s head, as evidenced by his straightforward expression of fact: “There are only two directions in the world—away from home and toward home. Would you like to be a drama writer, moving away from home, or a chef? I’d rather be a chef; it’s moving toward home.” The marvel and magic of cooking always captured Chef Del Grande’s imagination, particularly as a kid, when he made his first big dish—pancakes. As he looks back, making those first pancakes was, in his child’s world, a cool, transformative experience. Growing up, Robert was somewhat the breakfast cook of the house. Breakfast was his meal, one that he could be expert at. Before moving on to other, advanced-level food preparation, he mastered the art of making pancakes and eggs, a thrill that he has never lost. “When I make pancakes today, I still think, This is cool. You began with pretty average stuff: flour, sugar, salt, milk, and egg. You put it together to make a batter that looks interesting but doesn’t taste very good. Then you put it on the griddle and it puffs up and turns golden brown. Finally, the big hook—you pour maple syrup all over them. It’s a fascinating transformation to take average ingredients and change them fairly quickly.” Robert’s defining moment, when the miraculous wand of conviction to become a chef touched him, was in the ’70s, while he was still in graduate school. It was just about the time nouvelle cuisine came on the scene. He remembers a book that came out, Great Chefs of France. It not only conveyed a sense of the utility of cooking and the pleasure of the family but ventured beyond the family meal, showing Robert how many influences can be applied to cooking, and how the elements of culture make food much richer.




obert on being a chef: “I’m surprised when I meet people and, after talking to them for a while, they say,

‘Boy, I’ve got to be honest with you—you’re not at all what I thought you were going to be like.’ I say, ‘What did you think I was going to be like?’ The usual response: ‘Well, you know, you just picture some egotistical, maniac chef type. You seem so quiet and reserved and worry about whether things are coming out right.’ I say, ‘Yeah, I’m fairly normal. Most chefs are fairly shy. Even when you meet an NFL quarterback, you can’t believe how shy they are.’” Away from the kitchen, music is Chef Del Grande’s passion, because of its surprising similarities to being a chef: Music’s focus, as with cooking, is performance. Robert loves the act of picking up an instrument and becoming involved with the production of that instrument’s sound. The idea of the world being held at bay by the suspension of time is the captivating characteristic of playing music that seals the deal. Robert is able to pinpoint the wonders surrounding his love of making music: “When reading a book, you can get halfway down a page and your mind drifts. When reading a page of music and listening to the sounds, from the eyes to the fingers and ears to the instrument, it’s very hard to drift off and think of anything else. You’re really engaged in the whole thing. When you play with someone else, there is the added dimension that you can talk to each other with your instruments. You play a certain way and respond to each other. That’s what I like about quartet classical music. You can see the players talking about where they are and where they want to go.” At this point, I am thinking back to the ’80s, when two chefs, Robert Del Grande and Dean Fearing, began to play guitar and sing songs together. From this humble beginning, as they got better and played with better people, a group developed. Then the moment of magic happened; Robert describes it as “that slight out-of-body thing, where you see the music in front of you and you’re swimming through it. You don’t think about where your fingers are; you just hear it in your head and your whole body goes with it.” The next meaningful chess move toward the music’s evolution was recording and promoting a CD. Robert fills in the blank spaces with color, as he does so well: “Eventually, somebody says, ‘Hey, have you ever written your own stuff before?


You should give it a try.’ We always thought about it but never got around to it. Then you make the decision to go through the recording process, and it’s very scary at first. The only problem about being in the studio is that the microphones haven’t been drinking. While you’re playing, everyone’s having margaritas and it sounds pretty good. Microphones are always stone-cold sober. They record music exactly as it sounds, and, just like with cooking, you begin to adjust and improve various aspects accordingly. I always tell my staff, ‘Be sure you are aware of what a dish really tastes like, not how much you love the idea of the dish.’ ”



he emotional and cultural connection that makes Robert’s cooking vision consistent and unique is his

quest for what the local idea is. He swings back to his recurring concept of home: “You can take local ingredients and cook very ethnic dishes, versus something that represents the area. Again, I like the feeling that I’m moving toward home more than away from it. Try to find the idea that identifies a place as home. When you cook, just be yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not. There are more riches to being you. You absorb various influences, but always bring it back home and be yourself.” All that I have heard up to this point has confirmed my strong suspicion that Robert is not a proponent of the molecular-food trend, and, sure enough, that is very much the case. I predict that the nouvelle-nonsense, moleculargastronomy gates are about to burst wide open with a flood of opinion, and the chef, not being one to dabble in diplomatic deception, launches with the statement: “It doesn’t interest me at all. First of all, it’s not science; it’s technology. They’re not actually solving anything. It’s technological food, basically. When you cook something with liquid nitrogen, you’re not discovering the nature of the atom. I came from a science background, I spent five years in a laboratory, so I don’t view this as sophisticated and cool. If you are artistically uncertain, you become more scientific because science has a great reputation in a technologically driven society. When I was an undergraduate in molecular biology, the professor said, ‘Now, remember, an experiment that uses the least amount of equipment and gets a good result is the superior experiment.’ When you use a mountain of equipment to try to get the answer, maybe you’re on the wrong track. There’s a great elegance to things that are simple and direct and to the point.” 38



ver the years, Robert has come to the conclusion that when he entered the professional chef world, he was

fairly naive. He thought that people just go to restaurants to have dinner and enjoy the food. He didn’t realize that they bring their whole life with them—their childhood, all their relationships, and all the things that have happened to them. Ongoing mystery surrounds why someone doesn’t like a particular ingredient or a dish prepared in a certain way. Maybe an anchovy traumatized that person when they were younger. A particular food may have simply clashed with an unpleasant incident in someone’s past. Robert’s scientific aptitude makes him inherently anxious to prove the mechanics behind some lesson learned. He recalls a lecture he gave on the sense of taste and taste relationships at the American Culinary Institute in the Napa Valley: “I used raisins because they’re sticky—things stick to them. You take a fennel seed and a raisin and stick them together, it will taste like licorice. You put a coffee bean and a raisin together, and you’d have a meaty, coffee sort of taste. I started the lecture by saying everyone’s sense of taste has a history. There’s nothing not to like about a raisin. When you look at it, it’s a dried grape. There’s nothing there that’s really very far from our evolutionary sense of what is harmful or not harmful. Some people like raisins, and some people don’t like raisins. If you don’t like raisins, something happened in your past, even if you don’t remember what it was, that will cause you to react negatively to a raisin today. The entire hall went silent. Some people looked down and thought. One of the great mysteries of the world is that someone will drink too much vodka; they’ll get sick, and the next day they’ll drink vodka again. But if they were to eat something and get sick, they’d never eat it again. They never get over it.” Professionally, the most surprising experience for Robert was doing a show, Cooking with Master Chefs, with Julia Child back in the ’90s. He had heard the rumor that she wasn’t sure about chilies. She thought that you couldn’t taste anything that had chilies in them. Doing the show in a Texas studio, Robert knew what two dishes he was going to prepare, and one contained chilies. He was, after all, doing what came naturally, focusing on local ingredients. He said, “Well, you know, Julia, there’s a whole wide range of chilies. It’s not all about spice.” Chef Del Grande cooked the chili dishes, and Julia tried them. They had a great time. Subsequently, he received a letter from Julia saying she just wanted to thank him for explaining to her how chilies work and that she now under39

stood how marvelous they were. She signed the letter, Your fan, Julia. Considering her stature, Robert thought it the most unexpected outcome that she would take the time to say, By the way, thanks so much for explaining chilies to me and sign, Your fan. Robert’s one word that best describes the incident: “wow.” Robert Del Grande confesses that the single most valuable lesson he has learned in life is that three words, “please” and “thank you,” will get you further in the world than all the other words in your vocabulary.



avorite chocolate: I like chocolate across the board. I love vanilla and I love chocolate, but I’ll take chocolate.

Favorite wines: I love pinot noir, grenache, syrah, and Rhone-style wines. I am a big white-wine fan. I love great, aromatic whites like viognier and white Rhone varietals. Favorite liquor: I like gin. Favorite herbs: I love the anise quality of herbs like tarragon. Hoja santa is another. It has a sarsaparilla character. Favorite cheese: I love parmesan. Favorite types of music: I love classical music, particularly chamber works. I like the individual voicing. I like symphonic stuff, too, but I’m always fascinated by a small group of players. I love baroque music. Growing up through the ’60s, the Woodstock generation, I liked the usual rock groups. I love blues. I love country western. I love the storytelling, cultural aspect to it. The first time I heard pedal steel guitar, I thought, Oh my God. That is the greatest sound. Favorite instruments: I’m a guitarist, so I always lean toward stringed instruments. Instruments I like that relate to classical music: I took up piano playing a little. Then I wanted to buy a harpsichord. I thought it was the coolest, quietest little sound. Favorite musical performers: Jerry Garcia, who had a great folk background. That’s how I learned about country music. He was the icon of San Francisco. At the same time, I was an Andrés Segovia nut. He was why I started playing classical guitar. I always liked Hank Williams. Lyle Lovett is one of my favorites because he’s from Texas, has a great voice, and blends country and jazz. Favorite painters, artists, and period of art: I don’t need $100 million to purchase art. I just buy a membership to the museum so that I can visit whenever the mood strikes me. 40

Tools + TIPS


hen I asked Chef Del Grande what unconventional equipment or tools he has used in the kitchen, the

response I received did not meet my usual expectation, not by a football field. I always hope for the opportunity to “stump the chef” with this question—make them really reach into the kitchen files of their mind in order to rack their brain for anything that would surprise or delight. Not being an equal on their culinary playing field, I must admit, I gain more than a degree of guilty satisfaction when I receive the usual “Let me think about that, and I’ll get back to you.” Very rarely do they get back to me. Robert is the exception; he got back to me immediately, with the meager-morsel response that in the old days, he paid many a visit to the hardware store to look for tools and equipment that could be utilized in the kitchen. Common practice for him. Question period over. Tool revelations not forthcoming. Moving on to the chef ’s tip. The tops of hamburger buns, as they come out of the oven, have a certain look, that kind of floury, dusty appearance. The problem with dusting them with raw flour, Robert explains, is, “they don’t cook right, and you get a raw-flour taste.” Dusting the hamburger bun with chestnut flour to give it a beautiful powdery look and a slightly sweet taste just popped into the chef’s head one day, but there is more to the chestnut-epiphany story. In a nutshell, Robert’s father’s parents were Italian, and the Italian saint days calendar provides an endless stream of holidays reflecting Italian culture, history, and religious practices. St. Joseph’s Day is in March, but, regrettably, chestnut season is over by then. The unavailability of fresh chestnuts didn’t stop the Del Grande family, though; they simply ground the nuts to produce the traditional Italian chestnut flour. Returning to one of Robert’s treasured obsessions, the pancake, he remembers his grandma making what she called St. Joseph’s Day pancakes. The ritual was to place a white napkin on a plate and position the pancakes on the napkin, dust them with powdered sugar, and finally pass them around the table. As a kid, Robert loved those warm chestnut pancakes, which demonstrates that a childhood food memory can resurface as an unexpected solution to a chef’s ingredient dilemma.


ROBERT’S Menu Story

If cowboys love cowgirls And cowgirls love cowboys Who only love cowgirls Then ain’t that the best of all worlds . . .


ome things have a good feel to them—the sweet sound of a pedal steel guitar, the twang of a telecaster guitar, a

lonesome lyric tinged with a bit of humor from a jukebox. Even the phrase “country and western” has a good feel. It evokes a wealth of images—of deep traditions and American culture. It’s much like huevos rancheros, ranch eggs. It has a good sound to it. Not just eggs, but ranch eggs—eggs that somehow try to connect with ranch life, the way you cook eggs on a ranch. When I was a kid, via a circumstance that I recall as an early-morning trail ride, I had breakfast prepared by cowboys— buckwheat pancakes and coffee made with eggshells. It stuck with me—food on a ranch, very direct, practical, and tasty. I sometimes use the phrase “country western” to recapture that feeling—nothing complicated by newfangled thinking or convoluted by some big-city trick. The first dish I learned to cook was pancakes. When I was a kid, pancakes—from cooking them to eating them—captivated me. It was pure magic. All these years later, none of that magic has worn off. Pancakes are a good start to any breakfast, and I love breakfast. It is my favorite meal—some foods might make you sleepy, but breakfast gets you out of bed. It starts the day. After all my years in Texas, many of my favorite dishes revolve around breakfast: eggs, chilies, tortillas, and salsa. For a relaxed ranch breakfast, a country-western breakfast, I like an egg dish that can be baked in a casserole and brought to the table with ease. And not just any casserole, but one that is an alchemy of creamy eggs, tortillas, melting cheese, salsa, and chilies. With one scoop, a delicious array of flavors arrives on your plate all at once. To finish—something irresistible to me: dough42

nuts. They seem as old a tradition as the West. Our family tradition was to have doughnuts on Sunday. We would make the trip, more of a pilgrimage, to the local doughnut shop to pick out that irresistible dozen. What could be a more laid-back finish to breakfast than a cup of good coffee and a warm doughnut? There may be only one way to improve on the situation—put on a little country-western music and hum along. If love was a songbird That only sang love songs About cowboys loving cowgirls Then ain’t that the best of all worlds If you were a cowgirl And I was a cowboy Who loved just one cowgirl Then ain’t that the best of all worlds —Robert Del Grande, “The Best of All Worlds”



ROBERT’S Recipes BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES WITH PECANS and FRESH BLACKBERRY SYRUP There is something about the sound of “buckwheat” when you say it before “pancakes.” It suggests another depth of flavor—an old-time flavor, a bit of tradition, something a little more intriguing than the usual. Buckwheat adds a wonderful nutty, earthy flavor and a deeper, richer color to pancakes. It gives the pancakes a nice country feel. When you add the pecans and the blackberry syrup, it becomes another wonderful world. Serves 4. BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES ½ cup all-purpose flour ½ cup buckwheat flour ¼ teaspoon dry yeast 1 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt 1½ cups buttermilk 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted TO PREPARE THE PANCAKES 1. In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and blend. 2. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla and blend until smooth. 3. Add the buttermilk mixture and melted butter to the dry mix. Stir to form a smooth batter. Chef’s note: Do not overmix. 4. Let the mixture stand for at least 30 minutes so that the yeast begins to rise.

5. Heat a lightly-oiled or buttered pancake griddle to 400°F. 6. Spoon the pancake batter onto the griddle and cook until golden brown. BLACKBERRY SYRUP 2 tablespoons unsalted butter ½ pint blackberries 2 tablespoons sugar ¼ cup pure maple syrup TO PREPARE THE SYRUP 1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. 2. Add the blackberries and sugar. 3. Gently cook the blackberries until a light syrup forms. 4. Add the maple syrup and stir. 5. Serve warm. TO SERVE ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped 1. Serve pancakes with the warm blackberry syrup and toasted pecans. 2. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. 45

SCRAMBLED EGG and RED CHILE TORTILLA PUDDING WITH AVOCADO and QUESO FRESCO SALSA Here’s a good way to cook eggs for a group that does not require standing at the stove, managing a bunch of skillets, while trying to get the eggs to the table all at once. For this dish, the eggs are lightly scrambled and then gently baked with tortillas and red chile sauce. During the baking, all the flavors and textures blend and the results are a wonderful moist pudding of creamy eggs, piquant chile sauce, and tender tortillas. You can bring it to the table piping hot. The delicious avocado and queso fresco salsa, which can be made ahead of time, adds a nice, cooling touch to the spiciness of the eggs. Serves 4. RED CHILE SAUCE 2 ounces guajillo chile, stemmed, seeded, and lightly toasted 2 árbol chilies (or substitute ½ teaspoon red chili flakes) 4 garlic cloves, peeled ¼ white onion, peeled and chopped, about ¼ cup 1 small whole bay leaf 1 quart water 1 teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon pepper 8 ounces chorizo sausage, crumbled (or substitute breakfast sausage) TO PREPARE THE SAUCE 1. In a saucepot, combine all ingredients except the salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature.


2. Transfer the ingredients plus 1 cup water to a blender. Add the salt and pepper and puree until very smooth. 3. In a deep skillet, sauté the chorizo until cooked through. Drain off any fat and return the skillet to the heat. 4. Add the pureed chile sauce. Stir while scraping the bottom of the pan to release any bits of caramelized sausage. When the sauce begins to simmer, remove from the heat. AVOCADO and QUESO FRESCO SALSA 1 Hass avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch dice 2 ounces queso fresco cheese, cut into approximately ¼-inch cubes ½ serrano chile, sliced very thinly in rounds ¼ white onion, finely slivered (about ¼ cup) ¼ cup cilantro leaves 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Scrambled Egg & Red Chile Tortilla continued....

TO PREPARE THE SALSA 1. In a small mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and gently toss or stir with a spoon to mix evenly. 2. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the salsa and refrigerate. SCRAMBLED EGGS 8 eggs, well blended 1 tablespoon butter 1 teaspoon salt ½ cup heavy cream TO PREPARE THE EGGS 1. Add the eggs to a bowl and blend well. 2. In a nonstick pan, melt the butter. When the butter begins to foam, add the blended eggs. Gently scramble the eggs. 3. Remove the eggs from the heat while they are still creamy. Chef’s note: Do not overcook. 4. Sprinkle the eggs with salt, then gently fold in the cream. TORTILLAS 12–16 thick white corn tortillas (or substitute approximately 48 fried tortilla wedges) Vegetable oil for frying

3. In small batches, carefully fry the tortilla pieces until crisp. 4. Transfer tortillas to a paper towel–lined tray to drain. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE Tortillas Red chile sauce Scrambled eggs 8 ounces Monterey jack or white cheddar cheese, grated 1. Lightly butter a 9-by-9-inch baking dish or a 9-inch cake pan. 2. Distribute half of the fried tortilla chips over the bottom of the pan. 3. Spoon one-third of the red chile sauce over the tortilla. 4. Spoon half of the scrambled eggs over the tortillas. 5. Distribute one-third of the grated cheese over the eggs. 6. Distribute the remaining tortilla chips over the grated cheese; cover with another one-third of the red chile sauce. 7. Add the remaining scrambled eggs and another one-third of the cheese. Spoon the remaining red chile sauce over the eggs and top with the remaining cheese. 8. Cover with foil and bake at 350°F for approximately 30 minutes or until the sauce begins to bubble and the casserole is hot in the center. 9. Serve with the avocado and queso fresco salsa.

TO PREPARE THE TORTILLAS 1. Cut the tortillas into quarters. 2. In a deep, broad skillet, heat ½ inch of oil to approximately 350°F. Chef’s note: The tortilla should sizzle when dipped in oil. 47

BUTTERMILK DOUGHNUTS WITH SUGAR GLAZE Some memories fade, and some memories remain vivid. For me, since the time I could first form a memory, doughnuts have been indelible in my mind. Our family tradition was to have doughnuts on Sunday. It was the high point of the day. There is something irresistible about those little fried pastries. These doughnuts are very simple, quick, and easy to make. If you dust them with sugar and eat them soon after they come out of the fryer, they are guaranteed to leave you with a great memory, and with a great cup of coffee, a doubly fine memory. Makes 12–18 small doughnuts. BUTTERMILK DOUGHNUTS 1 egg 1 cup buttermilk ½ teaspoon vanilla 1¼ cups flour ¼ cup sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons butter, melted Oil for frying

7. Carefully spoon rounded tablespoons of dough into the frying oil. Fry, turning occasionally for about 2 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. 8. Transfer doughnuts to a paper towel–lined tray to drain.

TO PREPARE THE DOUGHNUTS 1. Combine the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix well. 2. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. 3. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients. 4. Add the melted butter. 5. Stir to blend into a thick batter. Chef’s note: Do not overmix. 6. To fry the doughnuts, add approximately 2 inches of oil to a deep pan or pot. With a frying thermometer, heat the oil to 350°F.

TO SERVE 1. Dust with granulated or powdered sugar. 2. Serve with the sugar glaze on the side. Chef’s note: The glaze can be dripped on the doughnuts or the doughnuts can be dipped in the glaze.


SUGAR GLAZE 1 cup powdered sugar 1 tablespoon warm water ½ teaspoon vanilla TO PREPARE THE GLAZE Combine the ingredients in a bowl and stir to form a glaze.

BEVERAGE SUGGESTION Coffee quartet, of course!


COFFEE QUARTET I’m a coffee nut. I tried to grow coffee trees once. I bought a small roaster to roast my own beans. I studied all the coffee-growing areas of the world, each with its own distinct flavor. Then I started blending beans just like music—creating harmonies and rhythms of flavor. Here’s a quartet blend of coffee beans that draw from different parts of the world. Servings vary according to amount of coffee ground and cup size. COFEE BLEND 4 ounces African coffee, such as Ethiopian or Kenyan 4 ounces Indonesian coffee, such as Sumatran or Javan 4 ounces Central American coffee, such as Guatemalan or Costa Rican 4 ounces Mexican (high-roasted) or French roast coffee


TO PREPARE THE COFFEE 1. Blend the beans and grind for desired number of servings. 2. Brew according to your desired method.



PUBLIC and Saxon + Parole New York, NY 52



rad Farmerie lived in Chicago until he was eight, and then his family moved to Pittsburgh. Theirs was,

without question, a food-loving family, with parents actively involved in various gourmet groups that, in the ’70s, were atypical of the customary meat-and carb-consuming population. What pearls of food joy that infiltrated the Farmerie household as a result of his parents’ food odyssey were built around a variety of worldly cuisines, fresh ingredients, and exciting experimentation? An avid cook, Brad’s mother insisted on home-baked bread, which she made every morning, a never-ending surprise package of vegetables cut straight from the family garden and homemade sorbets crafted in an old ice-cream machine. Growing up, Brad was very aware that his family ate differently and approached food in a way that was unlike anything else he was exposed to at the time. A slice of Wonder Bread was never to be seen in the Farmerie household. The food was real because he could see, on a daily basis, what went into producing it. One day a week, there was mandatory kitchen duty for each of the children. It was a benevolent force that threw the three kids into the kitchen, where they became intimately acquainted with the love and care that were embedded in the hard work and, maybe most importantly, with the rewards of those efforts. Brad looks back very fondly on his childhood and concludes that all the experiences he had with cooking translated, eventually, to a time when he was looking for a career change. Brad enrolled at Penn State, intent on completing a degree in mechanical engineering. Two years into his studies, it became apparent that the cooking he did in order to pay his tuition was the real source of his collegiate contentment. The first clue to what would be his eventual change of course was the fact that he looked forward to going to work. He began watching cooking shows and reading cookbooks in his off-hours and drinking up the camaraderie and creativity when he was back in the kitchen. Learning something new each day through the restaurant’s ever-changing specials gave him a feel for what the future could hold. The next logical step for Brad was to take a yearlong hiatus from the principles of physics to explore firsthand the cuisines and wines of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Antipodes. One year turned to seven, and Farmerie’s culinary wanderings turned serious when he settled in the UK in 1996, earning a Grande 53

Diplôme at Le Cordon Bleu. He further rounded out his education and technique at lauded restaurants such as Coast, Chez Nico, and Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Most influential to the development of his own style was his experience working with Peter Gordon at the Sugar Club in 1996; Brad subsequently assisted Gordon and Anna Hansen in the opening of the critically acclaimed Providores and Tapa Room. In 2003, Brad moved back to the States to head up the kitchen of the AvroKO-designed PUBLIC restaurant. PUBLIC didn’t take long to earn a star in the Michelin Guide in recognition of its “exceptional culinary achievements.” The year 2006 saw the opening of the Monday Room, a twenty-seat wine bar inside PUBLIC, which Brad turned into a laboratory for his most original dishes yet, designed expressly to pair with the Monday Room’s eclectic and adventurous wine selections. Brad Farmerie and the AvroKO Hospitality Group have maintained a breakneck restaurant-opening schedule. Saxon + Parole, located in the New York City neighborhood NoHo, opened its doors in fall 2011, again delivering collaborative efforts from a bottomless well of clever-concept decor and innovative dishes, such as portobello mushroom mousse pots with whiskey and truffle jelly. In March 2012, PUBLIC’s Monday Room was replaced with the Daily, a reconceptualized bar with a separate entrance and a new, small plates—and cocktail-focused menu. The year 2012 was particularly productive for the winning team, as they were also busy applying their talents to the historic Fagiani building in the heart of downtown Napa. The revitalized space was opened in August as the Thomas and Fagiani’s Bar, with carefully retained historical flavor and a new wash of the team’s signature food-and-design genius.



hen chefs face their world head-on, the challenges are varied and as unpredictable as black clouds

rolling above their heads, with sudden strands of electricity followed by torrents of beating rain. Despite the food-world glamour, chefs really are mortal beings, and they are destined for a fairly substantial jolt from time to time. The fact that they can have bad days with the potential of turning into bad times brings a bit of humanity to their profession. Brad, of course, is not immune to what chefs call “the full-on kitchen disaster.” Most chefs are not quick to volunteer these nightmares. Other than the occasional high-profile, jaw-crunching fight or expulsion of a food critic, you don’t often hear of those back-of-the-house episodes that attach themselves to the memory portion of the brain like a 54

parasite. In this case, the disaster should be classified as one of the top five most dreaded horrors a chef could imagine: having no gas on opening night. To set the scene: Brad Farmerie, a newly crowned executive chef at PUBLIC; opening night; no gas; staff that couldn’t be taught how to cook the dishes because there was no gas; loading food into taxis and shuttling back and forth between the restaurant and Brad’s brother’s apartment to complete various dishes—realizing that vital ingredients were at the opposite location, and all the while wondering whether a paramedic should be called to stand by in the event of cardiac arrest. The general feel of the day: panic and profuse praying! It’s common knowledge in New York that it is an act of God to have your gas turned on. You have to go through a laborious process starting with a building inspection, which has to occur before the fire department’s approval, as it carries the potential for mandatory code adjustments. Barring any problems with the first two hurdles, you then graduate to Con Edison, and so goes the story. Having all the right people on the case seems irrelevant. The procedural web is staggering, and the time allotments are mysteriously out of whack. Instead of the usual time span, eight in the morning to noon on a particular day, the gas chronicles have created their own cover-your-fanny mandate of any time within a fifteen-day window, therefore rendering themselves “tardy harmless.” Most restaurateurs know that their electricity is going to be on but their gas is another story. Consider that Brad was a thirty-year-old kid and had never opened a restaurant solo. The thought process was that if he just made the decision to open on a certain date and aggressively approached the task of getting the gas turned on, things would turn out fine. The built-in safety cushion was that the restaurant would serve friends and family for the first half of the night and then open to the public for the second half. It was an ominous way to begin, but at the eleventh hour, the gas came on. Brad is grateful that he has staff who still work for him who were there on gas Dday. They can finally laugh about an incident that could have produced a Pavlovian response of the negative variety. The horrific amplitudes of chefs’ kitchen disasters can run neck and neck with some of their experiences surrounding the worst thing they ever ate or tried to eat. Brad’s story is one of those little disturbias that does in fact compare. The culprit: a dish most of us have never even heard of and fortunately never will hear of. The intended dragon to be slain was stinking tofu or chòu dòufu, not exactly a come-hither name. Quite simply, it is fermented tofu, which cures in large vats for up to three months. When the vat is opened, it’s an amusing guess as to who almost faints from the smell and who does faint from the taste. 55

Five or six courageous culinary professionals, chefs, and food writers joined forces in Queens in order to visit a certain restaurant. Their intention was to flex their gastronomic muscles by ordering all the things that would typically extend the wild side of tasting boundaries. Their first mistake was cueing off the diners at the table next to them, who were happily consuming what looked like a weird, fondue-type mixture, and thinking, Yeah, we want that. The waiter’s response was immediate and firm: “No.” The second mistake was ignoring this direct warning. No one was willing to go home defeated, and, thinking it was a “specially made” item, the group again insisted on ordering the mystery dish. And again the waiter told them no but, finally shrugging his shoulders, went back to the kitchen and delivered the order. As the highly anticipated dish neared the table, they could smell the putrid aroma. No one would touch it. All these food people who were going to push the envelope! Brad was the only one who was able to get the tofu into his mouth, and then came the dreaded realization that it wouldn’t go down. Sitting at a table full of chefs and having a massive gag reflex, to the point that his throat simply closed up and wouldn’t allow the tofu to do anything but exit, was a repugnant ending to a dangerous game. If there is humor to be found here, and I certainly feel there is, it would surely be the waiter standing at attention next to the table, just waiting for the moment when he could pick up the whole mess and walk back to the kitchen’s waitstaff, who would immediately sit down and eat the stinking tofu. They knew all along that there was no chance in hell that anyone would get past the first bite, if even that. They were basically preparing their family meal for the night. The “we’re just going for it” spirit of the adventure illustrates how much smell plays a part in the food experience. One of those stories that give us some insight into the building blocks of a chef is one that I am hopeful is an exclusive confession. Our wish is that Brad’s mother, Linda, agrees with the connection and applauds herself for her food-disguising ingenuity. It’s a novel approach that should be widely adapted. Children often don’t like to eat new foods, and they refuse items that they retain on their mental list of loatheand-disdain—or, in kid talk, “weird and gross”—edibles. How to approach this distressing parental problem is the question. Lie and hide is the answer. Brad laughs at the funny ways his mom masked the identity of zucchini. Of course, he knew it grew in the garden, but he never really thought about where it went from there. It was in everything: breads, muffins, pastries, and desserts. Brad didn’t realize until his teens that the chicken patties that he loved so much were actually fresh tuna diced up, breaded, and quickly fried, and sometimes served the whole week because, well, it was the ’70s. Brad’s parents’ first thought about the vegetables coming out of their garden was: How could they 56

be prepared so that their children would eat them? The kids loved the tomatoes and corn but also consumed a great deal of asparagus, which is most often on that “weird and gross” list. The Farmerie family garden is a very strong image from Brad’s childhood and quite possibly has influenced his talent for using and preparing unconventional ingredients.



he various ways in which a chef conjures up new ideas is little explored in the food world, but if you actually

put the question to a chef, he or she revels in thinking and talking about the subject. The primary artistic criteria that Brad consciously begins with when creating new dishes are twofold: tackle preconceived notions about food and replace them with a lasting memory—whether it involves organ meat, game, or vegan cuisine—and highlight the ethnic diversity of foods by using those exotic ingredients and spices that he has experienced through travel. Most of the ingenious magic takes place when he is a little stressed; it occasionally causes mild insomnia. When the noise stops—when he is lying in bed or running on the treadmill—his mind is at ease, and he can begin extracting from the bundled mass of ideas. If he attempts to force creativity, it just doesn’t happen. By far, the biggest trigger is travel—just walking through the streets and markets and, of course, dining out. When Brad isn’t in the kitchen, his talents filter into another vessel, which stores and preserves his consuming passion for photography. His photographs are compositionally and technically quite extraordinary. He is in love with the visual and fortunately has an eye for and attention to structure, balance, color, and so forth. He compares the experience of taking a photograph to that of plating a dish so that all colors are balanced within the arrangement. Harmonious color and composition are also crucial to a good picture. Like a favorite cooking gadget or piece of equipment, warm-and-fuzzy tools-of-the-trade attachments are also important pieces of the photographer’s kit. The feeling of having something substantial across his shoulder or in his hands accounts for Brad’s attachment number one, an old reel-film Canon A1 heavy-body-type camera. And then there’s attachment number two, a new digital Canon G10 with basically the same controls as the reel film camera. Even the film settings can be changed so that the camera will behave as if it has 100- or 1500-speed film. The illuminating factor in decoding these camera choices is Brad’s requisite presence in the driver’s seat, with full control over the desired 57

outcome. Logically, you don’t end up running a kitchen without a strong desire to be top dog in the driver’s seat of a turbocharged sports car, or at least one that has a lot of control choices. With the talent, the desire, and the tools intact, what’s missing? Photographic subject matter is what completes the suite and comes primarily from Brad’s travels. While spending five months in Southeast Asia, he filled numerous books with ideas supported by his photographic storytelling. His camera captured hundreds of ingredients that make up the flavor combinations so representative of the region’s history: fresh herbs that he had never seen before, colorful and unorthodox serving implements—a written and visual story of why the food is the way it is. This mountain of material that he recorded during his many long trips, before moving back to New York and launching PUBLIC, had a profound effect on Brad’s menu development; all the ideas began to blossom into a new and unique cuisine. For a chef, getting out of the kitchen should be a requirement. Back in the city, and especially if he has his kids with him, you’ll never find Brad without a camera. Living in a very industrial part of Brooklyn near the Columbia Street waterfront affords him the opportunity to find articles of interest just by wandering around. Many of the buildings there go back to the 1820s and ’30s; old warehouses, dockworkers, and all sorts of trains feed his love affair with the neighborhood. Bumping up the visual bounty further, Brad lives in his neighborhood’s tallest building; his loft windows offer a view from the Statue of Liberty all the way up to the Empire State Building. He describes it as incredible and beautiful. Looking out a wall of vintage windows at whatever wonder happens to be debuting or returning is the perfect beginning to each day and a velvet conclusion to each night.

BITS + Pieces


avorite herb: cilantro—it’s one of those spices that people love or hate. It reminds me of all the cuisines that

I really love: North Africa, Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and Mexico. Favorite wine: I am a riesling freak—I love aged sémillon. Favorite type of music: Jimmy Hendrix, punk music, and alternative. Favorite singer: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Pretty interesting stuff. He’s got a particular voice. Favorite hotel: Hotel San Jose and Jo’s Coffee in Austin—eclectic. Jo’s is a little coffee shop in a trailer in front of the hotel. Hotel San José is a motor lodge that has been turned into a hotel. I think as soon as you get there, you just 58

feel that you’re someone very unique and very special. Again, it’s not over the top or super luxurious, but they’ve got cool movie and rock posters and interesting throw rugs. Favorite places to visit or vacation: Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, and London. Would like to visit but haven’t been: Lebanon. Favorite places to shop for food: Kalustyan’s Spices and Sweets in Manhattan; Sahadi’s in Brooklyn for its array of spices and interesting things; and Staubitz Market in Brooklyn, established in 1917, one of the oldest food markets still operating in New York—wonderful game, sweetbreads, and customized cut-to-order service that’s difficult to find. Favorite photographers: Elliott Erwitt—fun and timeless photos—and Joanne Savio, who does beautiful portraits and travel-focused work.

Tools + TIPS


he excuse that most people give for not cooking is that they don’t have the time, as Brad phrases it. Fear

not—Chef Farmerie can save the day by saving time. A small electric spice grinder is a wise investment. You can grind your own spices instead of buying preground, which always lose flavor quickly. A mortar and pestle can crush aromatics (herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, shallots, etc.) in order to make quick, easy, and mess-free sauces. Buy a small food processor and keep it on your kitchen counter so you will be more apt to use it. In the restaurant and at home, I use one frequently to save time. Although rather uncommon in America, blue steel pans are a wise choice. They take a little attention in the beginning to “season” and will always have a black finish (I know home cooks like shiny pans), but the blue steel will form a nonstick surface so that you only need to use about one-third the oil that you would normally use.


BRAD’S Menu Story


his breakfast menu is one of the most memora ble that I have created, as it represents one of the momentous

events of my life. A few years back, I met a wonderful woman named Jocelyn Morse at a charity event that she had helped organize for the Children of Bellevue. Drinks led to dinner, which led to future dates, until this chance meeting for charity led me to sneak away from work one afternoon with my brother and purchase the most beautiful engagement ring. I thought that the hard part was now over, but with the ring burning a hole in my pocket, I set my mind in motion trying to figure out an occasion special enough to ask Jocelyn to be my wife. A fancy dinner out? Being in the restaurant industry, we had more than our fair share of fancy dinners out, and that wasn’t special enough to convey my message. A tropical trip? We had a trip to Tahiti planned in search of beaches and relaxation. Perhaps I could attach the ring to the umbrella hanging out of her crazy coconut cocktail. Would it work? Way too cliché. The opposite of what I was searching for. A Far East adventure? We had also planned a trip to China that was a few months away, and I entertained a few fleeting thoughts of me on one knee somewhere along the Great Wall. Way, way too dramatic. I could hear sappy romantic violins playing as I thought about it. More showy than thoughtful for sure. I thought it over on a daily basis for a few months. To let her know how much I cared, I wanted something that was from my heart. I definitely ruled out anything that would be heavily ceremonious. My work schedule was crazy, and I thought of how much I valued the time that we were able to spend together. So eventually, in a moment of clarity, I decided that I would make a leisurely breakfast in bed that took the mainstays of the meal, added a few luxury ingredients so that she would know I was serious, and, to make it mine, gave each dish an unusual twist. I decided that one of the luxury ingredients should be caviar from Russ and Daughters, the one-hundred-year-old slice of NYC. Russ and Daughters is a classic. I would go there for special occasions (or an occasional treat) and peruse the smoked fish and caviar options. 60

A very important part of my plan was to ensure that there was very little time needed to finish the dishes on that day, as time away from my lady was time wasted, and the whole point of breakfast in bed was to enjoy our time together and an amazing meal without tons of work. Fortunately, my breakfast plan worked. She had an inkling of what I was up to and nearly killed me for waiting to ask her to be my wife until the very end of the meal. This delay did not dissuade her, and she said yes—providing us with years of happy matrimony and two amazing children, Bruno and Scarlet. They certainly weren’t lying when they claimed that breakfast is the most important meal of the day—so important that it changed my life.




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BRAD’S Recipes KUMQUAT-GINGER MARMALADE Unfortunately, the kumquat is the misunderstood member of the citrus family. They look so small and funky, yet few people know how to make the most of them at home. My favorite way is to cook them into a chunky, slightly spicy marmalade enhanced with ginger and fall spices. If you’ve never made jam before, this is a good start, as a marmalade is a little more forgiving of under- or overcooking. It seems strange to keep the seeds from the kumquats, but they possess pectin, which is a natural setting agent that helps turn your runny cooking liquid into a delicious spreadable delight. Makes 3 quarts. KUMQUAT-GINGER MARMALADE 2.2 pounds fresh kumquats 2 cloves 1 cinnamon stick 3 star anise 6¾ cups cold water 4 cups orange juice 1 jar (9.5 ounces) candied ginger with juice 5¼ cups sugar TO PREPARE THE MARMALADE 1. Cut the kumquats in half and remove the seeds with the tip of a knife, saving the seeds and any juice that may come out during this process. Chef’s note: If you are having difficulty, it can be helpful to squeeze the kumquat halves gently; the seeds will almost pop right out.

2. Wrap the cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and kumquat seeds in muslin. The ends of the muslin can be tied into a knot to secure the seeds, or a piece of butcher’s twine will do the trick. 3. Place kumquats, water, orange juice, and the muslin bag in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the kumquats are soft. 4. In the meantime, place the ginger and the juice from the jar in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely pureed. 5. Add the sugar and pureed ginger to the pot of cooked kumquats. Chef’s note: There is an old kitchen myth that when making marmalade, you should never add sugar until the fruit is cooked, and who am I to rock the mythical boat? 6. Bring back to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until a thick, jam-like consistency is reached. 7. Ladle the jam into clean and sterilized jars and follow the canning instructions accordingly. 63

ELLEN’S IRISH SODA BREAD Despite the name of this recipe, Ellen Mirsky has never set foot on Irish soil but derives inspiration from all corners of the globe when creating delicious desserts for us at PUBLIC. When I got back to work after a food-and-wine journey through the Emerald Isle, I asked her to put a creative spin on the soda bread that I enjoyed while away. She came up with this tasty treat that is easy enough to make at home yet delicious enough to serve at the restaurant. If you’re going to the trouble of baking these, I recommend that you never make a half recipe, as they freeze so well. Feel free to do what my mother does: bake half of the soda breads for immediate enjoyment and freeze the remaining individual unbaked breads. Just place them in the freezer on a small plate lined with baking paper and, when frozen, transfer them to a Ziploc bag. This way, you will always be moments away from a fresh-baked breakfast treat. Makes 8 4-ounce rounds. SODA BREAD 4 cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup currants 3 tablespoons caraway seeds ½ cup cold butter, cut into ½-inch cubes 2 cups buttermilk TO PREPARE THE BREAD 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 2. Place the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, currants, and caraway seeds) in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until fully combined (about 2–3 minutes). 3. Stop the mixer and add the butter to the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until the butter becomes the size of peas in the flour mixture. Chef’s note: Do not overmix! 64

4. Add the buttermilk to the flour-butter mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. 5. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead a couple of times with the palm of your hand on a lightly floured surface. 6. Refrigerate the dough for about 10 minutes—this will relax the dough and make it easier to work with. 7. When the dough is cold, weigh it out to roughly eight 4-ounce portions and mold each into a round shape. With a sharp knife, cut an X lightly into the dough of each round and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. 8. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 18 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the cooking time so the bread becomes evenly golden brown. 9. Remove bread from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving. TO SERVE Serve with salted butter and kumquat-ginger marmalade.

FRUIT SALAD WITH ROSEWATER SYRUP and SWEET TAHINI YOGURT This is a super tasty way to start the day, inspired by one of the many versions of fruit salad offered by Peter Gordon at the Providores in London. It has the exotic perfume of rosewater syrup and an ethereal sweet tahini yogurt, which hints at Middle Eastern travels. Rosewater and tahini can be found in Middle Eastern markets and even at many upscale grocery stores. Any leftover rosewater syrup can be quite the unusual addition to cocktails or sangria, or drizzled over ice cream, and extra tahini yogurt is great with brownies or chocolate cake. Serves 6. TAHINI YOGURT 1 cup classic whole-milk Greek yogurt (preferably FAGE) or a thick whole-milk traditional yogurt 2 tablespoons honey (or more to taste) 2 tablespoons tahini

2. Add the rosewater. 3. Place in a container and refrigerate until needed.

TO PREPARE THE YOGURT 1. Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. 2. Refrigerate until needed. This can be made a day in advance.

Pineapples Grapefruit Oranges Blood oranges Mangoes Passion fruit Pomegranates Blueberries Blackberries Strawberries Black and white sesame seeds, toasted (optional) Chef’s note: Keep the pieces chunky and rustic, and they will be more fun to eat and produce a more pleasing presentation.

ROSEWATER SYRUP 1 tablespoon water 1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon rosewater TO PREPARE THE SYRUP 1. Place the water and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar dissolves.

FRUIT SALAD I like to make this out of tropical fruits, but feel free to use a selection of local seasonal fruits.

TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Arrange the fruits in a serving bowl, drizzle with rosewater syrup, and top with a dollop of sweet tahini yogurt. 2. Sprinkle with the toasted black and white sesame seeds (optional) and serve. 65


CILANTRO-CURED SALMON WITH COCONUT LABNE and CAVIAR This is a great twist on the traditional smoked salmon with cream cheese. It looks identical to the delicious but uninspired deli breakfast, but this doppelgänger packs layers of unexpected Asian flavors: coriander, cilantro, and nuances of coconut. The look may be familiar, but the taste is modern and memorable. I recommend that you try to cure your own fish, as the flavor will be more interesting than the store-bought variety, especially if you happen to have an engagement ring in your pocket! If you do not want to go to the trouble (or you haven’t planned five days ahead), gravlax or smoked salmon is an acceptable substitute for hard work. Labne is a thickened yogurt that takes on the consistency of cream cheese yet has the fresh acidity that cream cheese often lacks. It is simple to make and is a great base for any flavor that you choose, although after you taste the coconut labne in this recipe, you might look no further for inspiration. “Any occasion for champagne or caviar” is a nice motto, but not necessarily one that all of us can live by. If the occasion is right and celebration is in the air, top this deluxe bagel with some relatively affordable American hackleback caviar and pour yourself a glass of bubbly for breakfast. Enjoy! Serves 6, with good potential for leftovers. CILANTRO-CURED SALMON 1 pound salmon, skin on and bones removed (gravlax or smoked salmon may be substituted if you don’t have five days to cure your own fish) (see Sources: Russ and Daughters) 1/8 cup sugar plus ¼ cup salt, mixed ½ cup chopped parsley ½ cup chopped cilantro

1 spring onion, chopped ½ teaspoon toasted fennel seed, lightly crushed ½ teaspoon coriander seed, lightly crushed Peel from ½ lemon, white pith removed


Cilantro-Cured Salmon continued....

TO PREPARE THE SALMON 1. Lightly score (cut) the salmon on the skin side at 1-inch intervals. 2. Spread the salmon with a thin layer of sugar and salt on both sides, using about 2 tablespoons of the mixture. 3. Place the rest of the ingredients (herbs, spring onions, fennel seed, coriander seed, and the remaining sugar and salt) in a nonreactive bowl and mix thoroughly. Let the mix sit for 15 minutes, after which it will become wet and pliable. 4. Cover the flesh side of the salmon with this mixture and pack it on tightly. 5. Spread some of the mixture in a plastic container and place the salmon on it skin side down. Refrigerate. 6. Flip the salmon daily for five days so that it cures evenly. 7. After five days, remove all of the marinade and pat dry. 8. Just before serving, slice the salmon as thinly as possible. COCONUT LABNE 1 cup Greek yogurt 3 tablespoons Chao Thai coconut cream powder (see Sources: Grocery Thai) TO PREPARE THE LABNE 1. Combine the yogurt and the coconut cream powder in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. 2. Line a colander or sieve with cheesecloth or a clean towel and pour the yogurt mixture in. Place the sieve or colander over a bowl to catch any of the moisture that drains out. Refrigerate for 12 hours. 3. Remove the labne from the towel, place in an airtight con68

tainer, and refrigerate until needed. Chef’s note: This is a great addition to pancakes, muffins, and more, so any leftovers shouldn’t stay on your shelf for long. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE Toasted bagel Coconut labne Salmon Extra virgin olive oil Black pepper Fresh cilantro and dill Thinly sliced breakfast radish 1 ounce hackleback caviar (mildly optional) (see Sources: Russ and Daughters) 1. Cut a bagel in half and toast both sides. 2. Spread a light layer of the labne on both halves; sandwich is to be served open-faced. 3. Place thinly sliced salmon on top of the labne, drizzle with olive oil, and season with a little freshly ground black pepper. 4. Sprinkle the salmon with some fresh dill and cilantro, and scatter the thinly sliced radish on top. 5. Generously garnish with caviar and prepare to ask her to marry you. BEVERAGE SUGGESTION Lychee and elderflower Bellini—or, if you’re proposing marriage, reserve it for toasting when the answer is yes.

LYCHEE and ELDERFLOWER BELLINI I love the fact that the Bellini is a socially acceptable way to drink champagne in the morning but hate the fact that the drink is often a heavy-handed, sweet, fruity twist on the classic from Harry’s Bar—it ends up masking the champagne instead of enhancing it. This rendition gives just a hint of tropical notes to your budget-conscious prosecco or your celebratory champagne. It is a balanced drink that is great on its own or paired with food. With a sweet lift from the lychee, spice from the ginger, and a touch of acidity from the lime, it keeps each and every sip as refreshing as the one before it. Makes 1 glass. LYCHEE and ELDERFLOWER BELLINI One 12-ounce can lychees, drained, juice reserved 1 segment fresh lime 2 wafer-thin slices peeled fresh ginger root (about the size of a quarter) 1 teaspoon canned lychee juice 1–1½ teaspoons Bottle Green elderflower cordial, depending on how sweet you like it (see Sources: Bottle Green, or at Britishfood stores or IKEA) 5 ounces prosecco or champagne

down to the white membrane. Remove any remaining white-colored membrane. Free the lime segments by cutting along the seams that separate them from each other. Do this over a bowl to collect any juices. Reserve the segments separately. 3. Push the slices of ginger and a lime segment into a lychee. 4. Place one stuffed lychee, lychee juice, and elderflower cordial into a champagne flute. 5. Pour in 5 ounces of chilled prosecco or champagne and get ready to celebrate!

TO PREPARE THE BELLINI 1. Drain the syrup from the lychees and reserve both. 2. To segment the lime, cut both ends off the lime and, using a sharp, flexible knife, cut off the entire lime peel

Chef’s note: The bonus at the bottom of the glass is the lychee, which harbors the hidden pleasure of spicy ginger and tangy lime within its walls.



FIG + The Ordinary Charleston, SC 70



ike Lata is a self-taught chef and New England native. He began his culinary career traveling along the

East Coast, working in various kitchens in Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, New Orleans, and Atlanta, where he was chef de cuisine at Jean Banchet’s Ciboulette. While at Ciboulette, Mike made a conscious decision about what type of chef he wanted to become. He made a determined effort to work with local farmers, ranchers, and suppliers whose dedication to natural, sustainable agriculture was evident. He launched an unprecedented campaign to integrate mostly local products into his cooking and became a self-appointed spokesperson for the Georgia Organic Growers Association. Mike’s farm-to-table philosophy and European-style cooking based on the highest-quality seasonal ingredients would become the cornerstones of his career. Mike joined the Charleston dining scene in 1998 as executive chef at Anson, where he held the reins for four years. While there, he hosted the first out-of-house James Beard event in the state of South Carolina. It was also during those years that his active endorsement of local farmers helped guide the conscience of the Charleston culinary scene toward an appreciation for locally grown, seasonal foods. In 2001, Lata fulfilled a lifelong dream of traveling and cooking in France, where he worked and studied French cuisine at Michelin-starred restaurants in Burgundy and southern France. His travels abroad helped shape his philosophy and style of cooking, and many of his dishes on the menu at FIG are directly inspired by his experiences in France. A member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and the cofounder of the local Charleston convivium of Slow Food, Mike Lata continues to be absolutely faithful to the beliefs that make up the foundation of his cooking structure. He appreciates his association with the local, fresh, and sustainable movement and the media’s ravenous headline-grabbing attention to the trend, as well as the accolades that have earned him national recognition, notably his 2009 James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast. Although it’s difficult to top his highly respected Charleston restaurant, FIG, Mike Lata certainly has all the credentials for another success, and its name is the Ordinary Oyster Hall and Seafood Restaurant, which opened its doors in December 2012 in an old bank building on Charleston’s King Street. 71



hef Lata’s self-proclaimed “I can’t say no” disorder comes complete with an imaginary devil and angel,

one on each shoulder. The “time” devil tells him to say yes to everything, tempting him with intriguing projects and people; all the while, the angel voice is screaming, Stop. The devil is keenly aware of the kid-in-a-candy-shop aspect of this malady. The devilish words ring in the chef’s ears: The more accomplished you become, the more opportunities will interest you and the more fun you will have. Seems the devil is winning for now. Since opening his restaurant FIG, Mike has experienced patches of time where he has said to himself, as most chefs have thought at one time, Jesus, why didn’t I think of something that was easier? Why did I pick something so difficult? Being a professional chef is a labor of love, and what else would he be doing? He never actually doubts his decision and realizes that these occasional questions he asks himself are always on the heels of fatigue or simply a bad day. He wakes up most every morning and can’t wait to get to the shop, as he calls it, and see what he can make happen. Mike takes another stab at plotting out the map of chef challenges: “Using all the experience that you’ve acquired produces something that is a cross section of where you are right now, as well as where you have come from—your evolution. That being said, it becomes increasingly difficult to run a business and spend the first four hours of your day with an accountant. All of the sudden you realize, I’m not going to spend any time in the kitchen today. You won’t get to the projects that you wanted to begin or finish. As a chef, you want to get your hands dirty, but you have to do other things. You have to be a businessman, and then you have to be a chef.”



he worst thing Mike Lata has ever eaten, or the worst food experience of his career, considering the

source of agony, is nothing short of shocking, amusing, and possibly instructive. The scene of the crime was Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli, in Roses, Spain, a multiyear winner of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants award produced by the British magazine Restaurant. 72

Mike paid a visit to Spain’s lauded house of divine molecular gastronomy, El Bulli, accompanied by a couple of other chefs: Jean Georges’s executive pastry chef and Top Chef Just Desserts judge Johnny Iuzzini, and Aldea’s George Mendes, a relative up-and-comer in New York City at the time. Alex, a DJ from Brooklyn, joined them for the adventure. It was a first visit for Mike and Alex, but George had worked there for a period of time and Johnny had previously scored an invitation. About thirty-three courses into the meal, and having a great time, Chef Lata was experiencing El Bulli as a phenomenal restaurant that he couldn’t compare to any other one. It was strange and brilliant in many ways, but after a while, he began wishing for something sweet or simply different after the bombardment of so many courses. As these cravings were swimming around in his head, something that looked like a Klondike bar was put in front of him—an innocent little chocolate bar. Just by the look and touch of it, he could tell that it was frozen. The group assumed that it was some sort of frozen chocolate dessert, but as soon as they bit into the mystery bar, they realized that it was a savory gorgonzola cream covered with bitter chocolate, and it smacked them hard. Mike is transported back to that day, and the emotion is still palatable: “It was not the most disgusting thing I’ve ever eaten in my life by far, but at the time, it evoked this reaction of anger. I couldn’t believe how mad I was when I ate it. I glanced over at one of the other guys, and he was deeply mad as well.” I can’t resist asking Mike why he was so angry. “After a while, thinking about what you’re eating becomes fatiguing, and as much as I thought the experience was brilliant, at that moment I couldn’t understand what was happening. I was supposed to be blown away. I was supposed to be impressed. Everything was supposed to be unbelievably delicious, and up to that point, it definitely met my expectations, if not exceeded them. The moment I ate that chocolatecovered gorgonzola bar, as one of the guys said, I just felt as if I had been kicked in the groin. It was repugnant because there had been too much dairy up to that point. The quantity and the mouthfeel, in one small bite, was like eating two tablespoons of gorgonzola wrapped in bitter chocolate. It was a joke. It was a gag—let’s see how far we can push the food envelope—like an injection to wake us up and let us know that we were getting a bit lazy. It was so disgusting that it had to have been done on purpose. The very next course brought us back up.” What you might not ever hear about El Bulli is what was supposed to happen to you psychologically when you dined there. 73



where Mike prefers to live, and his list of pros dominates his one con (at least, the only con I was able to extract). Charleston is long, flat, and straight, never a desired combination for a guy like Mike Lata, who is absolutely bewitched by motorcycles. But what it does offer far outweighs the boring topography. The beach is very close, and three and a half hours away are the mountains, which, when motorcycle mania sets in, provide a brief respite. The surrounding western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and northern Georgia are absolutely beautiful. Charleston is one of the only smaller towns on the East Coast that has such a thriving economy. The history and architecture are captivating. The quality of life is great. There is traffic, but nothing compared with what is considered heavy traffic. And the food scene in Charleston is becoming exponentially more exciting. You’ve got old money, new money, and no money, but there seems to be a common place where all those people can come together and share food. There’s something about Charleston in every magazine, all the time, and they always include a food piece. Mike Lata’s cooking style, simply put, is that the food has to taste alive and fresh. He cooks from the garden and utilizes what the seasons bear. The chef makes no attempt to soften his abhorrence for the buttery or dead or overreduced tastes and flavors that are typical of certain types of restaurant cooking. Mike makes the point that he begins working from the customer’s experience, although he stipulates that even though you’re thinking of the customer, creating a dish must still have a chef’s signature and presentation. “It’s still going to be Mike Lata’s style,” he declares. “It is going to be clean, unfussy, and unfettered. I want people who eat my food to think about their meal on the way home. I want them to wake up in the morning knowing how much better they feel after eating at my restaurant than they did going to so-and-so restaurant the weekend before. I think over time, people will start to realize that we’re very respectful of what they choose to eat and how many courses they prefer. I just want to make sure that I’m a craftsman. I love making beautiful, delicious food. I want the experience to be exciting to the customer because the dish is surprising, delightful, and fresh.”


harleston, South Carolina, is the place



ike was in love with biking long before the distractive entanglement of his teen years. Maybe the ob-

session was lying in wait long before that, but those things are difficult to determine by either the fixated or the bystander. As far as Mike is concerned, he has been riding his whole life. All I can do here is reveal the facts, beginning with my observation of a chef’s life as a constantly erupting volcano spewing its lethal dose of multitasking lava every single day. A chef must manage many things in a single minute, hour, and day, and try to be the best at all of them. The stories and insights Chef Lata shared with me indicate that putting on his helmet and getting on his bike is a kind of challenge to the system in some respect. The limitations become more obvious with every small mistake. Mike’s very first bike was a dirt bike; soon after he left home, he bought his first street bike. He took his first epic trip, from Martha’s Vineyard to Atlanta, Georgia, when he was twenty—on the bike, as you might guess. Having $500 in his pocket made that mode of transportation mandatory. He packed up all the belongings that he wanted to take, which wasn’t much, and put them on an Amtrak train, at a cost of $30. He reasoned that after he was settled in Atlanta, he would collect his things from Amtrak. Getting caught in a tsunami in Gaffney, South Carolina, about two hundred miles from Atlanta, forced Mike to spend his last nickel on a dozen trash bags and a roll of duct tape to make a wet suit. For the motorcycle traveler, unexpected travel occurrences and their corresponding solutions are recognized as standard operating procedure—all in pursuit of reaching a destination. I believe I read this in the Bikers Bible. Next up was a Harley-Davidson purchase. Why a Harley? Well, Mike’s first street bike was a Japanese cruiser, not unlike the Harley. Also, the brand had yet to be too watered down, and it fit the crowd he was running with in Atlanta. After five years, and on into his move to Charleston, Mike sold the Harley to secure the funds he needed to live on while he opened his first restaurant. He waited five years before buying another bike, and when he finally did select a new road warrior, the “culture behind the bike” factor was an essential part of the decision. The Ducati name represented something very different from Harley-Davidson’s—something more exotic. Something that tugged at his heartstrings a little bit more—it seemed like an obvious choice. Eight months after buying the first Ducati, Mike bought another one. He started going to the track here and there. Recreation with friends, rather than competition, was the draw. There were no winners or losers, just the challenge to be better. 75

Mike begins to talk about something called “throttle therapy”: “It’s when you’re off on your own, just you and your bike. You can relax because all you’re managing is yourself and the machine. I go into the mountains of North Carolina several times a year by myself or with a buddy. We just get lost for four or five hundred miles and then find our way again. You find yourself in a zone. When you’re finished, you feel rejuvenated in many ways.”

BITS + Pieces


avorite herb:

parsley, because of its sharp flavor. When very fresh, it can really brighten up a dish in a nonin-

trusive way. Favorite liquor: aged bourbon. Favorite flower: sunflower. They are awesome in many ways; it’s the biggest bang for the buck. Favorite fruits and vegetables: all sautéing greens and salad greens. I get various varieties of lacinato kale, which on the West Coast is called cavolo nero (black cabbage). What grow well in South Carolina are the sun-drenched vegetables. We also have many varieties of peppers and eggplant. Steel peas and butter beans are incredibly delicious here. I have a blueberry bush and have grown watermelons, cantaloupes, and strawberries. Favorite movie: Big Night. I like a war movie. I’m a big fan of The Matrix. I like Apocalypse Now very much. One of my favorite movies is Miller’s Crossing, by the Coen brothers. I think it was brilliant. I like all of Wes Anderson’s stuff, especially The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The miniseries Band of Brothers was pretty incredible. Dream conversation would be with: Jesus. I’m not a religious guy, but I certainly wouldn’t mind talking to Jesus. It would be cool. I have a few questions for him. I would like to find out what the real story is. Favorite things to read: cookbooks. One of my favorites is A Return to Cooking, by Eric Ripert. It’s the first truly successful, original idea for a cookbook in a long time. It’s done really well, and the food is beautiful and inspiring. I also like Flavors of the Riviera, by Colman Andrews. It’s the kind of book that you can read four times and it still gives you as much, if not more. When I get the chance, I’ll pick up a classic. Favorite dishes: egg sandwich on an English muffin with a slice of tomato and fresh herbs. I love vegetables—whole carrots or buttered cabbage. 76

Favorite things to do on a day off: reading, modifying motorcycles, going to the mountains and hiking, watching movies, spending time with my fiancée and young son, which is probably once every three weeks. A typical day off would be getting some early spring cleaning in, making a batch of soup (I don’t cook much at home), and watching a movie.

TOOLS + Tips


ood kitchen knives, to say the least, are essential tools for a chef. Mike Lata’s knives are off the tradi-

tional equipment register. They are rustic, made in France around World War II. One of the vintage knives, a 9.75-inch Sabatier, weighs over a pound. The blade is marked GONON GIRONDE CIE ACIER FORGE, imported by Bridge Company in New York. The acquisition story: Jeff, a knife-broker friend of Mike’s (doesn’t every chef have a knife broker?) in Atlanta came across the knives fifteen years ago. As it is the knife broker’s primary duty to procure and sell knives, he alerted Mike to the unique and scarce Gonon Gironde. Mike obviously respected the blade runner’s find. He bought the first knife for $100. Using it for a few months, he realized that there was a limited number of these knives left in the world—seven or eight—and that he would be smart to snap up those that could be found. He wisely bought six more. Mike continues to use the knives on a daily basis. He loves the rounded French knife shape for cutting herbs. He loves the taper near the heel, which allows him to cut through poultry bones without damaging the blade. He loves that the top is so fine and thin, it can be used to chiffonade parsley or chives as well as, if not better than, any Japanese knife that he has used. As he says of the knife, “It’s a remarkable piece of equipment that I think is beautiful.” I think Chef Lata loves his Gonon Gironde Cie Acier Forge knives.


MIKE’S Menu Story


a m a morning guy and I love breakfast, but as most of y’all might have guessed, the life of a busy chef and restau-

rateur leaves little time for home-cooked meals. I generally get up around 7:00 AM, make calls to our local fishermen, answer email over a latte (homemade, of course), and scurry off to the gym and then on to FIG by 10:00 AM. If I’m lucky, I’ll down a bowl of Grape-Nuts while I’m on the computer. The next time I’ll see my front door usually hovers around 11:00 PM. In a city known for its food, ironically, there are only a couple of places where you can get a properly cooked omelet with local farm eggs, freshly caught seafood, or artisanal grits. Because of this, I’ve started a do-it-yourself breakfast tradition at my house. It doesn’t hurt that Sunday, my day off, follows Saturday night at the restaurant, so some of the extras from the kitchen make their way home with me. Charleston is a port city, so there’s a really distinct cuisine, and certainly there are things that we do here or ingredients that are available to us that may not be found in other places in the country. Some of my favorites—I love great seafood. Charleston has one of the better shrimp ports on the East Coast, and stone crab certainly is a big thing here and becoming bigger. I have a connection to people who grow great corn and a miller that I know personally, so cornmeal waffles have come into play. I just want to embrace what we have available in the country locally.


The following recipes are inspired in part by my backyard summer garden, and by an ever-growing love for South Carolina seafood and the kind of leisure only a Sunday morning can provide.


MIKE’S Recipes ANSON MILLS CORNMEAL WAFFLES WITH SORGHUM SYRUP In 1998, Glenn Roberts (then the director of operations for Anson Restaurant) recruited me from Atlanta to bring a farm-to-table program to Charleston. During my tenure, Glenn and I were toying around with the idea of grinding grits in-house. We started with a tabletop gristmill and eventually graduated to a proper electric mill. The results were fabulous. For the first time, I felt connected to an ingredient that had, for the most part, suffered such a lowly status. Soon after, Glenn went on to found Anson Mills, which has become one of the most significant artisanal mills in the country. This recipe is born from the connection between cook and producer, adding to a repertoire of dishes filled with stories of people and places that inspire. Sorghum is syrup made from a sweet grass, in much the same fashion as cane syrup is made from sugarcane. Over the last few decades, it has become somewhat of a forgotten product. Not until recently has it experienced a resurgence, by and large due to boutique producers and resourceful chefs. Makes about 8 waffles. CORNMEAL WAFFLES 1¾ cups buttermilk 2 whole eggs 1/3 cup melted butter 1 cup almond flour 1½ cups Anson Mills yellow cornmeal (see Sources: Anson Mills) Zest of 1 lemon 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt


TO PREPARE THE WAFFLES 1. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until fully combined. Turn mixer off, lower the bowl, scrape down the sides, and mix for 30 seconds more. 2. Reserve. SORGHUM SYRUP 2 ounces muscovado sugar 1 ounce water 1.5 ounces bourbon barrel-aged vanilla sorghum (see Sources: Amazon) 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

TO PREPARE THE SYRUP 1. Add the sugar, water, and sorghum to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. 2. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until incorporated. 3. Cover and keep warm.

TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1 cup heavy whipping cream 1 tablespoon sugar Confectioners’ sugar for dusting 1. Whip the cream and sugar to medium peaks and reserve. 2. Bake the waffles in a waffle maker until cooked to your liking. 3. Serve the sorghum syrup in a sauceboat and the whipped cream and confectioners’ sugar on the side.


SCRAMBLED FARM EGG and STONE CRAB TARTINE This is a very quick dish. It pays off to preheat your oven on broil and gather all your equipment ahead of time so you can focus on the most important part of the cooking process—the eggs. Serves 4. EGG AND CRAB TARTINE 1 pound picked stone crab, room temperature 8 farm eggs, large or small, shells cracked (or not—just know who produced them!) 1 jumbo heirloom tomato, preferably Black Krim or Cherokee Purple, sliced ¼ inch thick 1 cup loosely packed fresh-snipped fine herbs (chive, dill, basil, chervil, and tarragon are all excellent choices) 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, room temperature 4 slices French bâtard, ½ inch thick 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper TO PREPARE THE TARTINE 1. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and place under the broiler until light brown. Flip and repeat. 2. Place a single tomato slice on each toast. Reserve. 3. Leave the broiler on.


4. In a nonstick skillet over a low flame, add the eggs and stir continuously as the eggs start to congeal—the slower, the better. When the eggs are about 90 percent cooked to your liking, remove from heat, stir in the butter until it melts, and add the stone crabs and the herbs. Heat for 30 seconds and reserve. 5. If the bread has cooled, place it back under the broiler just until warmed. 6. Season the tomato with salt and pepper and transfer each slice to a plate. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE Sea salt Red chili flakes Arugula Radish 1. Divide the eggs among each toast; don’t worry if some of the mixture falls over the side. 2. Sprinkle with sea salt and a few chili flakes. 3. Top with a few leaves of arugula and freshly sliced radish.


SHRIMP and GRITS “MY WAY” Call it redundant, trite, and touristy or what you will, but shrimp and grits is the definitive Lowcountry dish— and my version is as good as good gets. Interestingly enough, historically, this is a breakfast dish. I stick to the same formula as I do with all my cuisine: local, seasonal, and fresh. The best time of the year for this dish, in my opinion, is in the late spring or early summer, when the shrimp are laden with roe and the local produce is in transition from spring to summer. These “roe” shrimp from our waters are the sweetest, most succulent seafood you will ever have the pleasure of eating. Serves 4–6. SHRIMP STOCK 1 pound sweet white shrimp, peeled, deveined, shells reserved 2 sprigs thyme 1 clove garlic, lightly crushed 1 bay leaf TO PREPARE THE STOCK 1. Place the shrimp shells in a small saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. 2. Add the thyme, garlic, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes. 3. Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer and return to the stove to reduce by half. 4. Reserve.


GRITS 1 cup Anson Mills artisanal white corn grits (see Sources: Anson Mills) 1 tablespoon butter Salt to taste 2 shots of Tabasco TO PREPARE THE GRITS 1. Add 4 cups of water to a heavy-bottomed saucepot and bring to a simmer. 2. Gradually whisk in the grits until they are all incorporated, whisking to prevent lumps. Once the mixture returns to a simmer, reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Stir often with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula until the grits are tender (about 45 minutes). 3. When the grits are cooked, add 1 tablespoon butter, salt to taste, and a couple shots of Tabasco. 4. Cover and keep warm.

Shrimp and Grits continued....

SHRIMP 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 large shallot, minced 1 cup tender kale leaves (lacinato or Red Russian), stemmed, cut into 1-inch strips 1 medium sweet banana pepper, cut into ¼-inch rings 12 to 16 sweet, small cherry tomatoes (different flavors, if possible), halved 2 green onions, thinly sliced Salt and pepper to taste TO PREPARE THE SHRIMP 1. Place 1 tablespoon butter into a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. 2. When the butter starts to melt, add the shallots and begin to sweat. Sweat for 2 minutes, then add the kale. 3. When the kale begins to wilt, add 2 tablespoons shrimp stock, banana pepper, and reserved shrimp. Cook for 3–5 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through and the kale is wilted.

4. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter—it should emulsify with the shrimp stock to make a light sauce. 5. Add the tomatoes and the green onions and stir to warm through. 6. Season with salt and black pepper. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Give the grits another stir. If they become too stiff, thin with warm water and stir until they are smooth again (I like mine a little soupy for this dish). 2. Spoon the grits into four to six bowls and top with the shrimp mixture. 3. Add a few more turns of black pepper if you like, and sprinkle with a touch of sea salt.


SUMMER BERRY LASSI I treat this smoothie as either a meal replacement or a nice starter for a Sunday brunch. It is tasty and refreshing, yet hearty enough to be a breakfast on the go. Sometimes I’ll add a couple teaspoons of flaxseed to the blender for that extra-healthy touch. Serves 4. BERRY LASSI 2 cups low-fat Greek yogurt 1½ cups berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.) 1 cup ice 6 medium mint leaves 1 teaspoon rosewater ½ cup honey


TO PREPARE THE LASSI 1. Combine all ingredients in a blender on high speed until very smooth. 2. Serve immediately.



The Chefs speak out

Things Get Spicy


Chef Jason Wilson’s heirloom tomatoes with maletti vinegar, lemon basil aioli,+ parmesan 89


SOFRA + Oleana Cambridge, MA 90



lt hough in this instance, the chef’s notebook reflects the life and times of Maura Kilpatrick, one cannot tell

the story without the inclusion of two outstanding women, Maura and chef Ana Sortun. Two magical creations have been born of their partnership: Oleana, and Sofra Bakery and Café, where the exotic reigns with its French-influenced Turkish dishes. Without their collaborative gifts, visions, and efforts, these successful business ventures would not have been realized in quite the same way. The joint-venture concept gradually floated into focus—indeterminably whimsical, researched, conscious, and subconscious. After graduating from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco in 1994, Maura Kilpatrick moved back to her hometown of Boston and worked for many top chefs there, including Lydia Shire, Moncef Meddeb, Rene Michelena, and Ana Sortun. In 1999 she opened two bakeries, Hi-Rise Bread Company and Hi-Rise Pie Company, where some of her recipes are still in use today. Maura has been recognized with flawless reviews by local Boston press and national magazines that have distinguished her as someone who has developed something wonderfully unique. She was voted Boston’s Best Pastry Chef in 2002, 2007, 2008, and 2009 by Boston Magazine; won a StarChefs Rising Star award in 2009; and received a James Beard Foundation nomination for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Ana Sortun began her career by enrolling in L’École Française in Seattle at the ripe old age of seventeen. After receiving her fluency degree in French, she moved to Paris, where she attended and worked as a stagiaire at École de Cuisine La Varenne. La Varenne, founded in 1975 by British-born Anne Willan, is one of a number of famous cooking schools in Paris founded by women. Ana received her Grand Diplôme from La Varenne and another, for wine studies, from L’Académie du Vin.


With Moncef Meddeb, Ana subsequently opened 8 Holyoke in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she applied her French training but infused it with Mediterranean influences. Ana’s travels and her experience working in the kitchens of Spain, Turkey, Italy, and France shaped the culinary style that she was constructing and that would make her restaurant Oleana, also in Cambridge, a big hit. Ana’s many accolades include receiving the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Northeast award in 2005. In 2006, for her book, Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, she again received a James Beard award for Best New Cookbook, as well as a nomination for Best Cookbook of the Year. In 2001, Ana reunited with Maura Kilpatrick to develop the concept for Oleana. They built their idea around combining the visual styles and flavors of the eastern and western Mediterranean that would offer diners a feast-for-thesenses atmosphere and menu. It was then that Maura really began to fall in love with the exotic flavors and spices for which her desserts and pastries are so well known today. Dotting her dessert landscape are ingredients such as orange blossoms, rose petals, kaymak, and kadayifi, all of which marry perfectly with Chef Sortun’s eastern Mediterranean cuisine. In August 2008, after Oleana’s tremendous success, Maura and Ana opened Sofra, a Middle Eastern café and bakery located on the Cambridge–Watertown border. Sofra was a new slate for Maura’s Middle Eastern cuisines of Turkey, Lebanon, and Greece. In addition to bestowing its 2009 Best Pastry Chef award on Maura, Boston Magazine also named Sofra as Boston’s Best Bakery.



ver the years, Ana and Maura have developed an enviable partnership through the sum of their inge-

nious individuality. Matches made in heaven generally do not flow from the eternal restaurant-relations spigot, but before the two women opened Oleana and became chef stars, they had already evolved their working relationship. Working with Ana gave Maura the encouragement and room to grow and explore on her own turf, and to develop interpretations of many traditional Middle Eastern dishes, such as mezze, flatbreads, and desserts. For Maura and Ana,


experimenting with these dishes has produced a set of advantageous circumstances that lend themselves to taking bold chances with flavors—circumstances not relevant to all chefs. During a trip to Turkey, Maura decided that Middle Eastern food had a lot more to offer than she had previously imagined. An East-meets-West approach would provide the working tools to express more than just the spices—the cooking could now point itself in a completely different direction. Maura envisioned diners walking into the restaurant and immediately sensing that they were going someplace else. They would be disarmed, but open to taking chances. Maura further explains the evolution of her vision: “When I went to different restaurants in Istanbul and saw the desserts, I thought to myself, You’re doing okay, you’re not doing too bad. You’re doing what they do, and you’re taking chances with old-school dishes that cooks in Istanbul would never take. They will roast quince, but I am going to hollow it out and fill it with nougat and take it in a different direction.” “I met a pastry chef from Turkey at the CIA in Napa a few years ago and was talking to him about making muhallabia, a milk-base pudding. He exclaimed, ‘No, you don’t.’ I replied, ‘Yes, I do.’ He was actually pretty surprised that somebody in Cambridge was making all these dishes.” To demonstrate Maura’s philosophy, her recipe for milk pudding vacherin is not Middle Eastern; it’s very French, except for the fact that it calls for mastic, a plant resin widely used in Turkish desserts such as dondurma and puddings like sütlac, salep, and tavuk gögsü. Also, adding milk pudding to something that’s universally accepted, like fruit, simply means taking the unfamiliar and placing it in a familiar setting. I’ll share with you for a moment, so that you may see for yourself, the perfection obsession that grips a chef— somewhat like a mad scientist in the lab straining for a desired result. When Maura began submitting her recipes for my cookbook, Away from the Kitchen, she engaged in a fair amount of “no, let me . . . I want to try something,” and then tweaked a thing or two here and there in pursuit of excellence—which Maura confirms is not, in fact, a reality: “It’s never, ever finished. We made peach tarts yesterday, and I didn’t think they looked good, so we’ll have to change them.” Although nothing specific inspired Maura to pursue a career as a professional pastry chef, I nevertheless dig around


for a reasonable token: “I can truthfully say that my love of baking as a kid, way beyond my abilities, should have been my first clue to what specialty I would follow as a chef.” As is always the case, the chefs’ world changes over the years, but one reoccurring theme continues to narrow the playing field—keeping the momentum going in very diverse directions. After Maura opened Sofra with Ana Sortun, the focus became broader and was no longer just about following a prep list and creating delicious food. As a business owner, Maura calls out the challenges that are necessary ingredients to success: “To be constantly thinking about how to sell more; keeping new things on the shelf; contending with endless distractions; staying organized; keeping systems in place; maintaining a clean workspace . . . never mind the fact that, as a chef, you must be constantly evolving your cooking.”

Speaking OUT


Each chef has a specific corner of this phenomenon that they like to illuminate. The influence it has had on Maura and Ana is, in some respects, no different than it is for any other chef, regardless of their level of celebrity. This duo must accept the fact that anyone can comment by way of food blogs, social media options, and restaurant reviews. By default, chefs are swept along, sometimes kicking and screaming, and occasionally barking back when they perceive a critique as unjust treatment from those who erroneously conclude that they have the skill and knowledge to dole out expert opinions. Fortunately, Maura Kilpatrick and Ana Sortun seem to be of the same mind when it comes to this new wave, and that is to remain focused on who they are, and stay honest to their food and their vision. These are wise women who refuse to be stirred up by the critical discourse of a society that has gone food bonkers. Both Chefs Kilpatrick and Sortun have a vision—or, one might say, a wish—to see a return to cooking basics irrespective of the molecular-gastronomy trend. First and foremost, they believe that food has to be delicious, and no

randing and food TV:


degree of fancy presentation or complex process can mask mediocre ingredients or ghastly food combinations. Less than comfortable with molecular gastronomy, they place their food in a somewhat unique category, as it represents an ancient culture and cuisine. In order to pursue an ethnic avenue, they have had to learn the history behind it, and it’s that knowledge that makes them want to hold close to the traditions. Another of their cooking basics is that chefs should simply learn to taste as they are cooking, in order to adjust flavors along the way and improve their cooking without effort. It’s perplexing that somehow, somewhere along the culinary-training line, many chefs miss this important element. Maura gets to the point: “Their taste buds are not their customers’ taste buds—quite an easy thing to get a grip on, and yet . . . ” On the subject of cookbooks, Maura really loves books that contain something besides recipes—those from which you can learn new things about food, as well as the chef’s philosophy and inspirations. Maura opts to buy organic ingredients. When asked if she seeks out anything special when shopping—e.g., grassfed beef, sustainable fish, particular “gourmet” or hard-to-find ingredients, low-spray or IPM apples—Maura reveals that knowing where the food she buys comes from is of great importance to her. Chef Kilpatrick also admits that when shopping, she is drawn to gourmet items and condiments, particularly different flavors of honey. America’s dysfunctional relationship with food troubles these two chefs, but they are hopeful that the current quest for healthy eating will continue. In an increasing effort to achieve and maintain good health, they believe that more people want to know where their food comes from—how it’s raised or how it’s grown. When talking about the people of Istanbul, Maura is passionately charmed. “They are the most generous people, without any agenda. They will just do nice things for you. I have never experienced firsthand the traditional sofra (a meal laid out on a kilim-covered table or surface), but I did find joy in the spirit of one when Ana and I set out to buy Turkish carpets. The owner of the store we visited was married to a Japanese woman who attended Yale University. We spent the afternoon talking about sofra and food and ended the day with him taking us to one of his favorite restaurants, where they just kept bringing out wonderful dishes. It was really nice.”




always delight in finding out a bout things that many would not ask and many would not tell. I categorize

myself as one who would ask and who does everything in my power to urge someone to tell. Due to the implausibility of asking and receiving an honest answer to the question “What was your most harrowing kitchen disaster?” when the subject is a well-trained and experienced chef whose closely guarded professional image is at risk, it represents my version of a front page story–hungry reporter’s true confession scoop. Maura confesses that her worst kitchen disaster was accidently locking herself out of the kitchen after putting a saucepan of sugar on the stove to make caramel. Yes, she was forced into the embarrassing necessity of calling the fire department and watching, helpless, as they kicked in the door. Last but not least, the little bonus at the end of the locked-door debacle deserves an honorable mention: toxic-smelling variations of sugar burn. Next in the lineup of composure-destroying food disasters is Maura’s “wedding party gone awry.” Making a beautiful wedding cake on a hot summer day and then watching it take a heat-induced, slippery downhill slide was not an expected highlight, but fortunately, Maura, being an accomplished pastry chef, was Johnny-on-the-cake-repair-spot— helpless onlooker, begone. Shh, not many people know this, but one of the most popular items at Sofra is the pumpkin bread, for which Maura gives all the credit to her grandmother—it’s her recipe and a family treasure. I find confessions without the confessor’s intent to be the most delightful. These are the prized insights that yield the wide-eyed expressions of surprise, as in this case, ego is left at the door and real substance walks in. Maura tells me that she continues to be surprised by the recognition she has received. Framing that into words, she explains, “It’s still about the cooking every day.” That statement is stripped down to an essential reality and is very humble, considering Maura’s talent.




hat defines Maura Kilpatrick and Ana Sortun’s style or culinary vision as unique, and what led them

to it? They feel, and I agree, that combining the unique flavors of Mediterranean cuisine in an approachable way is an art. Layering those unique flavors and including texture and temperature to produce more than one experience, on one plate, is part of their equation—dishes that prompt conversation among eaters. A reflection of their restaurants, the chefs stay loyal to the ideal that people can taste it when you have put your heart into your food and cooking. Tracking recipe and food ideas and concepts is rather old-school for Maura; her tear-and-pop method is fast and efficient. She has different folders for each category: cookies, tarts, and savory dishes. She tears out an idea and pops it into the designated folder until a time comes when she can work on the idea that so inspired or interested her. I have never received the response “nothing” to the question “What would you want to do if you weren’t a chef?” When Maura tells me that she could not possibly entertain the thought of any other profession, as boredom would surely sneak up on her thirst for creativity and stimulation, I quickly come to the realization that this fact is, in and of itself, an interesting character revelation. Maura reveals that she is making a tremendous effort to get the rest of her life back by finding new inspiration and meaning outside her career as a professional chef—the life away from the kitchen. She tells me, “I actually woke up this morning saying, Okay, where’s the rest of my life? I left it somewhere. Now, I’ve got to go back and get it. I must figure out how to do that.”


BITS + Pieces


avorite foods: vegetable salads, like mezze and cheese.

Favorite cheese: a simple triple crème from Vermont—it makes an easy dessert with fruit, rose jam, and simit Favorite herbs: unique-flavored ones, like rose geranium and anise hyssop. Favorite wine or liquor: anything with bubbles. What I make for dinner when I am home alone: good ricotta and a salad. Favorite childhood food memory: the tradition of Sunday dinner with my family. Favorite music: country. Ingredients I think are most versatile; those I couldn’t live without: fresh herbs. I love finding uses for them in desserts and experimenting with savory tarts using herbs or spices in the Mediterranean flavor profile. What I would like to do that I haven’t done: learn to play the guitar. Dream place to live: somewhere on the water—even when I go on vacation or look for places to visit, destinations that are on the water always appeal to me first. Would like to visit but haven’t been: Spain and other Middle Eastern countries. Junk or food obsession that I can’t resist from time to time: potato chips. Favorite restaurant for breakfast and lunch: For breakfast, Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown; it serves breakfast all day. For lunch, the Butcher Shop. Favorite city to dine in: New York or San Francisco. Perfect day: go to Maine and hang out close to Perkins Cove, or just go to the beach and have a lobster roll or clams.


Tools + TIPS


when she began to talk—I should say rave—about her favorite kitchen tool, the plastic bowl-scraper. She considers the scraper so indispensible, “it’s practically part of your uniform!” and then jumps into discussing the beloved tool’s attributes: “Not only is it a great tool for its obvious purpose, getting your dough or batter out of the bowl, but it can be used for rolling your cookie dough into logs. To do this, shape your cookie dough into a loose log on a piece of parchment paper. Fold the paper over the log and, by holding just the end of the parchment paper on the bottom, use the bowl scraper to push the top piece of paper into the log. This will tighten the log of dough without your having to roll it back and forth.” Maura has also come up with an uncommon use for the Microplane—ingenious marriages of ingredients with the blade. Freeze a piece of halvah or sweetened chestnuts and grate them on the Microplane in small amounts over desserts. Chef Kilpatrick also suggests assigning your pepper mill additional duty by using it to grind cocoa nibs to produce tiny pieces of chocolate—great for sprinkling on desserts, especially custards.

thought that Maura was a bout to wax poetic


Maura’s MENU Story


was not always interested in Middle Eastern or Arabic cuisine, but, as luck would have it, pursuing this ethnic

avenue has turned into the most creative and inspiring career path. When I got a job working with Ana Sortun at a Mediterranean restaurant, I thought the ingredients were limited to nuts and honey. Through extensive research, experimentation, travel, and homework, I realized that the possibilities were endless. Inspired by countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Greece, Ana and I sought out the definition for the word sofra, which came from an old Arabic word meaning “dining table” or “picnic,” or the square kilim you had your picnic on. Once we learned that sofra was synonymous with generosity and hospitality, the idea came to us that during our travels, we should explore what the essential meaning of the word was to the people of these regions. It was amazing how the word sofra brought a smile to their faces. It so inspired us that we were convinced we could design a restaurant around the Middle Eastern flavor basics, but with an ingenious and fresh interpretation. There are days of any travel adventure that seem to particularly shine. As Ana and I passed a seaside café in Istanbul, our tour guide casually said, “I stole a day there.” I thought that those words were so sweet, like you couldn’t get that time back, but you had a beautiful memory to hold on to. That phrase has since carried the memory of a special time Ana and I spent there. The adaptation of images of the sofra, brought to life in this menu, which has been aptly named “I Stole a Day . . . A Sofra Feast to Remember,” represents modern eastern Mediterranean food and was born from my “stolen day” in a little kaymak shop where Turkish clotted cream has been made the same way for generations.


I was fortunate enough to be given a hands-on yufka lesson from a Turkish chef whom Ana and I had met at dinner the night before, and who very graciously invited us to his restaurant for what was another memorable experience of the day. You’ll learn more about kaymak in my recipe for Turkish pistachio katmer with clotted cream and rose petal jam. Taking the events of my stolen day into consideration, I must add that a good part of my sofra menu inspiration came from memories of roaming the streets and feeling the warmth and hospitality of the people. The sofra feast reflects our contemporary version of traditional Middle Eastern dishes from Turkey, Egypt, and beyond, with recipes representing both sweet and savory flavors. Ingredients such as orange blossoms, rose petals, kaymak, and mahlab will transport you to these exotic lands. You’ll discover unique spices and flavor combinations, especially those that you would not expect in a sweet dish: Tahini and milk chocolate come together in my milk chocolate tahini bites, and for the savory, Aleppo chilies and hawaij join in Ana’s popular Middle Eastern breakfast dish, shakshuka with grilled bread and zhoug. As Ana and I always strive to take chances with the exciting food we have developed for our restaurants, Sofra and Oleana, I am thrilled to share this sofra menu, created especially for you, with all its treasured dishes. I hope it will both surprise and delight you.


Maura and Ana’s RECIPES BLACK PANSY and PROSECCO Yes, real flowers flavor this bright purple syrup. It really just acts as a sweetener and something that will make people happy. Save a few small pansies to float on top. I always look forward to using pansies at the first sign of spring. Serves 6. PANSY SYRUP 1 cup dark pansy petals, loosely packed (See Sources: Whole Foods Market) 2 cups sugar 1 cup water Juice of 1 lemon

4. Add the lemon juice; the syrup will immediately change to a beautiful purple color. 5. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and chill.

TO PREPARE THE SYRUP 1. Pick as many petals from each pansy as possible. Chef’s note: The syrup will be strained, so don’t worry about the remaining stems. 2. Add the pansy petals and 2/3 cup of sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the petals are finely ground. 3. In a medium saucepan, combine the pansy petals with the remaining 11/3 cups sugar and water. Bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup reaches 225°F on a candy thermometer.

TO SERVE 1. Place 2 tablespoons of syrup in each glass and fill with prosecco. 2. Float a few pansy petals on top.

Chef’s note: The pansy syrup can be prepared up to one week in advance and stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.


WELCOMING SPOON SWEETS WITH SIMIT and YOGURT It is a tradition in the Middle East to offer spoon sweets, a gesture of hospitality for guests when they arrive at your home. The fruit is usually in sweet syrup and served in small quantities on a spoon. I think it is a kind and generous way to begin a meal. I love adding spices and herbs to unexpected items and in unexpected combinations. Cherries are one of the most traditional spoon sweets; I often add star anise, cloves, and a hint of freshly ground black pepper at the end. Last summer, I tried nectarines with ground fennel seeds for the first time and found a new favorite. Making your own spoon sweets is fun, but you can also use fresh fruit, honey, or your favorite preserves. Be sure to serve the spoon sweets and simit with a high-quality Greek yogurt. Serves 6–8. CHERRY ALMOND SPOON SWEET Makes 3 cups 4 cups pitted bing cherries, cut in half 1 cup sugar 3 tablespoons brandy 3 whole star anise 3 whole cloves Juice of 1 lemon 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ½ cup whole blanched almonds, toasted (optional)

TO PREPARE THE SPOON SWEET 1. Combine the cherries, sugar, brandy, star anise, and cloves in a medium saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat to soften the cherries and release the juices. 2. Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon and set aside. 3. Return the remaining juice to medium heat, add the lemon juice, and continue cooking with star anise and cloves until slightly thicker, about 5 minutes, stirring often. 4. Remove the syrup from the heat and strain over the reserved cherries. 5. Stir in the freshly ground black pepper and chopped almonds. Chef’s note: The cherry almond spoon sweet can be made three to five days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.


Spoon Sweets continued....

NECTARINE FENNEL SPOON SWEET Makes 4 cups 2½ pounds nectarines (approximately 8–10), seeds removed and cut in half 2½ cups sugar ¼ cup honey ¼ cup lemon juice 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest 2 teaspoons ground fennel seeds 1 teaspoon orange blossom water Chef’s note: Use only 2 cups for the nectarine fennel spoon sweet; puree the remaining 2 cups of nectarine-fennel mixture with a hand blender or in a food processor and strain through a fine mesh strainer. This will yield 1¼ cups to be used for the Syrian shortbread, page 119.

TO PREPARE THE SPOON SWEET 1. Cut nectarines in half and cut each half into six chunks; you should have 1½ pounds of fruit after cutting. 2. Combine the nectarines, sugar, honey, lemon juice, orange zest, and ground fennel seeds in a large stainless steel bowl. Stir well. Let macerate at room temperature for 3 hours, stirring occasionally to ensure that all the sugar is dissolved. Strain the syrup and reserve the nectarines. 3. Pour the syrup into a large saucepan and bring to a gentle boil for 5–8 minutes to thicken; do not caramelize. 4. Add the reserved nectarines, bring to a boil, and continue cooking at a low boil for 5 minutes. Skim off the foam as needed. 5. Immediately spread the nectarine mixture on a baking sheet or container to cool in a single layer. 6. Stir in the orange blossom water.


SIMIT Simit is a type of eastern Mediterranean bread, usually circular in shape, coated in sesame seeds and commonly sold by street vendors. In Istanbul, we saw vendors carrying trays of them on their heads. Simit is flavored with mahlab, an aromatic spice made from ground cherry kernels. Mahlab adds sweetness and changes the texture of this yeasted bread into bread with the right balance of crumb, moist texture, and deep rich flavor. The use of mahlab is considered decadent and will be very much appreciated by your guests; it is perfect for the sofra we are creating. Makes 2 loaves (approximately 12 servings). SIMIT 2 teaspoons dried yeast ¼ cup warm water Pinch of sugar 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour 1 tablespoon salt 2 tablespoons sugar 1½ teaspoons ground mahlab (see Sources: Penzeys Spices—sells only whole, so it must be ground, or you can purchase whole or ground from Kalustyan’s) 2 eggs 9 ounces (18 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature, diced 3 eggs plus 2 tablespoons milk for egg wash 1 cup sesame seeds


TO PREPARE THE SIMIT 1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar and set aside for 10 minutes until frothy. 2. Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of a mixer; mix in the sugar and mahlab. 3. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment, set the speed on low, and add the yeast mixture. 4. Continue mixing on low speed; add 2 eggs, one at a time. While on low speed, add the butter in pieces until the dough is smooth (the dough may come together before all the butter is added). Increase the speed to medium for 20–30 seconds. 5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.

Simit continued....

6. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Shape each portion into an 8-by-2½-inch log. If you are baking the loaves right away, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic and let proof at room temperature for 1 hour until soft. The loaves can be prepared to this point one day in advance and refrigerated overnight. 7. Preheat the oven to 325°F. 8. Whisk together 3 eggs and milk for the egg wash. Place sesame seeds in a bowl. Roll each log in the egg wash and then in the sesame seeds, coating completely, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

9. Bake for 30–35 minutes until lightly browned and cracked; logs will be slightly soft in the center. Cool completely. Slice each log into 1-inch slices. Chef’s note: Simit are best served the same day, but the logs can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for two weeks. TO SERVE Sofra begins with an informal buffet to welcome guests. Set out the spoons, bowls of spoon sweets, simit, and a big dish of Greek yogurt and let everyone help themselves.


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TURKISH PISTACHIO KATMER WITH CLOTTED CREAM and ROSE PETAL JAM The pastry used to make this Turkish specialty is called yufka, which is similar to a tortilla, but much flakier, and delicious when brushed with all the butter required to cook the katmer. I was served a version of this dessert in Turkey that had pistachios layered between sheets of yufka and dusted with powdered sugar. One of the most memorable days of my trip to Turkey was a visit to a tiny kaymak shop where the kaymak is still made as it has been for generations. This pastry is traditionally served with homemade kaymak, although re-creating kaymak in the United States is a very difficult and lengthy process that produces only a small yield. The Turkish version is made with unpasteurized milk. English clotted cream (sometimes called Devon cream) or mascarpone are suitable substitutions. Serves 6–8 (makes enough to use in both the pistachio paste and the rose petal jam). SIMPLE SYRUP 2½ cups water 2½ cups sugar TO PREPARE THE SYRUP Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar and boil for 1 minute. PISTACHIO PASTE 1½ cups pistachios ¾ cup simple syrup ½ teaspoon rosewater TO PREPARE THE PASTE 1. Place the pistachios, rosewater, and simple syrup in the bowl of a food processor.

2. Process for 20 seconds and then pulse 6–8 times until the ingredients are combined and pistachios are in small, chunky pieces. Chef’s note: Mixture will appear wet, but the nuts will continue to absorb the liquid as it sits overnight. Chef’s note: The pistachio paste can be made three to five days in advance and refrigerated for up to five days. ROSE PETAL JAM We use pink beach roses that we buy from a farmer in Westport, Massachusetts. Every June, we look forward to the roses’ arrival in anticipation of cooking several large pots of rose petal jam at once, and to the beautiful scent of roses filling the kitchen and the streets outside.


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The jam can be frozen for up to six months. As this recipe makes more than you will need, you can use it to fill cakes or serve with ice cream, simit, cheese, or fresh berries. If beach roses are not available, use the pink petals of unsprayed roses, but the beach roses have a softer texture when cooked. Makes 2 cups. ROSE PETAL JAM 3 cups simple syrup 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 teaspoons rosewater (see Sources: Amazon, for Mymoune rosewater) 3 cups pink beach-rose petals, lightly packed (available at any local florist that carries unsprayed pink roses or pink beach roses) TO PREPARE THE JAM 1. Combine the simple syrup, lemon juice, and rosewater in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. 2. Add the rose petals, pressing them into the syrup. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking at a low boil for 20–25 minutes, until reduced by half. Chef’s note: To test for the proper thickness of the syrup, place a spoonful on a chilled plate. If you can run a spoon through the syrup and the line remains, remove from heat. 3. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight; the jam will thicken as it chills. 4. Taste the jam the next day for sweetness, and add a bit more lemon juice if needed. Chef’s note: The jam can be frozen for up to six months. 110

YUFKA DOUGH 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling out the dough 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons canola oil 2/3 cup lukewarm water ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled Chef’s note: Yufka dough should be made at least one day in advance. TO PREPARE THE DOUGH 1. Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. 2. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the oil and water. 3. Using your hands or a plastic bowl scraper, draw the flour from the sides into the middle while turning the bowl until all ingredients are combined. The dough will be sticky. 4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 3 minutes. 5. Cover the dough with plastic or a towel and let it rest for 15 minutes. 6. Finish kneading the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Chef’s note: Doing the kneading in two stages will prevent overworking the dough. 7. Press the dough into a flat circle, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Chef’s note: It is very important to rest the dough in order to make it easier to roll very thin and prevent shrinking.

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TO ASSEMBLE 1. Divide yufka dough in half. Work with only one half at a time, refrigerating the second half. 2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 14by-14-inch square, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 5 minutes. 3. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into four 3½-inch strips. 4. Spoon 2 tablespoons of pistachio paste onto the bottom half of each strip. 5. Fold top half of the strip over pistachio paste and press together the bottom and side edges to seal—the shape will resemble a Pop-Tart. Chef’s note: It is not necessary to form a perfect rectangle; you can trim it into shape with the pizza cutter. 6. Brush a parchment-lined baking sheet with melted butter. 7. Place sealed katmer on a baking sheet and brush the tops with butter. Chef’s note: Keep the katmer in a single layer; do not stack them on top of each other. 8. Place finished katmer in the refrigerator to rest. Chef’s note: This will prevent pastry from shrinking when baked.

TO COOK 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 2. Brush the tops of katmer with a small amount of additional melted butter, and bake for 12–15 minutes, until crispy. TO SERVE Powdered sugar for dusting Clotted cream or Devon cream (see Sources: Whole Foods Market, and select grocery stores) Rose petal jam 1. When ready to serve, reheat katmer at 350°F for 8 minutes and dust with powdered sugar while still warm. 2. Top each katmer with a generous tablespoon of clotted cream and a spoonful of rose petal jam.


SHAKSHUKA WITH GRILLED BREAD and ZHOUG A favorite recipe by Ana Sortun is shakshuka, which means “all mixed up” in Hebrew. Although it is the most popular breakfast in Israel, other Middle Eastern countries claim a version of their own. The eggs are poached directly in spicy tomato sauce, so it is important that the sauce be properly seasoned and warmed before adding the eggs. The recipe calls for hawaij, a traditional Yemeni spice blend; curry can be substituted. Aleppo chilies are dried red chilies from Aleppo, Syria. Serves 6–8. TOMATO SAUCE Makes 8 cups 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 4 teaspoons (about 4 cloves) finely chopped garlic 3 28-ounce cans chopped, seeded tomatoes (do not drain) 1½ teaspoons Aleppo chilies (see Sources: Penzeys Spices or Kalustyan’s) 1 tablespoon hawaij powder or curry powder (see Sources: Kalustyan’s if using hawaij powder, or Penzeys Spices if using curry powder) 1–2 tablespoons lemon juice Salt to taste


TO PREPARE THE SAUCE 1. Combine the oil, garlic, tomatoes, Aleppo chilies, and hawaij or curry powder in a large saucepan. Chef’s note: The sauce should have a smoky, spicy curry flavor. 2. Simmer on low heat until the tomatoes are soft, about 15–20 minutes. Chef’s note: It is important to cook the sauce slowly so that tomatoes become soft enough to puree without reducing too much; sauce should still be in a liquid, somewhat chunky state. 3. In a blender, puree the sauce in two or three batches until very smooth. 4. Season with fresh lemon juice and salt to taste. Chef ’s note: The tomato sauce can be prepared and refrigerated up to three days in advance.

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ZHOUG Zhoug is a Syrian chile paste. This recipe will make more than you will need, but the extra sauce can be served with grilled chicken or fish or as a sandwich condiment. The zhoug can be made three days in advance and refrigerated. There is enough sauce to poach eight eggs in a 13-by-9-inch glass-baking dish. Makes 1¼ cups.

TO PREPARE THE BREAD 1. Brush the bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 2. Grill or toast the bread under the broiler for 4–5 minutes. Chef’s note: The shakshuka will be served on top of each slice of bread. It’s a good idea to toast and serve the rest of the loaf of bread at the table to soak up all the spicy tomato sauce.

Two 3-ounce Hungarian wax peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped (see Sources: Whole Foods Market) 1 cup cilantro (leaves and stems) ½ cup flat-leaf parsley 2 garlic cloves ½ teaspoon ground coriander ½ teaspoon ground cumin ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 1½ teaspoons sherry vinegar Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


TO PREPARE THE ZHOUG 1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender except the salt and pepper and blend until smooth. 2. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. GRILLED BREAD 12 slices of bread (baguette or coarse-textured country style), cut diagonally into ¾-inch-thick slices ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 2. Pour the spicy tomato sauce into a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish and place in the oven until evenly heated, about 20 minutes. 3. Gently break 6 eggs directly over the heated tomato sauce, arranging them in two lines of three, leaving space between each egg to allow easy transfer to serving plates. 4. Lightly salt each egg before placing the pan back in the oven. 5. Bake for 20–24 minutes until whites are just barely set and the yolks are very loose. Chef’s note: The object is perfect, very softly poached eggs. 6. Remove the shakshuka from the oven. 7. Gently spoon a generous amount of tomato sauce over each egg and place eggs on top of the grilled bread slices. 8. Place a small spoonful of zhoug on top of each egg white.

MILK PUDDING VACHERIN WITH FRESH BERRY and MINT SYRUP Use fresh mint and a beautiful assortment of fresh berries at their peak for a light, refreshing dessert. The milk pudding is made with labne, a strained yogurt that is available at Middle Eastern markets. The crisp vacherin with milk pudding sits in the center as a contrast with the colorful berries, and the milk pudding will flow out into the mint syrup. Serves 8. MINT SYRUP 4 cups water 2 cups sugar Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon 2 bunches (4 ounces) fresh mint 3 cups cherries, pitted and halved 1 pint blueberries 1 pint blackberries 1 pint raspberries 1 cup red currants Salt to taste TO PREPARE THE SYRUP 1. Combine the water, sugar, lemon zest, juice, and fresh mint in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes. Remove from heat. 2. Strain the syrup into a large bowl placed over another bowl of ice. 3. Immediately stir in the cherries. Chef’s note: The fruit is added

in stages, from the sturdiest to the most fragile, for flavor and to ensure that it remains intact in the syrup. 4. After the cherries have flavored the syrup for 5 minutes, add the blueberries; after 3–4 minutes, add the blackberries. Reserve the raspberries and red currants, which should not be added until serving. 5. Taste your syrup at this point and add salt as desired, or, for a stronger mint flavor, brew some mint tea and add to taste. MILK PUDDING There are many variations of this popular Middle Eastern dessert, also known as muhallabia. I have used both mastic and yogurt to flavor this dish. Mastic is a spice made from the crystalline resin of the lentisk tree (evergreen shrub) from the Greek island of Chios and has a pine flavor. It is important to use it sparingly, because too much is not pleasant in flavor or texture. It comes in crystal form and has to be ground with a small amount of sugar using a mortar and pestle. The sugar will prevent the mastic from becoming gummy. Mastic can also be used to flavor ice creams, cookies, breads, and sauces. 115

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MILK PUDDING 1/8 teaspoon ground gum mastic (see Sources: Kalustyan’s, and Middle Eastern markets for smaller quantities) Chef’s note: Gum mastic comes whole and must be ground in a spice grinder. ¼ cup sugar 2½ tablespoons cornstarch 2 cups milk ¾ cup labne (strained yogurt) (available at Middle Eastern markets and many health-food stores) TO PREPARE THE PUDDING 1. With a mortar and pestle, grind the mastic with ¼ teaspoon of sugar. 2. Whisk the ground mastic, remaining sugar, cornstarch, and ¼ cup of the milk in a bowl. 3. Pour the remaining milk into a saucepan and bring to a boil. 4. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture immediately. Lower the heat and whisk continuously until thickened, as milk burns quickly. 5. Pour the thickened milk into a bowl placed over an ice bath, and whisk continuously to cool. 6. Whisk in the labne until very smooth. Chef’s note: The labne will prevent the cornstarch in the pudding from becoming too firm. 7. Pour the milk pudding into a container and refrigerate until ready to serve.


VACHERIN A vacherin is a classic French dessert, and one of my favorites because of its versatility. It is simply a crisp meringue basket cooked at a low temperature so that it remains white. It can be challenging, but once it is filled with the milk pudding, it will form a dramatic white circle in the center of the colorful berries, and the milk pudding will flow into the mint syrup. The meringues can be baked up to five days in advance and kept in an airtight container; if exposed to air, they become sticky and soft. You will need a pastry bag with a small plain tip (¼ inch or smaller). Disposable plastic pastry bags are available at craft stores. Makes 12 meringue baskets—use the best ones. The remaining meringues can be crushed and served over ice cream. MERINGUE ½ cup egg whites (4 eggs) Pinch of cream of tartar (optional) 1½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar Pastry bag with a plain ¼ inch tip

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TO PREPARE THE MERINGUE 1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. 2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw 2-inch circles on the parchment paper. Turn the paper over on the baking sheet. 3. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer and whip on medium speed until frothy; add the cream of tartar. 4. Increase the speed, slowly adding the confectioners’ sugar. Continue whipping on high speed until very stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes. TO ASSEMBLE AND COOK 1. Place a ¼-inch pastry tip into a piping bag and cut an opening in the point. 2. Start each vacherin by piping a flat coil inside the parchment paper circles to form a bottom; continue piping around the outside of the circle to form the walls of the basket, about 1–1½ inches high.

3. Bake for 1½–2 hours. 4. Let the vacherins cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet. 5. Carefully lift each vacherin with a small spatula and place in an airtight container at room temperature. Chef’s note: Wrap the container in plastic to ensure crispness. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Place a vacherin (meringue basket) in the center of each serving bowl. 2. Use a plastic piping bag to fill each vacherin with the milk pudding until level with the top. 3. Spoon the mint syrup and berries around the outside of the vacherin and trim with the reserved raspberries and red currants.


MILK CHOCOLATE TAHINI BITES I recently have found new ways to incorporate tahini into desserts like cookies or ice creams. When I first saw tahini used in a ganache, I thought it was brilliant. Getting the proper ratio and texture was challenging. It is important to take the time necessary to fold in the tahini and butter in order to achieve the silkiness and perfection of these candies. The candies are ready to serve right from the foil cups. Makes 32 small candy cups. MILK CHOCOLATE TAHINI BITES 8 ounces tahini, preferably a dark-roasted brand (available at Middle Eastern markets and select grocery stores) 1 pound Valrhona Jivara milk chocolate (see Sources: Whole Foods Market and select grocery stores) 3 ounces butter, very soft ½ cup sesame seeds Small foil candy cups

2. Remove the chocolate from the heat, dry off the bottom of the bowl, and place on a dry towel on a countertop. 3. Add the tahini mixture to the chocolate in three batches, folding and turning the bowl until well combined. 4. Add half of the soft butter and fold and turn until the butter disappears. Add the remaining butter and continue stirring until very smooth. Chef’s note: It is important to stir slowly, so that too much air is not incorporated into the mixture.

TO PREPARE THE TAHINI 1. Place the tahini in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until it is very smooth and all the oil is incorporated, about 30 seconds, or whisk by hand until you obtain the same result. Chef’s note: It is important to completely emulsify the tahini. 2. Keep at room temperature.

TO ASSEMBLE 1. Place the foil cups in mini-cupcake pans to hold the shape of the chocolates. 2. Pour the chocolate mixture into the foil cups. 3. Sprinkle a few toasted sesame seeds in the center of each candy. 4. Let the candies stand at room temperature for 1 hour before removing the foil cups from the cupcake pans.

TO PREPARE THE CHOCOLATE TAHINI 1. Place the milk chocolate in a large bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. The bowl should not touch the water. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. 118

SYRIAN SHORTBREADS Each Middle Eastern country has a version of shortbread. I decided to turn this version into thumbprint cookies. Made with clarified butter, they have a very delicate, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Makes 30 cookies. SHORTBREAD 1 cup (8 ounces) clarified butter 2/3 cup sugar 2 cups flour ½ teaspoon salt 1¼ cups nectarine fennel puree from the spoon sweets (page 105), or a jam of your choice TO PREPARE THE SHORTBREAD 1. To clarify the butter, melt 3 sticks unsalted butter (12 ounces) on low heat or in a microwave. Gently pour off the top portion of the butter, leaving the darker milk solids behind. Chef’s note: The preferred method is to microwave the butter, as the milk solids fall to the bottom of the dish, leaving the liquid portion on top so that you can easily pour off the 1 cup needed. 2. Let the clarified butter sit at room temperature for 1–2 hours or overnight until the butter is solid but still soft to the touch. 3. Place the clarified butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and mix well until combined. Chef’s note: It is easiest to combine these ingredients in the bowl of the mixer you will be using. 4. Refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes. When the mixture is chilled, beat on medium-high speed in the mixer for 5 minutes, until very light and fluffy (the consistency of whipped cream). Scrape the bowl. Add the flour and salt. Beat until smooth.

5. Chill the dough in a covered mixing bowl, or wrap it in plastic until firm. This can be done one day in advance. 6. Using an ice cream scoop to form the cookies, place level scoops on a baking sheet. Chill the cookies for at least 30 minutes before scooping out the centers. 7. Use a melon baller to carefully scoop out the cookie centers by turning the cookie as you rotate the baller. The dough from the centers can be reformed into the ice cream scoop for more cookies. Chill the completed cookies for 1 hour. Chef’s note: It is important that the cookies go into the oven cold. 8. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Fill the centers of the cookies with the reserved nectarine fennel spoon sweet. 9. Bake for 25–30 minutes. Chef’s note: Shortbreads will crack slightly but should not change color at all. Cool the shortbreads completely before removing them from the pan by sliding the parchment off the baking sheet and directly onto the counter. These are very delicate cookies and too fragile to pick up if not completely cooled.


SOFRA’S HOUSE CHAI TEA In Turkey, you always receive your tea in a glass with a little saucer. Tea is sold in these glasses on the street, and when you’re finished, you can set your glass down anywhere, and someone will come by and pick it up. Because so much of my food is built around spices and spice blends, I had to create a unique blend for chai. It is not as sweet as many chai teas, in order to bring out the subtle flavors of the spice blend. Makes 6 8-ounce portions. CHAI SYRUP 3 cinnamon sticks 4 teaspoons whole black peppercorns 4–5 whole green cardamom pods, cracked open (see Sources: Penzeys Spices) 1 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground ginger Tiny pinch of saffron (see Sources: Penzeys Spices) 1½ tablespoons finely grated lemon zest 2 cups sugar 4 cups water TO PREPARE THE SYRUP 1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by half, approximately 25 minutes. 2. Once the syrup is cooled, transfer to a small container and refrigerate overnight with spices.


TO PREPARE THE CHAI TEA 1. To brew, use a loose tea, such as Blue Flower Earl Grey, or a similar high-quality black tea. 2. Steep 1 ounce loose tea in 6 cups hot water for 8–10 minutes. Strain. 3. Strain the chai syrup and combine with the strained, brewed tea. Chef’s note: The tea can be prepared up to this point three days in advance and refrigerated. TO SERVE 1. Add 3 cups of whole or reduced-fat milk to the chai tea. 2. To serve warm chai, warm the tea over medium heat or use a coffee frother to steam. 3. To serve iced chai, pour the tea into a large pitcher of ice. Chef’s note: Serve in Turkish tea glasses (optional) with labne and pita bread, or any of the Sofra menu sweets.



HIghlands Bar and Grill Birmingham, AL 122



rank Stitt’s fondness for hu mble Southern ingredients comes directly from his roots in rural Alabama.

He grew up in Cullman, a leading agricultural county in North Alabama, where there was a great deal of pride in being a small family farmer. From an early age, Frank developed a spiritual connection to food, to the land, and to farming. However, there was another side to his childhood. Stitt’s father, like his before him, was the county doctor, and his love of travel exposed young Frank to cosmopolitan cities and leading restaurants. In fact, he was equally at home experiencing some of the great restaurants of New York and New Orleans as he was picking the first tender shoots of asparagus with his grandmother White in her beloved garden. Frank’s culinary journey began to take shape when he moved to San Francisco, where he studied philosophy at UC Berkeley, although he noticed that cookbooks were taking precedence over the works of Plato and Kierkegaard. Frank also started his next food chapter, but it wasn’t in another cookbook he had acquired; it was a direct leap into the Bay Area’s various restaurant kitchens, including Alice Waters’s now-legendary restaurant, Chez Panisse. Not long after his arrival there, Waters introduced Frank to Richard Olney, who at the time was working on Time Life’s The Good Cook cookbook series, which particularly clicked with Frank on an intellectual level. Frank felt that the series’s value was in its comprehensive nature, with its sections on buying, storing, preparing, cooking, and serving food. Frank describes the feeling of being so inspired by cookbooks like these, and his immersion in actually learning the craft of cooking: “I realized that this was exciting, fun, creative, and satisfying. You were able to turn people on and make people happy. You got to make yourself happy. It was a very centrally satisfying thing.” Frank’s professional path evolved further as he worked alongside Jeremiah Tower, Steven Spurrier, and Simca Beck. Eventually, his travels throughout the French countryside led to his working in vineyards in both Provence and Burgundy and to a realization that he wanted to do something with wine as well, though he didn’t know what yet.


Chef Stitt decided to make his way back to Alabama—a return to the Southern foods and traditions of his childhood. He would eventually pepper Birmingham with restaurants that celebrated those traditions. His flagship restaurant, Highlands Bar and Grill, opened in 1982 and was an immediate success. Its menu combines simple Southern ingredients, such as stone-ground grits and country ham, with French sauces and braises. Bottega followed in 1988, Café Bottega in 1990, and Chez Fonfon in 2000—all in Birmingham, of course. When it comes to recognition, Frank has been nominated for and won so many awards that a lengthy chronology would be necessary to accurately represent his achievements. Let’s run through some of the high-hanging fruits of his labors: In 2012, the James Beard Foundation nominated the Highlands Bar and Grill for the fourth time as the most Outstanding Restaurant in the United States. Frank received Best Chef: Southeast nominations between 1996 and 2000 from the James Beard Foundation and took home the award in 2001. He received a JBF nomination in 2008 for Outstanding Chef. In 2006, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance, and in 2009, he was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, the most distinguished award given to an Alabamian. The year 2004 marked the release of Stitt’s first cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill, named the best cookbook of 2005 by the Southeastern Booksellers Association. Stitt’s second gem of a cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair with Italian Food, combines the fundamentals of Southern cooking and Italian tradition. Chef Stitt is highly committed to the ideals of sustainable agriculture and humane animal husbandry. He and his wife and business partner, Pardis, founded the Slow Food chapter in Birmingham in 2006, and Frank is a standing board member of the Jones Valley Urban Farm and Pepper Place Farmer’s Market, both in Birmingham. Frank and Pardis live in Birmingham with their two children, Marie and Weston. The Stitts have a working farm about an hour away, where they raise chickens, gather eggs, and grow produce for use in all of their restaurants.




rank’s favorite foods are seafood and freshly picked seasonal vegetables. He especially loves to cook and

consume braised dishes, such as lamb or guinea hen. A food that he doesn’t like is licorice. Zapp’s potato chips are in Frank’s hard-to-resist category, so without guilt, he just indulges now and then. Frank’s strongest positive childhood memory of food is gobbling blackberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream on July Fourth at his grandparents’ farm. His worst, most disgusting food-consumption experience was a spleen sandwich at the Palermo Market in Italy. As I see it, Frank understates (we’ll get to this) the “disgusting” aspect, willing to say only, “I wasn’t so crazy about the texture.” Sorry about that. To be in Chef Stitt’s presence is to witness his casual, understated manner that frequently packs a “big things with little effort” punch, so unfettered that its innocent charm is almost disarming. As we discuss the topic “If money were no object, what would you have an unlimited supply of?” Frank responds in his soft Southern voice, “If price were no object, I would have an unlimited supply of the best caviar, truffles, and champagne. Krug is always enjoyable, and you can never have too many bottles of Château d’Yquem.” Beginning to see what I mean? In an ideal world, Frank’s favorite places to shop for food are the Boqueria in Barcelona, the Rialto markets in Venice, Italy, and the markets in Antibes. In his own Birmingham backyard, so to speak, is the Saturday morning Pepper Place Market. Not in his city, but a place he loves to take people, is Russ and Daughters in New York for smoked salmon. Frank’s most treasured family recipe is his mother’s fig and lemon preserve. A recipe that he would love to find would be one for the perfect porchetta, sometimes called porketta—stuffed and rolled whole pig. Frank classifies having removed a boneless, stuffed rabbit from the oven with a wet kitchen towel as his kitchen calamity. When the moisture from the damp kitchen towel came in contact with the hot pan, it immediately radiated through to his hands. The pan, the rabbits, and Frank hit the floor. The band of ingredients that he used together that most surprised him was cumin, fennel seeds, olives, and laurel leaves; whether he served it with fish, pork, or lamb, it generated a wonderful, exotic result. 125



ll chefs seem to savor their own verbiage, even though they know it floats somewhere in a bottomless pool

of dialogue regarding local and organic ingredients. They want to give credit to both the local agricultural traditions and national organic standards. Frank certainly is no exception, proclaiming, “I have been doing things this way before it was fashionable.” Frank’s menus listed the farm, and where in Coleman County the sweet potatoes came from, identifying his connection to the farmer, long before it was popular. When Frank goes out to a restaurant, he has a tendency to look for organic ingredients, and generally for dishes that are descriptive enough to allow him to identify the producers he knows. I ask Frank whether he thinks chefs over- or underestimate the power of source listing on their menus. Here’s what he has to say: “At some point I am worried about it becoming overused. I’m worried about some people not being truthful. But I definitely like to include a little story about where the food comes from. I love that aspect.” Frank believes the best thing we can all do is to buy locally from farmers that grow organically. One of his favorite farms is Snow’s Bend, an organic farm in the bend of the Warrior River. It’s extremely fertile land. He hails their organic produce as some of the greatest on Earth. Frank values them not only for of their sustainable and organic practices, but also because, he says, they’re blessed as farmers. They provide him with the most unbelievable things. Considering Frank’s position on healthy eating, it’s a foregone conclusion that he has substantial conversation material surrounding that core ideal. He begins by talking about America’s dysfunctional relationship with food. “It’s part and parcel of everything that we’ve talked about. People being more interested in where their food comes from. People wanting options that are lighter. People are, more than ever, experiencing a problem with child obesity. An increasing number of ailments are a result of eating fast food, along with a list of bad habits we’ve developed in this country. I think people are trying desperately to turn the corner. That’s where my being a chef carries a certain responsibility for getting more fruits and vegetables on people’s plates and shrinking the amount of fat.” Frank walks it like he talks it when it comes to making a difference in America’s eating habits. “I am on the board of an educational urban farm, Jones Valley Urban Farm. I’m on the board of another farmers’ market. I’m actually developing recipes for UAB Hospital that are made with local organic ingredients: chicken soup, vegetable frittatas, and 126

strawberry smoothies. I think chefs will continue to see a part of their mission as reaching out to hospitals, retirement centers, and schools. To inspire people to teach healthy eating. That is a part of my life, and it’s something that I think is growing: working with the school system so that kids can realize that eating healthy can be a cool thing to do.” On current or developing food trends, Chef Stitt says, “I think that chefs will begin to really try to have a portion of their menu that’s healthier, cleaner, lighter, and gluten free. One of the things that we’ve always offered on our menus is the option to have any of our seafood selections prepared by grilling with lemon, fresh herbs, and olive oil. Frequently, restaurants have an overly rich menu that can overwhelm the diner with a five-thousand-calorie meal. I don’t think that’s sustainable. You can eat like that occasionally, maybe.” Frank is on a greens kick. He loves all the varieties of kale, collard greens, spinach, chard, and turnip greens and has a strong conviction that they are life-giving foods that should take up a bigger portion of the plate and a bigger portion of the menu. Frank adds, “What I want people to say after visiting my restaurant is, ‘Wow, those vegetables were unbelievable.’ Butternut squash, radishes, turnips, and rutabagas—all of those foods that people don’t often cook at home. Just picked, local, organic. Romanesco is fantastic, or rapini. I think our cooking has always had a bigger emphasis on local vegetables identifying the seasons.” My question to the chef: “Say you have a diner come in who is not familiar with, or maybe has never tasted, collard greens or rutabaga. How do you encourage people to venture down the rutabaga expressway, for instance? Most people will tend to order things that are safe, things that they know.” His response: “Our restaurant business is primarily based on regulars. These people have been dining with us for decades. So you develop a trust. Our staff is able to communicate our excitement and enthusiasm for these things. They’re able to give them this kind of guarantee that says, ‘Try this rutabaga. If you don’t like it, we’ll bring you out something else.’ It’s a confidence that our staff has. Most of our waiters have been working with us for at least five years, many of them for ten, and some for fifteen. There’s one waiter that’s been with me for over twenty-five years.” The restaurant business can be a very high-turnover profession, not necessarily for executive chefs, but for frontof-the-house and back-of-the-house restaurant staff. Frank owes his employee retention to his team-building philosophy, which is based on both mutual respect and an organization that represents an insistence on very high standards. Quality people like to be involved with organizations that represent this benchmark. 127



rank Stitt is an accomplished horseman and polo player. As is the case with so many of my inquiries into the

inception phase of a particular topic or talent, I seek embellishment wherever I sense promise. I liken myself to a chef-psyche thrill-seeker in pursuit of pristine territory. Pristine territory in Frank’s world revolves around his love of horses and his love of food. I reject the notion that these two dominant themes are separate and unrelated. They appear to me as if there were genes—predetermined units or combinations—destined to produce a set of characteristics. There’s definitely a sensualist’s enjoyment of life that embodies both pursuits. As Frank takes me down his traveled path to equestrian, culinary bliss, I am delighted to find that he is a fascinating, rather stream of consciousness–style raconteur. “We would trail-ride in the wintertime and drink a bottle of wine on a Sunday afternoon. That was just kind of a way of getting away from it all. I bought a horse and kept it at my best friend’s stable. Then I became a bit more interested. I thought that if I wanted to do this horse thing, I needed to learn more about it, so I started taking some dressage and jumping classes. The more you pursue something, the more you want to learn about it. That long story led to another friend of mine introducing me to polo. It was a beautiful autumn day. I made up a picnic spread with pâtés and charcuterie. We were riding horses, and I began thinking about my life as a kid playing football. This brought me another competitive little escape that stuck with me. Riding a horse on the field and playing polo have certain things in common with the experience of cooking—a certain abandonment. There’s a certain danger. There’s a certain element of risk. There’s a certain element of challenge, of pushing the moment to try to maximize the thrill.” Frank’s proclamation that he is on a quest for the Holy Grail of great food experiences provides immediate entrée to his worldwide journey through the markets of Barcelona and Venice and on to his restaurants, where there is a real commitment to quality and purity. His enthusiasm sends you on your way: “You can get a spleen sandwich at 6:00 AM at the market in Palermo. The Palermo market is just unbelievable because it still has this kind of ancient, Moorish, Italian character. I still swoon at the markets in Provence and the Luberon. In one period, I lived in Florence for four weeks. I would go and just watch the butchers and vegetable merchants. Those moments, those times, are wonderful, especially if you visit the markets repeatedly and develop a familiarity. If you get there early enough, while they’re still 128

setting up, before too many tourists arrive, I think those are some of the most inspirational places. Travel represents the search, and food experiences, the discovery. This is something that is very important in my life.” Frank spends his time away from the kitchen pursuing a variety of activities. There are a couple of guys whom he loves to cycle with on a day off—sometimes completing a thirty-mile bicycling trip on a springlike winter day. He loves to read. Frank has a trainer and loves to exercise. Pilates and yoga are two of his physical-fitness favorites. He is a member of several wine-tasting groups. Wine is extremely important to him personally and professionally. Frank springs forward with his confident and distinct opinion on the subject of wine: “It’s all about balance, finesse, and the delicacy of, say, a great chablis, and not so much just about the power of the big-scoring Robert Parker wines.”

BITS + Pieces


avorite place to visit or vacation: somewhere along the Mediterranean.

Would like to visit but haven’t been: Croatia, and I’m interested in Hvar, and eating seafood and swimming in the sea there. Where I would ideally like to live: I wouldn’t mind spending a few months of the year in the South of France. My dream is to live to see: young people valuing healthy eating, relishing locally farmed foods, and celebrating the joy of growing and cooking their own food. My dream conversation would be with: Michelangelo and Tom Waits. Favorite authors: Dostoevsky is extremely important, and Richard Olney. Favorite instrument: piano. Favorite singer and type of music: My taste in music is very eclectic—from opera, Maria Callas, to R. L. Burnside. Favorite cheese: Abondance is a type of Comté that I love. One of my other favorite cheeses is a fabulous goat cheese, Wabash Cannonball, from Indiana. 129

Favorite chocolate: Valrhona. Favorite herbs: chervil, basil, marjoram, and laurel. Favorite wine and/or liquor: red Burgundies and Rhone wines. I do like rum. Favorite flower: old-fashioned roses and magnolia blossoms. Favorite architect: Palladio. Favorite landmark buildings in the world: are in Venice, Italy. Favorite hotel: the Connaught in London. One of my favorite places to vacation: Capri. One of my favorite places to eat: La Fontelina in Capri, which is a place on the water where you swim and then go back to the thatch-roof restaurant to have lunch. Favorite city to dine in: New York. Favorite restaurants in the world: The restaurants that have most inspired me are Taillevent in Paris, Harry’s Bar in Venice, Le Gavroche in London, and Comme Chez Soi in Brussels. A perfect day: would be on a horse, cooking, sharing, and having a feast with friends and family.


Tools + TIPS


rank occasionally brings knives to the restaurant in order to restore their razor sharpness by putting them

to the stone. He advises that the most important element to preserving knives is to use a diamond sharpening steel to keep the edges in alignment. Contrary to popular belief, a sharpening steel does not sharpen a knife, but aligns the edges to maintain sharpness. Frank’s school of knife sharpening tips: “Always use an eighteen- to twenty-degree angle when sharpening knives. Always wash and dry your knife after each use. Forget the idea of storing knives in a drawer—a simple wall magnet is an easy option. You don’t need many knives—a paring knife; an all-purpose, eight-inch chef ’s knife; a serrated knife (I like the offset serrated ones originally made for pastry; Wüsthof is a good brand); a boning knife; a cleaver; and a slicing knife. There’re many impeccable Japanese knives that should be considered if you really enjoy cooking.”


Frank’s MENU Story


to spend time with a number of Argentinean horsemen over the past fifteen or so years. Besides learning from their prowess on the polo field, I have picked up a few tricks from them when it comes to grilling outside and putting together a relaxed and fun-loving feast. Out in the pure, crisp, and breezy air of a late summer afternoon in Jackson, Wyoming, there is one important lesson I’ve learned from a five-goal polo pro: Do not mess with an Argentine grill man when he is orchestrating his fire, and do not question his grilling techniques. I most humbly realized that a gracious polo pro had no sympathy for a professional chef making suggestions regarding how he should tend the fire or marinate the beef (he simply pulled it out of the plastic wrap and unceremoniously tossed it on the fire), or the number of minutes a tri-tip should grill over the fire. He was in charge and in control, and, sure enough, his somewhat illogical procedures (or so I had thought) provided a superb result. Who would have guessed that the gently grilled beef short ribs would be so delicious after a very modest grill time over the fire? The one great “gaucho-redneck” trick that Marcos amazed me with was how he prepared the fire. Next to a crystal-clear, ice-cold stream—wind direction carefully noted—a grate was set up with large stones for support. With some gathered wood, he assembled a forty-pound sack of hardwood charcoal next to the grate, which he immediately set on fire. I mean a big, burning bag of charcoal! He allowed it to burn a bit and then shoveled the coals under the grill as needed. What incredibly brilliant simplicity. I would have screwed around with the fire forever, and he simply handled it, adjusting as needed.


t has been my good fortune

For this “Alabama Asado� menu, I propose a rustic salad packed with lots of goodies: julienned, raw red peppers; strips of mortadella; scallions; olives; pepperoni; tomatoes; and grated pecorino with arugula, watercress, and local greens. Serve the grilled leg of lamb with a baked, smashed sweet potato with chilies, honey, and thyme. Follow this up with a buttermilk-lemon panna cotta with goat cheese and ripe pears doused in Poire Williams pear brandy.


Frank’s RECIPES RUSTIC SALAD This hearty salad is a standard at my restaurant Bottega—almost antipasto-like—bursting with crunchy sweet peppers, spicy radishes, and tangy pepperoncini that bring the flavors to life. Serves 6. SHERRY VINAIGRETTE Makes ½ cup ½ shallot, finely minced 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil TO PREPARE THE VINAIGRETTE 1. Combine the shallot, sherry vinegar, and a good pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl and let macerate for 10 minutes. 2. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. 3. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Chef ’s note: Vinaigrette will keep for several days in a jar, refrigerated. SALAD 4 cups mixed lettuces (arugula, watercress, and mixed lettuces, such as baby romaine or Lolla Rossa)


2 red bell peppers, trimmed and cut into 2-by-½-inch julienne ½–¾ cup mortadella, sliced into 1½-by-¼-inch matchsticks ½ cup pitted olives, such as Niçoise, Moroccan oil-cured, Castelvetrano, or kalamata ½ cup sliced pickled pepperoncini 2 thinly sliced scallions 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes ½ cup sliced radishes 1 cup coarsely grated pecorino TO PREPARE THE SALAD 1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the lettuces and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 2. Gently toss with the vinaigrette. 3. Top with the red peppers, mortadella, olives, pepperoncini, scallions, cherry tomatoes, radishes, and pecorino. 4. Serve immediately. WINE SUGGESTION Don Manuel Villafañe Torrontés 2010


GRILLED LEG OF LAMB WITH CHIMICHURRI Lamb is probably my favorite meat, and this basic marinade adds to the inherent flavor. The chimichurri is similar to salsa verde, packed with lots of fresh marjoram, parsley, great vinegar, and olive oil. Serves 6. MARINADE 4 garlic cloves, crushed 6 sprigs fresh rosemary 6 sprigs fresh thyme 6 sprigs fresh parsley ¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar such as L’Estornell from Spain 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar ½ cup extra virgin olive oil 1 cup water 1 tablespoon kosher salt (bring water to a boil, add salt, dissolve completely, and cool)

TO PREPARE THE MARINADE 1. Chop the garlic and herbs together. 2. Whisk in the olive oil.

TO PREPARE THE CHIMICHURRI 1. Add the pounded garlic to the parsley, marjoram, and chives and chop until fine. 2. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add the hot chili pepper, vinegars, olive oil, and salt water and whisk to combine. 3. Allow flavors to come together for 8 hours, or preferably refrigerate overnight.

LAMB 3 pounds fresh leg of lamb, trimmed into the major muscles (ask your butcher for the nicest part of the lamb leg, the sirloin or top round) TO PREPARE THE LAMB 1. Place the lamb in a gratin dish and rub with the marinade. 2. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. CHIMICHURRI 2 cloves garlic, pounded in a mortar with a pestle ½ cup flat-leaf parsley ½ cup fresh marjoram leaves ¼ cup chives 2 teaspoons red chili pepper (flakes or crushed) 136

TO COOK THE LAMB 1. Over a charcoal or wood fire, heat the grill and rub with an oil-soaked cloth. 2. Season the lamb with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 3. Grill the lamb for about 5 minutes on each side, until medium rare. 4. Place on a cooling rack. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and let meat rest for 10 minutes. TO SERVE Serve the lamb sliced and spoon the chimichurri on top.

SWEET POTATO “TATA” À LA FRANCIS MALLMANN Chef and restaurateur Francis Mallmann is the man in Argentina, and his superb book Seven Fires inspired this oh-so-good vegetable dish. His restaurants are so very stylish, and his book makes me want to move to Argentina. We bake, instead of boil, the potatoes and peel them, and if you are able, it’s great to cook these smashed potatoes in a cast-iron skillet over a live, smoky fire. Serves 6. SWEET POTATOES 6 small sweet potatoes, well scrubbed 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, or more to taste Kosher salt Freshly ground coarse black pepper 2 tablespoons local honey 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed 2 teaspoons red chili flakes TO PREPARE THE POTATOES 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 2. Place the sweet potatoes in the oven. Bake until just tender, about 20 minutes. 3. When cool, remove the outer skin from the sweet potato. 4. Cut each potato in half and smash halves into a disk. 5. Heat a cast-iron skillet over an open fire or on a hot burner.

6. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter, season with salt and freshly ground coarse black pepper, and cook until lightly charred. 7. Turn the potatoes over and drizzle with honey; sprinkle with the fresh thyme leaves and hot chili flakes, and top with the remaining butter. 8. Cook until slightly charred, about 5 minutes. 9. Season with salt and serve. WINE SUGGESTION Luigi Bosca Reserva Malbec 2007 (pairs with the lamb and sweet potato)


BUTTERMILK and LEMON PANNA COTTA WITH GOAT CHEESE and RIPE PEAR Ripe Bartlett or Comice pears are a delicacy unto themselves. Toss with a little pear liqueur alongside a lemony and subtle goat cheese panna cotta, and you have a great marriage of flavors. Serves 6. PANNA COTTA 4 teaspoons water 2 teaspoons gelatin 2 cups cream ½ cup sugar Finely grated zest of 1 lemon 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract 8 ounces fresh mild goat cheese 1 cup buttermilk 2–3 ripe pears (Bartlett or Comice), peeled, cored, sliced, and tossed with 2 tablespoons Poire Williams pear brandy (substitute Calvados or rum if necessary) TO PREPARE THE PANNA COTTA 1. In a small bowl, add 4 teaspoons water and sprinkle in the gelatin. Let it soften. 2. In a nonreactive pan (stainless steel or ceramic), add the cream, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla and bring to a light simmer. 3. Remove from the heat and whisk in the goat cheese until smooth.

4. Add the gelatin and whisk until dissolved. 5. Add the buttermilk and strain the mixture into a pitcher using a fine mesh strainer. 6. Pour into six ramekins and place them in the refrigerator to chill for 6 hours or overnight. TO SERVE 1. Dip the ramekins into a pan of hot water for 10 seconds and then run a knife around the edges to unmold. 2. Serve with the sliced pears and a little of the Poire Williams brandy. WINE SUGGESTION Don Manuel Villafañe Torrontés 2010


Nancy Silverton

Pizzeria MOZZA + Osteria Mozza Los Angeles, CA 140



ancy Silverton was born and grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley. She was eighteen years old

and studying liberal arts at Sonoma State University when she began experimenting with vegetarian cooking in her dormitory kitchen. My guess is that the immediate gratification of praise and consumption of these meals by an increasing number of student bodies was too enticing to resist, and was the impetus for her senior-year exit from school for greener food pastures. Cementing her choice to follow her love of cooking was the unexpected encouragement Nancy received from her parents to attend Le Cordon Bleu in London. After graduating, Nancy apprenticed in the kitchen of a Northern California restaurant, but soon realized that shaping her career by working in a prestigious establishment was crucial. Following that train of thought, she took a job as an assistant pastry chef at Michael’s Restaurant in Santa Monica. Although Nancy had no previous interest in whipping up desserts, she soon discovered her aptitude and fondness for the pastry kingdom and its infinite possibilities. Soon enough, her pastry proclivity incited a desire for expertise, and she was off to Europe once again to attend the École Lenôtre culinary institute in Plaisir, France, the embodiment of the French art of pastry. It made no difference to her that she would have to start all over again in order to master the mysteries of pastry, or that she spoke no French. With a growing resume that now included French pastry expertise—or, at the very least, pastry knowledge via two esteemed French schools—Nancy walked into the position of pastry chef for Wolfgang Puck at Spago, where she scored a double hitter with the introduction to her future husband, Mark Peel. After two and a half years at Spago, a husband, one child, and an advanced sense of her craft under her belt, Nancy moved with Mark to New York, where they worked at Maxwell’s Plum and added child number two to their family. Always ready for the next new adventure, Nancy and Mark made the decision to take their two children and move to Italy. Setting up housekeeping in Rome, the two chefs discovered their appreciation for fresh, local ingredients and the art of Italian cooking.


Invaluable as the experience of living in Italy proved, Nancy and Mark arrived at the same conclusion: They should open a restaurant of their own in Los Angeles. After scouring the city for just the right property and going through a failed lease signing, Nancy’s mother discovered an art deco gem that would be perfect for both a bakery and their restaurant, Campanile. The year 1989 was an eventful one for Nancy Silverton; it included the opening of Campanile and La Brea Bakery with partners Mark Peel and Manfred Krankl. On Nancy’s wish list of items that she wanted the Campanile Restaurant to offer was superb artisanal bread, something that seemed to be nonexistent at the time. Her interest in artisanal bread was surprising, considering the fact that Chef Silverton grew up disliking bread that had any personality beyond that of a lifeless slice of spongy white dough that her school friends carried in their brown-bag lunches each day. Obviously, for no apparent reason, preconceived ideas can take a sharp turn—for the better. As the doors of La Brea Bakery opened, Nancy felt that it was just the right time to take a bread-making class. She developed an interest in and began experimenting with cultivating a sourdough starter. Instead of using commercial yeast, Nancy learned how to grow her own wild yeast, which used organic grapes and grape skins immersed in flour and water for ten days. La Brea Bakery opened six months earlier than Campanile and initially offered only six varieties of bread: a baguette; rosemary–olive oil loaf; olive bread; country white; whole wheat; and dark Normandy rye. In 1992, using the same recipes and formulas, Nancy opened a factory in central Los Angeles and began supplying retailers and restaurants all over Southern California with bakery products. In order to distribute nationally, she developed a special method wherein bread that was 80 percent baked was shipped to the buyer to complete the process on-site. In 1998, a second factory opened, in Van Nuys. Macy’s has opened multiple La Brea Bakery Café kiosks across the United States. In October 1998, Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas opened La Brea Bakery, offering baked goods to its visitors and guests. In 2001, Silverton and her partners sold La Brea Bakery to IAWS Group, which is now part of ARYZTA AG, an international food and agribusiness conglomerate based in Zurich, Switzerland. Fifteen years into Nancy’s marriage to Mark Peel, it came to an end, as did her partnership in Campanile and La Brea Bakery when she decided to sell her shares in both. Nancy was now open to creating new opportunities, one of which was her crafting of a highly successful Monday Mozzarella Night when chef Suzanne Tracht suggested a collab-


orative effort at her restaurant, Jar. However intriguing mozzarella was, Nancy was still on the prowl for something new and inspiring. But when Mario Batali asked her to move to New York and work with him at his restaurant Del Posto, it wasn’t exactly the version of new and exciting that she had in mind. Unfortunately, as much as Nancy would have loved to be in New York again, she wasn’t able to just pick up and leave the life she had established with her parents and children in Los Angeles. She put the same question to Mario: “Why don’t you open something with me here in L.A.?” Mario turned her down. He wasn’t very impressed with the lack of restaurants and the weight-obsessed clientele that Los Angeles offered at that time. Looking for inspiration, Nancy traveled back to her place in Umbria. She happened to run into highly regarded chef Jeremiah Tower, who filled her in on an amazing place called Òbikà, in Rome. He went on raving to Nancy that she had to pay a visit to this place and somehow bring the concept to Los Angeles. Apparently, the owner of Òbikà was enthused after a trip to Japan, where he fell in love with sushi culture. He ingeniously translated the concept in Italy by opening Òbikà, a delectable space with barrels of fresh mozzarella right in its center. Nancy was impressed with the fact that a restaurant could be so inspired by, and in turn inspire others with, one food—mozzarella cheese and a host of accompanying leafy greens. Nancy knew exactly what she wanted to do next. She had the persistent thought that what she and Mario Batali brought to the table—his dried meats, her breads, and Joseph Bastianich’s experience running multiple restaurants— would be a terrific foundation to build on. If ideas were jewels, the pizzeria and mozzarella-bar concepts that Nancy laid at Mario’s clogged feet would soon become precious gems. Mario was completely sold on the idea and ready to get things started. After much planning, Melrose and Highland Avenues became home to Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, an empire that would soon have a gold-mine cadre of artisan-producer relationships beyond meat and bread: mozzarella, wine, olives, and anchovies. The Mozza empire has expanded to include a Mozza cooking school and takeout shop, and Pizzeria Mozza in Singapore, Newport Beach, and San Diego. Additional ventures include a burger restaurant, Short Order, and bakery, Short Cake, both at the legendary Los Angeles Farmers Market.


In 1990, Nancy Silverton received the James Beard Foundation award for Pastry Chef of the Year, in addition to being named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs. The eight cookbooks she has written cover a range of food favorites and include Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery (recipient of a 2000 Food & Wine Best Cookbook award); Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book; A Twist of the Wrist; and her eighth book, The Mozza Cookbook. Jet-propelling Nancy into 2013 is a 2012 James Beard nomination for Outstanding Chef. The future is sure to hold many more Silverton ventures, unfolding with all the fun and wonderment of her projects to date.



hen Nancy made the decision to sell La Brea Bakery in 2001, she also made the decision to entrust

the $5 million profit from the sale with New York investor Bernard L. Madoff. Stubbornness, determinism, and perfectionism all lie behind Nancy’s cool exterior. Her smallish stature belies the powerhouse of great stamina she has tapped into in order to do the physical work of a chef, weather a divorce, raise her three children, Vanessa, Benjamin, and Oliver, and lose a $5 million profit in the Madoff Ponzi scheme without ever having enjoyed its lifestyle benefits. It’s always difficult to speak on the “bad things happen” topic, but it’s inescapable when attempting to gain insight into the patterns of an individual’s life. Therefore, I’ll refrain from lingering long on why so many successful and intelligent people, including Nancy, succumbed to the Madoff high-interest-rate bait. The absence of too-good-to-be-true foresight will remain a mystery, but clearly the seductive, and obviously overruling, factor was the 12-16 percent per year return Madoff promised—infinitely more appealing than 2 or 3 percent. On the bright side of the loss she suffered via the Madoff debacle, Nancy’s strong suit is her ability to move forward and concentrate on the positives, tempered with an understandable avoidance of any type of investment options—a bank is all that Nancy is willing to trust at this point.




particular junk food or food obsession that Nancy can’t resist now and then? Fritos.

A favorite dish is porcini-rubbed rib-eye bistecca at Osteria Mozza. A favorite ingredient is whole-grain mustard. Her last supper would definitely include a large salad. One of the most remarkable things Nancy ever ate—or, according to her, “one of life’s joys”—was focaccia al formaggio in the town of Recco in the province of Genoa, region of Liguria, Italy, which is known for its focaccia with cheese. The consortium that dictates the official recipe of the focaccia, supposedly the result of a Saracen attack in the 1200s, is seeking European Union PGI status for the recipe. Early on, I took notice of symptoms that indicated the presence of antitechnology syndrome, most acutely in the form of Nancy’s intentional nonparticipation in the twenty-first century’s social-networking pandemic. She has no personal Facebook or Twitter page, no iPad, and no Kindle, and I suspect texting and email are on the avoidance list at the very least. Along the same lines is the tedious “business of business,” and having a full-time manager of that beast is important to Nancy so that she can completely indulge in what she loves—the business of food.



ancy is the first to admit that her cooking philosophy has no need for the high-flown food verbos-

ity that is more common than not among chefs. Her formula is seasonal, uncomplicated, rustic, and full of flavor—these are the characteristics that have flown her to fame. Although trained as a pastry chef, Nancy has that extraordinary ability to judge whether a dish is spot-on or if it needs an additional dash or drop of something to bring it into perfect focus. With great success, in most any field, comes the inevitable loss of a number of previously enjoyed perks. Anonymity is one that can largely disappear if some control over the seductive power of media exposure is not exercised.


I myself cannot avoid becoming a member of the group that challenges the anonymity of its subject in order to get the story, and frequently there are many components to the story. From time to time, chefs apologize profusely for missing one of my deadlines and then go on to miss another. Many seem to be hard pressed to understand my patience and have come right out and said so in both endearing and flatly direct terms. Nancy Silverton combined the endearing with a plainspoken purge as she approached the Mozza Cookbook release date and the opening of her two new restaurants. Sharing with me the repercussions of her ambition and the awareness of and will to control, and drastically “cut,” the requests that come her way, it appeared to me that she had come face-to-face with her estrangement from solitude. “The other day, I got home from work early and turned off my phone, which is constantly ringing, and it was such a pleasure to sit at home and do nothing. With my book out and doing newspaper and magazine interviews, plus running several restaurants, I am finding I simply do not have time for myself and my family.”

Notable + UNIQUE


s ee Nancy’s penchant for selecting something that she is very interested in and her laser-focused ability

to stay with that one thing until she conquers it as the keys to her behemoth warehouse of success. Her ability to take chances and utilize the extra efforts necessary to transform things into something more special is known to many. I had the unlikely occasion to directly access the Silverton unmitigated-perfection operating system during the course of a few telephone conversations. One particular call comes to mind. I waited patiently, remaining silent while Nancy paused after a slight hitch in her voice indicated a distraction in her immediate surroundings. Then, without hesitation, in a very quiet, soothing voice, she began a troop Q & A to an audience unknown to me (possibly kitchen staff), followed by suggestions for how it should be done. I knew that I had to wait for as long as it was going to take her to hear the responses that she was looking for—those that notched into the supremely excellent category. After she resolved the matter, her mind was at rest and we continued our conversation—she was able to pick up exactly where we had left off. It certainly doesn’t hurt that in pursuit of that perfection target, Nancy has an arsenal of tools that hurry the course along. Notable is her talent for inspiring others with an easy, charming humor, or, if required, a rattle of the 146

most candid, salty material—both modi operandi delivered in a matter-of-fact voice—no trace of high- or low-tone emotion. Either approach should be textbooked for other chefs, irrespective of content. It gets the job done in benign fashion. Whether creating her signature sourdough starter or developing the best focaccia, or gelato, or mozzarella, or burger, Nancy has an ever-present will to never be simply satisfied. Traversing obsessiveness, she will work her blueprint until it reaches that otherworldly realm of superiority. When something presents itself as difficult, Nancy finds her own way, with or without advice or expert knowledge, using all her skills, to do it not just well, but extremely well. Normally, I don’t find amusement in a chef’s demeanor or attire, unless, of course, it particularly speaks to who they are—Mario Batali’s bright orange clogs, or Gordon Ramsay’s terminally disheveled hair. Ms. Silverton’s style is a blend of distinctive and consistent essentials: Italian film-star sunglasses (think Marcello Mastroianni in the classic black-and-white film 81/2) that work to consume her already small frame, but, as with Marcello, it’s more about what the glasses convey; a massive shock of red-hued, perfectly corkscrewed curls, usually spun into some sculptural knot or left to set sail on their own; and, frequently rounding out the singularity of her cleverly crafted appearance, a big, bold, colorful necklace, which she even pairs with her chef’s jacket occasionally. If I close my eyes (subtracting the aforementioned embellishments) and conjure an overall impression of Chef Silverton, I see a strong, agile, and streamlined bird, hovering just above the earthly action below, who, at a moment impossible to calculate, will dive into the thick of its chosen interest, with a purpose, to be sure.



ancy has a love/hate relationship with the necessary process of producing a cookbook. She dislikes the

tedious and continual edits, particularly when it comes to the recipes. The ultimate release—letting go of the child of each recipe—is difficult. I can attest to that particular protection of recipe territory, as Nancy was incredibly, and quite uniquely, concerned with tweaking her menu selections and recipes for this book until they were flawless. I fully understand and appreciate the objective.


Her collaborations with writer Carolynn Carreño, who understands her aesthetic and verbal style, have proven to be a crucial piece of the puzzle for Nancy, who knows that capturing her personality and philosophies is absolutely necessary to the final flavor of each book. Nancy’s belief is that a cookbook should leave the reader with a sense of the author, as well as with a learning experience—something more than simply the recipes. Julia Child, Richard Olney, Elizabeth David, Judy Rodgers, and Suzanne Goin have achieved that personal style with their cookbooks.



any a chef has been motivated by family cooking sessions, complete with all the stories that normally

weave an interesting web around their career selection. What happens on the front end doesn’t always correspond to the middle or back end of a food-obsessed career. There are those chefs who are quite adept at creating their own memory-building experiences further down the road. Nancy decided to purchase a villa just outside the tiny hill town of Panicale in Italy’s Umbria region, initially as a vacation home in which she could fashion her own private world. Subsequently, she envisioned the villa as a gathering place for the Mozza crew, including executive chef Matt Molina, Mario Batali, Joe Marcos, and pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez, as well as other chef friends Lissa Doumani and Hiro Sone. With that goal in mind, Nancy set about the task of customizing the villa’s Umbrian-style kitchen in order to make it more functional for her chef visitors. Open shelving was installed, rather than traditional closed cabinets, so that cooking implements could be quickly spotted. A Tuscan-style wooden grid rack with hooks for tools and pots was designed and mounted on the wall, with a separate holder for lids. The existing fireplace was raised to waist level to make it easier to cook over the cast-iron grill on legs that Nancy bought. Always thinking of the chef, Nancy installed locally made tile around the stove to simplify cleaning.


BITS + Pieces


avorite Los Angeles restaurants: Cut; Mélisse; Angelini Osteria’s authentic Italian food; AOC Wine Bar

and Restaurant for their Mediterranean-influenced small plates; Jar for brunch; Lucques’ shorter menu with carefully prepared seasonal ingredients; and the Hungry Cat, across the street from Arclight Cinema, for a latenight pug burger or for brunch. Favorite kitchen tool: mortar and pestle. Favorite places to shop: clothes: Noodle Stories; furniture: Emmerson Troop and Reform Gallery; ceramics: Retro Gallery; jewelry: Arp. Favorite place to visit or vacation: Paris, France, and Umbria, Italy. Favorite cookbooks: Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. Favorite things to do: going to farmers’ markets and movies at the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood. Favorite cities: Los Angeles, for its weather and ethnic restaurants. Favorite hotels: Hotel Vitale, San Francisco—a short walk to the Ferry Plaza; Plaza Athénée, Paris— luxurious; Ace Hotel, New York—excellent breakfast, lunch, and dinner ; Hotel de Russie, Rome—tranquil, and classy; Sunset Marquis, Los Angeles—secluded.


TOOLS + Tips


onsidering Nancy’s farmers’ market lunch theme, it makes sense to include one of her favorite pas-

sions, the salad. Nancy doesn’t hesitate to deliver her salad Ten Commandments whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself, and this is one of those perfect chances. With the opening of so many weekly farmers’ markets, it should be easy to select fresh, in-season ingredients for a salad. Don’t mix in-season ingredients with off-season ingredients that are not at their peak. Compose your salads with a theme in mind and stay within that theme, rather than using too many disparate ingredients. Discard any wilted or damaged ingredients as you prepare your salad. A salad should have some crunch, either from the crispy lettuce or from the addition of croutons or toasted nuts.


When preparing a salad, chop or tear all the ingredients to approximately the same size. Layer salad ingredients in the correct proportions, such as medium-size lettuce in the middle and smaller-size ingredients on top or near the top. Salt the salad greens before dressing them. The dressing also contains salt, but tossing the greens with salt first ensures that the salad will be properly seasoned. Salad dressing should be used in the correct proportions and distributed evenly. Eat with fingers, not forks.


Nancy’s MENU Story


his is my idea of an ideal lunch: a salad made of tender, young farmers’ market lettuces dressed with a tangy vin-

aigrette and three little sandwiches, all presented family-style—my favorite way to serve at home. This light lunch is perfect for two reasons, first because the whole meal—salad and all—can be eaten with your fingers. I love anything that I can pick up and eat with my fingers, most especially salad, and with this lunch, I can pick up a lettuce leaf in one and a sandwich in the other and still manage to feel like I haven’t deviated so much from acceptable table manners that I will be dismissed. Secondly, it is perfect because with three small slider sandwiches to choose from, you have a variety that will satisfy every palate in your family. Each one of the sandwiches contains all the flavors of a complete meal. They are all as pretty to look at as they are to eat.


This lunch is great served family-style with the large bowl of salad placed in the middle of the table and platters of sandwiches passed around, or plated individually with a large mound of salad and the sliders on the side. So have a napkin on your lap, and enjoy.



Nancy’s RECIPES MARKET LETTUCE SALAD WITH SHERRY VINAIGRETTE Putting thought into making a salad means the difference between a salad that you want to eat again and one that you just plow through because you think it’s good for your diet. I have strong opinions when it comes to salads, mostly because when they’re done right, I love them. Serves 4. SHERRY VINAIGRETTE Makes about 1/3 cup 3 tablespoons minced shallots 2 tablespoons Spanish sherry wine vinegar 1½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil TO PREPARE THE VINAIGRETTE 1. Place the shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine. 2. Add the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to form an emulsion. 3. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. 4. Bring the vinaigrette to room temperature before using it. SALAD 6 ounces mixed farm-fresh baby lettuces (baby red oak, baby green oak, or baby Little Gem) ¼ cup sherry vinaigrette, plus more to taste

TO PREPARE THE SALAD 1. Trim off the ends of the lettuces and make a small cut to split them at the core. Pull the cores apart to separate the heads into sections, but not leaf by leaf. 2. Fill a large bowl or a clean sink with cold water. Place a clean, large towel on your work surface. One at a time, gently plunge the lettuces into the water, shake them for a moment, and then lay them out on the towel to drain. Pick up the corners of the towel to close it, and gently shake the bundle to dry the lettuces. 3. Transfer the lettuces to a bowl, and drizzle the salad with ¼ cup of the vinaigrette and several drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Toss to coat the salad with the dressing. 4. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or vinaigrette if desired. TO SERVE Serve the salad family-style in a large bowl, or on four individual plates.


OPEN-FACED TUNA NIÇOISE SANDWICH Canned tuna dressed with garlic mayonnaise, capers, and anchovies and then topped with hard-cooked eggs and thin, peppery radish slices is essentially a tiny, open-faced version of a tuna Niçoise. Makes 4 sandwiches. AIOLI Makes 2 cups 2 extra-large egg yolks 4 teaspoons champagne vinegar 2 large garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1½ cups canola oil ½ cup extra virgin olive oil 16 Niçoise olives, pitted and sliced TO PREPARE THE AIOLI 1. Combine the egg yolk, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. 2. Mix the canola oil and olive oil together and add to the eggvinegar mixture by drizzling the oils in a very slow, thin, steady stream, whisking constantly to form an emulsion. Chef’s note: Work very slowly, or your emulsion will break. 3. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired. 4. Combine ½ cup of the aioli with the olives and set aside.


SANDWICH 2 extra-large eggs, hard-cooked and sliced Aioli (see recipe) 1½ tablespoons chopped, fresh Italian parsley, plus whole tiny leaves for garnish 1½ tablespoons capers 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard 3 anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped 1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar 1 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 9 ounces tuna packed in olive oil (preferably imported from Italy or Spain) Four ½-inch-thick slices of bread (Roasted Garlic or Rustic Italian Antipasto Bread, or Olive Oval), cut into thirds after cooking (see Sources: La Brea Bakery) Kosher salt 4 breakfast radishes, thinly sliced on a mandoline

Tuna Niçoise Sandwich continued....

TO PREPARE THE SANDWICH 1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 2. Place the eggs in a small saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Simmer the eggs for 5 minutes and immediately plunge them into a large bowl of ice water to chill. 3. Peel the eggs and slice them using an egg slicer. Chef’s note: The yolks should be bright yellow but still wet-looking. 4. Combine 1 cup of the aioli, parsley, capers, mustard, anchovies, vinegar, and lemon juice in a large bowl. 5. Drain the oil from the tuna and break it up with your hands in the bowl, along with the aioli mixture. Chef’s note: Use a wire whisk to break up your tuna (as you would to break up potatoes); you don’t want to have any large chunks, but you do want the tuna to have texture. Fold together the tuna and aioli until they are thoroughly combined. 6. Add more of any of the seasonings to taste. 7. Brush each slice of bread with olive oil on both sides.

8. Toast the bread on a baking sheet in the oven for about 8 minutes (or until light golden brown and firm to the touch). Remove from the baking sheet and let cool. 9. Rub one side of the toast with the garlic and set toasts on your work surface, garlic side up. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Spread a small amount of the ½ cup reserved olive aioli on each piece of toast, and mound ¼ of the tuna salad on each piece. 2. Layer 2–3 slices of egg over the tuna, overlapping the edges of each slice as needed to fit the toast. 3. Lightly sprinkle kosher salt over the egg slices. 4. Layer the radish over the egg, and top with the whole tiny Italian parsley leaves. 5. Arrange the sandwiches on a large platter to serve familystyle, or set them next to the salad on individual plates.


GRILLED SAGE CHEDDAR and TURKEY SANDWICH WITH LEEKS and CELERY This closed sandwich, made with turkey, sautéed leeks, celery, and sage cheddar cheese, is like Thanksgiving dinner between slices of bread. Makes 4 sandwiches. SANDWICH 2 celery stalks 1 leek 1ounce unsalted butter plus ½ ounce of softened butter for brushing the bread Salt and freshly ground black pepper Eight ½-inch-thick slices of bread (Rustic Italian, Roasted Garlic, or Toasted Walnut Antipasto Bread, or your favorite La Brea Bakery loaf), cut into thirds after cooking (see Sources: La Brea Bakery) 6 ounces Bravo Farms sage cheddar, or cheddar with chopped sage added, grated (see Sources: Whole Foods Market) 4 ounces sliced turkey 8 sage leaves TO PREPARE THE SANDWICH 1. Peel the celery and cut off the large white end, using the green part only. Slice width-wise into 1/8-inch-thick slices. 2. Cut the leek in half lengthwise, using only the light green and white parts. Cut into 2-inch-long pieces, and then cut into matchstick-size strips. Wash the leek strips thoroughly. 3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.


4. Add the celery and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes, until the celery is slightly tender. 5. Add the leeks to the celery and cover. Continue to cook until both are tender and without coloring. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread. Place half of the bread slices buttered side down and evenly spread with ¾ ounce of the grated sage cheddar. 2. Layer ¾ ounce of the turkey on top of the cheese. 3. Layer the celery and leeks on top of the turkey. 4. Spread ¼ ounce more of the cheddar on top of the turkey. 5. Top with another slice of the bread with the butter side up. 6. Place 2 sage leaves on top of the slice of bread before cooking. 7. Grill the sandwiches in a moderately hot skillet or on a panini grill for 4–5 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Chef’s note: If cooking in a skillet, place the sandwiches sage side down and turn them over halfway through grilling. 8. Arrange the sandwiches on a large platter to serve familystyle, or set them next to the salad on individual plates.

GRILLED SOTTOCENERE SANDWICH WITH SOFT SCRAMBLED EGGS Truffles and egg, a classic Italian pairing, make a flavorful open-face combination using truffle-infused cheese in place of expensive shaved truffles. Makes 4 sandwiches. SANDWICH 1 ounce unsalted butter, plus another ½ ounce softened butter for brushing the bread Eight ½-inch-thick slices of bread (Roasted Garlic, Rustic Italian, or Toasted Walnut Antipasto Bread, or your favorite La Brea Bakery loaf), cut into thirds after cooking (see Sources: La Brea Bakery) 2 ounces grated sottocenere (Italian truffle) cheese (available at cheese shops and select grocery stores) 3 large eggs 1 pinch of truffle salt (see Sources: Dean & DeLuca, and select spice shops) Freshly ground black pepper Finely minced chives for garnish TO PREPARE THE SANDWICH 1. Lightly butter one side of each slice of bread. 2. Place half of the bread slices buttered side down and evenly spread ½ ounce of the sottocenere cheese on each slice. 3. Close the sandwich with buttered side of the bread facing up.

4. Grill the sandwiches in a moderately hot skillet or on a panini grill for 4–5 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Chef’s note: If cooking in a skillet, turn the sandwiches over halfway through grilling. Cook the eggs while the sandwiches are grilling so they are ready at the same time. 5. In a 6-inch nonstick sauté pan, melt 1 ounce of butter and softly scramble the three eggs over medium-low heat, gently swirling the pan while pushing the eggs from the outside and toward the center with a rubber spatula until they are softly cooked. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Remove the sandwiches from the skillet or panini grill. 2. Place the scrambled eggs on top of the grilled sandwiches. 3. Finish with the truffle salt and freshly ground black pepper, and garnish with the minced chives. 4. Arrange the sandwiches on a large platter to serve familystyle, or set them next to the salad on individual plates. WINE SUGGESTION 2008 Bastianich Rosato (pairs well with the salad and all the sandwiches) 159

SHORTBREAD BUTTONS SERVED WITH FRESH SEASONAL FRUIT Don’t look past this recipe just because you think you have enough shortbread recipes. I doubt yours is as rich, as buttery, and as perfectly salted as this one. Makes 18–20 buttons. SHORTBREAD 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes ¼ teaspoon kosher salt ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar ¼ cup granulated sugar 2 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour Special items needed: 2-inch round cutter #2 or #3 plain pastry tip TO PREPARE THE SHORTBREAD 1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and salt on low speed for 2–3 minutes until softened. 2. Add the sugars, turn the mixture up to medium, and mix for 3–4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 3. Add the flour in three batches, mixing each addition on low until just combined and turning the mixer off between each batch. 4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, gather into a ball, and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, 2 hours or overnight. 5. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a ½-inch thickness. 160

6. Using the 2-inch round cutter, cut out as many circles as possible by cutting closely together. Gather the scraps, reroll, and cut out the remaining dough. 7. Using the pastry tip, cut out four holes in the middle of each circle of dough to resemble those on a button. Place them 1 inch apart, on 1–2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes. 8. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 15 minutes or until the shortbread just starts to be firm to the touch. Rotate the baking sheets and turn the oven down to 300°F. Bake for another 20 minutes. TO SERVE Serve these shortbread cookies with a variety of assorted seasonal fruits: Winter (December, January, February): tangerines, blood oranges, dates. Spring (March, April, May): strawberries. Summer ( June, July, August): stone fruits, berries. Autumn (September, October, November): dates and walnuts (freshly cracked, or served whole with nutcrackers).

Jason wilson

crush Seattle, WA



hef Jason Wilson, 2010 Ja mes Beard award winner for Best Chef: Northwest and alumni of Food &

Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs class of 2006, is the owner and executive chef of Crush Restaurant in Seattle, Washington. Jason’s seasonally changing menus highlight quality ingredients and showcase the best that the Northwest and American farmers, producers, and fishermen have to offer. A 1995 graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Jason Wilson has a passion for knowledge and experience that has brought him to some of the most influential kitchens and patisseries in California, Singapore, and France. In 1996, Jason joined Jeremiah Tower to open Stars Restaurant in Singapore, which provided him with the opportunity to learn and work with a Southeast Asian staff and an international clientele. Jason moved to Seattle in 1998 to open Stars Bar and Dining and found the Northwest to be a prominent culinary destination. Jason’s successful experience operating large restaurants and planning multiple events simultaneously was a tremendously valuable asset as he began his lifelong dream of creating his own restaurant. He did just that when he opened Crush in 2005 with his wife, Nicole Wilson. Jason and Nicole were married on a private estate in Carnation, Washington, during the 2001 crush. Very innocently, this event predestined their wildly clever restaurant name, Crush. Further elaborating on their love theme, they selected a color scheme for the 1903 Tudor-style house turned restaurant that was reminiscent of their first venture together at an espresso cart—a rich cappuccino with milky-white trim. After renovations, Jason and Nicole lived on the second story of the restaurant for a time, always bearing in mind that their living spaces would eventually be converted into private dining rooms. The upstairs bathroom was outfitted with a six-hundred-pound claw-foot bathtub that was to be removed when they moved out. Nosing around the second floor of Crush after a mesmerizing dinner, I discovered this bathroom. It was a charming period room, all done up in crisp whites, but the pièce de résistance was the claw-foot bathtub. It never made its way 163

down the stairs and back out the front door of what is now exclusively the restaurant. In the event that you’re in need of some serious freshening up, few things are more enjoyable than a delicious dinner followed by a bubble bath. In addition to the accolades and awards he and his restaurant have received, Jason takes great pride in his community as it relates to his professional career. He is active in the culinary community—he serves as the spokesperson for Piñata Apple, sits on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Wild Alaska Seafood Congress of Conscious Chefs, teaches sous-vide cooking at the Seattle Culinary Academy, and has developed new flavors for the popular DRY Soda Company. Well acquainted with broadcast exposure, Chef Wilson has appeared on numerous food television shows, such as Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels, The Martha Stewart Show, and Fine Living Network’s I Want Your Job.



hefs either ju mp out of their skin arguing the case against the molecular-gastronomy movement or see its

value and have fun applying its principles to their food. The Jason Wilson style is integrated. In other words, it’s not at the extreme end of the spectrum, residing permanently in the molecular-gastronomy category, but it’s not devoid of those scientific disciplines and chemical processes either. Jason elaborates, “I embrace the molecular techniques. I’ve always been driven toward technique first. So you look at technique as the foundation. It’s about the ingredient, and then what you’re going to do with it and how you’re going to cook it. I promote and teach sous-vide quite often, because I see the cooking and health benefits. I think it’s a pretty amazing technique. I’ve used liquid nitrogen, but I’m not as schooled in that area. I’m kind of a stickler for safety. My restaurant is small, and I’m not at the place right now where I want to explore something that could freeze my knuckles off. When I have the ability to do that, I’ll play around with it more. I’m most interested in the textures of things. My focus is to highlight and enhance the product quality by using various techniques on an ingredient: pickling, drying, dehydrating, or adding a tapioca starch to powder. I think that’s the modern aspect of how I cook. There’s not really a need to say, ‘Tapioca starch and xanthan are in this,’ and that they make something taste or feel a certain way on your tongue. Nor is there any reason to talk about how much we’re sous-vide cooking.” 164



would be the one that his father passed on to him: a black walnut cake from Missouri. It was a recipe that his father grew up with and was passed on to him by way of his grandmother. Now, in Jason’s possession, it’s become his great-grandmother’s recipe. His description: It’s just a very, very simple cake using fresh Missouri black walnuts. He has experimented with the recipe by substituting fresh green walnuts found in the Northwest, adding that “it does taste a bit different, but it’s one of those things that bring back the memories of being a kid.” What big flavor-combination surprises have crossed the chef’s path lately? Caution ahead—these are mouthwatering selections: “Recently, I was inspired by extra virgin olive oil with chocolate ice cream or chocolate gelato. I’ve really been enjoying making a sea salt–and–olive oil chocolate gelato. Because olives are a fruit, I’ve been using them quite a bit in different incarnations. I use Alaskan sea salt with extra virgin olive oil as a topping for a cashew and peanut brittle– chocolate sundae. Year-round, we get all sorts of wild stuff. We make fritters with maple blossoms when the trees are starting to bloom. We’ve also used cherry flowers and cherry blossoms. I frequently make Douglas fir sorbet with olive oil. That’s just a very refreshing and fantastic flavor.” Jason snaps me into line straight away by making a correction to my question regarding his strong positive or negative childhood memories. The correction: They are all positive. Okay, Chef, but I just have a feeling that lurking in there somewhere is a mini–food aversion. Jason is not about to go down easily: “My grandmother would pickle green beans in bacon fat with red wine. That was one of my favorite, first vegetable memories. My grandfather on my mom’s side was a butcher. Our lineage of butchers goes back pretty far. My favorite food was hot dogs at my grandfather’s house. We’d have scrambled-egg sandwiches, hot dogs, and Oreo cookies. I wouldn’t even touch the bun. At six years old, I’d eat three or four sausages.”

ason’s most treasured fa mily recipe


On the tail end of the “all positive” food memories announcement, the chef sails unannounced into port: “The worst thing that I’ve ever eaten, or a food that I avoid, is pork liver. In particular, it’s Chinese-style pork liver soup that I had once in Singapore. I just didn’t care for it at all. I don’t really stop when it comes to what I eat. I’m not a total carnivore, or omnivore. I’ll eat it all.” That’s a reasonably clever buffer, but what’s important is, I got what I was looking for. Chef Wilson also recounts his two worst kitchen disasters: “I was the personal chef for a family. They had just returned home from a long work trip. There would be just the three of them for dinner—the daughter, mom, and dad—so it would be easy. I decided to prepare some black cod but didn’t consider a backup. I should have, because cod has an enzyme that you can’t see or smell or feel but that can make it melt. If you have a piece of fish that’s an inch or threequarters of an inch thick and you put it in the oven, it can come out like melted vanilla ice cream and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. As this happens periodically, you must always have a backup. Ostensibly, I served the family black-cod shakes.” An ambush by one of nature’s little gifts brought on another culinary calamity: “I was cooking professionally for 190 people at a home in Yakima. We were working out of a refrigerated truck in ninety-degree heat. A windstorm picked up as we were unloading a crudo dish of meticulously placed lobster, greens, and garnishes such as pickled cucumbers and snap peas. All the ingredients started flying off the stand as the waiters were taking them to the plates. I watched as women having a glass of wine got hit in the face with cucumbers and other airborne food missiles. Eventually, they had to close the entire event down and move indoors.”



s Chef Wilson reveals his efficient process for composing dishes, you’ll discover that it’s not an over-

worked drill, as it would appear to be, based on the number of elements he takes into consideration, but rather a well-conceived approach that nets him one successful dish after another. Jason lets it rip: “I look first for the component, the ingredient, that’s inspiring and then on to how it could be great in a particular style or preparation. It’s always dictated by the seasons, and then by the level of quality that I


can achieve. So if I find a really fantastic fish and the source is in line with our philosophy, that immediately satisfies a couple of my quality requirements. Then I step back and take a look at what’s in season and what would go with the fish. Then the texture, taste, salinity, and acidity of all the components start to come into play. If it’s octopus from the Puget Sound and it’s summer, I ask myself, How would I want to eat this? I consider the various techniques I want to use. It may be sous-vide and then finished on the plancha, or grilled, or smoked, or served chilled. Then I start to think about how the dish should look. For me, most of it happens in my head, and then I play it out on the plate. My food generally tends to have very bold flavors and is often balanced with multiple textures. I think of my style as modern Northwestern.” In the Wilson world, everything relates to cooking and his restaurant—at least, that’s how the chef perceives events occurring outside that sphere. In order to understand what that means, Jason generously takes me on an intimate journey back to a personal experience that influenced his career, one for which time had no respect whatsoever. It was just before he opened his restaurant, Crush. Jason, concerned about his weight, felt that a visit to the doctor for a physical was a wise choice. His cholesterol checked out fine, but when the doctor put the stethoscope to his back, she said, “Hey, that’s really weird.” Jason responded with, “What is it?” Doctor: “Well, I hear a washing-machine sound, kind of like a murmur.” Jason: “Well, I had a murmur when I was a kid.” Doctor: “No, this is far different, and I want you to see a cardiologist.” The following week, Jason did see a cardiologist, who, after a number of tests, dished up the news that Jason had a hole in his heart of significant size that could be closed up—just like that. The “just like that” part of it sounded easy to Jason, but the doctor informed him that was not the case. There would be an emergency room ready in the event that he would have to operate—most assuredly standard protocol for physicians performing the procedure, but for Jason, it was one of those oh my god moments in which he thought, Holy shit, what are you talking about? I’ve always lived life as a very active individual and never had to be concerned with this. At that time, Jason was a personal chef for a family in Seattle, so, quite naturally, he called his employer and told


her that he was at the cardiologist’s, trying to schedule a procedure, and would be late. Her response certainly put the icing on the cake: “You can’t be late. We’ve got eight people for dinner tonight, and I’ve got the china set out.” Jason’s dedication to his craft meant that disappointing his food audience was not an option. He pulled off the dinner, and everything went smoothly—impressive, considering the tornado that must have been brewing in his brain. The materialization of this dinner for eight was rewarded the following day with a call from the head of cardiac catheterization at the University of Washington, arranged by his employer’s friend at UW. After film was reviewed and tests were completed, Jason received a significantly different diagnosis—atrial septal defect. The doctor advised Jason to go ahead and open the restaurant, and once he was up and running, they would schedule the procedure—in the doctor’s terms, “We’ll just close it up for you.” Crush opened in February, and the procedure was done in August. The doctor tripped Jason’s heart electrically, pushing it into atrial fibrillation—from a heart rate of 109 to about 168 in approximately thirty seconds—which was a scary and painful experience with a successful outcome. A “big cookie”–looking device was permanently implanted in Jason’s heart to close the hole between the two top chambers. Chef Wilson actually gets a bit emotional and very quietly asks me to humor him as he wraps up the story. “I was asked by AGA Medical Corporation to tell my story to the entire company—all 350 people. I met the team that actually made my device, an AMPLATZER Septal Occluder—each one has a unique tracking number. It’s like a big Oreo cookie. It’s deployed through a catheter. It goes in and closes up the abnormal opening, and eventually, scar tissue grows over it. Scar tissue grew over my device, and my heart has been very different ever since. Not only was I able to watch the device being made, I was given one that I keep in a wallet at home. Summing up the impact on my life both psychologically and physically: I sleep and breathe a lot better. I think overall, the change has given me a different viewpoint toward what I’m doing. This is something that happened in my life that was unexpected, but it also made me realize my mortality. How much time I’m spending working or pushing myself in this career needs to be balanced out with an enjoyment of life.”


Jason’s passion away from the kitchen is fly-fishing. What does it offer that he particularly savors? Similar to his work as a chef in some ways, it’s very systematic, based on precision, timing, and presentation. The bonus: he is in a wilderness environment of rivers or lakes, enjoying the pleasures of nature. He finds the instant relaxation that comes from being transported to another place very important. Having one day off in a stretch of eighteen, he has to reach this Zen state very quickly in order for it to be effective, and, generally, it’s a quick process to decompress. Why fishing as opposed to hunting? Jason doesn’t like to kill things. He rarely keeps a fish. What talent does Chef Wilson offer the world that’s uniquely his? Where does he feel he excels? “I think the thing that’s most important nowadays is to be an incredible manager and mentor of people. What I end up doing is strategizing and working on building teams. Any situation I deal with, it’s, How do I mentor people? How do I further the cause of what I do with my own food and teach others? What we do as chefs is very important knowledge to pass on.” I want to know his degree of confidence on this point, so I get right to it with my straight-from-the-shoulder question “Do you really think that you’re particularly gifted at that?” Not a flinch in delivering the reply: “Oh, yeah.” That was the confident response I was hoping for. If the chef is that confident of his special talent, it may just conform to fact. Always looking past the kitchen roar to the personal life, I also nip the “What personal lesson have you learned?” in the bud. “I think that my wife’s taught me a lot about being patient. Just taking everything down a couple notches—relaxing and being receptive to what my son and wife want to do, and enjoying our time. I could kick the bucket one day, and my customers aren’t going to be the ones that talk about me a generation later. My son will be. That’s the more important thing to me at this juncture.”


BITS + Pieces


avorite chocolate: Valrhona or Claudio Corallo.

Favorite herb: lemon verbena. Favorite wine and liquor: red or white French Burgundy. I like bourbon. Favorite flower: the orchid. Favorite music: I don’t have a favorite music, but I listen to a lot of techno. I’m a drum-and-bass kind of guy. Favorite movie: The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. Favorite hotel: The Ritz-Carlton in Singapore is pretty incredible. Favorite cookbook: Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet. Favorite painter: maybe Monet. Favorite sport: ice hockey. Favorite foods or dishes: Japanese food and foie gras are two of my favorite things to eat. Last meal: foie gras and white peaches. Junk food or food obsession that I can’t resist: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches now and then. Favorite city to dine in: New York City. Favorite place to shop for food: Seattle is a pretty remarkable city to food-shop in. I also had an amazing time in Saint Lucia. There’s a marketplace there that I thought was pretty fantastic. The markets in Singapore were just incredible. One end would be Chinese, with everything from various dried fungi to seahorse to shark fin. Most versatile ingredients that I couldn’t live without: salt and verjuice. Dream conversation would be with: JFK or Winston Churchill. I think cigars with Winston Churchill would be the optimum. Favorite piece of kitchen equipment: I love my vacuum sealer. I can’t go anywhere without it. I use it for compressing fruits in order to infuse those flavors into ice cream.


TOOLS + Tips


use cast iron to cook my steaks. I’d forgo a grill any day to cook a really nice piece of meat, lamb, pork, or fish

in an überthick cast-iron skillet. They aren’t cheap, but they’re very easy to come by. Their cooking diversity, from a fireplace to the top of a grill, is fantastic. I don’t use a lot of raw onions or garlic in my cooking. Alliums contain an innate amount of gas that make them either spicy or hot and leave one with onion breath after eating. If I’m serving onions in salsa, I toss them with some lime juice and let them sit for about seven minutes, which decreases the gas and harsh flavor by about 85 to 90 percent. Follow the same procedure for serving them on a burger or a sandwich—dress with lime juice, rice vinegar, or champagne vinegar after cutting. For every four cloves of raw garlic, I use a quarter teaspoon of salt on the cutting board to prevent the garlic spray. Then I’ll take the garlic and sweat it slightly in the oven with a little bit of olive oil to eliminate the gas and burning flavor. I was in Vietnam in 1998, staying at my Vietnamese girlfriend’s aunt’s house. We went to the market and bought seven or eight pounds of brackish water snails for a party we were doing. The maid and the cook helped us clean the snails by cutting up chilies, putting them in the water, and then soaking the snails in the chili water. They began to laugh, so my girlfriend asked them in Vietnamese, “What are you doing?” They wiggled their bodies back and forth. The snails get hot, they wiggle in their shells, and all the sand comes out. Sure enough, after the snails sat in the chili ice water for an hour, there was a pile of sand at the bottom of the bowl. I thought it was amazing, and I have used this method with clams and mussels—any live shellfish—ever since. I consider a chef’s level of humility to be a tool.


Jason’s MENU Story


any of us have a way of releasing, relaxing, and just finding a breath of fresh air, a way to set the pressures of

everyday life aside for a moment and take inventory of what nature has given us. For myself, I have always enjoyed chasing trout with a fly rod. Our chef de cuisine at Crush, Andrew Lanier, also enjoys fly-fishing, and the two of us often spend an afternoon talking food while floating down the Yakima with our friend and passionate fishing guide Jeff Comella. We’d always discussed cooking a memorable lunch streamside as a way to celebrate the day. After a couple of years, we finally put the plan into action and rallied two longtime friends, Sid and Jim. The day began with a stop at Crush to retrieve heirloom tomatoes at five o’clock on a Sunday morning. The air was clean, crisp, and cool. A three-foot cooler in the refrigerator, labeled CHEF, awaited Andrew and me. We started gathering our tools and the herbs, loading Jim’s SUV, half asleep. The drive to Ellensburg, as always at this time of the morning, was gorgeous. Witnessing the sunrise as we traveled along the pass through the Cascades and around the two mountain lakes that make up the headwaters of the Yakima River can be an everyday view for some, but I relished it, knowing that we’d be floating through the canyon soon enough. Jim drove the two hours to the put-in where we met Jeff and our other guide, Shaun. Three coffees into the morning, and yet we all were still half asleep. The day started as magically as did most days fishing with Jeff. Starting in the morning with a 1998 Veuve Clicquot and some very productive nymphing, we had moved through a couple miles of river before discussing where to pull out for lunch. Jeff had chosen a nice bank near a railroad trestle with a fantastic pool teeming with rising trout. I quickly started unpacking all our tools and began chopping herbs, slicing tomatoes, and seasoning the lamb. We had packed aged solera vinegar 172

for the octopus, fresh apricots and peaches for the tête de moine cheese. We had vacuum-sealed spot prawns and geoduck clams for a ceviche, and a threepound, slow-cooked (sous-vide) Wagyu rib eye. There were multiple cheeses for the lamb and steak, as well as a twenty-four-piece box of handmade chocolatecovered caramels. Usually, a streamside lunch is focused on the speed and consumption of nourishment. The goal: to prepare and eat the food quickly, slip in a few casts, and move on to more fishing. This particular afternoon, we were fortunate to enjoy the best of both worlds, as the lunch was inspired and the fishing seemed to run like clockwork. We leisurely stood with cups of wine in hand, enjoying cheeses, octopus, tomatoes, and foie gras, as the pool that lay downstream from us started to slowly bubble with rising trout. I grilled the lamb, sausages, and steak over a small propane gas grill that usually fits just beneath one of the chairs in the boat. Andrew was quick to set out the garnishes. It was eighty-five degrees or so, and the tomatoes tasted like summer in each bite. By the end of our day, cigars were lit up and chocolates were being devoured. The last of the wine was poured, and we toasted briefly to probably the most memorable food we would experience on a guys’ getaway. It was a meal that I remember fondly for its embodiment of the foods I love to eat and the camaraderie and friendship that we all shared while creating this lunch, not to mention some good fishing.


Jason’s RECIPES FRESH BURRATA CHEESE, SUMMER VEGETABLES, and GARDEN GREENS As summer begins, we feel it in the air and see it in the greening of our gardens and landscapes. This dish is truly about the season and the simplicity of great ingredients. Burrata can be found at any gourmet grocer or online. It is truly unique when made fresh the day you serve it. Serves 6. LEMON VINAIGRETTE ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 teaspoons sea salt TO PREPARE THE VINAIGRETTE 1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. 2. Season lightly with salt and reserve. SALAD 1 large organic carrot ½ cup shelled sweet peas, blanched 1 pound assorted small, young salad leaves (mesclun salad mix) 6 individual balls fresh burrata cheese (small size) 1 cup fresh arugula ¼ cup mint leaves ¼ cup fresh chervil 3 tablespoons snipped chives ¼ cup roasted hazelnuts


TO PREPARE THE SALAD 1. Peel the carrot and then cut the round sides off so they are flat and the carrot has the shape of a rectangle. Shave the carrot into long strips. 2. Blanch the peas quickly in boiling water and then immediately drain and plunge them into a bowl of ice water. Remove the peas and reserve. TO SERVE Arrange all the ingredients on a large plate with reckless abandon, and dress with the lemon vinaigrette.

HEIRLOOM TOMATOES WITH MALETTI VINEGAR, LEMON-BASIL AIOLI, and PARMESAN Tomatoes are the surest sign of summer and a true joy to eat when the sun has warmed them. I love the colors, sweetness, and flavors that tomatoes bring to a dish, especially on their own with a simple garnish. A great olive oil and coarse sea salt is often the best place to start. Serves 6. LEMON-BASIL AIOLI Makes 12 ounces 2 egg yolks ¼ tablespoon salt 1 tablespoon lemon juice ½ cup basil oil TO PREPARE THE AIOLI 1. Whisk the egg yolks vigorously until they develop a ribbonlike consistency. 2. Add the salt and lemon juice. Whisk for 1 minute. 3. Slowly incorporate the basil oil until the aioli is emulsified. 4. Reserve and keep cold. TOMATOES 4 heirloom tomatoes 1 pint Sweet 100 or Sungold tomatoes 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons Alaska sea salt (or season to taste) 3 tablespoons finely minced shallots

3 tablespoons Maletti or good aged balsamic vinegar 4 tablespoons lemon-basil aioli (see recipe) 5 stems fresh lemon basil ¼ pound parmesan cheese TO PREPARE THE TOMATOES 1. Slice the tomatoes into various shapes and sizes, roughly 1–1½ inches. 2. In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, and sea salt. Marinate for 30 minutes. 3. Place the shallots in the balsamic vinegar for 10 minutes. 4. Tear the fresh lemon basil into the tomatoes and stir in the aioli. 5. Add the vinegar and shallots. Mix well. TO SERVE Using a vegetable peeler, shave the parmesan cheese on top to finish.


GRILLED TUNA WITH CAULIFLOWER TABOULEH, PEPPERS, and MIZUNA SALAD This is a great recipe for lighter fare and healthy food. I discovered the technique for making the tabouleh while working in Singapore and enjoying an afternoon with a chef friend from France. My approach is to use cauliflower instead of bulgur wheat for the salad when tasting and enjoying food on a hot day. The persillade, tabouleh, and pipérade should be prepared a day in advance and kept separate until you are ready to cook the tuna. Serves 6. HERB-PEPPERCORN PERSILLADE Makes 2/3 cup 1 bunch finely chopped Italian parsley ½ bunch finely chopped marjoram 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper ½ tablespoon coarsely ground fennel seed ½ tablespoon coarsely ground pink peppercorns ½ tablespoon coarsely ground Sichuan peppercorns 1 teaspoon coarsely ground coriander seed, toasted ½ bunch finely chopped mint ½ bunch finely chopped chives 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1 ounce extra virgin olive oil TO PREPARE THE PERSILLADE Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well to combine.


CAULIFLOWER TABOULEH Makes 4 cups 2 pounds cauliflower (whole heads) 1½ tablespoons kosher salt 2 tablespoons brunoise-cut preserved lemon (see Sources: Whole Foods Market and Williams-Sonoma) Chef’s note: To make a brunoise cut, julienne the vegetable, then turn a quarter turn and cut again, producing 1/8-by-1/8-inch cubes. ½ bunch finely chopped parsley 2 tablespoons brunoise-cut shallots, toasted in olive oil 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon chopped garlic, toasted in olive oil ½ bunch chopped chives 1/8 bunch chopped mint ½ tablespoon ground and toasted cumin seed ¼ tablespoon smoked paprika ½ cup brunoise-cut heirloom tomatoes 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar 2 tablespoons orange juice

Grilled Tuna with Tabouleh continued....

TO PREPARE THE TABOULEH 1. With a box grater, finely grate the cauliflower into a stainless steel bowl. 2. Place the cauliflower on a cutting board and chop very finely so that it resembles the size of couscous grains. Chef’s note: This step is optional but is suggested to ensure that all cauliflower is uniformly cut very finely. 3. Sprinkle the kosher salt over the cauliflower and let sit for 30 minutes. Squeeze out excess water from the cauliflower and transfer to a stainless steel bowl. 4. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. 5. Adjust the seasonings as needed. SPICY PIPÉRADE Makes 6 cups 1 pound red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and brunoise cut 1 pound yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and brunoise cut ½ pound piquillo peppers, brunoise cut 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 teaspoon pimentón (Spanish paprika) ¼ tablespoon ground cumin 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint 1 tablespoon chopped marjoram TO PREPARE THE PIPÉRADE 1. Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix well to combine.

2. Transfer the pipérade to an airtight container and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours to let the flavors meld. MIZUNA SALAD 1 bunch fresh mizuna lettuce Pinch of salt Extra virgin olive oil 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice TO PREPARE THE SALAD Dress the mizuna lettuce with salt, extra virgin olive oil, and lemon juice. TUNA Four 5- to 6-ounce tuna steaks, cleaned and chilled TO PREPARE THE TUNA 1. Roll the tuna steaks evenly in the herb-peppercorn persillade and place them in a stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. Sear all sides until they are golden brown. 2. Immediately remove tuna from the heat and set aside for slicing. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Slice the tuna to desired thickness. 2. Place the mizuna salad on top of the tabouleh and crown with the tuna slices. 3. Garnish with pipérade as desired. WINE SUGGESTION 1998 Beaux Frères Pinot Noir (pairs well with each of the STREAMSIDE MAGIC dishes) 177

ROASTED LAMB WITH CARAMELIZED FENNEL, FENNEL CONFIT, and FAVAS One great pairing that I love is lamb with fennel; the sweet licorice flavor that anise brings forth works so well with the fat of the lamb. This dish is quite simple. Serves 6. FAVA PUREE 2 cups shelled fava beans ¼ cup heavy cream Salt 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest TO PREPARE THE PUREE 1. Blanche the fava beans in boiling water for 30 seconds, and immediately drain and plunge them into a bowl of ice water. 2. Squeeze the outer skin of the fava bean to release the greencolored bean inside. 3. Place the beans, cream, a touch of salt, and the lemon zest in a blender and puree until smooth and reserve in a small saucepot. CARAMELIZED FENNEL and CONFIT 2 bulbs fresh fennel 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons finely minced black olives 2 tablespoons finely minced shallots 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint

TO PREPARE THE FENNEL 1. Cut the fennel into ½-inch wedges and reserve. The remaining scraps can be finely diced for the confit and reserved separately. 2. Toss the fennel wedges with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a touch of salt. Sauté over medium heat until golden brown on both sides. Reserve in a warm place. 3. Sauté the olives, finely diced fennel, and shallots in the remaining olive oil and 3 tablespoons of water. Sauté just until the water has evaporated. 4. Add the sherry vinegar. Sauté until the vinegar is reduced by half. 5. Remove from the heat and toss with the tarragon and mint to create a salsa. 6. Keep the fava puree and fennel warm in the oven.


Roasted Lamb continued....

LAMB 2 tablespoons chopped garlic 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 pounds American lamb loin, fat cap trimmed TO PREPARE THE LAMB 1. Soften, but don’t brown, the garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes on medium heat. 2. Place the softened garlic and the remaining ingredients in a blender and process on medium speed until thoroughly mixed. 3. Rub the lamb with the garlic marinade. Refrigerate for 2 hours.


4. When you are ready to serve, preheat the oven (a grill can also be used) to 350°F. 5. In a stainless steel sauté pan or cast-iron skillet, sauté the lamb, fat side down, for 7 minutes on medium heat to caramelize the meat. Turn the loin over and repeat the caramelizing. 6. Transfer the lamb to the oven and cook for 8 minutes. 7. Let the lamb loin rest for 3–4 minutes in a warm area before slicing. TO SERVE Garnish the sliced lamb with caramelized fennel, fennel confit, and fava puree.


Verbena adds a soothing and warm aroma to any dish. Verbena is especially significant in spring and works so well with peaches, nectarines, and, of course, lemon. As we grow verbena throughout both gardens at CRUSH, I tend to use it during the season whenever possible. Makes 3 cups. VERBENA JELLY 2 cups champagne 1 cup white sugar 1 cup cold water 2 bay leaves ½ teaspoon kosher salt 3 tablespoons honey 3 tablespoons agar agar (see Sources: Amazon, and select grocery stores, in the exotic-foods section) 2 cups loosely packed lemon verbena leaves (available at some farmers’ markets or your local nursery)

TO PREPARE THE JELLY 1. Bring all ingredients except the verbena and agar agar to a simmer for 10 minutes. 2. Remove from the heat and stir in the verbena and agar agar. 3. Cool the mixture for 30 minutes at room temperature and then strain through a fine mesh strainer. 4. Allow the jelly to cool overnight. Chef’s note: Blend jelly slightly before jarring or serving.


BUTTERMILK-THYME BEIGNETS Who doesn’t enjoy warm doughnuts? This was the recipe we created for a special friend’s wedding cake: a doughnut cake, four feet high. What a celebration. Makes 24 beignets. BUTTERMILK-THYME BEIGNETS ½ teaspoon dry yeast ¼ cup buttermilk 2 egg yolks 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1½ cups bread flour 2 tablespoons sugar Pinch of salt 1 tablespoon melted butter 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme Powdered sugar (optional) TO PREPARE THE BEIGNETS 1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. 2. Let the dough proof (rise) for 2 hours. Chef’s note: Let the dough rise in a warm place with no drafts; cover with a clean kitchen towel to prevent a crust from forming.


3. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. 4. Cut the dough into 1-inch squares. Chef’s note: If you prefer a round beignet, use a ring cutter, or feel free to cut the dough into any shape you wish. 5. Deep-fry at 340°F until golden brown, approximately 4 minutes on each side. TO SERVE Dust with powdered sugar if desired. WINE SUGGESTION 2001 DeLille Chaleur Estate (pairs well with the lamb and beignets)

HANDMADE SEA SALT–EARL GREY TEA CARAMELS This quick and easy recipe for caramels was inspired by late nights at our house after dinner parties, when one more bite of chocolate could satisfy everyone. Makes 24 caramels, or 1 pound. SEA SALT–EARL GREY CARAMELS 12/3 cups sugar ¼ cup corn syrup ¼ cup butter 1 cup cream 1 tablespoon honey 1 vanilla bean, split 3 tablespoons loose-leaf Earl Grey tea 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus 1 tablespoon fleur de sel to sprinkle over chocolate-covered caramels ½ cup grated or chopped chocolate, such as Valrhona, to coat the caramels (see Sources: Whole Foods Market)

TO PREPARE THE CARAMELS 1. In a clean stainless steel pot, simmer the sugar and corn syrup for 5 minutes. 2. Add the butter, cream, honey, and vanilla and simmer on medium heat until the candy thermometer reaches 257°F. 3. Add the tea and salt and stir well. 4. Cool the caramel mixture for 2 minutes. 5. Place the caramel in a fine mesh strainer and strain onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to a thickness of ¾–1 inch. Let the caramel cool for 30–40 minutes at room temperature. 6. Cut the caramels into 1-inch squares (four even sides) and refrigerate for 15 minutes. 7. Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl in a microwave oven. 8. Dip each caramel square into the warm melted chocolate until completely coated, then remove and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool slightly. 9. Lightly sprinkle the tops with fleur de sel to finish. TO SERVE Serve the caramels at room temperature.



a chef’s yarn or two more . . .

and amusements


Chef Justin Apraha mian’s wild striped bass plaki with sweet-and-sour vegetable broth

Clark FRASIER and Mark GAIER

ARROWS + MC Perkins Cove Ogunquit, ME 188



ark Gaier grew up in a big fa mily near Dayton, Ohio. His mother, a homemaker, was a wonderful cook

who inspired Mark to begin preparing food, including baking bread, by the time he was fourteen. Later, when Mark was a young man working in publishing in Blue Hill, Maine, his favorite work was putting on dinner parties for the staff and advertisers at the magazine. This love of cooking and entertaining gave way to Mark’s decision to study culinary arts under Jean Wallach in Boston. Later, Mark was given the opportunity to work at the Whistling Oyster under Michael Allen, who had been the chef for Madeleine Kamman at her cooking school in Boston. He owes the development of many of his basic chef skills to this period. In the mid-’80s, feeling he needed exposure to more innovative cooking, Mark went to San Francisco and joined the staff at Stars Restaurant as chef tournant under Jeremiah Tower. According to Mark, “this was a fabulous experience because the staff at Stars was so talented and because Jeremiah is such an accomplished chef.” Clark Frasier grew up in fresh-produce heaven. His family lived in Carmel, California, where vegetables and fruits were available year-round. He remembers picnics in the Napa Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains with artichoke stands along the road. It wasn’t until he went to China to study Chinese that he learned about the wonders of produce in its various seasons. During the harsh winters in Beijing, the people dried, salted, and pickled cabbage, which became the only vegetable available three months out of the year, “so that by the end of winter, we students were ravenous for vegetables, and would go anywhere and pay anything to get them. I learned from that experience what the seasons meant, and why food tastes so good when it is in season. Today, you can have anything, anytime, but even now, vegetables and fruits have to be picked before they are ripe, and therefore they ripen on the way from Chile to Maine. It’s not the same.”


When Clark came back from China, he moved to San Francisco to set up an import-export business. As it turned out, he wound up working his way up to chef tournant in the famous kitchen of Stars Restaurant. With Jeremiah Tower, Clark began to develop and build his unique cooking style that sprouted a repertoire of Asian-influenced combinations. There, too, he met Mark Gaier, and the two eventually decided to strike out on their own. In the spring of 1988, Clark and Mark had a vision when they purchased Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine. The place needed lots of work. It was funky, with mismatched antique pressed-back chairs. Their plan had been to do a more casual brasserie, or bistro-style restaurant, but the setting moved them gradually toward a more elegant dining experience. The dramatic locale was so beautiful and romantic that they felt compelled to respond to it. Utilizing their extensive travel and training, they created a classic country restaurant by constantly upgrading: having chairs made by a local craftsman; replacing flatware with silver, glass with crystal, and stoneware with china; as well as ordering dozens of other transforming interchanges and modifications. In 1992, the chefs began, out of necessity, to develop a kitchen garden. Today, the garden has grown to almost two acres in size and reflects the seasonal and fresh aspect of their cooking style interwoven with the diversity of their visits to other countries. Given the success of Arrows, Chefs Gaier and Frasier decided to expand their reach, and in 2005 they opened the eclectic American bistro MC Perkins Cove, also in Ogunquit. MC Perkins, not wishing to be overshadowed by its older sibling, Arrows, carefully devised a plan of action by first selecting an extremely competitive contender for its restaurant backdrop—spectacular ocean views from every table. Arrows, with its fine-dining pedigree, has no justification for jealousy. And while their restaurants have received many awards and accolades, none was sweeter than the award for Best Chef: Northeast from the James Beard Foundation, which Chefs Gaier and Frasier received in 2010.



have to ask if receiving the Ja mes Beard Foundation’s 2010 award for Best Chef: Northeast, considered

the Academy Award of the culinary world, has always been a dream of Chefs Frasier and Gaier. Clark answers quite candidly: “Who doesn’t want to win the Academy Award? I wouldn’t say that we aspired to that, but we were driven to create beautiful restaurants and beautiful food. I feel like we’re still very passionate about continually making 190

things better. It’s not a process where you can say, ‘Oh well, it’s done.’ The Beard awards are something to aspire to, and obviously there are politics involved and differences of opinion. But of all the things in the United States, there’s really no other recognition that carries that badge of achievement. What’s more important than the things we’ve talked about here? Living well, living with passion, driving your cars, riding your bikes, traveling, being passionate about your food and your work, doing whatever you like to do—to me, that’s a whole lot more important. You’re going to get the Fifty Best Restaurants in America [award]; you’re going to become a great chef if you drive yourself.”



t’s a no-brainer that chefs should maintain a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle because their profession is

so demanding physically—the long hours and the heat have an impact on both the body and the mind. Having another outlet to alleviate stress is very important, and, depending on the outlet, can further the cause of health and fitness away from the kitchen. In exploring this assumption, my purpose is to strike the right chord on this topic and focus the conversation on what I am really after: What are these chefs doing with their lives outside the kitchen? Engaging both Clark and Mark on the health-and-fitness subject was effortless in the kingdom of chef revelations. Exercise daily is their mantra, evidenced by Clark’s infectious enthusiasm in recounting the benefits of a healthy life: “The two go together; having a well-balanced life is the Greek ideal of the well-balanced person. It enhances enjoyment; when you’re really hungry, food tastes fantastic. When you’re just going from one trough to another, it doesn’t taste so good. That old adage ‘don’t trust a skinny chef,’ isn’t really true at all.” For these two chefs, “healthy body, healthy mind” converts to stretching, and exercising at the gym, and bicycle riding, which, they maintain, greatly increase their ability to weather the long hours they spend standing in the kitchen. That aside, they both just enjoy what they call the “fun” aspect of working out and biking. They tell me that people frequently say to them, “Oh, you’re so tan—you must have gone to the islands.” No, they’re just bicycling or running in quiet, peaceful, and beautiful areas, like the Mount Agamenticus trails behind their home. It’s a great antidote to their hectic, intense, and noisy lifestyle. Clark frequently rides his bicycle to the gym and then works out. Believing that it’s important to create a safe zone, he takes his phone but uses it only for emergencies. 191

Justin Walker, executive chef at Arrows, grew up building and racing bicycles. At some point (most likely the day after he accepted the position at Arrows), he began enumerating the benefits of bike riding to both Clark and Mark: a great, low-impact way to exercise and maintain fitness; a terrific way to be close to nature and explore the mystery of the back roads; and, maybe most important, a way to have a lot of fun. Mark became Justin’s bicycle-riding guinea pig. The initial plan was that Clark would buy Mark a regular bike for a birthday or Christmas present, although no one could have anticipated that Chef Gaier would take to biking with a Lance Armstrong–like fervor. As Mark’s enthusiasm for riding more often and covering longer distances increased, it became apparent that his initial bike didn’t measure up to the quality that his progress merited. The obvious solution was to step up the bike, and a midrange version sufficed for a short time, until the day came to match Mark’s ability with top quality—a Trek Madone bike. Clark proved that learning by example could be very effective when he finally concluded that the whole bike thing was really great. He explains his gradual buy-in: “When you’re no longer twenty-two, it’s wise not to do the same type of exercise all the time. You can’t run every day, you can’t work out every day, you can’t do anything every day, because your body just won’t take it. I thought, Maybe this will be a lot of fun, and I can buy a great bike so that I don’t have to start from the bottom. The first couple of times I went out, it was horrible and difficult, but the more I did it, of course, the better I got at it and the more fun it became. We’ve bicycled a lot with Justin, which has been great because, like playing with somebody who’s a really good tennis player when you’re not that good, or cooking with somebody who’s a better chef, it brings you up to a much higher standard. Justin was always pushing us to go further—doing fifty or sixty miles, giving techniques on how to get more out of ourselves, such as what the cadence should be, or how we should sit back further when going up hills, or when to stand up in the saddle, or the importance of carrying more than one water bottle.” Clark sprints in through the front door of MC Perkins Cove and up the stairs for our interview and tells me that he and Mark just bicycled twenty-five miles that morning, along the ocean and up through the hills. Chefs Frasier and Gaier live in an area that is undeniably a little piece of biking heaven, but twenty-five miles before their workday even begins? All chefs, take note of this: Don’t dwell in the house of guilt, and remember the number twenty-five.


Another of Clark and Mark’s passion is of the four-wheeled variety—cars. They consider owning automobiles fun. These two fellows seem to maintain a high fun-meter reading, and Clark’s meter begins to register immediately after the word “cars” is uttered: “Growing up, I thought, Oh my God, someday I want to have cool cars. Driving through the forest at two in the morning with the top down—now, that’s fun. The beauty of an automobile is really a part of what makes life enjoyable.” He has, unfortunately, just sold his beloved BMW Z4. That fact seems to evoke his longing for sunny weather and fast sport cars, as in his comment to me: “You live in Southern California—car paradise. There’s not much you can do with a Z4 during the long New England winter except put it in the garage for five to seven months—very frustrating.” As a car junkie myself, I immediately have an automotive bond with the chefs. I yammer on about such things as the fact that the Maserati is one of my favorite cars, that my very first car was an MGB GT, and that thereafter I owned various Porsche models. I also chirp a couple of notes about how wonderful it is to slowly gain a sense of each chef ’s personality by discovering aspects of their lives that, for one reason or another, have not been released via the torrent of food news reporting but will be of great interest to the chef-obsessed public. It’s music to my ears when Clark heartily agrees. Self-aggrandizement is not a habit to indulge, but my inner voice squeals when Clark confirms that the discovery aspect of this book is “neat.” He goes on to say, “I think that’s why it’s cool that you’ve taken that approach. Who would have thought that you’ve gone to driving school and love driving Porsches? Does that fit in with everybody’s idea of what a cookbook author does? No, I don’t think so. The same would be true of a chef. I have to say that this is so refreshing, because I’m so sick of even my own biography being the main event. Every chef story seems to start with, ‘So-and-so grew up cooking with his grandmother in her kitchen’ and end with very little else.” Considering the efforts that have produced their two cookbooks, The Arrows Cookbook and Maine Classics, it’s apparent that writing is another interest for Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, although Clark is definitely the one who enjoys writing in general. He particularly loves children’s books, so many of them created by gifted artists, so it’s no wonder that Clark has already written his own, albeit unpublished. Writing fiction or nonfiction is on Chef Frasier’s short list for further exploration, and he’s certainly well on his way should he choose to put down the whisk and pick up the pen.




lark and Mark freely admit that Arrows is not for everyone—you have to really love food. It seems an ap-

propriate moment to tell them about my experience taking a group of hard-core Detroit automotive executives to the French Laundry. It’s like giving someone a fine wine when that person has an interest in it but simply has not been exposed to the varieties and possibilities of that world. Clark is immediately interested in whether the executives enjoyed the experience, and, with my predetermined point in my back pocket all the while, I tell him that they loved it. Clark comes right back at me with, “This is amazing. I always think it’s the best challenge when you have somebody who will say to you, ‘I hate okra. It’s awful.’ And I say, ‘Okay, fine. I’m going to serve you okra.’ And then when they have the ‘oh, this is really good’ moment, that’s really wonderful.” When it comes to the molecular-gastronomy kit—xanthan gum, liquid nitrogen, meat glue, and all their family members—Mark and Clark are at the opposite end of the sous-vide, dehydrating spectrum, where the purists hang out. They have no desire whatsoever to cook in plastic, and never will. The food they prepare must, to their way of thinking, be real—out of the ground, the way it’s been done for centuries. People talk about farm-to-table and a desire to cook the old way, but Mark and Clark have been devoted to the now very popular farm-to-table trend for almost a quarter of a century—it’s not news to them. If somebody like Grant Achatz is utilizing molecular technology in his restaurant, Alinea, Clark and Mark admit it can be a fascinating and interesting experience, but they don’t find it particularly satisfying. Clark explains, “It’s more like going to a theater event and seeing what sort of fireworks are thrown up than having a satisfying and enjoyable dinner. I really don’t want to eat dehydrated, strange things that have been put into pillows or wraps.” Simply to see what floats to the surface, I remark that the James Beard Best Chef of the Year award went to José Andrés, a practitioner of gastronomic principles. Clark responds, “There is a place for opera, and a place for the symphony, and a place for avant-garde music, and a place for rock and roll and everything in between. And that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it or not enjoy it. We were at a restaurant famous for its molecular gastronomy, but that shall go unnamed. About a quarter of the way into a six-course meal, I had a very intense fantasy of a New York pepperoni 194

pizza being delivered to me. There was no meal, just a series of Oh my gosh, I’m so impressed by this dish. And, isn’t this amazing how this has all been turned into something that it wasn’t before.” The chefs tell me that frequently the most inspirational thing for them is to walk into their garden and just sit down and come up with dishes. Even on days when they are not directly influenced by the garden, the peace and quiet allows them to start thinking. Mark, Clark, and Justin often walk the garden and talk about this and that. It may be “Well, you know, we haven’t had soft-shell crabs on the menu lately” or, “We haven’t done this” or, “What about lemongrass?” And then the ball gets rolling as they start throwing out ideas and creating. Clark, for instance, always considers flavor combinations in his mind while creating dishes. It’s something that chefs share, the talent of being able to imagine the taste and flavors in their mind. Chefs Frasier and Gaier bring to my attention that this creative process could happen on an airplane, or some minor detail could set them off: “Even bad food, such as a tangerine that is disgusting, but if it were good, wouldn’t it be fabulous with . . . ?” Clark continues, “Mark and I are always writing in notebooks, especially when we’re traveling. We occasionally take some inspiration from somewhere we’ve visited and then begin weaving together ideas. It’s sort of a subconscious thing, where you may never refer to those notes you made, but I think it’s the exercise that’s valuable.”



lark and Mark’s most theater-of-the-a bsurd food experience to date occurred, sadly, in a well-known

celebrity chef’s restaurant. Clark is going on record as not revealing the name or the restaurant. Although I have journalistic clearance to print the story, I am included in his witness-protection plan. The chefs’ preface to their dining story is as follows: Clark and Mark have been to many lovely restaurants all over the world and have had many wonderful experiences. They never take it for granted that they are able to visit these beautiful places of respite from a hectic life. I am uncertain what meaningful purpose the preface serves, except to convey that the chefs are keenly aware of a


wonderful dining experience, as opposed to one that is completely lacking in “wonderful.” Somewhere in the maze of those “lovely” restaurant experiences, lying in wait, was the probability that one would be truly horrific. Clark begins his account of the inconceivable events, and I realize immediately after the first few words that it’s going to be a bumpy ride: “Although we had a horrendous evening, the food was actually quite pleasant, but the way in which it was served was truly a nightmare. We were given a later reservation, which I normally don’t mind, but it was odd that when we arrived, the restaurant was mainly empty, so why did we have to wait? We hadn’t even ordered our wine, and were waiting for our cocktails, when the first courses were slammed down on our table. We told them that we did not wish to have our food before we finished our cocktails and to please take the food back. I always feel that when you go to a supposedly lovely restaurant, you want to take the time to match the food and wine. It’s part of an enjoyable evening unfolding.” “Although we specifically said we weren’t ready, they continued to slam the food down in front of us throughout the evening. There were continual issues with items not being cleared properly, food sitting on the table, glasses never removed, and so forth—just terrible for this level of restaurant. Finally, our table and two or three other tables were still occupied in the restaurant, but the bartender apparently thought that all the patrons had left the building and decided to tackle one of the waitresses. He chased her through the bar and into the dining room, tackled her, and then threw her onto a banquette, all to peals of laughter and giggles. We, as well as other guests were sitting in shocked silence. It was truly horrendous. Hearing this screaming, laughing, and carrying on, the maître d’ realized what had happened and came into the dining room. We sat there looking at him with an expression that conveyed disbelief: What in God’s name has happened this evening?” “What was truly infuriating about the entire experience was the level of service, so arrogant and rude. It’s really amazing—I mean, unbelievable. It’s not acceptable when you’re handed a $1,200 bill at the end of the night.”




f Mark were not actively cheffing, he would be raising dogs—yes, and they might very well be dachshunds,

because Clark had wire-haired dachshunds as a kid and always talked about them. Mark grew up in farm country, and one of the things he always fantasized about was having a farm of his own and living the rural life. Mark does live, by my standards, a country life; therefore, as dreams can be a bit tricky, I opted not to go there with him, concluding that I could end up at the wrong end of a one-way street. I’ll just say that this dream is one that has materialized, minus the dachshunds—maybe that’s the missing portion of the equation in the rural-life dream scene. Did I mention that dreams could be tricky? Clark studied the Chinese language for five years while living in Beijing and Taiwan. He feels compelled to make a trip back to China every three or four years to reignite the fascination it holds for him. In an effort to marry China with his love of cooking in some fashion, Clark is talking with the Maine Lobster Council about conducting lobster workshops with Chinese chefs. It’s something that definitely intrigues him.

BITS + Pieces


avorite things to do in our spare time or on a day off: exercise, go to the beach, hike, eat out, drink

coffee at cafés, go to a friend’s “camp.” What we would like to do that we haven’t done: open a restaurant in New York, and travel more. Where would we ideally like to live: where we live—Ogunquit and Carmel, California. A pied-à-terre in New York and a beach house on the Big Island would be great, too. Favorite places to visit: the Middle East, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Europe, Indonesia, Mexico. Would like to visit but haven’t been: India, Persia, Africa, South America, and the South Sea Islands. Our idea of perfect happiness: a dynamic life; not worrying about money and time.


Our greatest motivation: enjoying a good life. An extravagance we can’t resist: great hotels, expensive bikes, cars, and exotic travels. Junk food or food obsession that we can’t resist: Clark’s is foie gras, Mark’s is ice cream, and we’re both addicted to coffee. Favorite cheese: our farmer’s cheese. Favorite herb: tarragon. Favorite wine: great Bordeaux. Favorite flower: tulip. Favorite singer: Carmen McRae. Favorite musical instrument: piano. Favorite movie and/or play: A Room with a View, Maurice, and Equus. Favorite sport: biking. Favorite hotel: the Four Seasons, Sultanahmet, Istanbul; the Amandari, Ubud, Bali. Favorite restaurants: Naranj in Damascus, Syria; Soul Food Mahanakorn in Bangkok for some of the best Thai; Hix in London. Favorite architect: Frank Lloyd Wright. Favorite gadget outside the kitchen: noise-reducing headset.

TOOLS + Tips


n our opinion, there are no miracle gadgets for the kitchen; in fact, too many appliances and

widgets will just clutter your kitchen and really don’t make you a better cook. But, that being said, investing in some high-quality pans is well worth the money. A heavy-duty roasting pan is essential for


cooking meat. Heavy stainless steel saucepans should be used when making sauces. Quality equipment of this nature will ensure that your meats are not burned and your sauces are not metallic. For casseroles, a fine ovenproof ceramic dish is another essential. We always keep a nonstick spray handy for this sort of application. Tricks of the trade in the food world can appear quite unexpectedly, and fodder for their revelations frequently comes while visiting other countries. The setting: the Metopolitan Hotel’s restaurant in Bangkok, with a chef who is well known for his Thai cooking. The restaurant is quite lovely and interesting, with a very attentive staff. The food is exceptionally hot, even by Thai standards. When they brought us a spicy dish, we remarked on our high tolerance for spicy food. This dish quickly defeated us. Our waiter immediately saw this and told us they would bring out something with turbinado sugar, quickly explaining that the sugar helps kill the burning sensation in your mouth. We had a bite of some delicious turbinadosugar concoction that neutralized and erased the heat on the spot. It was fascinating.


Clark and Mark’s MENU Story


he menu we created for this festive holiday dinner is one of our favorites. It’s classic in design but includes some

fun twists that make it far from boring. We personally have enjoyed this dinner on a couple of occasions, and we can assure you no one will leave the table unhappy! Clark says: The holidays, for me, were always a very special time. I’m an only child, and both of my parents loved to cook. The holidays were all about the three of us in the kitchen, cooking and getting ready for friends. We always had a small dinner on Christmas Eve, and my mother would usually prepare her paprika roasted duck, which is now a favorite at some of our restaurants. I loved getting all the beautiful silver, china, and crystal out and setting the holiday table. My dad and I always had a special project or two, such as smoking the trout or hanging ducks for Peking duck. On Christmas morning, after opening gifts, since it was Carmel, California, after all, we would often have a champagne Christmas brunch on the beach. After Christmas was over, old friends would start to arrive and stay the week leading up to New Year’s Eve. Everyone loved to dance, and we would often spontaneously roll up the carpets and start dancing. We always had a Dungeness crab “feed” one day, accompanied by great Monterey sourdough bread. Today, I still enjoy the holidays. Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve are very special times for both our guests and the people that work with us at our restaurants. And we still enjoy Christmas with our friends and families. Mark says: My holidays were a bit different than Clark’s. I grew up in a family of seven kids, and even more cousins, aunts, uncles, and assorted friends were always at our big old family house at that time of year. On Christmas Eve, we would have a casual dinner, such as German stuffed cabbage rolls, or spaghetti and meatballs, or ham and scalloped potatoes with green bean casserole (need I say, my mother was a great Midwestern cook). After dinner, we would clean up and go for a ride to see the festive lights of the season around town. 200

Mysteriously, when we got back to the house, Santa would have dropped by and there were tons and tons of presents to open. After we opened presents, it was time for cookies and buckeyes (this was in Ohio). After we kids were finally in bed, the adults would go to midnight Mass. The next morning, of course, we were up at the crack of dawn to play with our presents, and then off to church we went. Happily, church was followed by a brunch of coffee cake, bacon, sausage, eggs, and grapefruit. Then my mom would start Christmas dinner. She usually served a Thanksgiving-style turkey if we demanded it, or sometimes roast beef, mashed potatoes, and all the trimmings. After a huge dinner, we would have desserts—most importantly, snowballs, ice cream covered with coconut. I still love holiday time and look forward to it every year. I still enjoy decorating my home and, of course, cooking for my friends and family. We still have snowballs, too.


Clark and Mark’s RECIPES PROSCIUTTO WITH PERSIMMON, POMEGRANATE, and ARUGULA At Arrows, we’ve been curing prosciuttos for over two decades. It’s one of our favorite projects of the year and signals that winter has come and therefore, it’s time to travel! We allow the hams to cure for a period of two years before serving them, and the results, we feel, are comparable to the very best cured hams of the world. If you serve this dish at home, use a fine prosciutto di Parma. Have your deli slice it paper thin, preferably the day of the party. Or, if you have your own slicer, work the ham through slowly until you can see through it as you hold it up to the light. It’s worth investing in a slicer only if you are able to afford a top-quality one, such as a Berkel. Serves 8. SALAD 16 thin slices (about 8 ounces) prosciutto ½ cup fresh pomegranate seeds 1 large Fuyu persimmon, peeled, pitted, and cut into ¼-inchthick slices 4 ounces baby arugula ½ cup pistachios, toasted Pepper Extra virgin olive oil Pomegranate vinegar (available at specialty-food markets and select grocery stores)


TO ASSEMBLE 1. Arrange 2 prosciutto slices on each plate and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds. 2. Arrange the persimmon slices next to the prosciutto slices. 3. Mound the arugula on top of the prosciutto. 4. Scatter the pistachios over the salad. 5. Sprinkle with pepper. 6. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. WINE SUGGESTIONS Domaine Belle Crozes-Hermitage Les Terres Blanches, or Gary Farrell Redwood Ranch Sauvignon Blanc

SHRIMP AND GRITS “MY WAY� Here is intro text

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BROCHETTES OF SCALLOPS WITH CRANBERRIES, BAY LEAF, and ORANGE, WITH CRANBERRY-SAFFRON AIOLI Fresh bay leaves add a unique flavor to sea scallops in a dish influenced by the cooking of Sicily. At Arrows, we harvest our cranberries in a nearby bog, and they are always sweeter and less acidic than commercial cranberries, but even commercial berries will add another stunning contrast to this unusual dish. Serves 8. CRANBERRY-SAFFRON AIOLI 2 large egg yolks ¼ cup cranberry puree (made with 3 ounces cranberries, ¼ cup sugar, and ¼ cup water, cooked for 5 minutes) 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads 1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel 1 small garlic clove 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 cup olive oil Water optional Salt and pepper TO PREPARE THE AIOLI 1. In a medium metal bowl, whisk the egg yolks, cranberry puree, and saffron. 2. Set the metal bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Whisk until thickened and a probe thermometer registers 160°F. Chef’s note: Do not let the bowl touch the water. 3. Transfer the mixture to a food processor. Add the orange peel, garlic, and lemon juice. 4. With the food processor running, gradually add the olive oil in a thin stream until incorporated. Thin with water if needed. 5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 204

SCALLOPS 8 bamboo skewers 24 medium sea scallops 16 fresh bay leaves 48 cranberries

Olive oil Salt and pepper 1 cup chopped fresh chives 2 oranges, peeled and sectioned

TO PREPARE THE SCALLOPS 1. Thread each skewer with 3 scallops, alternating with 2 bay leaves and 3 cranberries. 2. Brush the brochettes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 3. Heat a grill or sauté pan and cook the scallops for 2 minutes on each side, until brown or just opaque in the center. TO ASSEMBLE 1. Place one brochette on each of the eight plates and drizzle with the aioli. 2. Garnish with the orange sections and chives. WINE SUGGESTIONS Bernard Morey Puligny-Montrachet La Truffiere, Premier Cru, or Kistler Les Noisetiers Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, California

SHRIMP AND GRITS “MY WAY� Here is intro text

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ROASTED LOIN OF VEAL WITH FOIE GRAS, CHERRYGRAPE SAUCE, WARM BRUSSELS SPROUT LEAVES, and CASSEROLE OF WHITE TRUFFLE PASTA A heavy-duty roasting pan for the veal loin in this recipe is necessary, and the cherry-grape sauce served here should be made in a heavy stainless steel saucepan. Serves 8. CHERRY-GRAPE SAUCE 2 cups low-salt chicken broth 1 cup beef broth 2 cups dry red wine 1½ cups small red seedless grapes ¼ cup (packed) golden brown sugar 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce ½ cup drained wild cherries in syrup, such as amarena (amarena cherries are available at specialty-food markets and select grocery stores) TO PREPARE THE SAUCE 1. Boil chicken and beef broths together until reduced to a scant 1 cup. Set aside. 2. In a separate saucepan, bring the wine, red grapes, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 1½ cups, about 30 minutes. 3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the grapes to a small bowl and add the cherries. 4. Add the reduced chicken and beef broth to the grape syrup. Boil until reduced to ¾ cup, about 10 minutes.

VEAL One 3½-pound trimmed, boneless veal strip loin 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus whole sprigs for garnish Salt and pepper One 6- to 8-ounce block cooked duck foie gras, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices (optional) (see Sources: Hudson Valley Foie Gras) TO PREPARE THE VEAL 1. Brush the veal with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped rosemary. Wrap the veal in plastic and chill overnight. 2. Position the rack just below the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. 3. Sprinkle the veal with salt and pepper and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. 4. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 14-inch, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the veal, fat side down, and sear until brown, about 4 minutes. Turn over and sear until brown, about 4 minutes.


Roasted Veal with White Truffle Pasta continued....

5. Place skillet in the oven and roast the veal until the thermometer inserted into the center registers 135°–140°F, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Tent with foil; let stand for 10 minutes. Let the skillet juices remain in the pan. 6. Meanwhile, separate the foie gras slices on a plate and bring to room temperature. 7. Tilt the skillet with the reserved juices and spoon off the fat. 8. Add the skillet juices to the grape syrup and simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 3 minutes. 9. Add the reserved grapes and cherries and heat for 1 minute. BRUSSELS SPROUTS 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter 12 large brussels sprouts, leaves separated and cores discarded (about 12 cups) Salt Pepper TO PREPARE THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS 1. In a large skillet, melt the butter and cook the brussels sprout leaves over medium heat until they just begin to wilt but are still green, about 3 minutes. 2. Season with salt and pepper.


WHITE TRUFFLE PASTA 1 pound fresh linguine 2 tablespoons olive oil 10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) butter, divided into 1-tablespoon portions ½ cup all-purpose flour 4 cups warm milk Dash of nutmeg Salt Pepper 1 teaspoon white truffle powder or truffle oil to taste (see Sources: Urbani Truffles USA) ½ cup panko bread crumbs (available at Asian markets and select grocery stores) TO PREPARE THE PASTA 1. Cook the pasta until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Drizzle with olive oil and set aside. 2. Melt 8 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Stir constantly for 3 minutes. Chef’s note: Do not brown the flour-butter mixture. 3. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the sauce is thick and smooth, whisking often, about 5 minutes.

Roasted Veal with Truffle Pasta continued....

4. Add the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Cool for 3 minutes, whisking occasionally. 5. Whisk in the truffle powder or oil. Add the pasta and toss to coat. 6. Divide the pasta among eight 1-cup ramekins or custard cups. 7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 8. Over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the panko crumbs (reserve some for the topping) and toss until golden, about 5 minutes. 9. Transfer the ramekins to a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the panko crumbs and cover with foil. Bake until bubbling at the edges and golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Remove the foil from the ramekins, sprinkle with the reserved panko crumbs, and bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Cut the veal into 1-inch-thick slices and arrange on the eight plates. 2. Place foie gras slices (optional) over veal and top with the cherry-grape sauce. 3. Garnish the plates with the remaining rosemary sprigs. 4. Serve with the brussels sprouts and truffle pasta, passing the remaining cherry-grape sauce. WINE SUGGESTIONS 1986 Château Ormes de Pez St. Estêphe, or Fairview Beacon Shiraz, South Africa



One of our favorite dishes is blinis and bling with tapioca caviar. Nothing could be more festive! This is a fun twist on a traditional dish and a spectacular way to finish a special evening. Blinis are the Russian version of crêpes and are absolutely delicious. This recipe comes from The Splendid Table, which in turn took it from The Greatest Dishes!: Around the World in 80 Recipes, by Anya Von Bremzen. They can be filled with either sweet or savory fillings, such as jam, meat, cheese, or caviar. Blini are featured in Maslenitsa, which celebrates the return of the sun and is the Russian equivalent of Fat Tuesday. Serves 8. TAPIOCA 3 quarts water ½ cup small-pearl tapioca 1 cup whipping cream One 3-inch piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise 3 large egg yolks (reserve whites for blinis) 1/3 cup sugar Pinch of salt TO PREPARE THE TAPIOCA 1. In a large saucepan, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the tapioca and boil until it is clear, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Drain in a mesh strainer. Rinse under cold water until cool. Transfer the tapioca to a medium bowl. 2. Pour the whipping cream into a small, heavy saucepan. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer. 210

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt for 1 minute. 4. Very gradually whisk the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks and return to the saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Chef’s note: Do not allow the custard to come to a boil. 5. Set the saucepan over a bowl of ice water and stir until the custard mixture is cool. 6. Stir ¾ cup of custard into the tapioca.

Blinis and Bling continued....

BLINIS ½ pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about ½ cup) ½ pound parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes ¼ cup whole milk ¼ cup all-purpose flour 3 large eggs 2 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 3 large egg whites (reserved from tapioca)

9. Heat a griddle over medium heat. Brush with oil. In batches, drop the batter by rounded tablespoons onto the griddle, spreading to form 2½- to 3-inch rounds. Cook until brown, about 2½ minutes on each side. Transfer the blinis to the baking sheet.

TO PREPARE THE BLINIS 1. In two separate, medium saucepans, cook the potatoes and parsnips in boiling, salted water until both are very tender, about 15 minutes. 2. Drain the potatoes and parsnips well. Transfer to a chinois strainer or mesh sieve. Set over a medium bowl and force the potatoes and parsnips through the mesh and into the bowl. 3. Stir in the milk. 4. Whisk in the flour in 3 batches. 5. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, whisking to blend after each addition. 6. Whisk the sugar and salt into the batter. 7. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer and whip on medium speed until stiff but not dry. Fold the egg whites into the batter. 8. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Divide the tapioca among eight small bowls and place one small bowl on each plate. 2. Divide the warm blinis among the plates. 3. Arrange the dried cherry halves, candied apricots, and toasted almonds on the plates. 4. Place a dollop of crème fraîche and honey on each plate. 5. Place a very small mound of ground cinnamon on each plate. Serve immediately.

BLINIS AND BLING Tapioca Toasted almonds Blinis Crème fraîche Dried cherry halves Honey Candied apricot slices Ground cinnamon

WINE SUGGESTIONS Champagne! Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, or Jordan “J” Cuvée 20, Carneros, Napa Valley



ROY’S Honolulu, HI



he opening bits of information in a chef’s profile always include their place of birth. In Roy Yamaguchi’s case,

the heritage story turns colorful when all the pieces are at hand. Roy was born in Tokyo, Japan. He lived there until he was seventeen, absorbing his Okinawa-born mother’s language and culture. During those years, Roy made continual mental notes of Asian ingredients that would eventually become the contributing architectural elements of his Hawaiian fusion trademark. This beginning in no way diminishes the significance of Roy’s memories during his many early visits to Maui, where both his father’s and his grandfather’s Hawaiian roots began. Roy’s grandfather owned a tavern in Wailuku in the ’40s and was a pioneer in the local supermarket industry. One of Roy’s fonder memories is of he and his father, a career military man, born and raised on Maui, driving hours for no other purpose than to buy fresh fish, crabs, octopus, and lobsters from the piers. Roy, a very focused individual, knew he wanted to pursue a career as a professional chef before he graduated from high school, and he made good on that ambition by graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1976. After mastering cooking school, he secured an apprenticeship at L’Escoffier, followed by one at L’Ermitage, under chef Jean Bertranou—a profound mentor from whom he absorbed the secrets of haute cuisine. “I almost turned down the job because I didn’t think I was good enough,” he explains, “but I started out doing simple things, like cutting fish and meat. I learned more cooking there in two and a half years than I could have anywhere else. Bertranou and his righthand man, Michel Blanchet, taught me lessons straight from the school of hard knocks. They didn’t take things lightly. I learned to prepare a dish and work at it until it was perfect—I learned to feel if a dish was right.” Next up was the whirlwind phase: an executive chef position at Le Serene; a few memorable months at Michael’s in Santa Monica, working for “California cuisine” originator Michael McCarty; and then on to Le Gourmet in the Sheraton Plaza La Reina at Los Angeles International Airport. Roy’s cheffing hopscotch culminated in 1984 with the opening


of his first restaurant, 385 North, in Hollywood. At last, the Yamaguchi cooking style, “California-French-Japaneseeclectic,” as it was termed in the early years, could begin its yellow-brick-road journey. Dishes like rare ahi in grapefruit vinaigrette and Asian herb sauce represented something adventurous and daring. But for Chef Yamaguchi, putting his “ fusion” mark on each dish was just another StairMaster cycle that convinced him to move his young family to Hawaii. The eastern side of Honolulu, known as Hawaii Kai, was the idyllic location he had envisioned and craved—his own Hawaiian fusion launchpad. Roy’s Honolulu opened in December 1988. It was the only restaurant of its kind at the time and became known throughout the world for its Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine, a trademarked blend of European cooking techniques with the flavors of fresh, local ingredients found in Asia and the Pacific Rim. By 1992, Roy’s had been enshrined in the Nation’s Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame, awarded two toques from Gault & Millau, and twice selected as one of Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 50 in America, as was Roy’s Kahana Bar & Grill, on Maui. In 1993, Chef Yamaguchi was named Best Chef: Pacific Northwest by the James Beard Foundation, becoming Hawaii’s first recipient of the prestigious award. That kick-started his cooking series with Hawaii public television’s Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi, which focused on the beauty and culture of the islands, described through stories about its food producers, artists, and chefs. There was no stopping Roy as his high-gear quest for culinary endurance took off. To give you an idea of how far he has reached into the corners of the food-obsessed trend (and bear in mind, this is the short list): Television: the Travel Channel’s Epicurious; UPN’s Iron Chef USA. Cookbooks: Pacific Bounty; Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii; Roy’s Fish and Seafood; and Hawaii Cooks. Event participation: featured chef for the Grammy Awards for four years; the 2004 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, where he participated in the Celebrity Chef Cook-Off with actor/sous-chef Kevin Costner. Memberships: board of trustees for the Culinary Institute of America; steering committee for both the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and the Leeward Community College Culinary Arts Program; board of governors for the Go For Broke National Education Center, a nonprofit with educational programs on the Japanese American veterans of World War II; board of directors for Grow for Good, dedicated to supporting local farms and sustainable agriculture, and


for Hale ‘Aina ‘Ohana, a nonprofit dedicated to championing Hawaii’s culinary industry and the University of Hawaii’s culinary training programs; and honorary chair for the nonprofit Hale Makua, Maui’s largest long-term-care facility for the elderly. Most recently, Roy was appointed to the eleven-member board of directors of the Corporation for Travel Promotion’s Brand USA by the secretary of commerce, to encourage increased international visitation to the United States and to grow America’s share of the global travel market.



ow has life changed over the past five, ten, twenty years for Chef Yamaguchi? If he tells the story, it

hasn’t really changed at all, for the simple reason that his twenty-two-year continuum of working furiously at the helm of the Roy’s Restaurant empire has always presented the same challenge: to be creative and inventive, always striving to stay within secure reach of the brass ring. Erasing the glamorized, publicized aspects of a chef ’s life, Roy makes it brutally clear: “Those are the things that keep you on your toes. You move ahead because you understand that the restaurant industry is an ever-changing business comprising chef, owner, and brand. Attaching themselves to those three basic elements are the millions of things that affect your day; it’s never one thing. Consider just the chef ’s role; the ever-changing daily routine presents a mountain of tasks to be completed that are varied and time sensitive. Every year, the economy improves, declines, or stays the same, and you must make adjustments according to those fluctuations.” Roy’s perspective is that people believe life will become easier as it progresses, but nothing ever gets easier. He admits that it’s a daily grind trying to figure out how to make things better, how to execute better, how to be more creative. On the sunny side of the street is Roy’s belief that life is ever-changing, exciting, and unexpected. So what are the bits and pieces that Roy really has fun with? Where does the grind convert to pleasure? Roy immediately exclaims, “No, no, no, it’s a grind, but please understand, I am enjoying it—the madness and the chaos and even, at times, just pulling


my hair out. In some inexplicable way, those are things that make it better. I get up in the morning and feel that I’m blessed to be able to do what I do. I never get up in the morning and cringe at the thought of going to work. I get up and I can’t wait to get out the door.” When we get around to how the chef’s role in general has changed, Roy re-creates the tone of the mid-’70’s: “The chef would create great menus and execute at a high level. People would come to a restaurant because the food was good. If you had a great maître d’ who took great care of the guests, it was a win-win situation. Then people began moving faster and life began spinning at a higher revolution. Every opening was a show, whether you were in New York or Hollywood. Everybody wanted to be invited to restaurant openings. Naturally, there had to be theatrical oneupmanship in order to stay afloat. People were making deals, doing business, checking out the scene, always looking for different, exciting places to wine and dine.” The more I delve into Chef Yamaguchi’s life, the more I savor the way he peels back the layers without mincing words or indulging in the foodie-speak that can swallow up a chef faster than caramel can scorch. He’s not done with the restaurant-evolution story, so I just let it unfold naturally as he continues: “It’s a frustration to be a great chef, cooking according to your personal palate and then realizing that it doesn’t matter how great you are; you have to solve the “What does the guest want?” equation. A chef can have a small, ten-seat restaurant that executes the most bizarre things on Earth and still find people that will be attracted to their style. If you did that same thing in a twohundred-seat restaurant, chances are, you’re not going to fill those spots because those diners aren’t looking for what’s uniquely crazy or outrageous.” Roy has always worked at solving the “What does the guest want?” mystery. He has learned over time that he likes to cook in a style that he enjoys, but that he has determined his guests enjoy as well. He values understanding of and patience with the eaters of today, saying, “You have to explain more. You have to be a teacher. You have to battle Dancing with the Stars on TV, the weather, or the new movie release that everyone wants to see. You’ve got to keep all the balls in the air.” What I took away from Chef Yamaguchi’s restaurant blast-from-the-past summary and into present time seems to have been spurred by the idea that he and his fellow players could be left behind as the “wow” frenzy whipped itself


into an increasingly ominous cyclone in order to corral people back into dining establishments. “Status quo” were the two words of death—no one was coming back. The obstacles that a chef encounters—elements that cannot necessarily be controlled—must be traversed with great skill. The answers lie in buckling down and focusing on a strong team, and together figuring out how to prepare and present food and what creative things can be done to bring people back into the restaurant.



hen Chef Y a maguchi opened the original Roy’s, his concept came from watching Cheers on televi-

sion. He based the restaurant on a place where people felt really comfortable. He wanted a restaurant where you could pop in from your neighborhood, sit down and order a beer, and everybody knew who you were. The original Roy’s, in Hawaii Kai, is not only a neighborhood but also a community. Hawaii Kai was called the graveyard of restaurants; no restaurant had ever survived in that location. When Roy met with an architect, he was told that it was stupid and impossible to open a restaurant in that neighborhood. Twenty-two years later proves those observations to have been stupid and short-sighted. Against the tide, Roy specifically wanted a restaurant to be part of its neighborhood. He wanted to belong to something but at the same time showcase his name to other areas of the island. Who lives in a neighborhood? Families. Roy wanted a restaurant where people could come as a family. He wanted an environment where families could come together, and, more important, he didn’t want parents to leave their children at home with a babysitter. Roy didn’t want an intimate restaurant. He felt that once a restaurant becomes stuffy—a place where you can hear a pin drop— it becomes a special-occasion restaurant. Chef Yamaguchi stood firm on this restaurant concept, and because of his creative visualization or the power of thought—call it what you will—Roy’s became everything he had believed it could be. On a Saturday evening in the original Roy’s restaurant, the decibel level was akin to that of a 747 taking off, as thousands of children played and screamed. Parents with children loved this because nobody could hear their children—it was too loud. 217

Roy makes the point that America’s dysfunctional relationship with food could include anything from what kids are served in school cafeterias to the skyrocketing number of adults who believe that they can’t cook healthy and interesting food at home, so they succumb to the evils of fast-food, passing the curse on to their children as well. Chef Yamaguchi was appointed cochair of Let’s Move! Honolulu by the former mayor of that city. The program is patterned after Michelle Obama’s nationwide Let’s Move! campaign, which targets childhood obesity by improving nutrition and exercise on a number of levels; improving the quality of food in schools and making healthy foods more affordable and accessible for families are two important components of the plan. The availability of healthy, nutritious meals in public schools has always been on Roy’s wish list. Capturing the attention of children at a younger age increases the chances of guiding them toward healthy foods, as opposed to changing their eating habits at sixteen. Given the abundance of beautiful farms in Hawaii, Roy’s idea is to get the school system involved in various food manufacturing and processing methods by bringing in farmers and chefs to demonstrate how working together can create fresher products. Roy has jumped into Let’s Move! Honolulu with two smart approaches. He packs up his van and takes along a farmer and, as he calls it, “a wine guy.” I am wondering, These are kids—why a wine guy? Possibly, our chef is trying to see if I am paying close attention, but he quickly adds that he brings the wine guy along because he likes to talk and does it well. The trio arrives at the school, and Chef Yamaguchi begins making a tomato sauce utilizing fresh tomatoes and herbs: basil, thyme, and oregano. The farmer talks about the land and what he grows. They let all the kids play with the herbs to get acquainted with their touch and smell, and then let them know which ones will be used to make the tomato sauce. In order to move these healthy food products into schools and onto their daily lunch menus, Roy goes to a farm and buys all the B products that don’t look as perfect as the A products; A products are sold to restaurants, but B products won’t bring in top dollar. He then finds a chef to help him with a tomato recipe, whether it’s a tomato sauce or another preparation, which is then bottled or canned and sent directly to a school. The schools are receiving fresh products from the land, but for every can of tomatoes Roy sends, he knows that the school has a contract with


a manufacturing company for profit and that profit will be lost. Nobody wants that; they don’t want anybody else to penetrate their market. Getting nutritionally better foods into school cafeterias so that they are available to kids at a younger age is a good deed, but it also results in an unfortunate “fight mode” position for the people doing it. Everybody wants to make a buck, and everybody wants regulations. The government is involved, then the state gets involved, and then you have the people who want to make a profit—all the middlemen that want to put their stamp on it. Many children have no place to eat fresh, nutritious meals other than at school. Once they get home, it could be all fast food, or no food. We can talk as much as we want about eating healthfully and providing nutritional meals, but if the economy can’t support our mothers and fathers, it becomes next to impossible to uphold that standard in the home kitchen. The recourse becomes the cheaper, processed, or fast-food option. In today’s world, survival becomes the more practical solution over being healthy. Is this going to change drastically? Is it going to change rapidly? Roy doesn’t think so. He does feel it will change according to the choices people make—who can really afford to make a change, and who can’t.



he foods that Roy loves: noodles, especially ramen. The foods he avoids: none, but he does add a footnote

that he can’t eat a lot of durian (a smelly fruit). It’s banned from hotels in Thailand. The food obsession that he terms his “downfall” when it comes to eating healthfully is fried chicken, his numero uno favorite food in the world. He confesses that he cannot resist this indulgence, especially when he’s traveling; it’s fried chicken 90 percent of the time. His preferred brands: Popeyes and Church’s. My vision of Roy in an airport, gobbling up fried chicken and espousing the pleasures of great fried-chicken hangouts throughout the country, making an honorable mention of airport vendors, is my indulgence! Talking about ingredients that Roy loves to use but that are difficult to get a supply of yields an unanticipated response: He seems to think that there is an ample supply of great ingredients everywhere. Roy explains, “It’s all about 219

regionalizing and utilizing whatever is right next to you. Cooking is so versatile that ingredients shouldn’t be relied on. With the way farming has evolved, there is an abundance of great things that are out there pretty much all the time.” I agree with Roy, but, well, what if I am in no-man’s-land and the only cool eats for the day is desert lizard with no dressing? It’s definitely available, but this is where I draw the line with my chefs. That being said, I press on to find that there are a number of ingredients that Roy wouldn’t like to be without in the kitchen, such as lemon grass, Kaffir lime leaf, fish sauce, palm sugar, basil, and tarragon. These are ingredients that represent his style, although he’s sticking to the “make do with what’s available” philosophy. He has access to the different types of mushrooms, for instance, but doesn’t need chanterelle mushrooms all the time—as long as he has some enoki or shiitake mushrooms, he’s happy. I determine that I should have gone into the trenches with the desertlizard question, or the old “If you were marooned on an island, what ingredients would you not want to be without?” question. In the future, I’ll go for both. Roy’s colorful heritage certainly contains many wonderful and vivid childhood food memories, which he expresses as blessed events, owing to the mere fact that his father loved food. Dad would yank his children out of school and take them to the fish market, which always seemed as though it existed in a faraway, magical land. They would buy fresh fish, octopus, and crab, that being only the beginning of the food ritual. Dad was always the one who made the family meals, so when they returned home, the fun began. The octopus was massaged with sauce, most of the evening passed in a heightened state of food-preparation bliss, and finally, around 11:00 PM or midnight, the family would sit down and have dinner. Roy’s most treasured family recipe would be his father’s teriyaki sauce. Although Roy’s father has passed away, he left the teriyaki legend—nothing actually written on paper, but the memory is indelible. As a five-year-old child, Roy remembers a little pot of teriyaki sauce that his father always kept in the refrigerator. “Dad would make teriyaki chicken or beef by dipping and basting it with the almighty teriyaki batter. Every once in a while, he would return his teriyaki starter batter to the stove to refresh it with more ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, and green onion, and bring it all to a boil, and then back it would go to its ceremonial pot.” The pot was never washed, so by the time Roy left home at eighteen, that starter batter was thirteen years old. Roy, wherever you are, please let us know how long that teriyaki sauce continued to cure after you left home, and what became of it. 220



oy Y a maguchi’s hobbies outside the kitchen are drumming and golfing, although, rather than day-

dreaming of himself as a golf pro, he would without question opt to set down the knives and pick up the sticks—drumsticks, that is. Roy is a very humble person; it’s his self-proclaimed and most prominent characteristic. Success hasn’t spoiled this chef. The shenanigans, gesticulations, and melodrama that have found their way out of the chef ’s restaurant and into the press from time to time have no part in Roy’s life. Roy reveals just how Hawaiian Fusion was conceived and what made this specialty feel more unique: “I was born in Japan, and my father is from Hawaii; therefore, great ingredients from diverse cultures were abundant. I just try to put my life into my cooking. It’s very versatile, and you can look at what I’ve plated and know that I made it because my personality shows in each dish—the food combinations and the arrangements.”



i ck a couch, or a chair, or a doorfra me—anything that will support the imbalance you may feel when

you read on. Roy’s dream is to jump out of a boat into the middle of the ocean and start swimming, which he admits he will most likely never do. Even more surprising is the fact that he is not a good swimmer, and that’s why he wants to do it. It’s one of those things that he considers a more interesting accomplishment simply because he’s afraid to do it.


BITS + Pieces


avorite city to dine in: Japan.

Favorite restaurant: Maisen in Japan. They make Japanese pork cutlets. Favorite cookbooks: I own about four hundred to five hundred cookbooks. All of Thomas Keller’s books are great; Time Life’s The Good Cook series; all the cookbooks that come out of the Culinary Institute of America. Favorite wine: Ultimately, my favorite wine to drink is rosé. I can drink it all day and all night. Favorite liquor: I used to be a vodka drinker, and I quit—terrible. But I love shochu. It’s distilled liquor made out of rice, barley, or sweet potato. It’s like Japanese vodka. Favorite musical group: Led Zeppelin. Favorite kind of music: rock. Favorite musical instruments: drums and guitar. I like another instrument, the harpsichord. I don’t know why, but I like it. Favorite flower: the flowers used in Hawaii to make leis. They smell so good. Would like to visit but haven’t been: Antarctica. My most treasured possessions: pictures of my kids. My idea of perfect happiness: I’m not sure there is a perfect happiness.


TOOLS + Tips


Japanese mandoline (slicer) is easy to use, sharp, and makes life easier when you want a very thin slice.

[Roy uses the slicer for carrots, fennel, daikon, and yamaimo.] Japanese mandolines are made of plastic, with surgical-steel blades and brass-set screws. They are very good ones, originally invented and used in Japan. I think they are still made in Japan (the boxes I have display Japanese as well as English on them). For slicing and making julienne strips of several sizes, they are the easiest to set up and use. There is also an attachment that comes with some models—a little collection bucket that affixes to the back.


Roy’s MENU Story


y dad loved to cook. My mother loved to cook, too, but my dad was in the driver’s seat and my mom in the

backseat. At the end of the day, how I cook now is definitely an extension of the types of food—not necessarily the food itself, but the flavorings of the food—that I had as a child. Whenever I have time, I like to have a garage barbecue. The garage barbecue is something that’s more specific to Hawaii and relates directly to my menu. This kind of garage party is very common in Hawaii—they’re everywhere, some more elaborate than others, with televisions and music systems in the garage. My Hawaiian garage barbecue menu tells the story of how I cook; it reflects my style and, most importantly, my past. The flavorings are my dad’s. The way he cooked is instrumental to what I cook today. I take that influence and combine it with my journeys, philosophy, and education. What I cook today is the culmination of all those elements, so when I cook for my barbecue, it embraces the same things—they’re just in the garage. This is how the garage barbecue works: The cooking is done in the driveway; the garage is converted into a place where people can sit, but most often is an area to place the food or picnic table—my guests have the option of sitting outside or inside on benches if there is rain. It could be a long affair—starting in the afternoon and going into the wee hours of the next morning. They sometimes go for seven, eight, nine, ten hours. I usually invite about five or six guests. We tell stories, have fun, play music, share good food, enjoy a beverage, and smoke cigars. It’s all about getting together.


The food is somewhat buffet-style. After you grill your food, it’s all placed on a buffet table and you go through the line and select what you’d like to eat. Another fun thing that guests do is barbecue and eat their items right off the grill. To clean up after this kind of party is so easy. It’s a paper-plate affair, and there are no worries about charcoal or food on the driveway; you just wash it down after everyone has gone home.



Roy’s RECIPES MOLDED SUSHI WITH UNAGI and SPICY CRAB This layered sushi, molded in a traditional wooden box, is typical of southern Japan. This is a hearty, filling appetizer that could be a meal in itself. Serves 6. SUSHI RICE 5-inch square piece konbu (available at Asian markets) 2 cups short-grain white rice 2 cups water ¼ cup rice vinegar 3 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt TO PREPARE THE RICE 1. Set the konbu in the bottom of a rice cooker. 2. Place the washed rice on top of the konbu and add the water. Turn the rice cooker on. Chef’s note: Soak the rice for 30 minutes before cooking. If cooking rice in a saucepan, use equal parts water and rice, as you would for the rice cooker— follow the same procedure and cook on low heat until the rice is moist and fluffy. 3. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and salt until dissolved. 4. Scoop the cooked rice into a bowl (preferably a traditional rice-cooling bowl made of cypress wood). Discard the konbu.

5. Sprinkle the vinegar mixture over the rice. 6. Mix with a rice paddle or a wide wooden spoon while fanning the rice to cool. 7. Taste and adjust the seasoning with vinegar, if necessary. UNAGI AND SPICY CRAB ½ cup mayonnaise 1½ tablespoons white miso (available at Asian markets or Whole Foods Market) 2 teaspoons teriyaki sauce 1 tablespoon sambal oelek or Sriracha (available at Asian markets or Whole Foods Market) 1 cup cooked crabmeat 12 ounces prepared and cooked unagi (eel) (available at Asian markets in the frozen-foods section) Wood sushi mold (available at Asian supply stores or Asian markets)


Sushi with Spicy Crab continued....

TO PREPARE THE UNAGI AND CRAB 1. In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, miso, teriyaki sauce, and sambal oelek or Sriracha. Mix well. 2. Add the crabmeat and stir well. 3. Preheat the broiler. 4. Line a wood sushi mold with plastic wrap overlapping the edges and sides. 5. In batches, line the mold with rice, press firmly, and top with a layer of the unagi. Add another layer of rice and press the rice down so that it is even with the top of the mold. 6. Unmold, remove the plastic wrap, and carefully transfer the sushi directly onto a broiler pan. 7. Spoon the crab mixture over the top and place under the broiler for 5–10 minutes, until browned. 8. Remove from the broiler and cool for 1–2 minutes.


TO SERVE 1. Cut the sushi into serving-size pieces and arrange on four plates. 2. Garnish with caviar, such as tobiko, ikura, or black caviar; microgreens; enoki mushrooms; or nori (cut into strips). 3. Drizzle with kabayaki sauce (available at Asian markets), and serve immediately.

AKU OR AHI TATAKI When I go to a Japanese restaurant, I like this type of refreshing appetizer to start the meal. Serves 2. SAKE-SOY SAUCE ½ cup sake 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger 1 teaspoon sesame seeds TO PREPARE THE SAUCE 1. Heat the sake in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the sake is hot, touch a lit match to it to burn off the alcohol. 2. When the flame subsides, add the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and sesame seeds. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is reduced by one-third. 3. Remove the pan from the heat and place in a bowl of ice water to cool.

TO PREPARE THE AKU OR AHI 1. Slice the aku or ahi into 2 inch wide–by–1 inch thick pieces. 2. Trim the aku or ahi, leaving the skin on (only if using ahi). 3. Skewer the aku or ahi crosswise with two metal skewers. Hold the skewers as you sear the fish over a gas flame for 30–60 seconds, until all sides are seared. 4. Transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. 5. Remove the aku or ahi from the water and pat dry with a kitchen towel. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Cut into 3/8-inch-thick slices and arrange on a serving platter. 2. Mound the onions on top of the aku or ahi and drizzle with the sake-soy sauce. Serve immediately.

AKU OR AHI 1 pound aku or ahi tuna loin (see Sources: Tamashiro Market and Fort Ruger Market, or any good fish market) 2 Maui or other sweet onions, sliced thinly, for garnish 2 bowls ice water


MY DAD’S PORK RIBS My dad used to fire up the Big Green Egg kamado when we were kids. I looked forward to the weekends when Dad would start marinating these ribs and I would help him grill. Serves 4. PORK RIBS 2 pounds slab pork baby back ribs 2 tablespoons garlic powder 1½ teaspoons finely ground white pepper 2½ teaspoons kosher salt ½ cup red wine vinegar ¾ cup butter, melted and cooled TO PREPARE THE PORK 1. Sprinkle the ribs with garlic powder, white pepper, and salt. 2. Place the ribs in a flat pan or sealable plastic bag. 3. Add the vinegar, coating the ribs well. 4. Pour the butter over the ribs. Mix well.


5. Marinate for 2–3 hours at room temperature. 6. Heat a covered charcoal or gas grill to medium heat. 7. Place the ribs on the grill, meat side down. Cover and cook slowly. Periodically check ribs to ensure that they don’t burn. 8. Baste the ribs a few times with the remaining marinade. When ribs are nicely browned on one side, turn over and continue to cook, for a total of about 30 minutes. 9. Remove the ribs from the grill and place on a platter and cover with foil. Chef’s note: Allow the ribs to rest for 30 minutes before slicing into individual riblets.

SHRIMP ON A SUGARCANE STICK I always liked sugarcane, so I wanted to create a dish that utilized it—something that would also be fun to prepare and eat. Serves 8. SHRIMP 16 shrimp (about ½ pound), peeled and deveined, tails removed 4 ounces (about ½ cup) minced pork with fat 3 strips (about 1/3 cup) minced bacon 4 water chestnuts ½ cup cooked mung bean noodles (available at Asian markets) ½ teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons sugar 1 tablespoon fish sauce (available at Asian markets or Whole Foods Market) 1 tablespoon toasted rice powder (available at Asian markets) 2 teaspoons garlic oil Twelve 3-by-¼-inch sugarcane sticks (available at Asian markets)

TO PREPARE THE SHRIMP 1. Place half the shrimp in a food processor and process until finely minced. 2. Add the remaining shrimp, pork, bacon, water chestnuts, noodles, salt, sugar, fish sauce, rice powder, and garlic oil. Process the mixture until it is pasty but the shrimp is still a little chunky. 3. Moisten your hands with water and shape about ¼ cup of the shrimp mixture into a flat mound around the center of a sugarcane stick. Repeat until all the shrimp mixture and sugarcane sticks have been used. Chef’s note: Once you have shaped the shrimp mixture onto the sugarcane sticks, they can be covered and refrigerated for several hours to set the shrimp mixture. 4. Coat the shrimp with oil before grilling. 5. Heat a covered charcoal or gas grill to medium heat. 6. Grill for about 10 minutes.


WOK-CHARRED EDAMAME This popular local dish is a healthy snack and tastes great. Serves 4.

EDAMAME 4 quarts water 1 pound edamame in the pod (fresh or frozen) 2 tablespoons salt 3 tablespoons sesame oil (available at Asian markets and select grocery stores) 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh garlic 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds 1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1–2 teaspoons shichimi (available at Asian markets) 1 teaspoon rayu (available at Asian markets) 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 teaspoon rice vinegar


TO PREPARE THE EDAMAME 1. In a large saucepot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Add the edamame and salt. Boil for 8–10 minutes, or until the beans are tender but not mushy. Drain in a colander. 2. Heat a large wok over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil and mix in the edamame. Stir-fry for 1–2 minutes, until the edamame is well coated with the oil. 3. Make a well in the edamame and add the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. 4. Stir-fry for 20–30 seconds, until barely light golden brown, and then add the sesame seeds to the well. Stir to mix evenly, coating the edamame. 5. Sprinkle in the sugar and toss several times, allowing the sugar to melt and glaze the edamame. 6. Add the soy sauce, shichimi, and rayu. Mix well. 7. Melt the butter over the edamame and add the vinegar. Mix well. 8. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, if necessary. 9. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.

MY MOM’S MACARONI SALAD Definitely my favorite. I would always ask my mother to make this dish for me. I love lots of mayonnaise and egg in this salad. I like it best ice cold from the refrigerator. Serves 4. MACARONI SALAD 4 quarts water 1 tablespoon salt 4 ounces (about 1 cup) cooked macaroni 1½ cups mayonnaise 4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped 1 cooked potato, chopped Pepper to taste


TO PREPARE THE MACARONI 1. In a large saucepan, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. 2. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the macaroni. Cook for 8–10 minutes until tender. 3. Drain the macaroni in a colander, rinse with cool water, and drain again. Transfer to a bowl. 4. Add the mayonnaise, eggs, and potato. Mix well. 5. Add pepper to taste.

SPICY CHICKEN WINGS This is a Korean-style chicken dish. I love eating wings, especially when they have a little sweetness and crunch to them. Serves 2. CHICKEN WINGS 12 chicken wings ¼ cup cornstarch 2 tablespoons flour 1½ tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons chopped green onion 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds 2 cloves chopped fresh garlic 1/3 cup soy sauce 1 egg Canola oil for deep-frying

TO PREPARE THE CHICKEN 1. Trim any excess skin from the chicken wings. Cut off and discard the wing tips and then cut each wing into two pieces at the joint. 2. In a bowl, combine the cornstarch, flour, sugar, and salt. Mix well. 3. Add the green onion, sesame seeds, garlic, soy sauce, and egg, and whisk together to form a thin batter. 4. Place the chicken in the marinade and mix well to coat. 5. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, stirring once or twice. 6. To fry the chicken wings, pour the oil into a wok to a depth of 3–4 inches. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. 7. Stir the chicken, mixing well with the marinade just before frying. When the oil is at 325°F, add the chicken in batches and fry for 3–4 minutes, or until golden brown, crisp, and cooked through. 8. Drain the chicken on paper towels and transfer to a serving bowl.



sanford Milwaukee, WI 236



ustin Apraha mian entered the culinary world at the age of twelve by helping out at his uncle’s catering

company. At sixteen, Justin started working for the chef-owned Steven Wade’s Café in New Berlin, Wisconsin. Wanting to learn all aspects of the professional kitchen, he accepted a job as dishwasher and worked his way up to garde-manger. During his time at Wade’s, Justin graduated from high school and enrolled in the culinary program at Waukesha County Technical College. Immediately after graduating, in May 2002, Justin joined the kitchen staff at the already legendary Sanford Restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was hired as a prep cook, but his drive and passion moved him up the line, and by 2005 he was promoted to sous-chef. What has made Sanford Restaurant a legend in its own time was the owner, Sandy D’Amato, a tough grader in and out of the kitchen. Even tough graders select their favorite students, and Chef D’Amato recognized, nurtured, and rewarded Justin’s special talents. After working closely with Sandy on recipe and menu development, as well as perfecting the skills necessary to run a restaurant, Justin Aprahamian was promoted to chef de cuisine in 2008. By 2010, he was honored with a nomination for Rising Star Chef from the James Beard Foundation, and in 2011 with a nomination for both Rising Star Chef and Best Chef: Midwest. He received a James Beard Foundation nomination again in 2012 and 2013 for Best Chef: Midwest.



ustin’s older brother was already working at their uncle’s catering company, so when they needed extra

bodies for a big party, twelve-year-old Justin was a readily available resource. He vividly remembers cutting, skewering, and arranging fruit on platters for ten hours. At the end of the evening, he thought, Wow, I just got paid to 237

do that kind of thing. Though he was doing very simple things—it wasn’t so much a fascination with the food as it was the food preparation—it was an artistic outlet. That was the hook. When Justin was in high school, he kept thinking that it would be nice to go into a restaurant and have set hours every day, rather than doing sporadic catering work. The solution: his job at Steven Wade’s Café. The restaurant had a good kitchen that used fresh ingredients, and Justin knew Steve would be a great mentor. He appreciated knowing when he had to be there and approximately when he would finish for the day—there was structure. He clung to the thought that he could start washing dishes, work his way up, and eventually enter a culinary school. His conviction about going to culinary school after graduating high school a year early was met with a great deal of resistance from guidance counselors and principals. Their feeling was that Justin was too young to leave high school. But the future chef saw no value in completing his senior year, and a great deal of value in entering culinary school. If he completed one more English class, he had enough credits in his junior year to graduate and attend Waukesha County Technical College. He could attend culinary school and make consommé, then go to work and make consommé again with his boss. Most sixteen-year-olds aren’t that curious about making consommé twice in one day, so let’s just conclude that Justin had come down with a fairly significant strain of culinary flu—and he has yet to recover. Sadly, as Justin was finishing culinary school, his boss, Steve Wade, passed away. Seeing the handwriting on the wall as the restaurant began to slow down and his hours were chopped, he applied at the landmark Sanford Restaurant. Open for twenty-one years at that time, it was definitely on Justin’s list of great restaurants. He interviewed with chef de cuisine David Fontin. It was the right place and the right time, as a staff member had just left. David said, “Yeah, why don’t you come in and do a stage next week?” Shortly thereafter, he was passing through the kitchen for something and Dave said, “Oh, Justin, this is Sandy D’Amato” and, “Sandy, this is our new cook.” Beginning as a prep cook and working his way through all the stations was a sobering, butt-kicking experience, as Justin describes it. At some point, the sous-chef was leaving and Sandy said, “I’d love to give you the sous-chef job, because you’ve basically been doing much of that work already.” From sous-chef to chef de cuisine—seven years later, we find Justin’s celebrity-chef footing is still in a major growth spurt: In December 2012, chef Aprahamian purchased Sanford Restaurant from its current D’Amato family owner, Sanford D’Amato. This executive-chef-and-owner status spike certainly provides a perfect conclusion to the success story, for the moment anyway. 238



ustin confesses to having many food favorites. Lamb in any form (he says with a laugh, “I am Armenian,

after all”); foie gras; many varieties of fruit; Mexican food, as is the case with many chefs; and let’s not forget Chicago’s hot dogs. In the junk-food category, Justin Aprahamian is nuts for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Justin’s most treasured family recipe is lamb dumplings, and, as I can do only so much, he’s not parting with it here. Aside from his preconceived notions about anchovies—dread, disgust, and avoidance—Justin remembers thinking that a white anchovy in the kitchen of Steven Wade’s Café was the most unexpected and delicious thing he had ever eaten. Chef Wade didn’t give him a choice, but said only, “If you want to be a chef, you have to try everything.” Fusilli with red wine–braised octopus and bone marrow, from chef Michael White’s New York restaurant Marea, is one of Justin’s favorite dishes. He wouldn’t have to longingly recall its heavenly taste and texture if only he could lay his hands on the recipe. The apple is a versatile ingredient that Justin loves to integrate into many sweet and savory applications. Mushrooms are also one of the most versatile ingredients, because there are so many types that correspond with various regional cooking styles. Chef Aprahamian’s food is all about balance; therefore, lemon has become one of his must-have items. He uses lemons in many different ways, especially the juice. If someone asks him what ingredient makes his dishes better, his answer is acid—like lemon juice. Unforeseen to Justin professionally, possibly because his brain lives in a sustained state of immersion in his cooking and in pushing himself creatively, is that people are so receptive to his food. Justin reveals that the level of excitement and enjoyment over what he creates in the kitchen is very gratifying—a special payday all its own. Justin is a bit of an enigma once you get to know him outside the kitchen—a veiled facet of his persona that I want to expose at every opportunity. Consider, for a moment, his taste in music: Jack White and classic rock. I imagine him to be one of those chefs who thrive on that large dose of energy whilst whipping, chopping, and maybe even launching


pots and pans across kitchen staff’s heads. So I go ahead and stroll into the question, hoping to elicit an insightful response: “What about music in your restaurant kitchen?” “No. Oh God, no! When I worked at Steven Wade’s, they had a radio in the kitchen and I was all right with it, maybe because I wasn’t as focused. In my kitchen now, there’s no way, absolutely no way. Sandy came down to help us one night and brought a radio with him because the Brewers were playing and he’s a huge baseball fan. He wandered out of the kitchen and into the dining room to talk with someone. We were getting through the last push, and I just turned to someone and blurted out, “Shut that frickin’ radio off.” Needless to say, it absolutely breaks my focus in the kitchen. But at home, it helps my focus. My fiancée doesn’t understand how I can have music playing while I am doing this or that.” You might say that I received an unexpected response, not necessarily to the question itself but in terms of the emotion behind it. My fantasy about bone-splitting rock music emanating from Sanford’s kitchen was flawed from the beginning—the place and sentiment dead wrong. Let’s attempt this again, but with your forewarned advantage of knowing the quirky twists and turns of the Aprahamian combo plate. Justin describes his interests and passions away from the kitchen as very studious. He is an avid reader of cookbooks and literature. A big Hunter Thompson fan, he has a collection of the author’s writings, photos, and Ralph Steadman artwork (Steadman collaborated with Hunter on the birth of gonzo journalism with his classic illustrations for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). The fact that he embraces these two deeply complex, creatively gifted renegades seems right in line with Justin’s eclectic bag of interests and hobbies, which includes a collection of 1,400 records that run the gamut—from classic Son House blues to David Bowie to Pink Floyd to new age, with a circle back to his favorite wild child, Jack White. Justin tells me that he likes everything, but I am not sure I buy that, as the bent is clearly characterized by an atypical, rare, or outlandish quality. Add antiquing to his day-off activities—browsing old books, rare records, and antiquated cooking utensils and equipment—and you’ll find that familiar twist, just slightly south of where you would guess he was headed. You never really know someone until you follow his or her footsteps. Chef Aprahamian embodies humility, and you have to admire the guy for promoting it as well, maybe without even being aware that he is deliberately doing so. He won’t tolerate any posturing or territorial behavior in the Sanford 240

kitchen while he’s in charge. He encourages his kitchen staff to take chances and understand the challenges of stations other than their own by learning the techniques and responsibilities associated with those stations, irrespective of their complexity or simplicity. To cook for the Dalai Lama would be a dream for most chefs, but Justin, at the time a sous-chef at Sanford, along with Chef-Owner Sandy D’Amato and Catherine McKiernan, then chef at the Madison Club in Madison, Wisconsin, did just that. The Dalai Lama espouses the Buddhist view that allows pork, chicken, and beef to be eaten if the animal was not killed for the purpose of providing food for him alone or for his party. Adhering to those guidelines, Chef Aprahamian assisted in the preparation of a special lunch, held at the Madison Club, to benefit the Deer Park Buddhist Center. The menu included slow-cooked Strauss veal breast with scalded Wisconsin morels and escarole; artisanal breads; and a luscious warm bittersweet-chocolate tart with coffee ice cream.



oes Justin seek out anything special when he shops? “Yes and no. I shop at farmers’ markets that sup-

port the community around me. I buy with a sustainable point of view. I am adventurous—always looking to broaden my horizons and try new things—so nothing is really off-limits. With respect to organic ingredients, it gets tricky. I know a lot of farmers that aren’t certified organic, although they practice organic principles. Sometimes I think too much is tied to the organic label.” Justin tells me that “as far as food trends are concerned, good food doesn’t go out of style, ever, so I don’t spend time thinking about the forever-changing food trends.” He does make the point that there are great things to be taken from the molecular movement, but adds that he by no means uses liquid nitrogen every day. He wraps up this subject by making a point that serves as a calming tonic to the parade of emotions that molecular cooking has introduced: “You know, at one time, infused oils were considered pushing the envelope. Today, you can’t find a kitchen that doesn’t have infused oils. To be a successful chef, you grab on to the things that make sense for you.”




Aprahamian’s culinary vision or style unique is that it taps into his Armenian heritage and his connection to his family, especially his grandfather, whose contributions to every facet of Justin’s life have been invaluable to his cooking. “Aside from the Armenian spin, I am very keen on showcasing ingredients and letting them speak for themselves. I also like to use one ingredient in several different ways in the same dish. Right now, I am doing a dish that showcases trout and how versatile it is via different tastes and textures—grilled trout, smoked-trout salad, and smoked-trout custard.” Climbing the chef ladder has done a number on Justin’s life in the past ten years: “I feel that I’ve had to mature quicker than the people around my age. I was twenty-one when I became a sous-chef. I had a line full of guys that were all older than me. At the time, it was difficult being younger, and, never having been in a management position, I lacked the knowledge and experience of how to diffuse certain situations.” Justin admittedly has what he calls a “militaristic mantra”—improvise, adapt, and overcome—a voice in his head that helps him manage his kitchen. Dealing with so many different situations—and managing people who he says at times can be more difficult than cooking—he needs some formula that works. Spending more time in the restaurant kitchen has been the biggest change in Justin’s world. A lot of people ask him what the downside of his job is: “It’s just a profession that doesn’t allow me to see a lot of my friends and family. You fall out of touch with people, which is definitely a downside.” Experimentation—not necessarily with the idea for a fully realized dish, but simply with an ingredient that he is unfamiliar with—is a driving force in Justin’s cooking. He visits the farmers’ market as often as possible—at least once a week. It seems to be a never-ending source of discovery that often inspires Chef Aprahamian to think, Wow, we should be using that, or, Those look great. If the chef has a day off, you might find him in an Asian grocery store, buying all sorts of things to take home and play with—simple things that we all select to experiment with in our kitchens: ducks’ feet and pork bones, for instance. 242

he primary answer to what makes chef Justin

When these ingredients arrive in Justin’s home kitchen, he begins by roasting the pork and duck bones. Step two: He makes a soup with the bones, adds ginger and lemongrass, and throws in the duck feet and several secret ingredients, and he has something exciting—a dish of no preconceived notion—all due to the ingredients-to-recipe, rather than recipe-to-ingredients, philosophy. Another process Justin uses to develop many of his signature dishes is nothing short of sandbox-playtime. “It develops by visualizing a finished plate and working backward from that point. Take some prosciutto scraps and make a prosciutto-and-pea-tendril ravioli. Make a little parmesan custard in the bottom of the bowl and set the raviolis in it; build a fine julienne of crispy prosciutto and pea-tendril salad on top, and slather that with a prosciutto broth when serving. You have used only two ingredients—the peas and prosciutto—to balance the dish three different ways.”

BITS + Pieces


avorite singer: Jack White, guitarist, pianist, and lead singer for the White Stripes; guitar and vocals for the

Raconteurs; and drums and vocals for the Dead Weather. He pushes the music envelope. Favorite music: classic rock. Favorite instrument: for listening, guitar. Favorite books: Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace—one of the greatest books I’ve ever read; the George Carlin autobiography Last Words—a fantastic read; Che Guevara’s Guerrilla Warfare. Dream conversations would be with: Hunter Thompson, David Foster Wallace, and Bob Dylan. Favorite artists: Ralph Steadman, Alex Grey, and Rob Jones.


Favorite cheese: Pleasant Ridge Reserve and Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Co., in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. Favorite herbs: basil, lemon verbena, and tarragon. Favorite wine and liquor: California pinot, such as Folk Machine, and tequila. Favorite flower: tulips in spring. Favorite hotel: Hotel Portoghesi in the old section of Rome—spectacular breakfast on the roof and lemon trees on the patio can’t be beat. Favorite cities to dine in: New York and Chicago. Favorite restaurants: St. John Bar & Restaurant in London, Jean-Georges in New York, and Girl and the Goat in Chicago. Favorite cookbook: Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Italy. My dream is to live to see: a large family of my own. Would like to visit but haven’t been: Armenia, Spain, Southeast Asia, and more of Italy. What I would like to do that I haven’t done: write a cookbook. Favorite sport: football.


TOOLS + Tips


nvesting in fine kitchen scissors will make so many cooking tasks easier. I don’t know how I lived

without my Joyce Chen kitchen shears that I bought one day in an Asian market. I use them in so many ways: cutting fine herb garnishes and microgreens, pruning herb plants, cutting and cleaning lobster shells (my God, this is huge for us), cleaning fish gills, cutting string off trussed, roasted meat or fish (especially when you need to be careful not to cut into a delicate crust; we truss monkfish and pan-roast it). Kitchen shears are a workhorse in our kitchen. When I was staging at Alinea in Chicago, a chef gave me a pair to use for some task; when I arrived back home, I purchased the scissors immediately. They have been run into the ground ever since.


Justin’s MENU Story


y fa mily is so important to me. Armenian culture is important to me. My grandfather was especially important

to me. My grandfather’s influence wasn’t so much related to food specifically but to the character and life lessons that are the important things in life. I learned so much from him, and as a result, certain dishes call me back to those experiences. My grandfather was a doctor and was very busy with his career, so my grandmother did a great deal of the cooking. She made classic Armenian rice pilaf. She would use a vermicelli noodle, brown it in butter, toast the rice, and add chicken broth to it. It was always a staple at every meal, whether we were having Armenian food or not. For family gatherings, we would also have lamb shish kebabs. The leg of lamb was marinated with onion and parsley and would be skewered, along with green pepper and tomato. After char-grilling, we would remove the skewer and toss it all together; the tomatoes would break down and coat everything with their juice. There would be a salad with oil-and-vinegar dressing, and for dessert my great-aunt would always bring over a pan of baklava, and we would also make gatah, a sweet roll sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. We usually had wine, something my grandma was in the mood for, usually white to start and then a red when the lamb was served. It was never the most complicated or fussy food, and it certainly is amazing how differently I cook than my family. These big family dinners always took place at my grandparents’ house, around a big table on the patio, with boisterous talking and lots of stories, especially when my dad and his brothers got together; there were quite a few heated discussions but also a great deal of camaraderie. I am not suggesting that this happened every week, but my dad has five brothers, and two of them live out of state. Anytime they were in town, it would be a reason for the whole family to get together—easily twelve to fourteen of us. 246

I taught cooking classes at Sanford and our other restaurant, Coquette. To close the cooking series, we always prepared the chef’s favorite dish. I wanted to do an Armenian soup that my dad had taught me to make. I made the soup for Sandy and asked, “What do you think? Should I do this for the class?” He tried the soup and said, “What you should do is put it on the menu.” I immediately thought, How could I refine it a little bit for the menu and make it Sanford-quality? That was the first Armenian dish that went on the menu. Always in the back of my mind was, It would be great to do more Armenian dishes. After my grandfather passed away, I found it even more important to cook Armenian dishes. So one day I said, “You know, Sandy, I have so many Armenian dishes I’d like to introduce to people. I would like to put together a four-course Armenian menu for the restaurant, in honor of my grandfather. It would mean so much to my family and me, and I’m sure my grandmother would appreciate seeing these dishes on the menu.”



Justin’s RECIPES CHEESE BOREK WITH PICKLED WATERMELON and BASIL This is a dish that means a lot to me. Cheese borek is something that was made for many of our family parties. When thinking about putting it on this menu, I wanted to take it a little further. Another family food tradition from my grandfather is the combination of brick cheese and watermelon. He loved the combination of the refreshing sweet melon with the salty cheese for dessert. Brick cheese is often used in borek, so I thought, what an appropriate pairing, and a great way to honor tradition and see it live on. Serves 4. PICKLED WATERMELON 1 small watermelon (about 3 pounds), 2 cups medium diced 3 cups juice (puree in a food processor and strain through a sieve) 4 bay leaves 4 teaspoons whole black peppercorns 2 cups white vinegar ½ cup sugar (more to taste, depending on sweetness of watermelon) 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt TO PREPARE THE WATERMELON 1. Place the diced watermelon in a 2-quart sealable plastic container. 2. Wrap the bay leaves and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with a piece of string to secure. Add the sachet to a saucepan with the watermelon juice, white vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil. Taste the brine and adjust seasoning by adding a pinch of salt or sugar, depending on the sweetness of the watermelon. Cover and steep for about 30 minutes. Chef’s note: This time will allow the brine to cool and prevent the watermelon from cooking.

3. Pour the watermelon brine into the plastic container holding the diced watermelon. Cover the plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use. Chef’s note: Brine can be made up to one week in advance. WATERMELON VINAIGRETTE 2 cups watermelon brine from pickled watermelon 2 tablespoons grape seed oil 1½ teaspoons lemon juice Salt and ground black pepper to taste TO PREPARE THE VINAIGRETTE 1. In a small saucepan, reduce 2 cups of the watermelon brine to ½ cup. 2. Whisk in the grape seed oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 3. Refrigerate until ready to use. Chef’s note: Vinaigrette can be made up to three days ahead.


Cheese Borek continued....

CHEESE BOREK FILLING 5 ounces brick cheese, finely grated (available at select grocery stores) 1 tablespoon minced shallot (cook in a small saucepan with ½ cup white wine until dry) 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten Large pinch freshly ground black pepper TO PREPARE THE FILLING 1. In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese, shallot, parsley, egg yolk, and pepper with a fork until it comes together. Chef ’s note: Do not overmix. 2. Divide into twelve 1-tablespoon portions. TO ASSEMBLE AND COOK Three 14-by-18-inch sheets phyllo dough Approximately 4 ounces salted butter, melted Cheese filling


1. Lay the phyllo dough on a work surface with the long edge facing you. Liberally brush each sheet of phyllo with melted butter. Cut the phyllo dough into four even strips. 2. Place 1-tablespoon portions of the cheese filling in the middle of each of the four strips of dough, ½ inch from the long edge. Facing away from you, fold one edge of each phyllo strip over the cheese to make a triangle. Continue folding in a triangular pattern. Make sure the edges are neatly folded in; brush with butter to seal. Arrange the triangles on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chef’s note: At this point, the borek can be baked or frozen for later use. 3. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 8–10 minutes. Borek are delicious right out of the oven or cooled slightly. TO SERVE 1. Serve the cheese borek with a small salad of frisée and fresh basil. 2. Dress with the watermelon vinaigrette and serve with a generous portion of pickled watermelon. WINE SUGGESTION One of my favorites with this dish is a sparkling rosé. It should have a strawberry note to go with the watermelon and a crispness to contrast against the cheese.

WILD STRIPED BASS PLAKI WITH SWEET-AND-SOUR VEGETABLE BROTH This dish was inspired as a result of my research on Armenian cuisine. This recipe is an updated take on the classic fish prepared in the style of plaki, most often roasted in a vegetable-and-wine broth with some fresh lemon. This version of plaki plays into the natural sweet-and-sour characteristics that you would get with those combinations but adds a little spice to create some depth. Serves 4. SWEET-AND-SOUR BROTH 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil ½ cup diced onion ¼ cup peeled, diced carrot ¼ cup diced celery ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons diced leek ¾ teaspoon Aleppo chile (see Sources: Penzey’s Spices or Kalustyan’s) ½ tablespoon chopped garlic Zest of ½ lemon (zest with a Microplane) 2 bay leaves 4 sprigs thyme ½ ounce parsley (approximately ½ bunch) with stems, finely chopped 2 teaspoons tomato paste 8 ounces whole peeled tomatoes, finely diced ¾ cup white wine 2 cups vegetable stock 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more to taste) 2 teaspoons sugar (or more to taste) Salt and pepper to taste

TO PREPARE THE BROTH 1. In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil. 2. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 4–5 minutes. 3. Add the carrot, celery, and leek. Cook slowly over low heat for 3–5 minutes without browning. 4. Add chile, garlic, lemon zest, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and tomato paste. Cook for 2–3 minutes more. 5. Stir in the diced tomatoes and white wine. Bring gently to a boil. 6. Add the vegetable stock. Adjust the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 20–30 minutes. 7. Add the lemon juice and sugar. 8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Striped Bass Plaki continued....

STRIPED BASS 1 cup olive oil 4 tablespoons lemon juice 1 teaspoon chopped garlic Pinch of salt 1 pound striped bass, cut into four 4-ounce pieces 2 tablespoons oil to sear fish 12–16 mint leaves, chiffonade cut Chef’s note: A chiffonade cut is made by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, then cutting across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife, producing fine ribbons. TO PREPARE THE BASS 1. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Pour over the bass and marinate for at least 1 hour, or up to 6 hours. 2. Remove the bass from the marinade. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 3. In a hot sauté pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place the fish skin side down. Sear for 3–5 minutes, developing a nice crust. 4. Carefully remove fish from the sauté pan. 5. Add the fish, seared side up, to the pan of sweet-and-sour vegetable broth. Cook gently in the broth for 3–6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Chef’s note: Cooking the fish in the broth will keep it moist and meld the flavors.


CANDIED LEMON Zest of 1 lemon, finely julienned 2 cups water 2 tablespoons sugar Pinch of salt TO PREPARE THE LEMON 1. Zest 1 lemon with a vegetable peeler and cut into a fine julienne. 2. In a small saucepan, bring ½ cup of cold water and the lemon zest to a boil. 3. Drain in a mesh sieve and cool by running cold water over the lemon zest. 4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 two more times. Chef’s note: Repeating this step removes the bitterness from the zest. 5. In a small saucepan, add lemon zest, ½ cup water, sugar, and a pinch of salt and gently bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside. Cool. Chef’s note: Taste a piece of the julienned lemon; it should be tender but not mushy. If the zest is still bitter, add a touch more sugar. TO SERVE 1. Divide the sweet-and-sour broth among four serving bowls and top with a piece of bass. 2. Garnish with candied lemon and chopped fresh mint. WINE SUGGESTION Vouvray Demi-sec

GRILLED LAMB SHOULDER WITH BULGUR PILAF, PAN-ROASTED ONION, SPINACH, and TOMATO This dish is inspired by the traditional dinner at my grandparents’ house. It is presented here in a slightly different way, but all the flavors and aromas are enough to make me feel that I am at home with my family. Serves 4. LAMB 2 pounds lamb shoulder roast 1 small onion (about 8 ounces), sliced thinly 6 cloves garlic, crushed 1 cup coarsely chopped parsley 6 sprigs fresh thyme 4 bay leaves 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed 2½ cups white wine Salt Pepper TO PREPARE THE LAMB 1. In a large bowl or Ziploc bag, combine the lamb with the other ingredients. 2. Marinate in the refrigerator for 6–12 hours. Drain off the marinade and transfer the lamb to a clean plate or tray. Season with salt and pepper. 3. Season liberally with salt and pepper and char-grill over medium-high heat for 6–8 minutes on each side (or a little more or less, depending on the thickness of the roast).

4. Remove the lamb from the grill when the thermometer displays an internal temperature of 130°–133°F. Rest for about 5–10 minutes before slicing. BULGUR PILAF 1 ounce salted butter 1 tablespoon minced shallot 2 bay leaves 1 cup coarsely ground bulgur (available at Middle Eastern markets and select health-food stores) 2 cups chicken broth, hot, seasoned with salt and pepper TO PREPARE THE PILAF 1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. 2. Warm a medium-size, ovenproof saucepot over medium heat. 3. Lightly brown the butter with bay leaf and shallot. 4. Add the bulgur and toast lightly. 5. Add the chicken broth and cover. 6. Place in the preheated oven for 18–20 minutes. 7. Remove from the oven and mix lightly with a large fork; cover and keep warm. 253

Grilled Lamb Shoulder continued....

ONION, SPINACH, AND TOMATO 2 ounces salted butter 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 onion, julienned 2 cloves garlic, chopped ½ cup dry white wine 1 quart cherry tomatoes 1 pound spinach (large stems removed)

TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Divide the pilaf and the onion, spinach, and tomato accompaniments among four plates, placing them to one side. 2. Slice the lamb shoulder into ¼-inch slices; place them next to the pilaf and the pan-roasted onion, spinach, and tomato. Chef’s note: Another typical side would be a fresh green salad with oil-and-vinegar dressing.

TO PREPARE THE VEGETABLES 1. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. 2. Let the butter just start to brown, and add the onions. Sauté for 6–8 minutes, until they start to become tender and lightly caramelized. 3. Add the garlic and cook for approximately 30–60 seconds, until you smell the garlic aroma; be careful not to burn it. 4. Add the white wine and reduce until almost evaporated. 5. Add the cherry tomatoes and stir. Cook about 3–5 minutes, until they just start to crack and are warmed through. 6. Add the spinach and stir. Cook just enough to wilt the spinach, approximately 2–3 minutes. 7. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 8. Remove from the sauté pan and transfer to a bowl.

WINE SUGGESTION California cabernet sauvignon, such as a 2007 Dry Creek cabernet from Sonoma.



This is a treasured family recipe from my grandmother’s collection, retrieved with great care. We made this dessert as a family, and we always made a lot of it. It is a large recipe that can be scaled back or frozen for later use. Occasionally, to add a little something special, we would make an icing to drip over the gatah while it was still warm. My grandfather liked bourbon, so using it in the icing was an appropriate touch. The rolls are delicious with or without the icing, so the choice is all yours. Makes approximately 8 large rolls. Chef ’s note: Recipe can be cut in half, but I suggest making the full amount and freezing what is left over. GATAH Four ¼-ounce packages instant dry yeast 2 tablespoons sugar 1 cup warm water 1 can evaporated milk 1 can water (use evaporated-milk can) 1 cup vegetable oil 6 eggs, plus 1 egg for egg wash 1 heaping teaspoon salt 5 pounds (about 17–17½ cups) flour Approximately 1 pound salted butter, melted (for brushing) Cinnamon sugar: 4 cups sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

TO PREPARE THE GATAH 1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 2. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water. Add the evaporated milk, water, oil, eggs, and salt. 3. Sift the flour into the wet mixture and fold in. Mix the flour by hand until well combined and the dough is smooth. 4. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size. 5. Punch down the dough mixture. Divide dough into eight pieces and shape each into a ball. Cover dough balls with a towel and let them rise again. 6. Roll each dough ball into a 12-by-24-inch rectangle. Brush each rectangle with an even layer of the melted butter. Generously dust each rectangle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Roll the rectangles up from the long side and pinch a seam together to seal. 255

Gatah continued....

7. To form the gatah, roll up the rectangles like a jelly roll. With the seam side down, wrap the roll around itself to form a round bun (like a cinnamon roll). Flatten the rolls slightly and let them rise for 10 minutes. 8. To make the egg wash, combine the egg with 2 tablespoons water and whisk until smooth. Brush the top and sides of the rolls with egg wash right before placing them in the oven to bake. 9. Bake for 18–20 minutes; rolls should be an even light-brown color. Chef’s note: Rolls can be stored for up to two days.


TO SERVE Cut rolls into wedges and serve at room temperature, or top the rolls with bourbon glaze (optional) while they are still warm. BOURBON GLAZE 3 cups confectioners’ sugar ¼ cup bourbon ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk ½ teaspoon vanilla TO PREPARE THE GLAZE Combine all the ingredients until completely smooth. WINE OR BEVERAGE SUGGESTIONS Coffee, tea, or late-harvest muscat—something with a floral character is great with the cinnamon.

don’t forget the dessert

multi-textured deliciousness


The Jewel of the Night: Chef Gale Gand’s divine desserts


TRU Chicago, IL



he inspirational aspects of Gale Gand’s decision to pursue a culinary career, especially in the specialized

area of pastry chef, are fittingly sweet. Disparate as Gale Gand’s degrees are—a bachelor of fine arts from the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Crafts, and completed courses at the culinary school at La Varenne in Paris—these two pursuits follow a train of thought that makes perfect sense. Gale’s New York aunt and uncle took gourmet-cooking lessons and decided that it would be fun to impart their newly acquired knowledge to their niece in between her art classes at RIT. After instructing Gale on how to turn out the perfect soufflé, they rewarded her with a copper bowl and whisk for her twenty-first birthday. Also, during this period, Gale read The Blue Strawbery Cookbook, with the tagline “Cooking (Brilliantly) Without Recipes.” Not only did it give her the confidence to improve her skills in the kitchen, but in the process, she discovered her love—cooking. In order to feed the classic starving art student—herself—Gale began waitressing at one of her favorite vegetarian restaurants. Destiny worked one of its many wonders when a “no show, no call” line cook threw Gale into the kitchen. It was a known fact that Gale enjoyed pastry, therefore not a surprise when she was asked to cover that station, with the disclaimer that she could say “when” if it didn’t work for her. Two years later, she was asked again if she was ready to be “let out of pastry.” Gale responded with, “Not quite yet.” The “pastry just happened” story of long ago landed Gale Gand on ground breaking turf as the executive pastry chef and partner of the renowned Tru in Chicago, a Mobil four-star, AAA five-diamond, and Relais & Châteaux RelaisGourmands restaurant. Gale was recognized in 2001 as Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation and Bon Appétit magazine, and in 1994 as one of Food & Wine’s Top Ten Best New Chefs. Gale is also an accomplished cookbook author with seven titles to her credit, including her 2009 release, Gale Gand’s Brunch. Chef Gand was the host of the long-running


Sweet Dreams, which was the first all-dessert show for the Food Network. Her many television appearances include The Martha Stewart Show; Oprah; Iron Chef America; Baking with Julia; and Top Chef, on which she was a judge during the 2008 season. In the summer of 2008, two of Gand’s desserts were featured in the USA house at the Beijing Olympics. Gale is also an executive board member of the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food and a longtime member of both the James Beard Foundation and Les Dames d’Escoffier. This wonder woman has also managed to develop and launch a root beer company, Gale’s Root Beer, and an upscale cupcake bakery, more, in Chicago. Gale is currently the Chef in Residence at Elawa Farm, a restored historic farm, in Lake Forest IIlinois where she cooks and bakes for their farm market in the summer and fall and the list only continues to grow for this overachiever.



ale Gand’s world—a large portion of which is her life as a chef—has dramatically changed over the years.

More than twenty years ago, she was cooking in Leicestershire, England, employed by a restaurateur to raise the standards of his hotel, the Stapleford Park Country House. There was one article in an American magazine, Food Arts, about the project, but Gale was working for someone else in another country and wasn’t well known outside her native Chicago. Then everything changed. Chef Gand came back to the States and formed a partnership with one of the country’s biggest and most successful restaurateurs, Rich Melman. The venture was Tru Restaurant in Chicago, which quickly received national attention from the press for its artistic and innovative food and outstanding wine list. Peppering this accomplishment were the birth of a son from Gale’s marriage to Rick Tramonto, who was executive chef at Tru; writing two cookbooks; and receiving an offer from the Food Network to do her own TV show on pastry and desserts. Five years later, Gale still held the reins to her accomplishments but had certainly stepped up her professional and personal production line—five cookbooks, a divorce, a new marriage, and twin girls.




movement and all the complex components of its mission, Chef Gand has stepped up to the plate as often, and in as many ways, as possible. She is a member of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve initiative, which aspires to initiate and inspire greater efficiencies within the restaurant industry. An annual Gale spotting will find her and her son foraging for local ramps and mushrooms for the restaurant. She is involved in many community causes, including supporting Chicago’s nonprofit Green City Market and Art Smith’s Common Threads program, which teaches children racial and cultural diversity through the culinary arts. She has led cooking classes and demonstrations at the schools of her son, Gio, and daughters, Ella and Ruby. Sealing the deal, Gale is married to environmentalist Jimmy Seidita. On America’s dysfunctional relationship with food, Gale has also sought out a position of empowerment, rather than embracing an inactive opinion: “I’m working with Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools initiative, so I’m thrilled to be a part of the solution—helping people, especially kids, have a better relationship with food.” When Gale shops, if the ingredients aren’t loaded with “food miles,” she prefers hormone and antibiotic-free meats, which sometimes can be found by buying kosher. She looks for organic milk, bananas, eggs, applesauce, and tomato sauce and feels better when fair-trade standards are also included in the selections. It concerns her that there are segments of the industry that don’t follow fair-trade labor practices. Gale’s opinion on how the chef’s role has changed with reference to branding and food TV is that chefs are looked on with more authority in areas beyond cooking. They are consulted on an ever-increasing list of topics: the moral politics of the culinary arena, GMO foods, local and organic versus factory farming, labor laws, and health care reform. She feels certain that the chef-as-politician-and-ambassador trend will become increasingly important. Gale has a wonderful sense of humor and play, which stands at alert on the tip of her tongue, immediately called into action as she enumerates the various hats she must wear in her profession: “At times I feel like a combination of a rock star, royalty, a wise elder, and a model.” Gale explains her view of how the restaurant has evolved over the years: “Restaurants have changed by growing in popularity and influence. They have become progressively more important over the decades in building communities and offering people a wide variety of aesthetic experience.”

strong supporter of the environ mental




he ingredients that are most versatile, the ones Gale Gand couldn’t live without? Surprise—butter, sugar,

flour, and eggs. “It’s breakfast, it’s dessert, it’s hors d’oeuvres, it’s pasta . . . shall I go on?” she says. Ingredients that Gale would love to use in her cooking but that tend to be too difficult to get a high-quality supply of or that are too ephemeral: the rambutan, a hairy, spine-covered fruit that is closely related to the lychee and the longan and is native to Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The other ingredient is the Kaffir lime leaf, commonly found in the Southeast Asian cuisines of Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. For Gale, imagining or creating a new dish happens in different ways, one of which, in my chef reference library, is unexampled. As she explains, “Inspiration for new recipes can come from a piece of china or a serving dish. Sometimes it comes from thinking of flavors I’d like to bring together and then imagining contrasting textures.” On cooking skills, Gale reveals that if she could teach one simple technique, it would be how to sauté onions and garlic properly. For the professional chef to succeed, Gale believes the following five skills to be absolutely essential: being a good teacher; being a passionate cook; being a nurturer; being a leader; and not procrastinating. “If I can have a sixth, it would be to always say thank you.” What most defines Gale’s style or culinary vision as unique? “I do classics turned inside out. I like to develop something familiar but also new. I rely on family recipes and traditions, as well as American, English, French, and Italian classics. The twists might come from new ingredients found during my travels or be a result of the research I always seem to be doing (which really means I’m always eating!).” What ideas for menu development, recipes, and restaurant concepts Gale doesn’t store in her computer, she files away in her head. A snapshot of a typical workday…although, there is no typical day for Gale. She might spend it in the restaurant kitchen, in her home kitchen, conducting a demo, signing cookbooks, giving a talk, teaching kids cooking in a school, doing a photo shoot, presenting onstage at Disney’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, filming a cooking show, giving a radio interview, going to a reception to celebrate her first Michelin star, or cooking at a charity dinner with


Emeril Lagasse, Charlie Trotter, and Mario Batali for eight or eight hundred. The type of environment Gale likes to work in is upbeat, positive, but a little hushed and air-conditioned—for the chocolate. What chefs does she admire, and who has influenced her cooking style? Pierre Hermé, Pierre Gagnaire, and Nancy Silverton. What specific aspects of the entire cooking experience does Gale enjoy the most? She loves the physicality of cooking; the folding and measuring feels like a dance. The lure of watching the ingredients do what they do is her delight: butter creaming, simple syrup thickening as it boils, and egg whites whipping as they incorporate air. Gale reveals her take on molecular gastronomy, and it won’t fill but a line of space: She doesn’t use the techniques, preferring to navigate by mouthfeel. If the mouthfeel is pleasant, she’s okay with it. What are Gale’s passions and interests both inside and primarily outside the kitchen? Singing and playing guitar with her family; gardening; drawing; sewing; writing; canning and pickling with her kids; bakeries; fried-chicken places; pie; BLTs; antique cooking equipment, including stoves, old postcards, and food-related ephemera; collecting play food; foraging for mushrooms; picking fruit; and collecting lost recipes. Favorite thing to do in her spare time or on a day off? Gale asks, “What’s that? But really, teaching kids to cook.”



hef Gand’s pick for her worst kitchen disaster: “The gas goes out in Tru’s kitchen when the biggest food

critic in Chicago is sitting at our kitchen table, reviewing us, and I have a box of Krispy Kremes in pastry that they can see through the glass window.” Gale’s favorite foods are raspberries, fried chicken, BLTs, and fried-egg sandwiches. Gale’s biggest food-related surprise was a pink peppermint angel food cake for her fiftieth-birthday party, compliments of her husband. As I see it, Jimmy Seidita really gave his wife twenty-five angel food cake slices of love by


remembering that it was her favorite cake and twenty-five angel food cake slices of tenacity for searching out someone with the experience to produce the tricky confection for fifty people. Food that she avoids: fruitcake. Junk food or food obsession that she can’t resist now and then: a root beer float, Spam, and butter mints. Returning to the account of Gale’s biggest food surprise: A strong childhood memory supplies the missing puzzle piece and suggests that her fearlessness and discerning taste were already firing off at the tender age of six (possibly earlier). For the future chef’s sixth birthday, she requested that her mother make a pink peppermint angel food cake. Possibly the worst thing she has ever eaten is grouse, a game bird. Her favorite treat or big-ticket item is French poached ham, sliced. If price were no object, Gale would buy, and buy again, pink Cristal. The favorite Gand breakfast is Frosted Flakes with half-and-half or coddled eggs; lunch or brunch would be a BLT or an egg salad sandwich; dinner—fried chicken, hot or cold. When Gale is home alone for dinner, she makes matzo ball soup or noodles in chicken broth. Most treasured family recipes: her mom’s chicken paprikash, short ribs, or pecan balls, and Grandma Elsie’s quick apple streusel coffee cake. On the chicken paprikash: Gale, wonderful and generous person that she is, gave me the recipe free and clear of any promise on my part to supply her with superb fried-chicken sources for life.




t’s difficult to consider that Gale ever daydreams about things she would like to do that she hasn’t done, but

there are several: Live in France for a year and become fluent in French, in that order. Gale dreams of visiting Budapest for the first time to experience her mother’s heritage, as well as Sicily, her husband’s family home. Another dream is to live to see her grandchildren. Gale’s dream conversations would be with John Lennon, Eleanor Roosevelt, Anna Pavlova, and her deceased mother, Myrna.


BITS + Pieces


y most me mora ble dinner guests: Carol Burnett or Robin Williams? No, former president

Bill Clinton. Favorite places to shop for food: Fox & Obel in Chicago, and any farmers’ market. Favorite city to dine in: New York, Paris, or Venice. Favorite cookbook: The Blue Strawbery Cookbook, by James Haller. Favorite cheese: Brillat-Savarin or Époisses. Favorite chocolate: [That’s] a bit like [choosing] which one of my children is my favorite. Favorite herb: lemon verbena. Favorite wines and liquor: rosé wines, rosé champagne (pink bubbles), and gin. Favorite flower: delphinium. Favorite opera: Tosca. Favorite music: English and Irish folk music, and classical guitar. Favorite singer: Rufus Wainwright or his dad, Loudon Wainwright. Favorite instrument: cello. Favorite movie: Shakespeare in Love—“[I want love] like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done.” Favorite hotel: Stapleford Park Hotel in Leicestershire, England, or Le Manoir in Oxfordshire, England. Favorite places to visit: France, and let’s not leave out Napa, California. Favorite authors: David Sedaris and Neil Steinberg. Favorite artists: Kandinsky and Wayne Thiebaud. Favorite architect: Frank Lloyd Wright and his Unity Temple, where I was married.


TOOLS + Tips


hef Gand marches to an improvisational tune.

I use different ice-cream-scoop sizes to form balls of cookie dough or scones, or to make cupcake batter portions uniform. I use scissors to snip chives and parsley, rather than a knife and cutting board. I cut strips of pie dough with a pizza wheel. I use butter wrappers to grease cake pans. I use a strainer as a sifter. To prevent sticking, I use a load of parchment paper to line baking sheets. I chill cookie dough before baking so that it doesn’t spread as much.


Gale’s MENU Story


y dad was a folk singer and jazz trumpet player, and my mom a frustrated artist and homemaker. I always say,

“Wolves raised me.” But it’s no surprise that I ended up as a pastry chef; the town I was born and raised in, Deerfield, Illinois, was also the home of Sara Lee Bakeries. I think it wasn’t something in the water; it was something in the air. Every waking and sleeping hour was spent under a cloud of vanilla, butter, and cream cheese. You marked the days of the week by the scent in the air. Marble cake—it must be Monday. Cheesecake—it must be Tuesday. You get it. The kitchen was always a special place for me. It was where my mom, Myrna, or my grandmother Elsie (who both had a talent for baking), and I would spend hours crafting intricate lattice-topped cherry pies, deftly rolling just-baked hot cookies in powdered sugar for Christmas (even though my mom was Jewish), or rolling out sugar-cookie dough to be cut out with one of the myriad cookie cutters from our “big tin.” Then came the decorating—a time to express myself in sugar and icing! So, from a young age, I was learning the craft and art of baking at the hands of loving home cooks. I always like to pair a beverage with my desserts to make them more complete. Most are miniature, to add a “cute” factor, which always makes me smile. The milk shake pays homage to my parents. When I was little, the big Saturday happening at our house was family movie night. My dad would make popcorn (the only thing he can cook), and my mom would make us chocolate malteds, so malts always say “love” to me. The selection of dishes for my Divine Desserts menu was based on fond memories and inspiring influences. The bread pudding is from my years of cooking in Leicestershire, England, at the Stapleford Park Country House, where bread pudding is a staple. And one of the favorite afternoon refreshers was an elderflower cordial—simply soda water and elderflower syrup. I’ve also used it with ice cream to complete the marriage of those two items. The baked ricotta custard shows my love for all things dairy, maybe because I was brought up so near the Wisconsin border, 270

America’s dairy land, or maybe it’s due to all that time spent in Italy eating fresh ricotta. Needless to say, I’ve often been called the dairy queen, and this type of recipe is a perfect example of why. The cherries also help celebrate my home turf. I like to use sour cherries from Door County, a family vacation haunt, and the addition of star anise represents the Asian influence in my cooking. The chocolate pots de crème are my homage to my time in France and my love of classic French desserts, but I’ve updated them with a twist of fleur de sel and black pepper in the whipped cream, for some spice and heat. Some of my work tends to be childlike and playful; my personality can be that way as well, and the lollipops are a good example. I serve them at my fancy-pants restaurant, Tru. When my well-dressed, upscale guests insert them into their mouths, they are suddenly transported to a simpler time—their childhood. It works every time; not only is it comforting, but it doesn’t hurt quite so much when they get the bill for the meal! If you’re going to make one or all of these dishes, try to separate the day you shop from the day you cook. It makes the whole experience more pleasurable.


Gale’s RECIPES PAN-FRIED BREAD PUDDING WITH ELDERFLOWER ICE CREAM, SERVED WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE–ALMOND COCOA and BLACK CURRANT MARSHMALLOWS I love custard desserts more than anything. Bread pudding, any kind of bread pudding, is one of my favorites. This bread pudding is cooked in a pan, so it’s a cousin to French toast. The pink grapefruit provides a little brightness in flavor to help contrast with the mellowness of the custard. Warm bread pudding with icy-cold ice cream helps emphasize those differences, and once the ice cream starts to melt, it makes its own sauce. Pairing this dessert with the cocoa completes it. Serves approximately 16. BREAD PUDDING 8 slices store-bought brioche (or try a French bakery), challah, or soft white bread 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk Pinch of salt ¼ cup sugar ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 cup half-and-half 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1–2 pink grapefruits, supremed (see step 6) Coarse sugar (Con AA or Sugar in the Raw) for caramelizing (Con AA is available at cake-decorating and craft stores; Sugar in the Raw is available at most grocery stores)


TO PREPARE THE PUDDING 1. Cut the crusts off the bread and cut each slice into four 1½inch squares. 2. Whisk the egg and yolk in a medium bowl. 3. Whisk in the salt, sugar, and vanilla. 4. Gradually whisk in the half-and-half. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish. 5. Working in batches if necessary, place the bread pieces in the egg mixture and let them soak for 2 minutes. Turn bread over and soak for another 2 minutes. 6. Supreme the grapefruit by first cutting off all the peel and white pith and then cutting between the membranes to remove the segments. Reserve. 7. Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet until foamy and very hot.

Bread Pudding with Elderflower Ice Cream continued....

8. Working in batches, brown the soaked bread pieces on both sides. 9. Place the grapefruit segments on a small baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with coarse sugar. Caramelize with a blowtorch (or under the broiler if you don’t have a torch). Chef’s note: Be careful not to add too much sugar, as it will run off the segments when you caramelize them, and once cooled, the segments will stick to the pan. ELDERFLOWER ICE CREAM Makes 5 cups 2 cups half-and-half 2 cups heavy cream ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise 9 egg yolks ¾ cup sugar ¼ cup elderflower cordial (see Sources: Bottle Green; also available at British-food stores or IKEA) TO PREPARE THE ICE CREAM 1. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the half-and-half, cream, and vanilla to a fast simmer (do not let it boil), stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and let the vanilla infuse for 5 minutes. 2. After 5 minutes, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. 3. Pouring in a thin stream, whisk the cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

4. Pour the egg-cream mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until thickened. Chef’s note: At 160°F, the mixture will give off a puff of steam. When the mixture reaches 180°F, it will be thickened and creamy, like eggnog. If you don’t have a thermometer, test it by dipping a wooden spoon into the mixture. Run your finger down the back of the spoon. If the stripe remains clear, the mixture is ready; if the edges blur, the mixture is not quite thick enough yet. 5. Prepare an ice bath by putting four large handfuls of ice cubes in a large bowl and adding cold water to cover. 6. When the temperature of the custard mixture reaches 180°F, quickly remove it from the heat and stir in the elderflower cordial. 7. To remove the vanilla bean pieces, pour the custard mixture through a fine sieve or chinois strainer that is placed over a bowl. 8. Rest the bowl of custard in the ice water, stirring occasionally until it is cool. 9. Place the custard in the refrigerator to chill for 2 hours. Continue according to your ice cream maker’s directions.


Bread Pudding with Black Currant Marshmallows continued....

TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Place two pieces of the bread pudding on a plate in a shingled pattern. 2. Place a caramelized grapefruit segment on top of each bread pudding square. 3. Place a scoop of the elderflower ice cream next to the grapefruit segment. Serve immediately. BLACK CURRANT MARSHMALLOWS Makes sixteen 2½-ounce marshmallows. ¼ cup water ¼ cup light corn syrup ¾ cup sugar 2 egg whites 1 tablespoon gelatin ¼ cup black currant puree (see Sources: The Perfect Purée, or Goya brand, both available in select grocery stores) 2 tablespoons cold water ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract


TO PREPARE THE MARSHMALLOWS 1. Combine ¼ cup water, corn syrup, and sugar in a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer. Bring to a boil and cook to the “soft ball” stage, or 235°F on the candy thermometer. 2. Dust a baking sheet with confectioners’ sugar. 3. Sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tablespoons of water and wait until it has absorbed and softened. 4. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip attachment and whip until soft peaks form. Continue mixing on low speed to hold peaks until the syrup is ready. 5. When the corn syrup and sugar reach 235°F, remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin, and swirl to mix. 6. With the mixer running, drizzle the corn syrup mixture into the egg whites. 7. Continue running the mixer, and drizzle the black currant puree and vanilla into the whipped egg whites until stiff. 8. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a large plain tip, and pipe kisses of marshmallow onto the baking sheet. 9. Let marshmallows cool to room temperature.

Bread Pudding with White Chocolate-Almond Cocoa continued....

WHITE CHOCOLATE–ALMOND COCOA Makes 4 cups 3½ cups milk ½ cup heavy cream 8 ounces Callebaut or Ghirardelli white chocolate, chopped (see Sources: Whole Foods Market and select grocery stores) 1 teaspoon almond extract

TO PREPARE THE COCOA 1. In a saucepan, add the milk and cream. Bring to a simmer and then turn off the heat. 2. Add the chopped chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes to melt. 3. Whisk to combine the ingredients. 4. Stir in the almond extract. TO SERVE Serve in demitasse cups with a few black currant marshmallows floating on top.


BAKED RICOTTA CUSTARD WITH MERINGUE and CHERRIES IN PORT, SERVED WITH MINI–ROOT BEER FLOAT The natural sweetness of the port is enough for this light dish, and the frozen sour cherries are perfect when fresh fruit is not available. Makes ten to twelve 4-ounce servings. RICOTTA CUSTARD 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature ¾ cup fresh ricotta 2 eggs 1 egg white ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ½ cup sugar ½ cup heavy cream ½ cup coarse sugar (Con AA or Sugar in the Raw) (Con AA is available at cake-decorating and craft stores; Sugar in the Raw is available at most grocery stores) TO PREPARE THE CUSTARD 1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. 2. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and cream until light, smooth, and fluffy. 3. Add the ricotta and continue mixing. 4. Gradually add the eggs, egg white, and vanilla extract, mixing after each addition.

5. Mix in the sugar and cream. 6. Pour the batter into an ovenproof baking dish and place in a water bath. 7. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the custard is set but has no color. 8. Cover and chill the custard until ready to serve. ALMOND MERINGUES Makes 10–12 meringues 3 large egg whites ¼ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon vinegar ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar ¼ cup sliced almonds


Ricotta Custard with Meringue continued....

TO PREPARE THE MERINGUES 1. Place all the ingredients except the almonds in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip attachment, and whip on medium speed until frothy like a bubble bath, about 1 minute. Turn the mixer to high and continue whipping until the meringue becomes stiff and glossy, about 3 minutes. 2. Using a rubber spatula, place large dollops of the meringue on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced 3 inches apart so they can expand as they bake. 3. Sprinkle the meringues with sliced almonds and bake at 225°F for 2½ hours, until they are slightly browned and crisp on the outside but still chewy on the inside. Chef’s note: To test for doneness, take one meringue out of the oven, let it cool a few minutes on the counter, and then break it open to make sure it is chewy and the meringue is not wet in the center. 4. Let the meringues cool to room temperature. 5. Store the meringues in an airtight container until ready to use. Chef’s note: Meringues can be stored for up to three days.


CHERRIES IN PORT Makes 10–12 servings 3 cups port wine 1 cinnamon stick 2 star anise ½ vanilla bean 2 cups frozen sour cherries, thawed and drained, juice reserved 1 tablespoon cornstarch TO PREPARE THE CHERRIES 1. In a saucepan, place the port, cinnamon, star anise, and vanilla bean. Simmer until reduced to 1 cup. 2. Add the cherries and heat through. 3. Mix the cornstarch with the reserved cherry juice and carefully stir it into the cherries and port. Cook gently until thickened. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE 1. Just before serving, warm the cherries in a saucepan. 2. Spoon the warm cherry-port sauce over the surface of the custard. 3. Place one of the meringues next to the baked custard. 4. Chef’s note: Instead of the cherry-port sauce, you may also coat the top of the custard with coarse sugar and caramelize with a blowtorch (or under the broiler if you don’t have a torch) for a crisp, crackly, brûléed top.

Ricotta Custard with Root Beer Float continued....

ROOT BEER FLOAT WITH GINGER ICE CREAM Makes eight 3- to 4-ounce root beer floats. 2 bottles Gale’s cinnamon ginger vanilla root beer (see Sources: Amazon; also available at some gourmet grocery and beverage stores) ½ pint Häagen-Dazs Five ginger ice cream (available at most grocery stores)

TO PREPARE THE ROOT BEER FLOAT 1. In eight 3- to 4-ounce glasses, place two small scoops of the ginger ice cream. 2. Top off with root beer, filling the glasses halfway. Allow the foamy head to subside and then top it off one more time. 3. Serve with cut-down elbow straws.


CHOCOLATE POTS DE CRÈME WITH CARAMEL SAUCE, BLACK PEPPER WHIPPED CREAM and CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO COOKIES, SERVED WITH KUMQUAT MILK SHAKE This is a signature dessert for me. I make it whenever I am asked to show my work, whether it’s at the World Gourmet Festival in Bangkok, the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival in California, or an Emeril Lagasse Foundation fundraiser in New Orleans for five hundred. I love pepper with chocolate, and this dessert shows that off. I also look for plays on words, since part of my job is writing menu copy for my restaurant, Tru. I like the idea of saying “chocolate with salt and pepper.” It sounds familiar, and yet you’re not sure what it means until you try it. Kumquats are another favorite fruit of mine, which I find fascinating because they are the opposite of most citrus fruits. They’re tart on the inside, but the peel is sweet, so the fruit is meant to be eaten whole. You just pop them in your mouth! CHOCOLATE CUSTARD 4 cups heavy cream Pinch of salt 4 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, such as Callebaut 70% bittersweet, chopped (see Sources: Whole Foods Market and select grocery stores) 6 egg yolks ½ cup sugar TO PREPARE THE CUSTARD 1. In a saucepan, combine the cream and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Chef’s note: As soon as it boils, turn off the heat and add the chocolate, mixing until melted. 280

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. 3. Slowly add all the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, stirring after each addition. 4. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until it is slightly thickened. Chef’s note: The mixture should be thick enough to smoothly coat the back of a wooden spoon. Run your finger down the back of the spoon; when the edges do not blur, the mixture is ready. 5. Pour the custard into ramekins, mugs, or dessert cups. 6. Tightly cover each ramekin with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic does not touch the surface of the custard. 7. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until ready to serve.

Chocolate Pots De Creme with Caramel Sauce continued....

FLEUR DE SEL CARAMEL SAUCE Makes ¾ cup ¾ cup sugar ¼ cup water ½ cup cream ¼ teaspoon fleur de sel TO PREPARE THE CARAMEL SAUCE 1. Place the sugar in a small, high-walled saucepan. 2. Pour ¼ cup of water around the wall of the pan. Let the water seep into the sugar to soak it. Chef’s note: Make a cross through the middle of the sugar with a clean finger to help the water seep in, if needed. Turn the heat on high and boil the sugar and water until caramel colored. Test drops of the caramel on a white plate to see the true color. 3. Turn the heat off and immediately stir in the cream with a wooden spoon; be careful, as the mixture will bubble up. 4. Let the caramel cool, and then stir in the fleur de sel.

BLACK PEPPER WHIPPED CREAM Makes 8–10 servings ½ cup heavy cream, chilled ½ teaspoon sugar ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper TO PREPARE THE WHIPPED CREAM 1. In a metal bowl, whip all the ingredients together until stiff. 2. Keep chilled until ready to use.


Chocolate Pots De Creme with Chocolate Espresso Cookies continued....

CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO COOKIES Makes 2–3 dozen cookies, depending on scoop size 1¾ cups semisweet chocolate chips for melting, plus ¾ cup to be added after all ingredients ¼ cup butter ¼ cup flour ¼ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 2 eggs ¾ cup sugar 1 teaspoon espresso grounds (fine ground) TO PREPARE THE COOKIES 1. Place 1¾ cups chocolate chips and butter in a stainless steel bowl and set it over a small pot of simmering water until mixture melts. 2. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 3. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip attachment and mix until they become light and fluffy. 4. Add the ground espresso to the egg-and-sugar mixture and mix.


5. Add the melted chocolate and mix. 6. Add the dry ingredients and the remaining ¾ cup of chocolate chips and mix. 7. Let the cookie dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. 8. Scoop the cookie dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets with a 1-inch-diameter ice cream scoop. Freeze. 9. In a 375°F oven, bake the cookies for 7 minutes while they are still frozen. Chef’s note: You can parbake them for 5 minutes, and when ready to serve bake them for 2 additional minutes so that they will be warm. TO SERVE 1. Top the chocolate pots de crème with room-temperature caramel sauce and a small, oval-shaped scoop of the black pepper whipped cream. 2. Serve with the chocolate espresso cookies.

Chocolate Pots De Creme with Kumquat Milk Shake continued....

KUMQUAT MILK SHAKE Makes eight to ten 2- to 3-ounce mini-shakes. 1 cup candied kumquats 1 pint best-quality vanilla ice cream ½ cup milk CANDIED KUMQUATS 1 cup fresh kumquats 2 cups sugar 2 cups water

TO PREPARE THE MILK SHAKE 1. Place the ice cream, milk, and drained kumquats in a blender and blend until well combined and thick. Chef ’s note: Reserve the kumquat liquid for iced tea or to soak into a cake—it’s delicious! 2. Pour into small glasses and serve with cut-down elbow straws.

TO PREPARE THE KUMQUATS 1. Cut the kumquats into quarters and remove any seeds. 2. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a simmer. 3. Add the kumquats and continue cooking on low heat for 1 hour, until they are translucent and tender. 4. Let the kumquats cool in the liquid. 5. Keep chilled until ready to use.



LAVENDER LOLLIPOPS WITH JOHNNY-JUMP-UPS I have trouble saying good-bye, so I tend to give little extra treats after dessert is over to give you one last goodbye hug. Lollipops are often how I do that. Here are two of my favorites— one that speaks to the beautiful art of stained glass, only edible, and one to satisfy your chocolate craving, if it hasn’t been taken care of already. Makes 10–20 lollipops. LAVENDER LOLLIPOPS 10–20 Johnny-jump-ups or other edible flower petals, such as rose or violet (see Sources: Whole Foods Market and select grocery stores) 1 cup sugar 1/3 cup corn syrup 1/3 cup water 1½ teaspoons lavender extract or oil 10 large or 20 small lollipop collars or molds (optional) (available at craft stores and baking-supply stores) 10–20 6-inch-long lollipop sticks Baking sheet, well greased or lined with a Silpat (nonstick baking mat) Candy thermometer Ice-water bath

TO PREPARE THE LOLLIPOPS 1. If you are using lollipop collars or molds, fit them with sticks and lay them on the prepared baking sheet. If you are not using them, lay the sticks in parallel rows on the Silpat, leaving 2 inches of space between them so that the cooked syrup can be poured over the top end of the stick, allowing room for the syrup to spread to form the lollipop, about 1 inch in diameter. 2. Place a few flower petals in each collar or mold or near the end of each stick. (You’ll be pouring the syrup over them to make the lollipops.) 3. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a small, clean, dry saucepan (preferably one with a pouring spout) fitted with a candy thermometer. Bring to a boil over high heat. Without stirring, cook until the mixture reaches the “hard crack” stage, or 305°F on the candy thermometer. Chef ’s note: While the syrup is cooking, occasionally wash down the sides of the pan with a clean brush dipped in water to prevent crystallization.


Lavender Lollipops continued....

4. When the mixture reaches 305°F, remove the pot from the heat and dip in the ice bath for 15 seconds to stop the cooking. 5. Remove the pot from the ice bath and add the lavender extract, stirring very gently with a wooden spoon so that the flavor is evenly distributed. Chef’s note: To avoid air bubbles in the finished lollipops, stir the mixture gently in both directions, being careful not to overmix. 6. Pour the syrup over the flower petals into the collars or molds, filling them two-thirds full. If not using molds or collars, carefully spoon the syrup over the top of each stick (see step 1). 7. Cool for at least 20 minutes or until hard. 8. Carefully lift the lollipops off the baking sheet if collars or molds were not used. If collars were used, remove them, or lift lollipops out of the molds. Chef’s note: Lollipops can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week, or two to three days if the weather is very humid.


Chef’s note: For lollipop variations, you can use other flavorings in the syrup, as well as other flower petals or herbs. Try using mint extract and fresh mint leaves in place of the lavender oil and Johnnyjump-ups, or lemon extract and fresh lemon peel shreds, or rosewater and rose petals.


CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER LOLLIPOPS ¼ cup butter, completely softened 2 cups confectioners’ sugar 1 cup creamy peanut butter 1½ cups Rice Krispies 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped 1 tablespoon vegetable oil ¼ cup salted, roasted peanuts, chopped 15–20 lollipop sticks (about 6 inches long) Floral foam or Styrofoam (available at craft stores and bakingsupply stores) Bowl of sugar (optional method to set lollipops) TO PREPARE THE LOLLIPOPS 1. Place the butter, confectioners’ sugar, and peanut butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until ingredients are well combined. Chef’s note: If you don’t have a mixer, you can do this by hand. 2. Mix in the Rice Krispies. 3. Using your hands, form the peanut butter mixture into 1-ounce balls the size of a walnut.

4. Insert a lollipop stick into each ball and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. 5. Place the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl and set it over a small pot of simmering water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally until smooth. 6. Stir in the vegetable oil. 7. Dip the lollipop centers one at a time into the melted chocolate, holding them over the bowl to drip as they start to set. Before the lollipops set, dip the tops in the chopped peanuts. 8. Place the lollipop sticks upright in floral foam, Styrofoam, or a bowl of sugar to fully set. 9. Keep the lollipops chilled until ready to serve, and then bring to room temperature.


SOURCES: The Chefs’ Artisans and Purveyors AMAZON Website: Agar agar Gale’s Root Beer Mymoune rosewater Vanilla bourbon sorghum ANSON MILLS 1922-C Gervais Street Columbia, SC 29201 Phone: 803-467-4122 Fax: 803-256-2463 Website: Varieties of cornmeal, grits, wheat, and rice BOTTLE GREEN DRINKS COMPANY Website: Email: Elderflower cordial (as well as other flavors) BROWNE TRADING COMPANY 262 Commercial Street Portland, ME 04101 Phone/Direct Market Line: 207-775-7560 (Rod Mitchell) Phone/Mail Order: 800-944-7848 or 207-766-2402 Fax: 207-766-2404

Website: Email: Fresh seafood COFFEE BY DESIGN 43 Washington Avenue Portland, ME 04101 Phone: 207-879-2233 Email: Handcrafted, microroasted coffee CROWN O’ MAINE ORGANIC COOPERATIVE 960 Main Street Vassalboro, ME 04960 Mailing Address: COMOC P.O. Box 4 Vassalboro, ME 04989 Phone: 207-877-7444 or 207-877-7444 Fax: 207-877-7447 Website: Email: Eggs Rhubarb


DEAN & DELUCA Phone: 800-221-7714 Website: Truffle salt FORT RUGER MARKET 3585 Alohea Avenue Honolulu, HI 96816 Phone: 808-737-4531 Ahi and aku tuna loin

Website: Email: Aleppo chilies Gum mastic, whole Hawaij, in powder form Mahlab, whole or powder

GROCERY THAI Website: Chao Thai coconut cream powder

LA BREA BAKERY 460 South La Brea Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90036-3568 Phone: 323-939-6813 Website: Artisanal breads

HUDSON VALLEY FOIE GRAS 80 Brooks Road Ferndale, NY 12734 Phone: 845-292-2500 (Michael Ginor) Fax: 845-292-3009 Website: Award-winning foie gras and prepared duck products

LILIHA BAKERY 515 N. Kuakini Street Honolulu, HI 96817 Phone: 808-531-1651 Website: Email: Cream puffs (the bakery calls them magic puffs)

KALUSTYAN’S SPICES AND SWEETS Marhaba International, Inc. 123 Lexington Avenue New York, NY 10016 Phone: 800-352-3451 or 212-685-3451 Fax: 212-683-8458



Phone: 800-741-7787 or 414-760-7337 Fax: 414-760-7317 Website: Aleppo chilies Curry powder

Green cardamom, whole Mahlab (comes whole and must be ground in a spice grinder) Saffron THE PERFECT PURテ右 Website: Black currant puree (as well as other fruits) RUSS AND DAUGHTERS 179 East Houston Street New York, NY 10002 Phone: 212-475-4880, or 800-RUSS-229 Fax: 212-475-0345 Website: Email: Smoked salmon, gravlax, and caviar TAMASHIRO MARKET 802 North King Street Honolulu, HI 96817 Phone: 808-841-8047 Website: Ahi and aku tuna loin

Fax: 718-391-1704 Website: Email: Fresh truffles and truffle oil WHOLE FOODS MARKET Website: Bravo Farms sage cheddar Callebaut 70% bittersweet chocolate Callebaut or Ghirardelli white chocolate Clotted cream or Devon cream Edible flowers Hungarian wax peppers Preserved lemon Valrhona chocolate WILLIAMS-SONOMA Website: Preserved lemon

URBANI TRUFFLES USA Phone: 800-281-330 or 718-392-5050


RECIPES Breakfast


Rhubarb Sparkler, 26 Steel-Cut Oatmeal Soufflé with Ginger-Infused Maple Syrup, 28 Bacon-Poached Farm-Fresh Eggs with Red Flannel Hash and Saffron Hollandaise, 29 Potato-Garlic Biscuits, 31 Fresh Wild Maine Blueberries with Whipped Condensed Milk and Pumpkin Seed Granola, 32 Buckwheat Pancakes with Pecans and Fresh Blackberry Syrup, 45 Scrambled Egg and Red Chile Tortilla Pudding with Avocado and Queso Fresco Salsa, 46 Buttermilk Doughnuts with Sugar Glaze, 48 Coffee Quartet, 50 Kumquat-Ginger Marmalade, 63 Ellen’s Irish Soda Bread, 64 Fruit Salad with Rosewater Syrup and Sweet Tahini Yogurt, 65 Cilantro-Cured Salmon with Coconut Labne and Caviar, 67 Lychee and Elderflower Bellini, 69 Anson Mills Cornmeal Waffles with Sorghum Syrup, 80 Scrambled Farm Egg and Stone Crab Tartine, 82 Shrimp and Grits “My Way”, 84 Summer Berry Lassi , 86

Black Pansy and Prosecco, 103 Welcoming Spoon Sweets with Simit and Yogurt, 104 Turkish Pistachio Katmer with Clotted Cream and Rose Petal Jam, 109 Shakshuka with Grilled Bread and Zhoug, 112 Milk Pudding Vacherin with Fresh Berry and Mint Syrup, 115 Milk Chocolate Tahini Bites, 118 Syrian Shortbreads, 119 Sofra’s House Chai Tea , 120 Rustic Salad, 134 Grilled Leg of Lamb with Chimichurri, 136 Sweet Potato “Tata” à la Francis Mallmann, 137 Buttermilk and Lemon Panna Cotta with Goat Cheese and Ripe Pear, 139 Market Lettuce Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette, 155 Open-Faced Tuna Niçoise Sandwich, 156 Grilled Sage Cheddar and Turkey Sandwich with Leeks and Celery, 158 Grilled Sottocenere Sandwich with Soft Scrambled Eggs, 159 Shortbread Buttons Served with Fresh Seasonal Fruit, 160 Fresh Burrata Cheese, Summer Vegetables, and Garden Greens, 174 Heirloom Tomatoes with Maletti Vinegar, Lemon-Basil Aioli, and Parmesan, 175 Grilled Tuna with Cauliflower Tabouleh, Peppers, and Mizuna Salad, 176 Roasted Lamb with Caramelized Fennel, Fennel Confit, and Favas, 179 Verbena Jelly, 181 Buttermilk-Thyme Beignets, 182 Handmade Sea Salt–Earl Grey Tea Caramels, 184




Prosciutto with Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Arugula, 202 Brochettes of Scallops with Cranberries, Bay Leaf, and Orange, with Cranberry-Saffron Aioli, 204 Roasted Loin of Veal with Foie Gras, Cherry-Grape Sauce, Warm Brussels Sprout Leaves, and Casserole of White Truffle Pasta, 207 Blinis and Bling with Tapioca Caviar, Candied Fruits, Toasted Almonds, and Crème Fraîche, 210 Molded Sushi with Unagi and Spicy Crab, 227 Aku or Ahi Tataki, 229 My Dad’s Pork Ribs, 230 Shrimp on a Sugarcane Stick, 231 Wok-Charred Edamame, 232 My Mom’s Macaroni Salad, 234 Spicy Chicken Wings, 235 Cheese Borek with Pickled Watermelon and Basil, 249 Wild Striped Bass Plaki with Sweet-and-Sour Vegetable Broth, 251 Grilled Lamb Shoulder with Bulgur Pilaf, Pan-Roasted Onion, Spinach, and Tomato, 253 Gatah (Warm Sweet Rolls with Cinnamon), 255

Pan-Fried Bread Pudding with Caramelized Pink Grapefruit and Elderflower Ice Cream, 272 White Chocolate–Almond Cocoa and Blushing Black Currant Marshmallows, 275 Baked Ricotta Custard with Meringue and Cherries in Port with Star Anise, 277 Mini–Root Beer Float with Ginger Ice Cream, 279 Chocolate Pots de Crème with Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, Black Pepper Whipped Cream, and Chocolate Espresso Cookies, 280 Kumquat Milk Shake, 283 Lavender Lollipops with Johnny-Jump-Ups, 285 Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ganache Lollipops, 287


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Brooke Warner, my publisher at She Writes Press, for her patience, understanding, and “cool hand Luke” approach so necessary to producing wonderful books. Nathalie Gallmeier, for lending me her talent as a graphic designer. An extraordinary friend, as well as a creator and builder of all things beautiful. Annie Tucker, my editor, for the meticulous work in making everything perfect, and for making me laugh out loud with the story of her experience as she edited the Nancy Silverton salad recipe. Eric Bergerson, who’s tell-it-like-it-is sense of humor, and lazar focused creative development early on saved an unspecified amount of time, sleepless nights and migraines, not to mention his game plans were incredibly spot on. Martin Flannery for his vast knowledge of the world of food and wine, as well as his infinite patience with the many tedious stages of recipe testing and editing. Our mutual lust for analysis and perfectionism certainly presented some interesting days and everything in between. Nicole Temkin, who has the gift of eloquently phrasing her support and belief in the book. Loretta Seymour, for her razor sharp business acumen, and for jumping in at every roadblock ready to clear the way. My husband, Richard Hawkes, for his ability to act as the voice-of-reason and for cheering me on, and on. Special thanks to all the chefs who jumped on board with incredible enthusiasm for the project: Justin Aprahamian, Robert Del Grande, Rob Evans, Brad Farmerie, Clark Frasier, Mark Gaier, Gale Gand, Maura Kilpatrick, Mike Lata, Nancy Silverton, Frank Stitt, Jason Wilson, and Roy Yamguchi. Their considerable content contributions, profuse apologies, and grateful verses have given me a greater appreciation for what they do and taught me a thing or two more about food.


About the AUTHOR


awn Blu me Hawkes is the creator of She’s a California-born, European- and American-


way from the Kitchen has a companion website at

educated cook and author. Living the bi-coastal and bi-continental life began with her parents transporting her from California to Boston to New York and back to California again, where she eventually earned her BA and master’s degree in English and design. Traipsing around the United States and subsequently crossing the continent to explore European lands, Dawn began attending classes in London at the Ealing School of Art, Design, and Media, and started writing for various publications, including the British weekly magazine of satire, Punch. Among these endeavors, she also took on the quest to travel and seek out instruction from the best European chefs offering regional cooking classes, which quite naturally led to an appreciation of the diversity of cuisines and the skills of the chefs. Dawn credits the influences of growing up surrounded by interesting people— writers, artists, explorers, and scientists, all of whom were accomplished cooks— to her sense of the high drama of food and entertaining. From the Felliniesque dining scene to the laminate-and-chrome kitchen table, plates slathered with mac and cheese (homemade, of course), her unsuspecting mentors presented her with the mysterious or simple possibilities of what a meal could be. Dawn is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) and the American Advertising Federation (AAF).

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The CHEFS Rob Evans, Chef and Owner—Duckfat, Portland, Maine

Brad Farmerie, Executive Chef—PUBLIC and Saxon + Parole, New York, New York

Rob Evans is a native New Englander born in Southborough, Massachusetts. Rob began his career by training to be an electrician but soon realized that his ambition was to become a professional chef. He developed his craft by working with Patrick O’Connell, of the Inn at Little Washington in Washington and Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in Northern California. He eventually opened two restaurants in his home state of Maine: Hugo’s in October 2000 and Duckfat in 2005. Rob Evans was named Best New Chef in the U.S. by Food & Wine magazine in 2004 and received the award for Best Chef: Northeast by the James Beard Foundation in 2009. Website:—207.774.8080

Born in Chicago, Illinois, chef Brad Farmerie is a world traveler, accomplished photographer, public speaker, and gifted food writer. In 1996, he earned a Grande Diplôme at Le Cordon Bleu in London after which he further developed his cooking skills in a number of prestigious restaurants: Coast, Chez Nico, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and the Sugar Club. In 2003, Brad became executive chef of the AvroKO designed PUBLIC restaurant in New York, which was quickly awarded a Michelin star. In addition to PUBLIC, Brad currently heads up the kitchens of Saxon + Parole in the New York City neighborhood NoHo, and the Thomas and Fagiani’s Bar in Napa, California. Website:—212.343.7011;—212.254.0350

Robert Del Grande, Executive Chef and Partner— RDG + Bar Annie, Houston, Texas

Scientist turned chef Robert Del Grande, having earned a PhD in biochemistry, jumped the fence in 1981 to visit Mimi Kinsman in Houston, Texas, who would eventually become his wife, and possibly work in her families restaurant Café Annie. Robert’s visit transitioned into a permanent move as he quickly moved up the line to executive chef and partner at Café Annie. In July 2009, Robert closed Café Annie and opened RDG + Bar Annie in Houston. His signature Southwestern flavor profiles have earned him many accolades including the 1992 James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Southwest. Website:—713.840.1111


Mike Lata, Executive Chef and Co-Owner— FIG and The Ordinary, Charleston, South Carolina

Mike Lata is a New England native and self-taught chef who developed his kitchen skills in Boston, New Orleans, and at Jean Banchet’s Ciboulette in Atlanta. Mike joined the Charleston dining scene in 1998 as executive chef at Anson. In 2001, he made the trip to France, where he worked and studied French cuisine at Michelin-starred restaurants in Burgundy and southern France. Returning to Charleston, Mike opened FIG restaurant in April 2003. In 2009 he earned the James Beard award for Best Chef: Southeast. His latest venture, the December 2012 launch of the Ordinary Oyster Hall and Seafood Restaurant, has already been nominated for Best New Restaurant 2013 by the James Beard Foundation. Website:—843.805.5900;—843.414.7060

Maura Kilpatrick and Ana Sortun, Chefs and Owners— Sofra and Oleana, Cambridge, Massachusetts

After graduating from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco in 1994, Maura Kilpatrick moved back to her hometown of Boston and worked for many top chefs there, including Lydia Shire, Moncef Meddeb, Rene Michelena, and Ana Sortun. In 1999 she opened two bakeries, Hi-Rise Bread Company and Hi-Rise Pie Company. She was voted Boston’s Best Pastry Chef in 2002, 2007, 2008, and 2009 by Boston Magazine, won a StarChefs Rising Star award in 2009, and received a James Beard Foundation nomination for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2009 through 2012. Ana Sortun began her career by enrolling in L’École Française in Seattle at the ripe old age of seventeen. After receiving her fluency degree in French, she moved to Paris, where she received her Grand Diplôme from École de Cuisine La Varenne and another, for wine studies, from L’Académie du Vin. Ana received the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Northeast award in 2005. Combining the visual styles and flavors of the eastern and western Mediterranean, Ana and Maura Kilpatrick opened Oleana in 2001, and Sofra, a Middle Eastern café and bakery in August of 2008. Website:—616.661.3161;—617.661.0505 Frank Stitt, Executive Chef and Owner— Highlands Bar and Grill, Birmingham, Alabama

Frank grew up in Cullman, Alabama and studied philosophy at UC Berkeley where he first developed his love of cookbooks and cooking. Working with chefs’ Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower, and Simca Beck, as well as his travels throughout the French countryside to explore the food and wine culture provided enough background for Frank’s next culinary steps. In 1982 he

opened his flagship restaurant, Highlands Bar and Grill, followed by Bottega in 1988, Café Bottega in 1990, and Chez Fonfon in 2000, all in Birmingham, Alabama. Frank Stitt received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance, was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2009, and received the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2001. He is the author of Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill, and Frank Stitt’s Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair with Italian Food. Website:—205.939.1400 Nancy Silverton, Chef and Co-Owner—Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles, California

Nancy Silverton was born and grew up in California’s San Fernando Valley. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in London and École Lenôtre culinary institute in Plaisir, France, Nancy returned to the states, adding pastry chef for Wolfgang Puck at Spago to her resume. Living and cooking in Italy with her husband, Mark Peel convinced the two chefs to open their own restaurant, which in 1989 would become Campanile and La Brea Bakery. In 1990, Nancy Silverton, in addition to being named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs, also received the James Beard Foundation award for Pastry Chef of the Year. In 2007 Nancy opened Pizzeria Mozza and Osteria Mozza with her two partners, Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich. The eight cookbooks she has written cover a range of food favorites and include her most recent, The Mozza Cookbook. Website:—323.297.0101


The CHEFS continued . . . Jason Wilson, Chef and Owner—Crush, Seattle, Washington

A 1995 graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Jason Wilson has a passion for knowledge and experience that has brought him to some of the most influential kitchens and patisseries in California, Singapore, and France. In 1996, Jason joined Jeremiah Tower to open Stars Restaurant in Singapore and moved to Seattle, Washington in 1998 to open Stars Bar and Dining. He opened Crush Restaurant in Seattle in 2005 with his wife, Nicole Wilson. Chef Jason Wilson is a 2010 James Beard award winner for Best Chef: Northwest and alumni of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs class of 2006. Website:—206.302.7874 Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, Chefs and Owners— Arrows and MC Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine

Mark Gaier grew up in a big family near Dayton, Ohio. He studied culinary arts under Jean Wallach in Boston and later at the Whistling Oyster under Michael Allen, who had been the chef for Madeleine Kamman at her cooking school in Boston. In the mid-’80s, Mark went to San Francisco and joined the staff at Stars Restaurant as chef tournant under Jeremiah Tower. Clark Frasier grew up in Carmel, California. He went to China to study Chinese and in the process learned about what the seasons meant to the availability of vegetables and fruits. When Clark returned from China, he settled in San Francisco to begin an import-export business but instead he found himself working under Jeremiah Tower at Stars Restaurant where he first met Mark Gaier. In 1988, Clark and Mark purchased what


would become their award winning, fine dining destination, Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine. In 2005 the two chefs opened a more casual Ogunquit restaurant with spectacular views, MC Perkins Cove. In 2010 Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier received the award for Best Chef: Northeast from the James Beard Foundation. Website:—207.361.1100;—207.646.6263 Roy Yamaguchi, Chef and Owner—Roy’s, Honolulu, Hawaii

Roy was born in Tokyo, Japan. He lived there until he was seventeen, absorbing his Okinawa-born mother’s language and culture, as well as visiting Maui, where his father’s and grandfather’s Hawaiian roots began. Roy made the decision to pursue a career as a professional chef before he graduated from high school. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1976. After mastering cooking school, he secured an apprenticeship at L’Escoffier, followed by one at L’Ermitage, under chef Jean Bertranou. In 1984 Chef Yamaguchi opened his first restaurant, 385 North, in Hollywood where he showcased his “California-French-Japanese-eclectic,” style as it was termed at that time. Roy’s Honolulu opened in December 1988, and by 1992, Roy’s had been enshrined in the Nation’s Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame, awarded two toques from Gault & Millau, and twice selected as one of Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 50 in America, as was Roy’s Kahana Bar & Grill, on Maui. In 1993, Chef Yamaguchi was named Best Chef: Pacific Northwest by the James Beard Foundation. Website:

Justin Aprahamian, Chef and Owner— Sanford, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

At sixteen, Justin started working for the chef-owned Steven Wade’s Café in New Berlin, Wisconsin. Immediately after graduating in the culinary program at Waukesha County Technical College in May 2002, Justin joined the kitchen staff at the already legendary Sanford Restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was hired as a prep cook, but his drive and passion moved him up the line to sous-chef by 2005 and on to chef de cuisine in 2008. By 2010, he was honored with a nomination for Rising Star Chef from the James Beard Foundation, and in 2011 with a nomination for both Rising Star Chef and Best Chef: Midwest. He received a James Beard Foundation nomination again in 2012 and 2013 for Best Chef: Midwest. In December 2012, chef Aprahamian became executive chef and owner when he purchased Sanford Restaurant from its D’Amato family owner, Sanford (Sandy) D’Amato. Website:—414.276.9608

1994 as one of Food & Wine’s Top Ten Best New Chefs. Gale is also an accomplished cookbook author with seven titles to her credit, including her 2009 release, Gale Gand’s Brunch. Chef Gand was the host of the long-running Sweet Dreams, which was the first all-dessert show for the Food Network. Her many television appearances include The Martha Stewart Show; Oprah; Iron Chef America, and Baking with Julia. Gale is currently the Chef in Residence at Elawa Farm, a restored historic farm, in Lake Forest, Illinois. Website:—312.202.0001;—847.234.1966

Gale Gand, Founding Executive Pastry Chef and Partner—Tru, Chicago, Illinois

Gale was born in Chicago, Illinois, received a bachelor of fine arts from the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Crafts, and attended the culinary school at La Varenne in Paris. After completing her study of pastry at La Varenne, she began staging at the best pastry shops in Paris and Brittany. Chef Gand returned to the States to become a partner and founding pastry chef at Tru Restaurant in Chicago. Gale was recognized in 2001 as Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation and Bon Appétit magazine, and in


PHOTO Credits Pause here to acquaint yourself with the talented Away From the Kitchen photographers and contributors. Front and Back Cover: © 2013 Nicolas Beckman for Nancy Silverton; © 2013 Julie Soefer for Robert Del Grande; © 2013 Bobby Friedel for Brad Farmerie; © 2013 Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine for Roy Yamaguchi; © 2013 John Reilly Photography for Gale Gand; © 2013 Karim Shamsi-Basha for Frank Stitt; © 2013 Kristen Chalmers for Maura Kilpatrick; © 2013 Sean Balko for Jason Wilson; © 2013 Ralph Selensky for Justin Aprahamian; © 2013 Squire Fox Photography for Mike Lata.

Interior: p. 13 © 2013 Felipe Cuevas for Brad Farmerie; pp. 6, 25, 152:lettuce basket, 153, 161,162:CRUSH restaurant © 2013 Dawn Blume Hawkes; pp.13, 34: Robert & Mimi, Robert Interior Restaurant © 2013 Julie Soefer for Robert Del Grande; p.15 © 2013 Russell French Photography; pp. 16, 24 © 2013 Rob Evans; pp. 34, 41:burger & fries, 44, 49 © 2013 Robert Del Grande; pp. 52, 60 © 2013 Brad Farmerie; p. 59 blue steel country fry pan © 2013 courtesy of du Buyer; pp. 70, 77, 78 © 2013 Squire Fox Photography; pp. 70:El Bulli, 83 © 2013 Mike Lata; p. 81 © 2013 Kay Rentschler for Anson Mills; pp. 89, 162:ceviche & CRUSH interior, 178, 185 © 2013 Sean Balko; pp. 90, 100, 102, 108, 113, 121:pita © 2013 Maura Kilpatrick; p. 99:chocolate nibs © 2013 courtesy of Theo Chocolate; p. 122 © 2013 Clayton Parker for Harry’s bar; pp. 122 polo, Frank & Palma, 132, 135 © 2013 Frank Stitt; p.140 © 2013 Philippe Derouet for Plaza Athenee; p.140 © 2013 courtesy ArcLight Cinemas; p.140:Tuscan kitchen © 2013 Marie Hunnechart; p.152 sourdough bread © 2013 Chris R. Sims; pp.154, 288 © 2013 courtesy of Pete’s Greens; pp. 162:Jason fishing, 172 © 2013 Jason Wilson; pp.187, 236 portrait/Justin, 248 © 2013 Ralph Selensky; pp. 188 garden, 205, 206 © 2013 Ron Manville; pp.188, 200 Arrows restaurant, 203 © 2013 Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier; p. 200 table setting © 2013 David Murray; pp. 212, 223:Japanese mandoline, 224, 233 © 2013 Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine; p. 236: Dali Lama © 2013 Kalleen Mortensen; pp. 236: vintage kitchen tools, 245, 246 © 2013 Justin Aprahamian; pp. 259, 284 © 2013 Tim Turner; pp. 260: jamming, 270 © 2013 Gale Gand; p. 260 portrait/Gale © 2013 George Lange: p. 295 © 2013 Don Saban. Thinkstock: /brand x: pp. 99:peppermill, 131:sharpening; /comstock: p. 42:saddle; /digital vision: pp. 33, 138; /hemera: pp. 42:cowboy and breakfast, 61, 87, 140:Chieti tower, 151:spoons, 246:baklava, 269:butter; /image source: p. 223:daikon; /istock: pp. 27, 41:chestnuts, 62, 66, 78:boat, 99:halvah, 122:Capri, 131:magnetic strip, 151:croutons,162:airplane, 171:lemons, 183:beignets, 199:casseroles, saucepan, and turbinado sugar, 223:fennel, 226, 236:records, 257, 260:spam, 269:scoop, 276; /jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images: pp.152:illustration, 271:concept adaptation; /monkey business: p. 51; /photodisc: p. 200 Christmas tree by Siri Stafford; /polka dot: p. 269:sieve; /top photo: p. 260:Eiffel tower. The photographic information in this book is true and complete to the best of the author’s knowledge. The author and publisher disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of the author or She Writes Press.


INDEX A Aioli, 156 Cranberry-Saffron Aioli, 204 Lemon-Basil Aioli, 175 Almond Cherry Almond Spoon Sweet, 104 Almond Meringues, 277—278 White Chocolate-Almond Cocoa, 275 Armenian Dishes Cheese Borek with Pickled Watermelon and Basil, 249—250 Gatah (Warm Sweet Rolls with Cinnamon), 255—256 Wild Striped Bass Plaki with Sweet-and-Sour Vegetable Broth, 251—252


Beverages Black Pansy and Prosecco, 103 Coffee Quartet, 50 Kumquat Milk Shake, 283 Lychee and Elderflower Bellini, 69 Mini–Root Beer Float with Ginger Ice Cream, 279 Rhubarb Sparkler, 26 Sofra’s House Chai Tea, 120 Summer Berry Lassi, 86 White Chocolate–Almond Cocoa, 275 Blueberries, Fresh Wild Maine, with Whipped Condensed Milk and Pumpkin Seed Granola, 32 Bread Ellen’s Irish Soda Bread, 64 Gatah (see also Armenian Dishes), 255—256 Potato-Garlic Biscuits, 31 Simit (see also Middle Eastern dishes), 106—107 Brussels Sprout Leaves, Warm, 208 Buttermilk Buttermilk and Lemon Panna Cotta with Goat Cheese and Ripe Pear, 139

Buttermilk Doughnuts with Sugar Glaze, 48 Buttermilk-Thyme Beignets, 182


Caramel(s) Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, 281 Handmade Sea Salt–Earl Grey Tea Caramels, 184 Cauliflower Tabouleh, Peppers, and Mizuna Salad, Grilled Tuna with, 176—177 Cheese Baked Ricotta Custard with Meringue and Cherries in Port, 277 Buttermilk and Lemon Panna Cotta with Goat Cheese and Ripe Pear, 139 Cheese Borek with Pickled Watermelon and Basil (see also Armenia dishes), 249—250 Fresh Burrata Cheese, Summer Vegetables, and Garden Greens, 174 Grilled Sage Cheddar and Turkey Sandwich with Leeks and Celery, 158 Grilled Sottocenere Sandwich with Soft Scrambled Eggs, 159 Heirloom Tomatoes with Maletti Vinegar, Lemon-Basil Aioli, and Parmesan, 175 Cherries Cherry Almond Spoon Sweet, 104 Cherries in Port, 278 Chicken Wings, Spicy, 235 Chocolate Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ganache Lollipops, 287 Chocolate Espresso Cookies, 282 Chocolate Pots de Crème, 280 Milk Chocolate Tahini Bites, 118 White Chocolate-Almond Cocoa, 275 Coffee Quartet, 50 Cookies Chocolate Espresso Cookies, 282 Milk Chocolate Tahini Bites, 118 Shortbread Buttons, 160


Syrian Shortbreads, 119 Crab Molded Sushi with Unagi and Spicy Crab, 227— 228 Scrambled Farm Egg and Stone Crab Tartine, 82 Cranberries, Bay Leaf, and Orange, with Cranberry-Saffron Aioli, Brochettes of Scallops with, 204 Custards and Puddings Baked Ricotta Custard with Meringue and Cherries in Port, 277 Buttermilk and Lemon Panna Cotta with Goat Cheese and Ripe Pear, 139 Chocolate Pots de Crème with Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, 280 Milk Pudding Vacherin with Fresh Berry and Mint Syrup, 115—117 Pan-Fried Bread Pudding with Elderflower Ice Cream, 272—273 Tapioca, 210


Doughnuts Buttermilk Doughnuts with Sugar Glaze, 48 Buttermilk-Thyme Beignets, 182 Dressings (see Vinaigrettes)


Edamame, Wok-Charred, 232 Egg(s) Bacon-Poached Farm-Fresh Eggs with Red Flannel Hash and Saffron Hollandaise, 29—30 Scrambled Egg and Red Chile Tortilla Pudding with Avocado and Queso Fresco Salsa, 46—47 Scrambled Farm Egg and Stone Crab Tartine, 82 Shakshuka with Grilled Bread and Zhoug (see also Middle Eastern dishes), 112—114 Steel-Cut Oatmeal Soufflé with Ginger-Infused Maple Syrup, 28


Fennel, Caramelized, Fennel Confit, and Favas, Roasted Lamb with, 179—180


Fish (see also Crab; Shrimp; Tuna) Brochettes of Scallops with Cranberries, Bay Leaf, and Orange, with Cranberry-Saffron Aioli, 204 Cilantro-Cured Salmon with Coconut Labne and Caviar, 67—68 Molded Sushi with Unagi and Spicy Crab, 227—228 Wild Striped Bass Plaki with Sweet-and-Sour Vegetable Broth (see also Armenian dishes), 251—252 Fruit (see also specific fruits) Fruit Salad with Rosewater Syrup and Sweet Tahini Yogurt, 65 Summer Berry Lassi, 86


Gatah (see also Armenian Dishes), 255—256 Grains Cornmeal Waffles with Sorghum Syrup, 80 Buckwheat Pancakes with Pecans and Fresh Blackberry Syrup, 45 Pumpkin Seed Granola, Fresh Wild Maine Blueberries with Whipped Condensed Milk and, 32 Bulgur Pilaf, Pan-Roasted Onion, Spinach and Tomato, Grilled Lamb with, 253—254 Grits, Shrimp, “My Way”, 84—85 Steel-Cut Oatmeal Soufflé with Ginger-Infused Maple Syrup, 28


Ice Cream Kumquat Milk Shake, 283 Mini–Root Beer Float with Ginger Ice Cream, 279 Elderflower Ice Cream, 273


Jams, Jellies, and Marmalades Kumquat-Ginger Marmalade, 63 Rose Petal Jam, Turkish Pistachio Katmer with Clotted Cream and, 109—110 Verbena Jelly, 181


Kumquat Kumquat-Ginger Marmalade, 63 Kumquat Milk Shake, 283


Labne, 67 Coconut Labne, 68 Lamb Grilled Lamb Shoulder with Bulgur Pilaf, Pan-Roasted Onion, Spinach, and Tomato, 253—254 Grilled Leg of Lamb with Chimichurri, 136 Roasted Lamb with Caramelized Fennel, Fennel Confit, and Favas, 179—180 Lemon Buttermilk and Lemon Panna Cotta with Goat Cheese and Ripe Pear, 139 Candied Lemon, 252 Lemon-Basil Aioli, 175 Lollipops Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ganache Lollipops, 287 Lavender Lollipops with Johnny-Jump-Ups, 285—286 Lychee and Elderflower Bellini, 69


Marmalades (see Jams, Jellies, and Marmalades) Marshmallows, Black Currant, 274 Meats Grilled Lamb Shoulder with Bulgur Pilaf, Pan Roasted Onion, Spinach and Tomato, 253—254 Grilled Leg of Lamb with Chimichurri, 136 My Dad’s Pork Ribs, 230 Prosciutto with Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Arugula, 202 Roasted Lamb with Caramelized Fennel, Fennel Confit, and Favas, 179—180

Roasted Loin of Veal with Foie Gras, Cherry-Grape Sauce, Warm Brussels Sprout Leaves, and Casserole of White Truffle Pasta, 207—209 Meringue(s) Almond Meringues, 277—278 Meringue Baskets (vacherins – see also Middle Eastern Dishes), 116—117 Middle Eastern Dishes Milk Pudding Vacherin with Fresh Berry and Mint Syrup, 115—117 Shakshuka with Grilled Bread and Zhoug, 112—114 Simit, 106—107 Sofra’s House Chai Tea, 120 Syrian Shortbreads, 119 Turkish Pistachio Katmer with Clotted Cream and Rose Petal Jam, 109—111 Welcoming Spoon Sweets with Simit and Yogurt, 104—107 Milk Shake, Kumquat, 283


Nectarine Fennel Spoon Sweet, 105


Pancakes Blinis, 211 Buckwheat Pancakes with Pecans and Fresh Blackberry Syrup, 45 Pasta Casserole of White Truffle Pasta, 208—209 My Mom’s Macaroni Salad, 234 Pear, Ripe, Buttermilk and Lemon Panna Cotta with Goat Cheese, 139 Persimmon, Pomegranate, Arugula, and Prosciutto with, 202 Pork My Dad’s Pork Ribs, 230 Prosciutto with Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Arugula, 202 Pots de Crème, Chocolate, 280 Puddings (see Custards and Puddings)



Rhubarb Sparkler, 26 Root Beer Float with Ginger Ice Cream, 279


Salads Fresh Burrata Cheese, Summer Vegetables, and Garden Greens, 174 Fruit Salad with Rosewater Syrup and Sweet Tahini Yogurt, 65 Heirloom Tomatoes with Maletti Vinegar, Lemon-Basil Aioli, and Parmesan, 175 Market Lettuce Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette, 155 Mizuna Salad, 177 My Mom’s Macaroni Salad, 234 Prosciutto with Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Arugula, 202 Rustic Salad, 134 Salsas Chimichurri, 136 Avocado and Queso Fresco Salsa, 46—47 Sandwiches Grilled Sage Cheddar and Turkey Sandwich with Leeks and Celery, 158 Grilled Sottocenere Sandwich with Soft Scrambled Eggs, 159 Open-Faced Tuna Niçoise Sandwich, 156—157 Sauces Cherry-Grape Sauce, 207 Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, 281 Herb-Peppercorn Persillade, 176 Red Chile Sauce, 46 Saffron Hollandaise, 29 Sake-Soy Sauce, 229 Spicy Pipérade, 177 Zhoug (see also Middle Eastern Dishes), 114 Shortbread Shortbread Buttons, 160 Syrian Shortbreads, 119


Shrimp Shrimp and Grits “My Way”, 84—85 Shrimp on a Sugarcane Stick, 231 Sweet Potato “Tata” à la Francis Mallmann, 137 Syrup Blackberry Syrup, 45 Ginger-Infused Maple Syrup, 28 Sorghum Syrup, 80—81


Tahini Fruit Salad with Rosewater Syrup and Sweet Tahini Yogurt, 65 Milk Chocolate Tahini Bites, 118 Tea, Sofra’s House Chai, 120 Tomatoes, Heirloom, with Maletti Vinegar, Lemon-Basil Aioli, and Parmesan, 175 Tuna Aku or Ahi Tataki, 229 Grilled Tuna with Cauliflower Tabouleh, Peppers, and Mizuna Salad, 176—177 Open-Faced Tuna Niçoise Sandwich, 156—157


Veal, Roasted Loin of, with Foie Gras, Cherry-Grape Sauce, 207—208 Vegetables (see also specific vegetables) Fresh Burrata Cheese, Summer Vegetables, and Garden Greens, 174 Sweet-and-Sour Vegetable Broth, 251 Vinaigrette Lemon Vinaigrette, 174 Sherry Vinaigrette, 155 Watermelon Vinaigrette, 249


Waffles, Cornmeal, 80 Watermelon, Pickled, 249 Whipped Cream, Black Pepper, 281

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