Five Chefs Come TogetherTuesday, January 28
Every chef you work for leaves a lasting impression on you for one reason or another. I distinctly remember my first chef. He was by far and away the most charismatic personality I had come across at my young age and he sure left an impression on me. He was as much a circus clown and comedian as he was a talented chef. Even at my young age he taught me a great deal about cooking and about how to lead people. I remember that he would do anything for his cooks and always take the heat for anything that went wrong in the kitchen. I had a great deal of respect for him and would do anything for him because of the man he was.
I also remember his apple strudel. This was one of his signature dishes, loved by everyone who tried it. The apples were perfectly seasoned and ever so lightly sweetened. The dough was so thin and flaky and melted in your mouth like butter. One night when it was slow, we had a little time to some preparation for the upcoming weekend. He asked me if I wanted to learn how to make his famous apple strudel. Knowing just how delicious it was I jumped at the chance. So we began. He began to prepare the dough. While he was doing that he asked me to rum downstairs to fetch the apples. By the time I had grabbed the apples he had assembled the ingredients for the dough. I missed the quantities but I could still see how he put it together. Then he had me run downstairs and grab some more flour and some raisins. By the time I came back the dough was pretty much put together. As the dough rested he had me peel the apples. Then he got me to core the apples. After that he asked me to chop up the apples. Once that was done he sent me back to the dish pit to do some tidying up. While I was back there he cooked off the apples, seasoned them and began to roll out the dough. I came around the corner to catch him preparing the final roll of the strudel. In my naivety I had managed to be duped into to doing the grunt work for chef while he prepared the key elements of the dish. I never did learn how he made his dough so thin and flaky. It wasn’t until after the fact that I realized just how sacred that recipe was to him and that he had never fully shared that recipe with anyone, not even our sous chef.
His actions were not unlike most chefs of that era. They each had their own signature dishes that they held close to the vest. If you managed to pry the information out of them, seldom did you get all of it. There was a degree of paranoia and fear that someone would steal their recipes and become their competition down the street.
Boy, have things changed. As the Food Network gained popularity and chefs began to come into the spotlight a shift in the mindset began. Suddenly these new found celebrity chefs were writing cookbooks, sharing their cherished recipes with others. Once the internet became commonplace the floodgates opened. Celeb chefs, cooks, wannabe cooks, and Suzy homemakers alike now had the opportunity to share their creations with the world. Nowadays you can find countless recipes for just about anything online. There are numerous websites dedicated to cracking some of the world’s most popular recipes. Want to know how to make KFC at home, look it up. Craving a Starbucks hot chocolate, look it up. Feel the need to recreate Outback’s blooming onion, look it up.
More recently, chefs like world famous Grant Achatz have released gorgeous and elaborate cookbooks, unveiling all of their trade secrets to the world, and then retiring these dishes, much like a magician might retire an illusion once his secret has been revealed. It is quite the evolution from where we have come.
Chefs are spending far more time collaborating and sharing their knowledge than ever before. It can be a real pleasure to work alongside other chefs who bring a different perspective to cooking and are perhaps working with ingredients that aren’t currently in your repertoire. Maybe they are applying new techniques that you have yet to work with. The art of cooking is an endless education and there are always opportunities to learn from those around us.
I am fortunate enough to have been invited to one such collaborative event. On January 25th, I will be working alongside a young and progressive group of chefs for the Menu of Modern Art 2. For those of you who attended the first event back in November you know just how delicious the meal was, but for you first timers let me fill you in. Chef Andrew Hess brings a wealth of experience to the table, with tours of duty at Zinc, Burrowing Owl Winery, and Wildflower Grill. Joining us for the evening will be Nathan Saurette, whose resume boasts time at the likes of Jack’s Grill, Niche, Culina, Café Select, and he was the driving force behind the food at The Common. He currently hangs his hat at The Three Boars, one of Edmonton’s hottest eateries. Rounding out the group are John Lizotte and Steve Brochu, two more formidable forces to be reckoned with. This evening is sure to be a real pleasure, having all of us coming together to create something memorable, and in one of Edmonton’s finest art galleries, Lattitude 53. Not only is this event going to be a blast, the proceeds from the event are going to the Hope Mission. At only $65 per ticket, I would implore you to snatch yours up now, as they are selling fast. If you would like to attend, you can find out more and purchase your tickets at http://edmontoneventscollaborative.com/event-registration/?ee=2
If you can’t make it I have shared the “light” version of my dish for you to attempt to prepare at home. It isn’t quite nearly as elaborate or intense at what I will be preparing, but it should be something you can attempt at home quite easily.
Smoky Valley Goat Cheese Panna Cotta with Quick Pickled Beets
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Rest Time: Minimum 4 hours
Special Tools: blender, paper cups, coffee filter or cheesecloth
Yields: 8 appetizers
1.5 cups heavy cream
0.5 cups whole milk
4 oz. Smoky Valley chevre
1 envelope powdered gelatin (bloomed in 3 tbsp. cold water)
2 tbsp. Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp. honey
4 ea. baby beets (if you can, get a couple varieties)
1 cup vinegar
0.5 cups sugar
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 ea. orange, juice and zest
1 tbsp. sambal oelek
1 clove garlic, smashed
4 oz. fresh dill
1 cup canola oil
0.5 cups pistachios, chopped
3-4 sprigs fresh dill, for garnish
- In a pot heat the cream, milk and honey, once simmering add the bloomed gelatin and yoghurt, stir to combine
- Break up the goat cheese and drop into hot liquid, stirring to combine
- Once combined, remove from the heat and place in a pitcher
- Pour the contents into the 8 cups, about 4 oz. each
- Refrigerate and let set, about 3-4 hours
- Meanwhile, place a pot of salted water on to boil, prepare an ice bath
- Remove the large stems from the dill and then blanch in boiling water
- Let cook 30 seconds, strain and immediately drop in ice bath to cool
- Squeeze all excess water from the dill, then place in blender
- Add the canola oil and blend on pulse until the dill is broken up
- Place in refrigerator and let infuse 3-4 hours
- Peel the baby beets and thinly slice using a mandolin, place in water
- Bring vinegar, sugar, coriander, mustard, orange juice & zest, sambal oelek and garlic to a simmer, let simmer 4-5 minutes, strain
- When ready to serve, drain the dill oil through the coffee filter allowing gravity to push the green oil through
- Drain the water off the beets, pour the pickling liquid over, if using various varieties keep them separate or they will bleed
- Using a paring knife loosen the panna cotta from the sides of the cup and slide onto the plate
- Finish the plate with seasoned beets, pistachios, dill oil and fresh dil