Starchefs ICC 2012 – Jordan Khan Pop Up

First course

New to the ICC line up this year were pop ups and food carts.  I signed up for two pop ups and the first one featured Jordan Khan. Jordan made quite an impression on the audience the first time he came to the ICC two years ago.  He definitely made an argument for artistic expression in the food world.  During that initial presentation he plated dishes on stage at the same time that a video of the same plating was taking place.  In the video he was popping back and forth between the inspiration for the dish and clips of Salvador Dali.  It was out there and I couldn’t help but wonder how this style would fit into a professional setting.  How do you translate that very individual inspiration into dishes that are composed over and over in a restaurant setting?

I was dying to see how he would work in the pop up format.   They had set up a tent in the middle of the product fair and the chefs were cooking outside of the tent on an induction flat-top.

Eight of us were seated around a wooden table, violin music accompanied the meal and set an evocative ambiance.

Jordan’s style and persona has changed little since he last appeared at Starchefs.  Same all black tight jean emo look with a dramatically angled haircut slightly covering one of his eyes.  He came into the tent and told us the descriptions of each dish would be projected on the walls of the tents and made a comment about how Antoinette had asked him 5 times to do this pop up and said he would do it only if she met his specific demands.

I struggled to find the right settings for my camera as the lighting was minimal in the tent. This led to some pictures almost as abstract as Jordan’s cooking.

Frozen legumes, smoked tofu and trout roe in a molded plastic plate

The first dish was an interesting composition of a frozen pea sphere and silky smoked tofu with salty popping trout roe.  There was yuzu sauce in the corners of the molded plastic that was a struggle to access but  brought a nice bit of acidity to the dish.

The other guests around the table were an eclectic gathering of food pros.  Two young female food journalist from England, a chef from LA opening an unlimited budget farm to table restaurant based on the Michael Pollan food rules, a high-end country club chef from Chicago, a high-end restaurant designer from LA and Dirk Flannigan a chef from Chicago who would end up cooking the dishes to pair with the wines on the last day of the Somm Slam.

The next course was also very interesting from a color and textural perspective. Eggplants had been roasted and then the filling was rolled in different bright purple and green colored dusts it was paired with a pickled quail egg yolk and other elements.  I love the first picture that I unintentionally took as it superimposed some of the elements in the dish.  The dish was plated on a flat bread made of two different types of dough marbled together. All edible.

A study on roasted eggplant

A slightly clearer version of the dish

The final course

I couldn’t get a good shot of the final dish.  Which was the strangest of the tasting.

Long beef fibers the length of pasta on mustard leaf and burnt onion soil were plated on  a wax plate.  The fibers were quite dry until you got to the sauce which was under the mustard leaf. The burnt onion soil gave a great crunch and intense onion flavor.  Most felt this was the least successful dish, but there was no doubt it was pushing the envelope of texture and presentation.

The pop up is a nice addition to the ICC line up but maybe we would appreciate it more if it was held in a more private and quiet part of the building as the distracting sounds around the tent invaded the experience.  It would also make connecting with the chef easier.  How instructional would it be to discuss some of the reasoning behind each dish and have an intimate insight to the chef’s decision-making process.

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