Putting some Chang Shui in my cooking and other strange Kombu-nations

I recently borrowed this book from work and have been enjoying it completely.  First of all it is a very fun read. I especially like the part where he talks about how he came up with the name of his restaurant “It is no accident that Momofuku sounds like motherfucker” he states. Continue reading

Don’t Ha ve a Gao, it’s just the inspiration for the March Deep Plate entry

Ha Gao on Bauscher March Entry Plate

Terrible puns aside,  I have been wanting to make these little shrimp Dim Sum treasures for over 6 years now.  Chinese New Year issuing the year of the Tiger seems an appropriate time.  Ha Gao are made from a wheat starch dough and can sometimes be cut with tapioca flour.

One of my must stops in San Francisco, is Yank Sing, a Dim Sum restaurant.  I don’t even think of the price and just grab whatever catches my eye when they come by with their cart.  I’m sure many locals might recommend cheaper places in Chinatown (I’m all ears) and it seems like Yank Sing has a  feel that is more catered to Westerners.  Regardless, it is amazing and you can tell it is at the height of freshness.  One of my favorites is the shrimp dumpling or Ha Gao.  I love that you can see the cooked shrimp through the thin translucent glutinous wrapping.  It kind of breaks the limitations of a traditional ravioli where you have no idea the surprise that lies inside.  There is a leap of faith in a traditional ravioli.  I have taken that leap with less than satisfactory results at some restaurants and overwhelming deep sustaining blissful delight at others.

During the IACP conference, Andoni Aduriz, presented a dish he described as the thinnest new pea ravioli ever.  The tiny peas were wrapped in a completely thin transparent veil of poaching liquid.  He had created a dish that has the sensation of a ravioli but was completely transparent.

Andoni's pea ravioli

Ferran Adria also has taken this concept even further by creating his Olive Oil Sphere.  Spanish EVOO mixed with a hydrocolloid and then dropped into a calcium rich water bath which allows it to form a membrane as thin as the one around an egg yolk.

My hope was just to replicate the thin transparent wrapper I got at Yank Sing.  Not so easy as I was to find out.

Following the recipe presented on a package can lead to unusable results.

Look at the recipe. The big white log beside the package is what I eventually came up with

If you follow the above recipe you end up with great papier maché mix.  The ratio I came up with to create the above white log is 1 cup of wheat starch to 3/4 cup of boiling liquid.  I would be nice to know if that is the ideal ratio.

I then rolled the tube into a longer tube of 1 1/2″ in diameter and cut the tube into 1 inch thick medallions.  My children thought they were marshmallows.

Individual medallions of dough for the Ha Gao

I then took my Chinese cleaver and pressed those medallions into as thin a wrapper as possible.  I pleated the top edge, filled the cup with my shrimp filling and sealed the two edges.  Easier said than done as the dough can break apart if you are not careful.

Pleated top edge of dumpling and filling

A long time ago a friend and co-worker at CSR,  Chris Clarke,  gave me a stack of small metal dumpling steamers.  I was finally able to put those to use.  I cut out some wax paper to put on the inside and sprayed it with vegetable spray so they didn’t stick.  I have a small French copper sauce pot that the steamer inserts fit into perfectly.  I put in about a cup of water, brought it to a boil and placed my stack on top.  It took about ten minuted for them to cook.  The dough became somewhat translucent (with more practice I could make them thinner) and became firm.

They were quite good, but I have a way to go to replicate the ones at Yank Sing.  I would probably have to make 20,000 before I could get anywhere close to the speed of a guy I saw on You Tube.

Here is the picture I will submit to Deep Plate for the upcoming March entry.

The Recipe: Yield 24 dumplings

2 Cups of wheat starch (see above brand)

1 1/2 Cup of boiling water

2 tsp. canola oil

1 tsp. salt

Mix all dry ingredients, add oil then pour the boiling water in a little at a time.  Bring together as a dough and knead to get a nice homogeneous dough.  Roll into a log 1 1/2″ in diameter and then cut into 24 x 1″ thick medallions.  Cover them with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.  Use a Chinese cleaver to flatten them or a rolling pin.  Get them as thin as possible, but still workable.  Pleat the top edge to create a pocket, fill with shrimp mix and seal into a crescent shape.

Filling:

1 lb. peeled and veined shrimp

1 T. finely minced garlic

1 T. finely minced fresh ginger root

3 T. soy sauce

2 T. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. Sambal Oelek

1 bunch of scallions finely chopped

1 T. chopped cilantro

Mix together in a bowl:  soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sambal, sugar, garlic, ginger, green onion and cilantro.  Chop the peeled and veined shrimp into small pieces and mix with the above mix.

Summary of 2009

2009 was actually an amazing year for me, even if it was not for the rest of the United States and the rest of the world.  It was a year of extreme growth and I entered uncharted territory on numerous occasions.  I had a lot of successes and faced many challenges.  It was also a year of sacrifice and learning what it was like to seriously focus on living with less.  We survived and as they say what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.  I am stronger, more confident and more resolved to learn even more in the tweens and teenage years of the new millennium.  

I wanted to take an inventory of my accomplishments this year and to acknowledge my challenges.  This is one of the cathartic and obviously narcissistic elements about writing this blog.  Indulge me on this trip through memory lane.  Hopefully my accomplishments will inspire you to take more positive steps in your own life.  

So here it goes:  

This blog has reached its 2 year mark.  Over that period it has received 19,000 hits.  I don’t know what my subscription base is.  I am having retrieving that information, but I know there are a lot of you out there.   Thanks for following me and pass it along to anyone else you know who might be interested.  

I graduated four groups of 180º program students in 2009 at Cook Street:  

December 08 Class that graduated in March 2009

  

March 09 class that graduated in June

  

Half of June 09 class that graduated in September

  

Sorry about that June class, but I must have forgotten to take a group shot of all of you.  Click on this if you want to see all the participants from that class.  

The September 09 class that just graduated a week ago

  

By my count 41 students for 2009.  This is the lifeblood of any school and the future of the profession.  I have been fortunate to have had a hand in building their sensory memory, inspiring and building their repertoire of culinary techniques.  Stay in touch guys.  Let me know how you are progressing and let me know how I might be able to help you in the future.  Chef-Floyd@comcast.net.  You are the reason  I do what I do.  

Early in the year I made a presentation to the Anschutz Medical Center about heart healthy cooking.  This gave me the opportunity to be live on Channel 9 for the first time.  TV was a real learning experience and I was very green on that first spot.  TV goes really fast.  If you ever go on.  Keep it simple and focus on the sound bite.  

Aubrey Cornelius from Sprockets Communications arranged a whole series of other TV segments throughout the year and thanks to her I had a crash course in how to set up for a TV spot and sometimes put together different spots in different studios with only ten minutes in between segments.  First I started doing healthy segments with Dr. John (he seems to have disappeared since) and then I was just doing thematic spots to draw attention to Cook Street.  I stumbled a little at first and over prepared of course, but after a while I got into the groove.  I started to get to know the news and floor staff.  TV is definitely a bizarre world and it is interesting to be behind the scenes.  Of course you are already heavy on the News cast radar because you are bringing food.  Food is a hell of a lot more interesting and tastier than a dog needing shelter.  They had one kitchen I had access to on the Deuce, but on Fox 31 I had to bring my own portable burner and I know once I burned the counter top with a hot pan.  I did a modern interpretation of a Salade Nicoise and Melissa on the deuce told me she couldn’t eat the rare tuna because she was pregnant (she was just starting to show).  On my last spot right before Christmas she was about ready to pop, but she didn’t have a problem along with Tom in devouring my lobster profiteroles.  I even got my former student, Patricia Bellaire, now turned T.A.  on the air.  Click here , here , here or here to see me in action.  

At the annual ACF award’s dinner I was surprised when my name was called out along with my co-worker Chef Dale and was handed an award for “outstanding Contribution to Culinary Excellence.”  I have never been certified by the American Culinary Federation at any level and the membership to the ACF came with my employment.  So I got introduced to the world of the ACF over the last two years.  They are trying very hard to be relevant to a new generation of chefs (their membership is dwindling and dying off).  Their monthly magazine which I always read cover to cover is filled with every top trend in the industry.  They are a helpful tool for networking.  

This year was the year I helped Bauscher plates US branch President Jeff Heaney to successfully launch the Deep Plate blog.  I originally contacted him after going to the ICC in NYC in the fall of 2008.  I wanted to see if he would let me use some of their plates as the backdrop of pictures I was taking for this blog.  He started first by sending me a whole series of their plates.  He then he sought out my advice on how to start a blog that would feature a different plate exercise each month which chefs from around the country and world could show off their plate presentations.  It took off and spread fast.  It brought recognition to our school and even featured shots by some of my past students.  It is interesting to see what different chefs will come up with for plate presentations for the blog.  Unfortunately not all the presentations are stellar.  However if you are interested in getting involved it is a pretty neat monthly exercise and you end up with some very cool plates.  

Every month (except one) I participated in the monthly Deep Plate Blog exercises and even did a challenge with my former student Thomas of a whole menu presented on Bauscher plates.  

  

One of the submissions to Deep Plate Blog

Peggy Markel came to visit us at the school and did a presentation on her trips to Tuscany.  I have never been on one of her trips but I know as a fellow tour leader she embodies all that a good tour guide should.  Passion for travel, food, culture and a strong desire to share with her clients.  I wholeheartedly endorse her trips and hope to attend one someday.  That day is coming soon I feel.  

My wife Lucy and I helped break ground on the garden to table project sponsored by the Growe foundation at our children’s school.  My wife aggressively pushed her agenda through the school district and received grants to get this important project “in” the ground.  She and I both feel very strongly about teaching our next generation to appreciate growing, cooking and eating their own food.  

My son Paris getting his hand dirty

  

Two huge transformative events occurred for me this year.  Our sommelier Debbie Gray brought to my attention an opportunity to accompany the US Potato Board to Uruguay.  I jumped at the chance.   I had to do it.  I speak fairly good Spanish and I would be really going out of my comfort zone to accomplish this.  The USPB flew me to Montevideo Uruguay in Business class during the height of the swine flu scare.  

a smoky interior from all the parillas at a market in the old section of Montevideo

  

It was a great experience and nerve-wracking.  It’s one thing to speak in your own language to people who understand you and another to speak to a group in your native tongue while it gets simultaneously translated.  There is a delay effect.  It was also tricky trying to prep my demo in an unknown kitchen during lunch service.  I finished the day being one of three and the only foreign visiting chef to do a food demo to a group of a 100 grocers and potato farmers from Uruguay.  It was fun and it was great to connect to chefs in a distant part of the globe.  

The other transformative experience was the IACP conference which came to Denver this year.  I was the Director of the Demo Committee and initially I was wrangled into this by Sylvia Tawse as an assistant to Drew Gillespie, but as fate would have it Drew became pregnant and I had to pick up the ball and run with it.  I’m stressed just thinking back on it right now, but I proved that I could overcome the stress and deliver.  I couldn’t have done it without all the help of some of my past students and of the students from Johnson & Wales.  

Andoni Aduriz and his crew

  

I was simultaneously trying to book some events at Cook Street (which I know upset the IACP president as she didn’t want me to provide any competition to the conference).  Nonetheless I scheduled Douglas Baldwin to do a presentation on Sous Vide cooking and Ian Kleinman from O’s restaurant to do a class on Molecular Gastronomy which meant that I had access to a huge dewar of Liquid Nitrogen until my boss forced me to return it.  I played a little with the LN.  It’s fun stuff.  

We had also negotiated to host some classes and events at Cook Street for IACP.  We put on sit down dinner called “Wild and Rare” where I got to cook alongside John Ash, Andrew Dwyer and Will Poole from Wen Chocolates. Unbelievably I also managed to sneak out a last-minute catering event with the help of another staff member to an off site IACP board of trustees event.  I was also blessed with a visit from my former Chef  Instructor and owner of  l’Academie de Cuisine: Francois Dionot and his wife Patrice.  

The gang all together after the wild Rare dinner. From left to right John Ash, Cassidy Tawse, Andrew Dwyer, Sylvia Tawse and yours truly

  

On the last day of the conference IACP scheduled a group of top pizza and dough specialist to do a pizza extravaganza at Cook Street.  I rushed from the conference to catch this special event and noticed that the electricity had gone out in most of the downtown.  Peter Reinhart, Cathy Whims and Antonio Laudisio rolled with it and produced some amazing pizza to a packed house. The lights came back on in the last ten minutes.  After the event was over I went home and collapsed in my bed.  I had survived and it had been a huge success even if they had poor over all turn out due to the economy.  I have since been consulted for advice for the conference that will take place in April in Portland Oregon. I hope to attend this time as a guest.  

In the summer we hosted, Allison Reynaud, the daughter of a good friend of ours from Avignon.  Her mother is the girlfriend of my best friend in France: Robert Brunel and she owns the chocolate factory in Chateau Neuf du Pape: Chocolaterie Bernard Castelain  

I put the menus together for the 180º Dining events that occur twice every program.  A total of 8 sit down dinners for 50 people (in all fairness not all sold out).  I wanted to get my students involved in the production of food to the public and the only opportunity my students had prior to this event was to volunteer for an event which occurred once a month called Taste 5.  Taste 5 was buffet featuring 5 different tastes of food with five different paired wines.  All the staff had to be available to help coordinate and it put a hell of a burden on the facility the whole week leading to the  event.  Add to that the student volunteers would sometime decide to un-volunteer and you had the potential for a huge cluster***k.  My idea was to supplement our student’s education and to focus on our core education of classic regional French and Italian Cuisine and allow the students to get a feeling of what it was like to cook and serve a sit down dinner of 50 paying customers.  It is a hit and now has its own following even without a posted menu.  

Lobster Napoleon with sauce Americaine from the French Christmas dinner earlier this month  

We were blessed with the presence of members of the Mexican consulate and Chef Roberto Solis from the Yucatan.  They wanted to present wines from Mexico and to showcase their chefs.  It was a great opportunity for Cook Street  students to connect with a chef from our neighbors down south.  One of my students is hoping to get down there for a stage in a few months.  Roberto Solis has a restaurant Nectar in Yucatan and has worked with Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck in Bray UK, with René Redzepi of Noma restaurant in Copenhagen and Thomas Keller at Per Se in NYC.  

Roberto Solis plating with Duane

  

His style is avant-garde but with an eye on traditional Yucatan cuisine.  Some of his dishes were magical and did what many deconstructed dishes do which is to bring you right back to something instantly recognizable in flavor.  

Of course I am a devout reader and try to improve my culinary knowledge daily.  One of the few advantage of commuting to Denver each day is that I had 30 minutes each way to focus on reading or grading quizzes.  I came to class refreshed, unstressed and more educated than I would be if I had fought with the rest of the commuters that file in one by one into the urban center.  I read Salt, Cod, Devil In The Kitchen, The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry, Under Pressure, In Search Of Perfection, Lessons In ExcellenceThe Food of France and I am half way through the The Food of Italy.  

I have become more of an activist in the past year.  I have read some pretty disturbing books and seen some moving movies on the subject.  Rent and watch Food Inc. and watch the Future of Food on Hulu.  Hopefully these movies will make you angry and want to take action.  Vote with your wallet at the supermarket, patronize your local farmers market.  You can make a difference.  

Something needs to be done about changing the Farm Bill.  We need to stop the monopolies of companies like Cargill, Monsanto, IBP, Swift among others.  Wouldn’t it be nice if a farmer could sue Monsanto for allowing their GMO soybeans or corn from contaminating their crops and adulterating their seeds.  Ask your representative about Kevin’s Law.  Does he/she support it.  The processing plants have too much power to contaminate our food supply with impunity.  We need to turn the tables and give the consumer back their rights.  We need to find another outlet other than our schools for the meat that goes unchecked by USDA.  Anyway there is a lot to be vocal about and with the internet it is a lot easier to do.  

My father and I went to CU to talk to a food writing class about our different backgrounds and were pleasantly surprised at the level of involvement these students had in connection with food.  

As you can attest it has been a big year for me.   I can hardly wait to see what takes place next year.  In my next post I will make a big announcement.  

Happy New Year may you all be blessed with good food, wine and good friends to share it with in 2010.

Natural Foie Gras

Watch this presentation on natural foie gras by Dan Barber.  Dan just recently made this same presentation in Denver for the IACP conference in April.  Natural foie gras, what a concept.  It kind of takes the wind out of the activists’ sails.

What is worse?  Naturally raised foie gras or industrially raised chicken?

Final Day of the IACP conference

Peter Reinhart teaching candlelight powered artisan pizza class

Peter Reinhart teaching candlelight powered artisan pizza class

Up at 6am and back to the Sheraton.  My body is wrecked and the cumulative exhaustion is taking its toll.  This is the last day and fortunately there should be very little that could go wrong.  Everyone has their food and the volunteers are all lined up.  The events taking place at JWU are in the very capable hands of Marcia Kramer.  I might even be able to enjoy this day and catch some classes.

I arrive at the Sheraton parking lot and the stench is more pungent than usual.  The lot is particularly difficult to negotiate as they have tried to get as many spaces in the tight lot as possible.

Sharon, Vicki and Justin (all students that were at the Wild and Rare event the night before) are all there prepping for the two classes being offered that morning.   Justin is working on the lamb class and Vicki and Sharon are working on the Sardines, Anchovies and Mackerel class.

They seem to have it all together and there are no last minute situations that require my attention.  I go to see Toni Lydecker and Sam Hayward to see if they need anything.   I apologize for the fish situation and give them a run down of the issues we had.   I talk to Sam and  ask him if he knows Gallit Sammon.  He is amazed to hear that name.  We talk fondly about her for awhile.

I notice there is a presentation on how to increase your internet presence so I see if I can fit in.  It is a fascinating presentation and I learn alot.  I also learn that I know a good amount already.  The big take away was to become a featured publisher on FoodBuzz.  Yet another site I will have to click and update.  What someone needs to create is a site where you can manage all your sites at once (did I just give away a million dollar idea?).  This probably already exist or is in the works.  So far I have, My Blog, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Slideshare, Vodcast and now FoodBuzz.  Of course I also have my yahoo which has RSS feed from quite a few other blogs I follow.

At the presentation they were talking about creating a separate Facebook identity just to handle close friends and family.  Have you noticed how quickly you get inundated with the daily updates on the new Facebook format?  I can only imagine what that must be like for people that have over six hundred friends.

After the class I go to check in on how the other classes went and they were all quite successful.  We still have to pack all the cooking gear that IACP  brought to the conference.  They should seriously consider doing some triage of all the gear as there are many pieces that are completely unnecessary.  Viking obviously donated one of each item they make to IACP.  Steve brings us the crate and we pack almost 80% of the gear up.  Justin still has the Bourbon class to attend and I need to head off to Cook Street for the Artisan Pizza class.

The hotel is serving up the final lunch and I decide to attend.  I look around the banquet room and find Sylvia Tawse and Tim Stein.  I have lunch with them and also meet the Chair of the Host committee for next year’s conference in Portland.  His name is Mike Thelin and he already has business cards designed for the title.

Cathy Cochran Lewis is giving her farewell address as IACP president and goes around the room to thank all that participated in making the conference happen in Denver.  I am thanked publicly again.

After lunch (not worth commenting on the what they served), I went back to the prep kitchen and got intercepted by Holly Arnold.  She wanted the Demo kitchen to be sanitized and the trash removed.   I would have hoped that the volunteer in charge would have cleaned it, but what the hell.

I clean the space and then I head over to Cook Street to insure all goes well.  As I leave I tell Holly that her JWU student volunteers should be there shortly.  I hope and pray there will be no issues there.

I pull out of the garage one last time and head down 15th Street.  At about two blocks down I notice that the stoplights are not functioning.  As a matter of fact not one from that point on until I get to Cook Street is working.  Clearly this is a major power outage.   We were already concerned with running this class as we were expecting snow that morning (they were saying 1 foot but really only a couple of inches of wet snow fell).  It was still pretty windy.

As I pull up to Cook Street I see that Antonio Laudisio has indeed set up his wood burning oven on the sidewalk and that Cami has loaned them a tent which is already getting a beating from the wind.

Antonio Laudisio making pizzas outside Cook Street with Sharon Talbert assisting

Antonio Laudisio making pizzas outside Cook Street with Sharon Talbert assisting

The inside is dark but all the key players are there.  We are committed to runing the course and Tina our FOH manager is already busy getting candles lit.

Participants start to arrive.  “Yes the lights are out in the city and yes we are running the class, make yourself comfortable and we will make sure it all goes smoothly.”

We set up candles in the bathrooms (the last place anyone wants to be in the dark) and we are cooking ovens in wood burning ovens so all is good.  We actually get an amazing showing of around 40 participants.  Once everyone accepts our situation then we are ready to proceed.  Talk about the ultimate sustainable environment.  No lights just wood burning and candles.

Cathy Whims and her sous chef is up first and they go over their style of pizza.   Once they present they run off to cook their Margherita pizzas.

Next Peter comes up and presents.  By then I realize I can take pictures with my tripod and maybe catch some of this without flash.

The crowd is really digging this and I know it will be one of the most memorable events of the conference.

The pizzas start to be passed around and the ones made by Cathy Whims are amazing.  I manage to click a few shots of the girls in action with Cami pointing the flashlight on them while they worked.  Thomasino is working the wood burning oven and is doing great.  My former students are being rock stars and that just feels great.

Cathy Whims and her sous chef making pizza under candlelight

Cathy Whims and her sous chef making pizza under candlelight

The pizzas keep coming around, kindly passed by my students, they all taste amazing.  We are reaching the end of the presentation.  I get countless request for recipe packs.  “yes, well as soon as the power comes back on we will print all the copies we need.”

And then in the last half hour of the presentation the power comes on.  There is a collective sigh and joy at the return of our creature comforts.  Now I can take pictures.

Peter Reinhart in the final half hour of presentation

Peter Reinhart in the final half hour of presentation

The class ends with Antonio having to leave with his wood burning pizza oven and many questions from the crowd.  We were treated to a great presentation and frankly I am ready to get back to my family.  Sylvia tells me to take a picture of Antonio in front of Cook Street so:

Antonio Laudisio in front of our school and his famous portable wood burning oven

Antonio Laudisio in front of our school with his famous portable wood burning oven

The class is over and once again many people come up to me to tell how much they enjoyed their experience at our school.

It’s over……………..the conference is over…………..and I am heading back to my family with the comfort of knowing that I was instrumental in making this conference successful.

Too many people to thank, but I especially thank all the volunteers, Marcia Kramer, Carrie Balkcom and the most special thanks to Patricia Belaire for helping out in her most difficult time.

Next year PORTLAND.

Day 3: The storm takes a new direction across town, Wild and Rare

John Ash, Andrew Dwyer and Andy Floyd after a successful event

John Ash, Andrew Dwyer and Andy Floyd after a successful event

There was only one scheduled class on Friday and that was Extreme Cooking with Andrew Dwyer from Australia.  I had taken care of every major detail the day before so I was fairly confident it would run smoothly.  He had a group of Johnson & Wales students to assist him and some of them were coming to give me a hand later in the day for the Wild and Rare dinner at Cook Street.

The Wild and Rare dinner was not the only thing on my mind as I had agreed to cater an off premise gig for the IACP Culinary Trust.  I had our Alumni coordinator David Bravdica in charge of putting together the food for that event and also helping to prep the same appetizers to be served for Wild and Rare.  Donated food for this event as well as cheese for the Artisan Pizza class the following day had been pouring in all week and was filling the walk-in cooler to capacity.

I had told my assistants to arrive at 10 am, but only two of them actually could.  The three volunteers from J&W were assisting Andrew Dwyer at the Sheraton and would not be at the school until after 12:30pm (remind me not to schedule volunteers for two places in one day).  My FL (stands for Fearless Leader) had to work until 3 pm and would not show up until then. Will Poole long time friend and owner of WEN chocolates was there early to work on his dessert and came with his usual ebullient energy.

Add to this a general uneasiness from Tina our FOH manager about having the necessary hands available to set up the room and we were already off to a great start.

I wrote up a prep list on the board and had my two assistants Sharon and Vicki start to check off the task that needed to be done.   John the recreational program chef came to help us out as well.  My former Culinary Arts instructor, Francois Dionot as well as his wife Patrice owners of l’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda Maryland came by to check out our school and to say hello.  I spent a little time with them, but in the back of my mind I already know I’m behind and understaffed.  Then the Dean of J&W, Jorge de la Torre,  comes by with Adam Seger who is doing a cocktail class the following day and they manage to eat more of my time.  Not that I mind, but I am preoccupied to say the least.

OK now I can focus on the prep list.  I get a voicemail for John Ash: “do you think I could come by later?  A friend of mine has invited me to lunch etc.”  I call him back and let him know that we have more work then he might feel comfortable catching up on if he came later.  He’s on his way.

David Bravdica is working with Patricia to get catered event completed on time and he is a little nervous.

John Ash shows up and gets to work.  Meanwhile, Carol Fenster and Cassidy Tawse-Garcia (Sylvia Tawse’s daughter) are setting up the room for a fine dining event.  Now there are quite a few people that have never set foot in our school trying to set up which leads to lots of questions to guess who?  That’s right you guessed it: ME.

So with ME being under the gun trying to accomplish what I need to for the event and all the questions that need to be answered from the front of the house people and new people in the kitchen, I am about ready to crack.  But I have been in the weeds before and I know the only way to get out is to focus and keep moving faster through each task.

It’s 12:30pm and still no Andrew Dwyer sighting.  He calls and says he is on his way.  I suggest he come as quickly as possible as there is plenty to do.  The J&W students show up and I am relieved, except they tell me they need to get a bite to eat as they have not eaten all day.  Join the club my young friends.  OK, go feed yourself and get back as quickly as possible.

It’s getting to be crunch time for the catered event so I transfer Sharon Talbert to assist David.  Ian Scott a fresh graduate comes in to ask me for a letter of recommendation.  I ask him “what are you doing right now?” he says “nothing” and I say right “here’s an apron, go wash me some greens.”  He jumps right in on the task.

Now John Parks has sparked up the wood burning oven to get it warmed up for the Artisan Pizza class the following day.  He is feeling under the weather from some kind of bug, but I appreciate any assistance I can get today.  The next person to walk in is Peter Reinhart the bread guru and teacher for the following day.  He is here to make pizza dough and he has an assistant from J&W who he taught.  More questions……….Oh and Cathy Whims, chef and owner of Nostrana in Portland OR, is supposed to be joining him to work on some doughs along with her sous chef. He has tried calling her several times and she has yet to reply.  He’s sure she’ll show up in time, but she is already an hour late.

Cassidy comes up me: “it’s LeeAnn Stevens and she has some questions regarding your Panzanella recipe” ,”yes LeeAnn, un hun, yes…yes, what did you say?  no I don’t understand, can you just send me the fucking thing over email and I can correct it there?……….yes and I will send right back so that you can publish the recipe booklet.”

Oh I have this huge tank of liquid nitrogen in my dry storage that I have been fantasizing about in my dreams to try and use for the dinner in some capacity.  I even lost sleep thinking about how I was going to use it.  Can’t think of that right now must move forward.

The countdown is on for David who is trying to pack all his stuff to take over to the Sheraton.  The asparagus egg cups got cooked a little more than I would have wished, but with a little whipped cream all  is fixed.  I managed to commandeer some people over to his side to get him out the door.  He is packing his stuff and Patricia (the Godsend during this whole affair) has agreed to join him to insure all goes smoothly.  They’re out the door and just in time as Cathy Whims and Sous chef are coming in.  And my (FL) Justin Hugill the Kiwi and former student is also there and shortly after Andrew Dwyer comes in.   I’m about ready to burst and but we’re ticking off the to do list and it looks like we might actually make it, but right now we have about twenty people in the kitchen and front of the house and in about an hour I want everyone out so I can get the floors mopped.   “Andres, a las 5 y 15 necessito limpiar”  “si jeffe” “

I am giving countdowns to all so that we can be sure that when the first people show up we have all ready and the place is clean.  Andrew Dwyer is getting quandong sauce ready and is putting off firing some of his veggies until we are ready to serve.  I convince him to pre-cook some of his stuff. John Ash has been carefully trying to figure which platters each of these dishes are going to go on.   Thank God he is on this project.

We have caught up on all the prep and the kitchen has been mopped.  We have a quick chef’s huddle to determine our game plan.  We come out of the meeting with a vague but workable plan.

It’s showtime……people are coming through the door.  Morey Hecox the owner of the school has invited some of his buddies to come for dinner.  I am on a pure adrenalin high and gladly suck down two glasses of Sauvignon Republic.  I get to meet quite a few people, like Roberta the owner of Cambridge Culinary School and the editor to Bon Appetit.  All are trying the appetizers of King Canyon Buffalo Carpaccio, the salume platter and the platter of arancini and tochetti.

It is a light moment after endless barrage of stress.  We consult with each other to figure out when is the best time to start our demoes.  Yes each of the chefs has agreed to demo a dish and we have all agreed to do all of our presentations in under 45 minutes combined.  That’s 15 minutes a piece.

First John Ash comes up and does a demo on his elk dish.   He goes on entertainingly about the right amount of salt to use in blanching being similar to the salt content of our mother’s embryonic fluid sac (it’s getting philosophical now).  We are having issues with our audio but moving through it.  He does a great demo and I plug Andrew Dwyer into the system.  He does a great demo talking about Quandongs and how you want to be careful how you spell and say that word.   He demos his kangaroo dish and his presentation is quite lively.  Then I am up.  I go on about Buffalo and the tall grass prairie and talk about my dad driving across Kansas and how he always talked about what it would have been like to be the first white man to see the Rockies and so on and so forth.  I talk about the buffalo being the ultimate sustainable creature of the tall grass prairie and finish my demo by searing the bison meat and making my interpretation of Chimichurri sauce.   I think I have done well and even notice David Carter the president of the Bison association nodding in approval.

Later he comes to me and says: “you know I agree with all you said regarding bison, but I just want to make sure you understand that the prairie east of Denver is the short gras prairie not the tall grass prairie”   I am so happy that he didn’t correct me while I was making my presentation as it would have deflated my energy, but I always get the tall and the short confused.  Now maybe I will never forget.

Patricia and David come back from the catered event and all went well.  She still has one more task to do to prepare for the following day.  Gut the previously frozen sardines and take them to the hotel for tomorrow’s Mackerel and  sardines class.

There is a mad dash to plate all the stuff to go out to the dinning room and we have the plating pretty well set up. There is a couple there who is filming the event and ask to interview me right then. I don’t know why I agree to do it at that exact moment but they proceed.  Apparently she is good friends with Dale Lasater and Andy at the ranch and her cousin Athena is a new student in our program.

We finally get to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labor and the two Silver Oak AVAs from 2004.  The food is great and there is tons of it.  We set the tables up with the maximum occupancy and so that all can see and talk to each other.  The food is served family style.

Then we get different producers and foodies to come up and talk throughout the dinner.  It is a great social moment and very interactive.  John Ash calls it a “salon”.

The night ends with the dramatic presentation of the pears poached in Chateau de Rolland Sauternes garnished with a super rare Hawaiian chocolate that Will Poole has a friend of a friend who manages to get him a little each year.

The evening is a huge success and many people come up to the chefs to offer their thanks.  We pack up all our stuff.  We are exhausted but still manage to share one last bottle of Silver Oak.  The chefs are elated, we have had a very bonding experience and were able to pull off a great meal.  Hard to believe that all the planning came together over a few conference calls.

John Ash, Cassidy Tawse, Andrew Dwyer, Sylvia Tawse and Andy Floyd

John Ash, Cassidy Tawse, Andrew Dwyer, Sylvia Tawse and Andy Floyd

IACP Conference: Day 2 the storm drops to category 3

They provided me a room in the hotel.  I go to sleep at around 11pm after the round of drinks with Rick Moonen, Barry Estabrook and Adam Sobel.  The room is tiny, has a huge flat screen but no remote so I just go to bed.  I have a hard time sleeping because H-Vac doesn’t stop for the night and the controls do not work.  It feels like maybe the H-Vac is set to blast at 65.  Hard to sleep, but also I am fretting about those Cholla buds. What if they overcooked in the gradual cool-down, what about the nopales salad?  I am working with product I have never touched before.  I know my cooking skills are solid enough to handle most anything, but still it is keeping me up.

I finally just get up at 6 am, shower and head downstairs.  I run into Steve Gigantiello right off (those guys are on non-stop until the conference is over).   I get all my mise en place together to make the dishes for Native American Food of the Sonoran Desert and start to cook.  The Cholla buds need more time and as I focus on my next cup of coffee I start to work on the prickly pear crumble.  I also start to prep the nopales by peeling off the prickly cactus thorns.  I get pricked by one of the cactus barbs, which are not too easy remove.   I saw these cactus paddles and prickly pear tunas being sold when I lived in Mexico City, but never paid them much attention as a possible food source and honestly why bother when the stand owners would hand out samples of jicama, pineapple and mango at every stall.  It was a feast for the eyes and palate.

Alright how hard could these recipes be.  The nopales salad was basically jicama and nopales julienne with a orange vinaigrette with crushed Chiltepin peppers to give it heat.  It was of course garnished with the famous Cholla buds that have caused several anxiety attacks since they appeared on the global food order.

Erin and Beth show up on time to help and I gladly relinquish the two dishes to them.  Patricia also shows up and I get her on the prickly pear agave syrup reduction for the crumble.   She starts to work on other stuff and almost forgets to turn off said reduction.  I catch it in the nick of time.

She has a lot on her mind. On the first day of the conference she tells me that her sister in Argentina has been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  I ask her if she needs to bow out of this project and she says she prefers to continue to avoid thinking about it.

The black chef coated team of Rick Moonen and Adam Sobel arrive and start to set up their line. They have brought most of their own stuff and they have solicited Brian Hardy’s help as he is the first there and maybe Adam has some kind of apprehension about his head assistant Cami.

Their show is not on until 2pm.  Barbara Poole Fenzl shows up and she is delightful.  She used to spend time with Simca and Julia Child and she knows my friend Robert Reynolds.  The presentation team has all they need and they move forward on schedule.  It is a fairly effortless presentation.  Erin and Beth do a great job at getting all the tasting dishes together along with a little help from Brian.

Meanwhile I head over to the opening address to the members of the IACP.  Sylvia Tawse thanks us publicly.  I meet Andrew Dwyer the Australian outback chef and we talk about his demo tomorrow and what we need to prep for it. Alex Talbot from “Ideas in Food” Blog fame needs some food from our walk-in to make a plate for the “food photography for blogs class.”   I wish I could stay but must go back and make sure all is well with the Native American class and the Moonen team.

Apparently I miss an awesome story by Dan Barber of Blue Hill Stone Barns restaurant about a foie gras farm in Spain where they do not force feed the ducks (geese?) and only have buried electrical fence to keep predators out.  Sustainable and humane foie?  I get to meet him after his presentation.

Patricia brings over the sardines we had special ordered and that she mistakenly brings to the school instead.  She brings them to us and we inspect them and determine pretty quickly that they are un-usable for Sam Hayward’s presentation.  Another crisis to solve.  I am on the phone again with New York.  They could get them to me but not until Saturday.  I send Patricia on another hunt to the Asian market.

We have lunch with the rest of the IACPers.   They serve us a pathetic rendition of trout, but we’re hungry and there is little chance we will get food later.

At 2 pm the Moonen, Estabrook and Monterrey Bay Aquarium team go on.  It’s a great presentation and a message I have heard quite a few times now.  The oceans are in peril and many of the species are in grave danger of extinction.  The rest of the panel passes the presentation over to Rick Moonen who is a self proclaimed ADD victim.  He is a great speaker and know his material well.  However I still have an issue with preaching sustainability while having a restaurant in Vegas.  Maybe he knows something I don’t, but that city is the antithesis of sustainability.

He does this black cod dish with a miso glaze and pea risotto that is to die for.

Miso glazed black cod with pea risotto

Miso glazed black cod with pea risotto on Bauscher plate

Patricia has located sardines but they are frozen.  Not my first choice but I have to take it.  Brian and Patricia help me to set everything up for Andrew Dwyer the following day as I will be completely focused on the Wild and Rare dinner and the catered event for the Culinary Trust.   I eventually head over to the school where Hugh Carpenter is about to teach a class.  I verify he has all he needs and head home.  I’m wiped but it has been another successful day at the conference.

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