Using my new CVap oven

The CVap in its home

The past two months have been crazy at the Kitchen Table.  In December we set new records for class sales and gift cards.  January has brought tons of eager cooks and wine enthusiasts to our Table.  All this has meant the time I wanted to spend experimenting with the CVap oven I won during the 2011 Starchefs ICC has been trimmed.

The oven arrived at my back dock all wrapped in black plastic and on a palette.  The delivery guy dropped it off and took off.  Continue reading


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.  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.

Douglas Baldwin and Sous Vide

This is why I love the internet.

About two weeks ago I received  a blog feed from Khymos and in this blog post it presented a man who has researched and experimented extensively with the technique of Sous Vide cooking.  He has written a handbook on Sous Vide .

So I look over the handbook (great handbook BTW) and notice right away that he lives in Boulder.

I give him a call.  He is taking his PHD in mathematics at CU Boulder, is a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, is a three generation native of Colorado whose family owns a ranch near Gold Hill on the peak to peak highway in Colorado (very rare individual indeed).

So, of course I invite him to the school to meet him and see if there is some way we can fit him into teaching a class at the school.  He comes on a Wednesday to join us for lunch.  It was a pretty busy day for me as I had led the production of the lasagna dish (normally chef Dale does this).  Regardless Douglas showed up ten minutes early (always a good sign) and joined us for lunch.

The meal was pleasant and later we discussed plans to put together a master class on sous vide for my alumni and any other interested students.

Well if you have been following my blog posts you also know that the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference is coming to Denver.  I am looking to feature a two day workshop on Sous Vide cooking with Douglas and me leading the course on Wednesday April 1st and Thursday April 2nd.  This course will be a day class.

Today, my friend Chef Troy Guard came by the school and I suggested that he get involved while IACP is in town.  I thought it would be a good idea if  he got the group of Chefs the Denver 5 some exposure.  So I am hoping to get a demo and dinner together for them at our school while IACP is town.  I’m thinking the night of Wednesday April 1st.  We’ll see if we can get this all together, but it looks like it will be an amazing 4 days at Cook Street during the conference and maybe the beginning of great events and classes in the future.

Stay tuned more details to come.