Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve 2008

I'm finally back to work after what seems like forever and finally getting back into my groove. Tomorrow night is New Year's Eve and it's usually a big night for chef's all across the world expecting a high volume of diners looking to be blown away. I will be working down at the country club tomorrow with 200 people on the reservation list. I wrote the menu awhile ago and am just now refreshing myself with it. It's very simple but also leaves me plenty of room for inteprepation and presentation. I have a crew of three others working this dinner which include my restaurant chef and two other cooks. It should be very smooth since I've made sure that all the ingredients are staged tonight and ready for execution tomorrow. Hopefully, the guests will eat quickly since we are setting up a casino and live band next door and I'm not stuck there all night. I can't believe the holidays are already over and we are welcoming in 2009. Enjoy and be safe!!!

Truffle Infused Corn Bisque

Spicy Chicories with Roasted Apples, Candied Walnuts, Lemon Yogurt

Cedar Smoked Salmon with Saffron Lemon Cream

Filet Mignon with Peppercorn Cognac Cream

Roasted Thyme Scented Chicken with Natural Jus

Bananas Fosters Cheesecake

Monday, December 22, 2008

And the results are in.....

The James Beard Event will truly be one of my most memorable experience thus far in my career. We left the hotel in New Jersey at 1pm on Thursday and headed into the city to hopefully avoid any traffic and begin our setup. It took only 45 minutes to get to the James Beard House and it was nothing like what I expected for my first time. We drove through various neighborhoods of New York and made a turn onto a side street that was barely big enough for our cargo van and other vehicles to pass. We immediately jumped out and quickly started unloading all the ice chests of food and cases of wine for the dinner. The James Beard House is literally a townhouse that people walk by constantly without giving it a second glance. Once we were let into the house, we walked down a small stairway that led into the a small dining area that had some plaques, books, and a podium. To the right of that room was the kitchen that was bigger than I expected but still extremely small for 4 chefs to prepare a multi course dinner. I'm 6'2" and 235 pounds, which easily earned numerous nicknames throughout the night because I took up so much space, example were "watch those elbows Shaq" and "move out the way Shrek" (Thanks Peter). After unloading the van a few of us decided to tour the house and take some pictures. Rather than go into detail about the marvelous and eccentric history of the house, I suggest attending a dinner there and experiencing it for yourself. As we started to set up for the night we realized that the bread that was on the counter didn't taste to fresh, they were supposed to supply bread and butter for the night. After a little more investigating we realized that it was the previous day's bread and there was none for our dinner. We sent a culinary student to go find a bakery in the neighborhood and find some bread for the dinner, her instructions were to not return without some. Thankfully she was a bakery major and came through with a great variety close to arrival time. We also had it brought to our attention that we were missing a case of champagne from the waitstaff. It was put onto the cargo van when we left the hotel and came to find out it was still on the shuttle that we unloaded. One of the chefs told us about a company in New York called "Who Fuc*ked Up The Order" and said he could get the number. After tracking down this number one of the chef's called and asked for some champagne, it turned out it was the wrong number and some poor old lady was getting upset because we kept asking was it "Who Fuc*ked Up the Order". After numerous apologies we got in touch with the sommelier to pick some more champagne on her way. Once guests started arriving, they were herded through the kitchen into the dining room for the reception. We started placing all the hors d'oeuvres on platters and replenishing as fast as possible. Once it started to wind down I started focusing on preparing the lobster dish which was second course. The soup course flew out the door and next thing I knew was it was my time to start plating. I felt very good about the lobster and white chocolate dish which came out nice and looked very clean. I helped the other chef's knock out their courses and before we knew it the dinner was complete. After walking each room and discussing our dinner with the guests we packed up and headed out to the bar. Everyone met back in New Jersey and found a local bar that was packed and finished out a very successful evening. After the stressful preparation, delayed flights, winter weather conditions, early mornings with lack of sleep, and cooking hard I'm glad I was apart of this experience. Thank you to all who made this possible for me to partake in and I hope that we represented everyone well. I will be posting pictures as soon I have them all downloaded.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ready for Departure

I've attached some pictures that I took this morning from the terrace at the resort, it's cold out there!!! Thankfully I will be flying out to New Jersey tomorrow and staying at a sister hotel in preparation for the James Beard Dinner on Thursday. I'm about 90% packed and cannot wait to get out of the Colorado weather for a few days. This morning was -2 degrees and snow is still everywhere, I had to grow some hair in preparation of the winter. On Wednesday I will be doing my prep in the hotel kitchen with the three other chefs and gearing up for Thursday night. We will most likely leave the hotel at noon on Thursday and head to the "JBH". Dinner starts at 7pm and should be finished by 11pm, I think we are all planning on hitting the spotted pig afterwards. I will make sure to take lots of pictures and post a slide show when I get back this weekend.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Scallop on Peas and Carrots

Another play on some classic american cuisine, "Peas and Carrots". This is a twist of american / middle eastern flavors. The appetizer was sumac dusted sea scallop and fresh pea tendrils with ginger spiced carrot sauce. The scallops were huge and once caramelized on the outside revealed a sweet tender center. The sumac gave a nice citrus tang that really brought the ginger carrot to life. The pea tendrils were soft and creamy, they came straight from a local microgreen grower. This is definitely a dish that has become one of my top ten favorites.

Artichoke Barigoule

I wanted to play around with a classic preparation called "artichoke barigoule" for a future wine dinner. Classically i've always stewed artichokes with garlic, fennel, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and onions in white wine and stock. For this version I refined the classic stew and made a mushroom consomme (clarified broth) and braised the vegetables in much larger pieces. It was served at room temperature and garnished with some spicy onion shoots that gave the soup a great finish. I still think the deconstructed technique is one of the most fun ways of revisiting a classic but it may be time to start calling it something else.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Rabbit Terrine Final

Last night I was able to finesse the final touches on my remaining hors d'oeuvre for the James Beard Dinner. The rabbit is ground fine and then pureed in a food processor with heavy cream to lighten it up. After baking for 1 hour in a water bath I allow it to cool under the weight of a few soup cans which forms the terrine into a perfect rectangle. I cut the rabbit into cubes and glazed with a rabbit aspic made from the bones and scraps. I serve it on carrot ginger air and truffle infused crostinis. The picture really showcases each component of this dish and we couldn't stop eating them because they tasted so good. I can't wait to showcase my food with the other chefs in less than two weeks.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Final Pictures

Yesterday, I made some time to put together two of the dishes that I will be preparing at the James Beard House on December 18th in New York City. The first dish is a Foie Gras Stuffed Fig and the second is White Chocolate Poached Lobster with Whipped Yukon Potatoes and Anise Spiced Pears. I'm really excited about the outcome of these dishes and currently have the third cooking in the oven right now. I will update that picture once it cools and I can play with the presentation.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Ingredients

Today isn't too busy so we decided to start playing around with some new ingredients that I just got in. The new ingredients that we used were "agar agar" and "egg white powder". I got the ingredients from a website called http://www.willpowder.net/ which offers a wide variety of molecular ingredients and ways to use them. I wanted to play around with a classic dish called "Baked Alaska" which is pound cake and ice cream and covered with torched meringue. I started with a macadamia pound cake and placed a salt pineapple cube on top. I made a pineapple gel using the agar agar and also made a pineapple ginger meringue using the egg white powder. The egg white powder was mixed with sugar, powdered ginger, and pineapple juice and whipped until stiff peaks were formed. I topped the cube of salt pineapple with the meringue and torched it golden brown. The agar agar was mixed with pineapple juice and brought to a boil before allowing to gel at room temperature. The final dish was garnished with some kiwi puree and looked really nice. The only area that needs some more work is the salt pineapple. I need to figure out some barrier to prevent the salt from overpowering the sweet pineapple while it bakes in the oven. I decided to give this dish a new name and call it "Baked Hawaii".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Like Clockwork

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are enjoying the bountiful food displays and family gatherings around the world. I personally have been in the kitchen today serving everlasting portions of food to a large amount of people. We started with 1,100 people on the reservation list for our Thanksgiving Brunch and finished with 1,015. We cooked 85 turkeys, 25 new york striploins, 150# of salmon, and 200# of mashed potatoes. The best part of the day is the resort has been doing this brunch for so many years that it runs like clockwork. The toughest shift to work is from 4am-10am because number 1 it's way to early and second your getting ready for the brunch and cooking in an extremely cold kitchen (remember that it's Colorado in November and actually snowing right now). I'm glad that I didn't have to work the morning shift, instead I worked came in at 10am and will stay to make sure that it all gets closed down properly. I've worked in a few other hotels that did major holiday brunches with 1,500 people, but never worked in one that ran this organized. Since I've been here the past two years, I've really picked up some serious organizational skills to aid in executing a large party. I'm now sitting down enjoying a some nutmeg spiced pumpkin pie and molasses brined turkey that we worked on earlier this week. I hope that everyone is partaking in this joyous occasion and savoring the memories of all the goodness that food brings.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving,
Chef Brother

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Pressure Cooker"

Last Friday, I went to the Denver Film Festival to check out a new documentary called "Pressure Cooker" produced by Jennifer Grausman. The film was based on the growth of some inner kids that became involved in a non-profit organization called "C-cap". This program works with inner city schools in numerous cities across the country by helping students and teachers consider the hospitality industry as a career path. They give the students a chance to change their lives by awarding culinary scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $80,000. Since they started this program in 1990, C-cap has awarded over $25 million in culinary scholarships. Each year they host culinary competitions that take undeserved students through a rigorous cycle of essay writing, cooking techniques, interviews, and stressful situations. This film took you into the world of Mrs. Stephenson's culinary program in Philadelphia at Frankford High School. She was tougher than any chef I've ever worked for and truly cared about the students she was teaching. The film focused on 3 students that were trying to make their way out of some bad situations and better themselves for the future. It was an inspirational documentary that followed these students and their teacher from the first day of school to the end of the year where they had clearly made a change about their outlook on life. I was touched by this film because it hit really close to home as I had been one of those students during my senior year of high school . Mr. Richard Grausman (who is the president of the organization) asked me to come view the film and give my opinion since I had been through the program and made my own way out of a bad situation. After I participated in the C-cap program, I was awarded a scholarship to the Art Institute of Phoenix. C-cap is a family that gives chances to students who are willing take advantage of an opportunity and build their own futures for the better. I don't know where I would have been if they hadn't given me a chance to change my lifestyle and stop making some bad decisions that could have ended with serious consequences. I cannot wait for the film to make a debut to the public and start to share this inspirational story that each year students re-write for themselves. Make sure to look out for "Pressure Cooker" next year and watch it if you get the chance, it's well worth it. If you want to really see what C-cap is about make sure to check out their website.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lobster & White Chocolate

This was a dish that took some time to figure out how these two would work without overpowering each other. I tried make a butter sauce with white chocolate but it had way too much fat and kept breaking. I didn't want to lose the natural sweetness of the lobster by using the wrong cooking procedure. Eventually the inspiration came from Thomas Keller's technique for cooking lobster by melting butter in it's emulsified form. I've used the technique in the past for resting meat or making sauces, so I knew it worked and made sense for this dish. I started by bringing 1 Tbl of water to a boil and slowly whisking in chunks of chilled whole butter over medium heat. Once the emulsification occured I added some shallots, lemon zest, sea salt, and white chocolate. This technique works perfect because the ideal temperature for holding is 185 degrees and ideal for poaching. I sliced the lobster into 1" coins and poached them for a few minutes. By using this cooking method, the lobster not only picks up the sweet flavor of white chocolate but also shares the salty ocean flavor. I still need to work on the other components of this plate, but the highlighted white chocolate lobster is going to be memorable.

Rabbit Terrine on Carrot Air

This was a fun dish to play with because I'm stuffed on rabbit and bacon. For the terrine, I cleaned a rabbit and ground it up with some applewood smoked bacon. After it had been ground fine and pureed with some heavy cream in a food processor, I added some colorful garnish. Chopped parsley, crushed juniper berries, grated carrot, shallots, garlic, sea salt, and white pepper. I placed the mixture in a plastic wrap lined rectangle terrine mold and covered with foil. I then cooked it in a water bath for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. I allowed it to come to room temperature before weighing it down with a few cans overnight in the cooler to shape the form. For the Carrot Air I played around with an "El Bulli" recipe and found a variation. I juiced 5 large carrots and grated some fresh ginger into a saucepan. I added a small pinch of soy lecithin and heated until the emulsifier had dissolved. After straining the mixture, I used an immersion blender to create a foam that was bright orange and held up for an extremely long time. With a piece of toasted bread, the carrot air, rabbit terrine, and fresh chervil I'd say this is a winner for a James Beard hors d'oeurve.

Foie Gras Stuffed Fig

So my New York trip is less than a month away for James Beard House and I'm working hard on my dishes. I started working on my foie gras stuffed fig last week and finally reached a satisfactory result. I've decided that making a mousse works best for flavor and texture with the fig. I poach the foie in a sweet white wine until slightly warm inside and allow to cool. Once it has marinated in the chilled wine, I puree it in a food processor with a little cream and season with some fine sea salt. The fig is partially hollowed out from the bottom and filled with the mousse. I allow it to set up in the cooler for awhile before cutting in half and showing off the beautiful center. I will be posting pictures in the next few days of each dish.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Grand Finale

And here is the final menu. I had my conference call with the other chefs and we finalized our menu for the James Beard House in December. I've got three of my own dishes on the menu (2 hors d'oeuvres and the lobster course). I will be flying to Washington, D.C. in November to do a tasting of the menu with all of the other chefs. This is going to be an amazing dinner and I hope to see you all there!!!

Hudson Valley Foie Gras Stuffed Mission Figs
Rabbit Terrine with Ginger Carrot Air
Sea Scallops” Wellington” with Caviar Vinaigrette
Smoked Steelhead Trout “Burger” Blood Orange Ketchup
Turkish Date and Chevre Truffle with Pistachio


Winter Squash Soup, Ricotta Dumplings, Cardoons, Anchovy Butter
Sweet Cacao Butter Maine Lobster
Anise Spiced Pears, Whipped Yukon Potato, Roasted Fennel
Pork Belly and Water Melon Salad over Baby Swiss Chard and a Cantaloupe Coulis
Roasted Rack of Venison
Mushroom Spätzle, Roasted Butternut Squash Flan
Huckleberry Reduction
Brillat Savarin Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Poached Quail Egg and Roasted Golden Beets
Holiday Apple Sampler
Honey Crisp Apple Strudel
Candied Crap Apple
Calvados Ice Cream

Sunday, September 21, 2008

James Beard Update

I just wanted to give an update on the menu for my dinner this December at the "James Beard House". I have a conference call on Tuesday with the other chef's to discuss our ideas and concepts. I've put together an assortment of ideas that I would like to prepare for the dinner. This is going to be a really fun dinner because there are 5 chefs from all around the country partaking in the event whom I've never met. The best part is that it's an all expenses paid trip and the hotel has offered to fly my wife out with me for the event. I've attached my ideas for all of your viewing pleasures so you can experience the making of a gourmet dinner from start to finish. I will post an update after the call on Tuesday.

Hors D’oeuvres

Hudson Valley Foie Gras Stuffed Mission Figs
Candied Yam Filled Marshmallow
Spaghetti Squash and Pistachio Duck Rillettes
Winter Parsnip and Tahitian Vanilla Bean Shooter
Rabbit Terrine w/ Ginger Carrot Air


Lavender Scented Colorado Lamb
Salty Brioche Raisin Pudding, Caramel Glazed Turnip, Reduced Porcini Mushroom

Sweet Cacao Butter Maine Lobster
Anise Spiced Pears, Whipped Yukon Potato, Roasted Fennel

Caper Dusted Veal
Sour Cranberry Jam, Almond Crusted Brie, White Asparagus Salad

Buffalo Tenderloin
Gruyere Potato Leek Stack, Juniper Honey, Macerated Raspberries

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I just recently attained my certification through the ACF (American Culinary Federation) as a C.E.C. (Certified Executive Chef). I never thought much about continuing my education through this organization until I recently started working in Colorado. During culinary school, Iwas involved in numerous cooking competitons and felt mesmerized by the following of chefs towards the ACF. As I furthered my career, I lost interest in the organization and felt like there was nothing worth pursuing unless I wanted to become a teacher or trade show chef. About six months ago I got the urge to start my certification and wonder if I could take on the challenge of completing all the qualifications. I started out with a 3 hour cooking exam that required me to prepare a 3 course meal with mandatory ingredients, cooking techniques, and specific knife skills. I passed this part with a 89% and felt good about the grade. The next part was taking a written exam of 100 questions in 1 hour and passing with at least a 70%. I got an 84% and only took 14 minutes to finish the test, maybe I should have slowed down to actually read the ones I missed. Next was attaining 150 hours of industry related involvement and verifying my work history as a Chef De Cuisine/Executive Sous Chef. Finally I had to pass three 30 hour courses in Nutrition, Sanitation, and Management. Now that I have this certification it adds to my reportoire of accomplishments for future endeavors. I'm not sure if I will pursue the next step towards becoming a C.M.C. (Certified Master Chef). Less than 100 hundred chefs have passed this 8 Day Exam since it originated in 1981. As for now, I will continue to further my knowledge in this business and strive to continue challenging myself. If your interested in the ACF, please check out the new website, http://www.acfchefs.org/

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Music in the Kitchen

How does music influence your kitchen and your cooking? I was reading an article about chefs and their music choices and how it affects their kitchens. I've worked in many kitchens where chef's "DO NOT ALLOW" music in their kitchens and I've also worked in kitchens where music sets the tone before the rush. So it leaves the question, does music influence your kitchen or how you cook? I think that listening to different types of music truly reflects your food. Listening to some old blues while cooking will make me focus on dark colors, heavy aromatics, and soft textures, while listening to fast paced music like house, techno, or drum and bass might pump me up to move faster and knock out some serious production for a busy night. I really enjoy writing menus to "Mozart" or "Beethoven" because it relaxes me to think of what food is as a whole and how to manipulate it into something complex. There is a time and place for music in the kitchen has been what I've come to believe. I think that music should be playing during the prep work and once the rush of cooking is over. I'm a solid believer in no music during the execution of the night. It becomes a distraction that will fluster the cooks and make the food/guests suffer. Whether it's tejano, reggae, punk, or hardcore rock, music is one of the best tools for creating a positive work environment in the kitchen. It gives people from different backgrounds a chance to showcase their culture and preferences. Imagine cooking in 120 degrees while moving so fast you zone out or washing pots and pans for hours on end, wouldn't you enjoy listening to something to escape or relax?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

James Beard House

I just got the confirmation letter today from the James Beard House inviting me to prepare a wine dinner in December. The dinner will consist of a reception with gourmet hors d'oeuvres and 6 course dinner with wine pairing for a cost of $165 per person. I will partake in this event with 4 other chefs from within the company I work for. This is the first time my property will be represented at this event and I will make sure I go all out. We have to write a menu in the next two weeks, so I will post it once that meeting is complete. I have been brainstorming various dishes and ideas since I found out I would be invited. Some of the items have been rabbit sausage with pistachio oil, lobster tail with white chocolate, and a yellow tomato marshmallow. I have no clue what's the theme or which course I will be responsible for, so I'm excited to talk with the other chefs and start brainstorming. . To cook at the James Beard house is a prestigious honor within the chef world and I have been awaiting this invitation since I was a teenager. James Beard was an icon for any chef in America and set the bar on what it meant to have passion for food. From the early 1940's until his passing in 1985 he was a pioneer for the american chef and set a standard that is still being upheld today. We will be preparing this magnificent dinner in New York City, NY on December 18, 2008. If you have any interest in his legacy or purchasing tickets, please visit his website http://www.jamesbeard.org/ . Our menu and bio's will be posted on the website after September 15th.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Food for the Soul

The best meals consumed are always made with love. I recently took an overdue trip out to South Carolina to visit my family for a celebration of our late grandmother "Elsie Mae Luck". This was such a joyous occasion to be around the family that influenced the person I am today. The picture above is my myself and my lovely aunts. I haven't seen them in many years and couldn't wait to get out there and give each one a big bear hug. We did some serious cooking for the family and as my uncle bill said "y'all put your foot in it". There was of course my personal favorite, "gumbo" and my aunt sue made an amazing jambalaya (I might have helped a little). The one observation I noted was the abundance of farming in the south. Every street corner had some type of produce stand selling their proud accomplishments of the season. I had an amazing peach out there that reminded me of what summer is all about. Even though it was a short trip, I gained some great memories and hilarious stories. The trip was definitely worth all the mosquitos bites, plane delays, and everlasting road trips. I will say that I'm glad to be home with my wife and comfortable bed whom I missed dearly.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Roast Pig

This was just a great opportunity for a culinary "kodak" moment. We had a beachside luau for some VIP clients recently and they purchased whole roasted pigs. These potbellied guys weighed only 50lbs and took about 5 hours to cook at 275 degrees. I always get a kick out of people's reaction when they walk by the oven and see two oinkers staring at them. I should get a video camera and record it for one of those funniest video shows. The meat fell off the bone and tasted amazing once we broke open the crispy golden skin. I enjoyed tasting the pork cheek with one of my culinary students, but I don't think he enjoyed carving them for 200 ppl. Where would the world be without pork????

Friday, August 15, 2008

Root Beer Float

This is a dessert that one of my chef's and I came up with for a food and wine event. We wanted to do something simple but complex at the same time. A root beer float was suggested as a joke during this brainstorming session and I thought not a bad idea. We did some research on the history of root beer float and found out that it's origin is supposedly from Colorado. We played around trying to figure out how we could serve a root beer float to 500 ppl and came up with this. We made a root beer flavored cake with vanilla mousse on top and decorated with root beer candy. The sauce is a root beer syrup with some vanilla bean creme. My stomach still hurts from eating so much of this.

Wine Dinner

Just came up with a new wine dinner menu tonight. It consists of 5 courses and has some very intersting tributes to the classics. First course is a homeage to the "shrimp cocktail", I've encased the shrimp in a bloody mary jello and serve it with a lemon horseradish vinaigrette on lettuce. Second Course is a Watermelon Sorbet with Pickled Rind. Main Course is a choice of Muscovy Duck Breast with Fresh Figs, Balsamic, and Cinnamon Clove Demi or Tarragon Beef with Purple Potato Marble and Asparagus Butter. The Dessert is a favorite of mine consisting of "Chocolate Pecan Pie Roll". It's a pecan pie rolled into a spring roll wrapper, deep fried, and tossed in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. I serve it with ginger spiced pears and coconut ice cream. The wines were amazing with each dish and there were 8 of us pairing the food to appropiate wines. I love my job.