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 . 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.