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Q & A with Alain Ducasse

Posted on Nov 18, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

There are very few drawbacks to being a restaurant critic.   My one complaint is a life confined to the dining room.  I can only speculate on what really happens behind kitchen doors where restaurants are concerned.   But a couple weeks ago, I had the chance to sit down with Alain Ducasse.  For me, that was a big deal.  Ducasse is the most Michelin-starred chef in the world.  He reigns over a kingdom of twenty-four restaurants, a batch of bakeries, inns and cooking schools.  My favorite is Le Louis XV in Monaco.  Of all the dishes I’ve eaten, I will never forget the summer vegetables en cocotte I ate there one summer.  Or that magnificent bread trolley for that matter.   But I wasn’t crazy about Benoit, his newest restaurant that opened in Manhattan five months ago.  I couldn’t help but...

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Q & A with Public's Ellen Mirsky

Posted on Nov 11, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Talk about a career change, Ellen Mirsky quit fashion for food.  She went from designing eye candy to designing dessert overnight.  Mirsky graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education with a degree in pastry and soon found herself at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole.   She’s worked with everyone from Todd English and Rick Moonen to Pichet Ong. Nowadays, you can sample her creations at Public, where she works alongside Brad Farmerie.  Her inspired creations reflect comfort sweets from all over the world.  On the menu for autumn — a concord grape panna cotta  with peanut butter ice cream and frosted concord grapes. From New Zealand comes the Hokey Pokey ice cream, topped with passionfruit sauce and a gingersnap.  And of course, lots of chocolates.  Mirsky even has her own chocolate company with truffles made from pumpkin, pomegranate, or port. Single/Married/Divorced?Single.What did...

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Q & A with Missy Robbins

Posted on Nov 4, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Andrew Carmellini’s sudden departure from A Voce was front page news in the food world.  In March, news broke that A Voce would be taking over Cafe Gray in the Time Warner Center, followed by Carmellini’s controversial exit in June.  The million dollar question: who would replace him?  I wouldn’t want to try to fill those shoes.  Missy Robbins, on the other hand, isn’t too concerned.  She jumped at the opportunity to move to New York and oversee not one, but two A Voce kitchens.  Ironically,  Robbins jump started her career with no formal training whatsoever.  In fact, she didn’t even know how to hold a knife.   But she was determined, so determined that she stormed into the restaurant 1789 in Washington D.C., and pleaded for a job.   Later, Robbins honed her skills at Peter Kump’s New York...

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Q & A with Laurence Edelman

Posted on Oct 29, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Laurence Edelman was destined to work with seafood.  His first job was shucking oysters at the legendary Cooter Brown’s in Louisiana.  But who could pass up the opportunity to learn from veteran chef, Lidia Bastianich?  So Edelman moved to New York to train at Felidia where he learned the art of pasta and Italian cooking.  But he discovered his real passion, American cuisine, while working as sous chef at The Red Cat.  It was there he first met Jimmy Bradley, a partnership that would eventually bring Edelman to The Mermaid Inn. This Upper West Side clam shack became a neighborhood fixture practically overnight.  The menu is filled with clam shack classics, such as the lobster roll with fries and the shrimp po’ boy. Meanwhile, Italian flavors are brought over from his training at Felidia. A saffron-spiced squid ink risotto is with saffron and piled...

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Q & A with Charlie Palmer

Posted on Oct 21, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

You can’t really talk about “Progressive American” food without mentioning Charlie Palmer.  Over the years, the chef has built an empire of successful restaurants that spans the country, including Sonoma, Washington D. C., Las Vegas and Dallas, Texas.  But it all started in 1988 when Palmer opened Aureole.  Inside this timeless, townhouse in Midtown, Palmer designed an elegant American menu that aggressively driven by ingredients long before it was par for the course.  Palmer got his start at The River Cafe in Brooklyn, where he learned the fundamental lessons to running a successful kitchen.  On October 31st & November 1st, Aureole will celebrate its twentieth anniversary with a “20 Bites Menu.”  What’s for dinner?  The same, signature sea scallop sandwich offered in 1998  along with the tea-smoked squab from 1991.  Each of the nine-courses will be paired with a...

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Q & A with Julian Medina

Posted on Oct 15, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Chef Julian Medina has changed the way we think and eat Mexican food in New York.   Born and raised in Mexico City, Medina mastered the art of Mexican cooking at Hacienda de los Morales in Mexico City before moving to the kitchen of Los Celebrites to immerse himself in French technique and ingredients.  And that was just the beginning.   Medina moved to the United States, where he worked as the executive chef for Sushi Samba and Zocalo.  Upon teaming up with Richard Sandoval, Medina successfully elevated Mexican cooking to a haute plane at both Maya and Pampano.  These days, he’s busy building his own little empire, which includes Toalache and his newest pan-Latin venture, Yerba Buena.   At Yerba Buena, Julian Medina offers a light, sophisticated spin on Latin cooking with a “Cuban Pizza,”a tortilla topped with ham, pork,...

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Q & A with Sebastien Rouxel

Posted on Oct 6, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Managing the pastry departments for eight world-class restaurants might seem daunting to most, but not to Sebastien Rouxel.  He oversees Thomas Keller’s dessert empire – per se, French Laundry, and Bouchon Bakery to name a few.  Born in France’s Loire Valley, Rouxel got an early jump start on his career working at his aunt’s restaurant before entering culinary school at the age of 16.   Rouxel quickly earned the prestigious position of pastry chef for the president of France before moving to America to work at L’Orangerie and Lutece.   Since teaming up with Thomas Keller, his modern interpretations of classic desserts have garnered considerable attention.  At per se, Rouxel’s fall menu features a black currant cobbler with buttermilk sherbet and a  “Pomme Beurre Noisette,” with a granny smith confiture, brown butter, and tahitian vanilla.  What did you want to be when you...

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Q & A with Ben Van Leeuwen

Posted on Sep 30, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Where ice cream is concerned, there’s some serious competition on the streets of New York these days.  Think Mister Softee gone green and you have Ben Van Leeuwen.  Van Leeuwen got the idea to launch his own artisanal ice cream concept  while driving a Good Humor truck.   Unlike Good Humor and Mister Softee, Van Leeuwen uses organic, local cream, and biodegradable cups.  He gets his pistachios straight from Sicily and his red currants from local farmers.  With ten flavors to choose from, we’d chase down any one of his three trucks for the classic vanilla, made with barrel-aged ground vanilla beans, or mint chip made with Oregon mint leaves and Michael Cluizel chocolate.  Sundae?  We’re partial to the ginger sundae made with a spicy ginger ice cream, topped with homemade hot caramel sauce, chopped sugar cones, and whipped...

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Q & A with Eric Ripert

Posted on Sep 23, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

If you want to know how to cook a fish, ask Eric Ripert.   If you don’t cook, you should consider visiting Le Bernardin, one of the most  regarded seafood restaurants in the world.  Born in Antibes, France, Ripert attended culinary school at age 15, followed by cooking stints in Paris.  Ripert worked the fish station for Jean-Louis Palladin, Joel Robuchon and David Bouley before Maguy and Gilbert Le Coze hired him away as a chef at Le Bernardin.   At the age of 29, Ripert earned four stars from the New York Times and has managed to maintain them for over twelve years.   Ripert recently launched his own blog, Avec Eric, a preview of his upcoming PBS television show.  Until then, you can sample his inspired cooking at Le Bernardin.  On the menu for fall, crispy black bass with...

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Q & A with Christophe Bellanca

Posted on Sep 16, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Five years ago, French-born Christophe Bellanca never imagined he would be running the kitchen for one of New York’s top restaurant institutions: Le Cirque 2000.  Bellanca first began his career at La Mere Vittet in Lyon, followed by stints in such classic French restaurants as La Pyramide and Pic in France, as well as Domaine de Chateauviex in Geneva.  Only a few years ago, he accepted the executive chef position at Los Angeles’ L’Orangerie.  At the time, he spoke exactly three words of English, Speaking no more than three words of English.    Now in command of Le Cirque‘s kitchen, Bellanca has conceived a modern French menu, which often takes international liberties, such as tuna tataki with sesame, daikon, yuzu and seaweed or foie gras ravioli with black truffles. Single/Married/Divorced?Single What did you want to be when you grew...

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Q & A with Julia Jaksic

Posted on Sep 9, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

For most chefs, running a kitchen is a full-time job in its own right.  But Employees Only chef Julia Jaksic also finds the time to run a rather, avant-garde dinner club as well.   After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, she went on to work her way through Chicago’s restaurants before moving to New York’s SoHo Grand.   Her father, a butcher in the Meatpacking District during the 70’s, taught Julia how to butcher a pig and make her sausages.  With a strong Eastern European heritage, Julia brings hearty food into the spotlight at Employees Only with such dishes as a Serbian charcuterie platter and a late night menu that includes everthing from bacon-wrapped lamb chops with salsa verde to truffled grilled cheese.   Single/Married/Divorced?Single.  What did you want to be when you grew up?I never really wanted to be anything-I just wanted to get...

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Q & A with Alex Grunert

Posted on Sep 3, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Alex Grunert, the pastry chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, seizes upon his Viennese upbringing in his ardent commitment to the restaurant’s “locavore” philosophy.  Following a stint at the famed Hotel Inter-continental restaurant Vier Jahreszeite in Vienna, Alex sharpened his skills as a chocolate maker for the Austrian patisserie Oberlaa Konditorei.  He then moved to New York City, where he seamlessly weaved his Austrian technique into the classic pastries at Bouley and Danube.  As the executive pastry chef, he worked under David Bouley and learned of the importance of seasonal and local cooking, a philosophy that would follow him from the city to the farmlands of upstate New York.  With an impressive supply of fresh produce and dairy at his fingertips from the restaurant’s farm, Alex Grunert conceives desserts that adhere to the restaurant’s signature concept of not...

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Q & A with Deborah Racicot

Posted on Aug 20, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Pastry chef Deborah Racicot defined herself as one of New York’s finest pastry chefs early on in her career.  With no formal culinary schooling, Deborah Racicot found herself training under such prominent chefs as Claudia Fleming at Gramercy Tavern as well as Richard Leach at Le Cote Basque.   Having grown up in Vermont, Racicot gravitated toward classic  creations with a decidedly creative and refined twist.  Now at Gotham Bar and Grill, she divines a grown up version of “S’mores” with chicory ice cream, a key lime souffle, and a summer cheesecake with blueberry compote and nectarine sorbet.   Single/Married/Divorced? Single   What did you want to be when you grew up? A veternarian.   What was your first job in food? I was a cocktail waitress in a Mexican restaurant in Vermont. It was a blast.   What...

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Q & A with Michael Lomonaco

Posted on Aug 9, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Local and seasonal ingredients are no longer the exception to the rule, they practically are the rule when it comes to chefs sourcing of ingredents.  But this wasn’t always the case and Michael Lomonaco was a chef far ahead of his time, diligently employing localism at nearly every turn of his career.  After training under Daniel Boulud at Le Cirque, he delivered refined American cuisine at numerous New York institutions, including the 21 Club and Windows of the World.   In late 2006, he re-emerged on the dining scene with Porter House NY, housed in the Time Warner Center.   Here, he honors the soul of American cooking and does admirable justice to a bevvy of classics, including a jumbo lump crabcake, veal porterhouse chop, as well as butter-poached lobster with leeks, sugar snap peas and truffled mashed potatoes.  Single/Married/Divorced?Married for 28...

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Q & A with Kurt Gutenbrunner

Posted on Aug 6, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Chef & restaurateur Kurt Gutenbrunner has produced a trio of successful restaurants in the city — Cafe Sabarsky, Blaue Gans, and Michelin-starred Wallse — and made Austrian cuisine mainstream in the process.  He’s trained in some of the world’s finest kitchens, including Munich’s Tantris, and trained with such esteemed chefs as David Bouley.  Mining his Austrian upbringing, Gutenbrunner modernizes and lightens traditional Viennese cuisine with such dishes as halibut with cucumber, dill and chanterelles, and wild striped bass with lentils, bacon, root vegetables and zweitgelt. Single/married/divorced?In a relationship. What did you want to be when you grew up?A chef…or a racecar driver What was your first job in food?When I was 15, I enrolled in a professional hotel and restaurant school and after completing my coursework I apprenticed at the Relais et Chateau Richard Löwenherz. You’ve worked in countless...

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Q & A with Jerome Chang

Posted on Jul 29, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Chocolate molten cake with sea salt and pistachios and vanilla crème brulee made with Madagascar vanilla beans may sound like avant-garde desserts served in an upscale restaurant, but both sell for five dollars out of a truck parked on St. Mark’s Place. The DessertTruck is the brainchild of former Le Cirque pastry sous chef, Jerome Chang, who graduated from The French Culinary Institute.   Chang creates restaurant-style sweets that have earned the attention of publications, like Food & Wine as well as the New York Times.  With summer in full swing, Jerome helps customers cool off with a chilled milk chocolate and peanut butter mousse topped with caramel popcorn as well as a more unusual concoction of coconut tapioca with pineapple, cilantro “pearls,” and mojito granita.   Single/married/divorced? I am in a committed relationship with a beautiful chocolatier. What did...

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Q & A with Jacques Torres

Posted on Jul 23, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Jacques Torres doesn’t just love chocolate, he lives it.  Beginning his career at France’s Hotel Negresco, Jacques has traveled the world to perfect his craft, a chocolate passion that has led to numerous cookbooks, television shows, and the coveted title of top pastry chef for France’s prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier competition.  Despite all of his experience, Jacques has only increased his desire for learning and discovery, incorporating fresh and seasonal flavors into a line of innovative chocolates that is straight out of Willy Wonka.  At any of his three New York locations, customers can cool down this summer with a smooth, dark iced chocolate, huge chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches, or the “Love Bug,” a white chocolate truffle with a key lime center. Single/married/divorced? Married for less than a year. What did you want to be when you grew up?...

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Q & A With Akhtar Nawab

Posted on Jul 18, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Elettaria, one of the more recent editions to the West Village dining scene, serves an American menu with a spicy Indian twist, courtesy of chef/co-owner Akhtar Nawab’s upbringing.  Born in Louisville, Kentucky, but raised on a myriad of authentic Indian dishes, Akhtar brings his knowledge of both worlds to the table; an impressive list of culinary experiences (most recently the European Union) contributes as well. Beginning his career at San Francisco’s Bizou, Akhtar continued to work on the West Coast before coming to New York’s Gramercy Tavern, where a growing partnership with owner Tom Colicchio led to the opening of Craft and Craftbar, for which he was the chef de cuisine. With such a wealth of American and European cooking under his belt, chef Akhtar has created a menu with interesting takes on such classics like chicken with asparagus...

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Q & A with Harold Moore

Posted on Jul 18, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

Co-owner and executive chef Harold Moore has returned to the New York dining scene with Commerce. Moore is a chef whose resume is as impressive as his commitment to his new restaurant.  After spending time in both Daniel Boulud’s and Jean-Georges’ kitchens, Moore further developed his classic approach to contemporary American cuisine at Montrachet and March.  At Commerce, his repertoire includes a porterhouse steak with cipollini onions, creamed spinach, and red wine shallot sauce as well as oysters with champagne, potatoes, leeks, and a decadent touch of caviar. Status: Single/Married/Divorced Married What did you want to be when you grew up? I was always drawn to high-stress occupations that were financially rewarding. I used to think about working on Wall Street or being a lawyer. Clearly, those thoughts didn’t last too long. What was your first job in food?...

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Q & A with Gavin Kaysen

Posted on Jul 18, 2008 in Chef Q&A, Chef Q&A Recipes

At age 28, Gavin Kaysen won the James Beard award for “Rising Star Chef of 2008” at last month’s award ceremony.  But Kaysen’s accomplishments extend far beyond his recent James Beard award. While working as head chef at San Diego’s El Bizcocho, Gavin Kaysen also represented the US team at the Bocuse D’or competition in Lyon, France, where he prepared such whimsical creations as “Bacon and Eggs,” a combination of steamed and slow-cooked eggs, bacon hollandaise, and green asparagus.  Before that, he traveled around the world, working at l’Auberge de Lavaux in Switzerland and l’Escargot in London.  Now the executive chef at Cafe Boulud, his takes a seasonal approach to French American cuisine with such offerings as a  “Biscuit and Gravy,” a decadent mélange of pork, foie gras, and creamed spinach in a velvety truffle sauce or peekytoe crab with...

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