Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chef Summit Part Two

(for part one, see the post below)

The third chef to take the stage was Celina Tio, who recently departed The American Restaurant to build her own. She was joined by a former sous chef, Jonathan, and the two followed suit behind Christopher Lee and his sous in that Chef Tio left most of the "molecular" persuits to her second in command. She made her version of a New England lobster roll. Instead of the roll, she substituted a bread crumb panna cotta. The lobster salad was topped with celery pearls. These pearls demonstrated what is perhaps the most wide-spread use of molecular gastronomy in restaurants today. One may transform any liquid (celery juice in this case) into a pearl by utilizing sodium alginate (or sodium citrate) and calcium chloride (or calcium lactate) in solution. This process, sometimes called spherification, results in a "pearl" with a gelled outer layer and a liquid center. Ferran Adria pioneered this technique with his famous olives. Jonathan had a very cool little tool that allowed him inject many drops into the solution at one time.
Celina Tio makes mayo for the lobster salad.
The finished plate with celery pearls. She made enough lobster salad for everyone to have a bite.

Next up was Giuseppe Tentori, a nine year veteran of Charlie Trotter's (two of those nine as chef de cuisine) now chef of Boka. Guiseppe is all about love and details and spoke with a passion and respect for food unparalleled. He told a brief story about one of my idols, Jean-Louis Palladin. Giuseppe was working a benefit with Palladin. Jean-Louis tossed a small salad so gingerly and lovingly with both hands that he drew looks askance from a host of other chefs. Giuseppe understood this level of attention. He brings this to all the food he touches. He demonstrated making a "skin" out of tomatoes by slow roasting tomato, sliced into petals, and pressed between layers of parchment and dried in a slow oven. He also "bloomed" basil seeds in water to achieve a texture not unlike caviar with a basil flavor. These were arranged with other components (copa, buffalo mozz, tomato powder, and balsamic ice cream) to complete a complicated version of the BLT.
Chef Tentori gives a dissertation on love and sexy food.
The BLT.

After Tentori, Bravo Top Chef, Marcel Vigneron took the stage with close culinary friend. I ate lunch across from Marcel later in the day. I didn't admit that I don't watch TV (what's Bravo?). Recently he had been in Alaska working on boats. He's trying to immerse himself laterally in all aspects of food, both harvest and production, and remains unchained to the restaurant world. That may change, as he and his buddy spoke of opening a place with a third friend in NYC. Marcel's demonstration had many elements. First, he made a gelee with melon juice with agar agar and some gelatin. Agar agar with set warm. Gelatin will not. Both together make a good result, the use of gelatin cuts the required amount of agar agar, which has a flavor of its own. Lowering the amount of agar, allows for more purity of the melon flavor. He also made a mousse out of gazpacho by adding gelatin to it and using a nitrous oxide canister. The fundamental center of this dish is the union of melon and tomato. Garnishes included king crab, cucumber, a toasted mix of ground celery and coriander seed, fleur de sel, nasturtium blossoms, basil flowers, bloomed basil seeds and a brunois of fava beans with rice wine vinegar.

Another beautiful plate, although he covered up the lovely melon gelee with gazpacho mousse and other garnish.

More to follow in Part Three of the Chef's Garden Second Annual Chef Summit at the CVI.