Category Archives: Chef Questionnaire

Chef interviews with a nod to Marcel Proust.

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe“After college, I thought I was going to go to California, but I got delayed,” says noted Chef Cullen Campbell, chef owner of the nationally known Phoenix-based Crudo, which he opened in 2012 with mixologist Micah Olson. Last year, the duo, along with Campbell’s wife Maureen McGrath, unlocked Okra, a Southern-themed restaurant with touches of Italy, harkening back to growing up in Arkansas. Although born in the 48th state, Campbell spent time on the Arkansas family farm and attended university in Memphis, where he picked up some of the deep Southern touches that craft the excellent flavors of his sophomore effort. Clearly, he wanted to bring some of that country to Arizona.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

Like the Sonoran Desert, the interiors of both places are wide and vast. There aren’t any nooks or cubby holes  for clandestine dinners to hide in. The restaurants are boisterous, raucous affairs, letting the diner know they are in for a delicious meal. Crudo is the higher end of the two, with a collage of shutters as artwork at the entrance, but it’s the casual wood-tones of Okra which come across warmly. Both restaurants, though, are a showcase of Campbell’s kitchen talent. Arizona Republic’s restaurant critic Howard Sefetel said in his 2012 review of Crudo, “What makes Campbell’s fare stand out? Certainly, the ingredients are primo. But what Campbell does with them is often highly original and always skillfully executed.”

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

Since then, the kitchen star has been on the rise, putting Valley of the Sun’s dining and drinking culture on the national culinary map, with noted stories in Sunset Magazine, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times.

What’s next on the horizon for the Arizona cooking wunderkind? “I have a bunch of different concepts I want to try out. Something small and higher end with no more than a dozen tables. Then I have a hot dog concept I want to do with Micah. Cocktails. Beer and wine list all paired for the dogs.”

Whatever Campbell does, we know it will be delicious.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I have been cooking for 20 years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My least favorite food is Shellfish.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I have wine, water, & leftovers.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Squid Ink Risotto

What do you cook at home?
Not much but sometimes, I r&d at my house. I just made some pici, which is like a thick hand rolled spaghetti. I love hand rolling pasta!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
The person wanting to try everything.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
The person that is scared to try new things.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine all the way, especially really great white wine.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Burrata

Your favorite cookbook author?
David Joachim. Not only has he written his own books, he has also collaborated on some of my favorite books.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Spoons.

Your favorite ingredient?
Olive Oil.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Anything processed.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean. I make a mess haha!

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I go through spurts. Of course Italian & southern. But I have started playing around with Polynesian.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e PepeBeef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Rapini.

Chef you most admire?
I have two: Jean Georges Vongerichten & Marc Vetri. One is very refined & the other is more rustic, but they both work with the best ingredients & don’t overcomplicate dishes.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheeseburger & fries!

Food you dislike the most?
I eat everything!

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e PepeHow many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I only have two at the moment. One of them is an alcohol in Japanese. But I want to get a fork & spoon on me. Also, one that celebrates my restaurants – Crudo & Okra.

Recipe: Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Semolina Gnocchi

Semolina Gnocchi
3 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
11/2tsp salt
4 egg yolks
1 cup parmesan
1 cup semolina

Put milk, butter, & salt into a medium pot (bring to a boil).
Add semolina & whisk vigorously for 4 minutes.
Add 1 egg yolk at a time while stirring.
Then add the parmesan and whisk until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes.
Spread mixture on a sheet tray & let cool for 45 minutes.
When cooled, cut out circles with a ring mold.
Sear the gnocchi in a pan on medium heat until golden brown.

Cacio e Pepe
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated pecorino remano
1tbs roux
2tbs fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Heat heavy cream & both cheeses together until melted.
Add roux to thicken & then add the pepper.

Trotter Ragu
5lbs pig trotters
1 yellow onion chopped
1 head of garlic chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3oz thyme picked & chopped
6 cups da napoli crushed tomatoes
6 cups meat stock
2tbs salt
1tbs fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a roasting pan, brown the trotters in the olive oil.
Add onion, garlic, and thyme & stir until fragrant.
Season with the salt & pepper.
Add crushed tomatoes and meat stock & cover the pan tightly with foil or lid.
Lower the oven to 300 degrees & cook for 3.5 hours.
After pulled from the oven, let the trotters cool down for about an hour.
After cooled, shred the trotters off the bones & mix back into the sauce.

To Plate
Put the ragu in the bottom of the bowl, arrange gnocchi, & top with a generous amount of cacio e pepe

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw RecipeIn our global world, food is often the first thing that changes. Chinese noodles appropriated by the Italians after Marco Polo’s visit. How about al pastor brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, or the deliciousness of a French-Vietnamese banh mi, which features tons of crunchy vegetables and savory pork stuffed into a baguette? This is the case for the much-lauded Revolutionario, near the University of Southern California, helmed by Chef Farid Zadi and his wife Susan Park. The couple came up with an ingenious concept of marrying North African diaspora (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya) tastes with Mexico. The successful result is a delicious fusion of international flavors as noted by the alternative paper, LA Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, and the queue of college students and food-oriented people standing at the counter ordering their $3.00 tacos.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Revolutionario

Zadi’s career started in his birthplace of Lyon, France, ultimately leading him to working in Michelin starred restaurants throughout the world, including stints in Seoul, Korea, and Scotland. Upon coming to the United States, Zadi focused his epicurean talents on being a chef consultant and culinary educator, teaching cooking classes – for the beginner to the accomplished – at such places as Sur La Table, Whole Foods Market, and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Makroud (Algerian Date Newtons)

Last year, he and Susan wanted to create something different. Park says, “We saw the market going in a different direction towards a fast casual experience. Millennials didn’t really want to participate in the sit down service.” Along Jefferson, Revolutionario is not hard to find, as there are hordes of people waiting for service. Together, the couple have created a refreshing and unique melding of cultures…and the world was ready. Algerian butter and Mexican crema top a cob of corn. An Algerian roasted chicken with rasa al hanout – a Northern African spice mixture — called mechoui — is served up with feta and tortillas to wrap the bird. Wood-roasted cauliflower is also a standout when bound in a corn tortilla.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Mexican Street Corn with Algerian Creole Butter, Crema, and Cotija

Park comments, “North African tacos are an interesting cuisine. Food writers, those who are well-traveled, and people exposed to unique flavors love our food. Where else can you get merguez sausage served like a burrito?

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
34 years professionally

What is your favorite food to cook?
Dover sole with lemon butter sauce

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, cheese, and cured meat.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Merguez and Crispy Potato Tacos

What do you cook at home?
Nothing

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Openness

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Don’t know what they want

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer in the summer, wine for fall and winter

Your favorite cookbook author?
Clifford Wright

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Water

Your least favorite ingredient?
Lard

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Home stove that doesn’t burn high enough

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Roasted Sweet Potato and Crispy Kale, Yukon Gold with Lentil Chili or Charred Vegetables.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mediterranean and Californian

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Potatoes

Chef you most admire?
Pierre Gagnaire

Food you like the most to eat?
Buttered pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Calf’s brain

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None. Never.

Recipe: Fennel and carrot slaw

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe

• 2 medium fennel bulbs
• 5 carrots, coarsely grated
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup Spanish green olives, pitted and finely chopped
• 1/4 teaspoon dried Aleppo chile or Espelette pepper flakes (optional), or to taste
• 6 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and very thinly sliced
• 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 3 tablespoons and reserve.

Discard remaining fronds and stalks. Cut bulbs into thin matchsticks and toss with carrots in a bowl.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, olives, Aleppo chile (if using), and salt to taste and toss with vegetables.

Chill, covered, at least 30 minutes (for flavors to develop).

Photo WILLIAM ABRANOWICZ

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with OC’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas“The cuisine at Who Song’s & Larry is meant to be fun. It’s Mexican-inspired food,” say 32-year old Chef Johannes Bernau. “The food at Las Brisas finds its inspiration in Mexico, but is really Southern California.”

Born in Utah to a Japanese mother and Dutch Indonesian father, the talented man behind the Real Mex Restaurants stove holds the unwieldy title of Corporate Chef for Specialty Brands. Behind that long designation lies a thoughtful human who creates delectable South of the Border-encouraged dishes at Las Brisas, an iconic cliff side eatery overlooking California’s famed Laguna Beach, and Who Song’s & Larry’s, a newcomer to the restaurant scene. Real Mex also owns additional Southern California chains such as Acapulco, Chevy’s, and El Torito Grill. Bernau oversees the kitchens of the single standing operations, which include the aforementioned, but also El Paso Cantina in Torrance, CA and New York City’s Sinigual.

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas

“Like every chef, I started out helping as a kid in the kitchen, then I started inviting my friends over for barbeques that I would make,” Bernau recalls. “I worked at a pizza place between the ages of 18 – 19. Today, I still crank out a pizza for family (staff) meals.”

Seafood Tower Las Brisas. i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Seafood Tower Las Brisas

The food at Las Brisas, with its breaktaking views of Laguna’s golden sand beaches and Pacific Ocean waves, is a must for every traveler and visitor to the legendary ocean community. The white tablecloth eatery serves dishes such as the fruta del mar, a mixture of lobster, scallops, shrimp, and the catch of the day with a saffron sauce. Also, surf and turf plates exist with Latin flavors, such as the New York Strip with Mexican Shrimp. Adding to the overall theme of Southern California dishes are starters such as ceviche and Ahi Tuna Poke.

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas

Who Song’s & Larry is themed more like a cantina with lustful eats, including Hangover Fries. Created by Chef Bernau, the dish is crispy fries covered in carnitas, bacon, green chili sauce, melted pepper jack cheese, pico de gallo, a fried egg, and fresno chiles. Served in a small crock, the mighty curative sounds overwhelming but in truth, it’s delicious with bold flavors to settle anyone who might be leaning too far after a night of drinking. “The inspiration was from the Canadian poutine and from my love of smothered fries…plus a fried egg can go on anything,” chuckles Bernau. “It was so popular we named our brunch after our fries.”

Hangover fries. i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Hangover fries

 

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was able to crack eggs… (Mom and dad probably ate plenty of egg shell omelets…)

What is your favorite food to cook?
Anything off the grill, especially Steak.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Surge (classic soda from the 90’s) – they took it away once… not going to let that happen again.

What do you cook at home?
Mac and cheese.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Their love for food.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Customers that want their steaks well done.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer

Your favorite cookbook author?
Ferran Adria

Street Corn - Who Song and Larry's. i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Street Corn – Who Song and Larry’s

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s Knife.

Your favorite ingredient?
Thyme – everything could use a little more thyme.

Your least favorite ingredient?
MSG

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
When I was a young cook, one of my jobs was to peel grapes.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Tacos

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Broccolini

Chef you most admire?
Jose Andreas – worked for him back in the day & learned how to cook with liquid nitrogen.

Food you like the most to eat?
Ramen (not instant)

Food you dislike the most?
Natto, a Japanese dish of fermented soy beans.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
none

Recipe: Coke Cola Carnitas

i8tonite with LA’s Las Brisas Chef Johannes Bernau and Recipe for Coca Cola Carnitas
Photo Wikimedia Commons: Mike McCune

5 lbs of large chunks of pork butt
1 onion chopped
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of oregano
1 can of coke
1 can of beer
2 TBSP salt
1 tsp pepper
Water

Put everything in crock pot on medium before you go to work.

Eat after work. With tortillas and cheese.

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

The world is full of great food and chefs – we only need to open our tastebuds to them. For instance, at Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse, at The Phoenician, a Starwood property, French-born Executive Chef Jacques Qualin may be the area’s only stove helmer to have worked at four Michelin restaurants – two in France and two in New York – a very rare distinction. If you are a sports fan, it’s like saying you played soccer with Manchester United and Real Madrid; then moved to the United States, and played baseball with the Yankees and Mets.

Qualin, like many chefs, started cooking with his mother, tying his apron strings and sticking close to her, learning about food from the region of his birthplace, Franche-Comté, home to Comte and Emmenthaler cheeses. As a young cook, he traveled to Paris, where he studied under Michelin-rated chef Michel de Matteis, working at his three-star Restaurant Taillevent, defined by The New York Times as “the best in Paris, if not all of France.” Several other kitchens later, including working for Daniel Boulud in New York at the world famous Le Cirque, Qualin worked again in Paris as at the cosmopolitan Restaurant La Marée, before working with his friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Jojo’s on East 58th Street as the culinary great’s first sous chef.

After closing his seventy seat restaurant in upstate New York, The French Corner, The New York Times reviewer said, “(Qualin) created a unique and wonderful restaurant…delightfully rustic and complex all at once.” Vongerichten asked him about working together again, this time in Phoenix. He says, “I had been in France and New York City for fourteen years and I was looking for opportunities to come to the West Coast.”

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu SauceWorking in the Valley of the Sun, Qualin now defines himself as a “Frenchman who cooks with an Asian flair,” speaking to Vongerichten’s penchant for European and Asian cuisine. He says about working at J& G Steakhouse, a long distance from European Michelin restaurants, “I like good food and I like the brasserie-style we have at J&G. It’s a different restaurant than before, but it’s a steakhouse. I like that.”

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

How long have you been cooking?
I have been cooking as far back as I can remember, I have loved cooking my whole life.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I get very excited when I see or find a product that looks pristine in quality and freshness, and that’s the way the flavors will come out the best. French cooking is my soul, Italian my guilty pleasure, and I like all Asian types of cooking.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I love hot sauce, so I always have good selections from wacky hot to mild. French mustard is a must too and fresh herbs.

What do you cook at home?
Everything from a six course tasting for my friends, to a simply grilled fresh fish. I do like to do some classical French dishes that remind me my childhood or some Asian dishes, like a Pad Thai.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
To be open to try new things and flavors.

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Ignorance.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
I used all of them, but I tend to go back to Pyrex as it’s PBA free and can take extreme heat or cold, such as liquid nitrogen.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All of them! Depending on the mood and the occasion or the food. I love to start with a ginger margarita or a crafted beer and wine (red or white), with a preference to the old world.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Many of them! I do have quite a extensive collection, from old traditional French cookbooks to the latest trends in cooking.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Cake tasters are very helpful for checking the food.

Your favorite ingredient?
Hard to say; there are too many I like, from yuzu to ginger or mint.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Fish sauce.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Not doing anything in the kitchen.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French/Asian.

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu SauceBeef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
All, I like a nice Prime beef grilled to perfection, Milk feed Chicken roasted whole, Smoked and Braise Pulled pork sandwich with Habanero sauce, or seared tofu with a cilantro pesto.

Favorite vegetable?
Beets.

Chef you most admire?
Hard to pick because there are so many. Maybe Francis Mallman, as I like his philosophy of cooking and being genuine to the product.

Food you like the most to eat?
I like perfectly cooked pastas, Miruguai sashimi, fresh line-caught fish, and flavorful soups.

Food you dislike the most?
Okra.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None, not into that at all.

Recipe: Roasted Whole Snapper Citrus and Garlic with Yuzu sauce

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

For the Yuzu Mayonnaise
3 each Egg yolks
1 tsp Salt
2 oz Yuzu juice
1 oz Lemon juice
1 oz Orange juice
1/2 qt Grape seed oil

Combine all but the oil in the robot coupe and drizzle in the oil to emulsify. Put in a siphon and charge with 2 cartridges.(soda)

Roasted Snapper:
1 pc Snapper 1.2# deboned from the inside and still attached and scored.
3 slices of Yuzu
3 slices of oranges
6 slices of fresh Ginger
1 tbsp. cilantro picked and chiffonade
1 tbsp. mint picked and chiffonade
6 slices of Serrano peppers
15 g garlic sliced ¾ inch
½ cup Olive oil

Season the fish with salt on all sides, arrange all the slices and the herbs evenly inside the fish. In a Dover plate, pour the oil and the garlic in the bottom then lay the fish on it, baste with the olive oil. Cook in the oven at 375 F for 10 min, basting it often. When almost cooked, finish under the broiler to get a nice brown color while basting. Drain ¾ of the oil, leaving the garlic inside.

To serve:
1 pc of fancy lemon
1 small bunch of cilantro
On a big black plate, fold a white napkin squared, put the hot plate on it. Add the lemon and cilantro and cover with the lid, serve the Yuzu mayonnaise on the side.
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar’s Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup RecipeMyanmar may not be a country that comes to mind when you think “international cuisine destination,” but thanks to the recent democratization of the government and lifting of most sanctions, it’s quickly becoming an Asian hub of excitement and energy. Myanmar’s main city of Yangon, formerly called Rangoon, is a dynamic destination with both the tranquility of an off-the-beaten-path Buddhist sanctuary and the subtle buzz of locals and foreigners seeing the country in a new light.

Two of the entrepreneurs that wanted to capitalize on the growing thirst for international flavors in Myanmar are Ringo and Michelle, a Singaporean couple who started their restaurant Merlion Cuisine in Yangon this year.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe

Having had the passion for the food and beverage industry simmering on the back burner for years, they decided to jump on the opportunity to start the only restaurant serving authentic Singaporean cuisine they knew growing up with international standards. Meticulous care and no expense was spared in doing the kitchen. Owner Ringo called on his friend (owner of Q’Son) in Singapore to supply top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances. Two water filters are used because of Yangon’s history of bad water. Multiple exhaust hoods handle proper ventilation. And, a renowned food safety consultant from Singapore was brought in for a pre-opening intensive two week training in food preparation, handling, storage.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Food Asia Culinary Challenge Gold Award – Chef Darren Lim

Joining them is the Singaporean Chef Darren Lim, who started cooking at 19 years old and worked his way up from cleaning live fish in Malaysia to head Asian chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Singapore. Chef Lim is no stranger to taking risks – moving by himself to Australia with the hopes to find a job in a kitchen in order to learn about Western food is no small feat – so he feels the enterprising environment in Myanmar suits his style. Sitting down with him for the interview, he’ll never tell you he’s a multiple gold medal winner in the Food Asia Culinary Challenge or for which Presidents or Heads of States he’s cooked for; instead, he beams with excitement over which new cookbook he has and which new recipe he wants to try.

Unfortunately, Myanmar doesn’t have the supplies he’s used to, so he hand-picks ingredients from Hong Kong and Singapore to bring into the restaurant for the highest standard food. As we continued the interview, I became more and more impressed with the devotion to the art of cuisine he showed. By putting his soul into his food and refusing to compromise on quality, he represents the idea that “the right way is not always the popular or easy way.” Once Ringo became a regular customer of the Ritz-Carlton and got to know Chef Lim very well, it seemed natural for them to join forces and take the next step into Myanmar.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was 19 years old.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Cold Bean Curd Pudding with Longan

What is your favorite food to cook?
Lobster, since there are many different ways to prepare it in both the Asian and Western styles. My favorite way is with a spicy black pepper sauce.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Fresh herbs are important, rosemary is a staple.

What do you cook at home?
Since I eat at work usually, when I’m at home I like something light and easy to prepare. Usually a double boiled soup that isn’t too heavy.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Steamed tofu with Soya Sauce

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Actually, I like the challenge of a customer that comes in with a judgement already made up in their minds. Maybe they think tofu is bland because they only tofu prepared in a certain way. To me, I want to be able to take that on and change their minds. As a chef, I believe every customer is a VIP.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Deep fried banana with ice cream

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Unfortunately some – and it really is very few – customers are trying to make problems with the food and have a certain closemindedness about it. As a chef, I have no power over this.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Corningware.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I drink whiskey only, just a little bit. Now I’m working on my collection of Jack Daniels.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Deep Fried Tofu with Soya Sauce

Your favorite cookbook author?
Tony Khoo, who wrote “To Be A Chef” and is the head chef for the Mandarin Group as well as a committee member of the Singapore Chef Association. He inspires me because he also has a passion for mixing Western and Asian cuisines. Aesthetically, his attention to detail is meticulous, and his plating on dishes like his (Asian) tapas is perfection.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
American chef knife.

Your favorite ingredient?
Infused oils, like olive oil infused with garlic and onion.

Your least favorite ingredient?
This is difficult for me to say. As a chef, I have to try to have a positive mindset towards all ingredients, because maybe a customer really likes it and I have to work with it.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
sambal kang kong

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Opening oysters. When I was training, my master chef said I opened oysters too slowly to work in the kitchen. As part of my training he gave me 20,000 oysters to open up and I couldn’t leave until I finished. It was intense, after just the first one I wanted to cry and give up because I looked back and saw the mountain of oysters to go, but I kept going and past the half way point I knew I could make it. But I still have that traumatic memory.

Also making omelets reminds me of a similar memory. In my training on how to make the perfect omelet when I was working in a hotel, the rule was: If the omelet isn’t in the exact correct shape, you had to eat it. I went through a lot of omelets. Even now, I can’t lose the extra weight I gained from all those eggs I ate. As you can imagine, I don’t eat omelets or oysters anymore.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Chendol

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Anything that is fusion cuisine. Every month I buy 2 cook books, since every chef has their little secrets and techniques, I like to mix and test different fusion dishes with this knowledge.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?
Pork

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
seasonal fresh fruit, Myanmar

Favorite vegetable?
White asparagus. It tastes a little unique, but it has a short harvest season. It’s fairly common in Singapore, but for a quick dish to whip up I like to use a Western-style preparation: Combine bay leaf, milk, lemon, butter in a pan with the white asparagus and poach it for 4-6 minutes depending on the size, then top with either hollandaise (for Western style) or poached egg yolk (for Asian style).

Chef you most admire?
Chef Edmund Toh. He’s the President of the Singapore Chefs Association and made his own way through the ranks to the top. He never had anything handed to him and he’s a great mentor for us younger Singaporean chefs.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Bean Curd with Seafood Sauce

Food you like the most to eat?
Soups, because they can be difficult to get the balance of flavor correctly. Whenever I go to a restaurant I make sure to try a soup because I want to see if they have a skilled chef there, and I test this by the soup. If they are skilled, then I always try to find my way into the kitchen so I can learn from them. Also, noodle dishes (especially pulled noodles) because it is a traditional technique — like an art form — and seafood because it’s the most fresh-tasting food.

Food you dislike the most?
Even though I can handle them in any other form, raw beets are not my favorite.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos.

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Tofu with salted fish & chicken in clay pot

Childhood memory with food?
My fondest memory with food is also the reason why I got interested in cooking. My grandmother used to make a traditional pork belly with soya sauce dish for my family, but after she passed away no one seemed to be able to replicate it the same way. It really pushed me to try experimenting in the kitchen; it was like a puzzle I had to solve. I tried every technique my parents knew how to do, but nothing seemed to work and everyone gave up hope of tasting the same dish. Then one day I decided to try preparing it in an old-fashioned way, without using any of the popular shortcuts or modern tools, and finally I was able to succeed in recreating it in the exact same taste.

Recipe: Traditional Confinement Soup

i8tonite with Yangon, Myanmar's Merlion Cuisine Chef Darren Lim & Confinement Soup Recipe
Confinement Soup

In many traditional Asian homes, recovering from surgery, illness, or childbirth includes a “confinement” period for about a month, where the recovering person stays inside and away from potential hazards in the environment — germs, pollution, or bad energy. While trying to naturally restore their strength, their mother stays inside with them and makes the food. They will make many gently-boiled soups that extract the most nutrients and vitamins slowly for optimum recovery, and are easy on the sensitive stomach. Below is one of the staple soups made for recovery along with the benefit: most of the ingredients can be found in Asian markets.

Prep time: 35 min
Cooking time: 3-4 hours

Ingredients:

2 chickens (1 kg in size)
enriches the blood
high protein
supplements qi energy

20 gm ginseng
helps recovery from illness, immune system
helps hepatitis C
improves mental & physical wellbeing and stamina

5-8 dried scallops
lowers blood pressure
strengthens stomach & kidneys
low in fat

20 gm wolf berries (also called goji berries)
improves eyesight
strengthens immune system
antioxidants help aging process

3 litres water

10 red dates
improves qi energy
improves circulation
helps mental wellness

5-8 dried longan
improves circulation
detoxifying super fruit

50 gm dang shen (can substitute ginseng http://www.davidbocktcm.com/articles/Dangshen.html)
brightens & evens complexion

50 gm solomon rhizome (also called yu zhu, traditional chinese herb in Asian markets)
relieves dry throat
strengthens stomach

Directions:
Clean the chicken and cut into pieces.
Wash and drain the wolf berries, red dates, longan, dang shen, solomon rhizome.
Place all ingredients into a large pot.

For Hong Kong style, bring the soup to a boil covered for 3 hours.
For Singaporean style, double boil soup for 4 hours.

 
– The End. Go Eat. – 

 

 

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeOn a Wednesday night in Larchmont Village in the heart of Los Angeles, every table at Vernetti was full. The owner and chef Steve Vernetti was in the house, moving between the kitchen and the dining room, talking to everyone as though they were old friends. Indeed, it was obvious that there were many regulars. Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, the kind of place you come to rely on for all the important events of life – birthdays, anniversaries, and first dates. The atmosphere was lively, casual, and comfortable. There’s a modern European bistro aesthetic, thanks to Steve’s wife Joanne, who worked with designer David Thompson on the remodel of the original space. The staff made us feel like rock stars. The food was excellent.

His chef training started early. Vernetti notes, “Growing up, we learned how to butcher our goats, pigs, chicken, and turkeys. My brother and I got up at 5 every day before we went to school and milked the goats. We learned how to grow our food. My mother bought me my first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The first thing I made from that book was chocolate eclairs.”

Before settling in Los Angeles in the 90s, Vernetti traveled throughout Europe, gathering influences from Berlin, Paris, Venice, Amsterdam, and Florence. He then lived in London for seven years, working with Chef Charles Fontaine at Quality Chop House and Le Caprice. It is easy to see the old world influences mixed with the new at Vernetti, where Steve is in the kitchen every day experimenting with inventive takes on classic recipes.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

He’s also a thoughtful owner – “Working in the restaurant industry for as long as I have, I want my staff to be happy. We run a place where my dishwashers are key players in the business, just as much as the front of the house. We need the staff to be happy. If they are happy, my customers will notice it and they will be happy, too.”

We decided to try many dishes and share them round, starting with the gnocchi, a traditional northern Italian dish that is typically a rather dense potato pasta. This gnocchi was light and airy, rich with ricotta cheese and egg yolks, and topped with sage butter.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

We followed the gnocchi with vongole and shrimp scampi, since Vernetti is known for their house-made pastas. You’ll definitely want to try at least one.

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Linguine alla Vongole
i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Shrimp Scampi

Dessert was a trifecta of orange cannoli, strawberry cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. Hey, there were three of us! I didn’t eat all of this on my own. Look, though…

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe
Chocolate Budino

Vernetti has an excellent wine menu, with a selection of Italian wines that covers the boot from north to south. There are also some great California wines on the menu. We decided to order by the glass so we could pair a different wine with each dish, which I think is a lot more fun. If you find something you love, you can always order more! You can also bring your own bottle and pay the corkage fee of $25.00. If wine is not your thing, Vernetti’s has a decent beer selection, though I confess my knowledge of beer is limited. I prefer the juice of the grape.

Vernetti is a neighborhood restaurant, and since I’m not a local there, I felt quite lucky to have found it. It reminded me of an Italian trattoria where the owners are always there and live nearby. The menu is fresh, and dishes are served until they run out of the ingredients to make that particular dish. I recommend this restaurant to everyone!

Steve Vernetti’s philosophy is to “feed the community as I do my family, providing a special place to celebrate all the amazing things that happen when sharing a delicious meal.” Cin Cin, Steve Vernetti.

 

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking? 41 years

What is your favorite food to cook? Thanksgiving dinner

What do you always have in your fridge at home? strawberry jam

What do you cook at home? everything

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? hunger

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? unadventurous

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail? wine

Your favorite cookbook author? Julia Child

Your favorite kitchen tool? my tongue

Your favorite ingredient? salt

Your least favorite ingredient? kale

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes RecipeLeast favorite thing to do in a kitchen? dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? French, Italian, & British

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? beef

Favorite vegetable? potato

Chef you most admire? Eric Rippert

Food you like the most to eat? sweetbreads prepared by my mother

Food you dislike the most? anything that has the word molecular in it

How many tattoos? one

And if so, how many are of food? None

Recipe: Vernetti’s Semolina Pancakes

i8tonite with Larchmont Village’s Vernetti Chef Steve Vernetti & his Semolina Pancakes Recipe

Ingredients
2cups Semolina
2cups all purpose flour
4tsp baking powder
2tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients in a bowl and add:
4eggs
3-4 cups buttermilk (plain whole milk will work)
1/2cup vegetable oil

Directions
Mix but leave lumps. Use well oiled cast iron pan or griddle on medium high heat and brush browned tops with melted butter – enjoy!

 

 

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for BorschtA cursory internet search on Lithuanian chefs yields one or two male names located in Europe. Narrowing the searching to California leads us to San Francisco’s East Bay and the Los Angeles’ Annual Lithuanian Festival, which recently celebrated its annual event in the city’s Silver Lake neighborhood.  Digging a little deeper brings us to Doma (which means “home” in Lithuanian) Kitchen in Los Angeles County’s coastal community of Manhattan Beach. It’s a delicious neighborhood bistro with a heavy focus on Eastern European foods using seasonal California ingredients. In other words, going to Doma Kitchen is an enlightening travel experience without having to leave the county.

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Owned by three people, Chef Kristina Miksyte and entrepreneurial couple Angelika Corrente and Stanislav Mayzalis, Doma Kitchen brings together a taste of Lithuania to the Southern California food scene. The latter was already a working chef in her homeland before winning the green card lottery and becoming an American citizen.

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Having attended a culinary school in her hometown of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, like so many immigrants, Miksyte’s dream was to live and cook in the United States. She says, “I love my country but it didn’t give me the opportunities to work. In Los Angeles, I have a restaurant, I am married, and I cook what I want.”

Lithuanian food is characterized by the cooking of potatoes, beets, pork, barley, berries, and mushrooms. The use of indigenous herbs such as dill, caraway, and juniper mimic their Eastern European neighbors (Uzbekistan, southern Russia, Latvia, Poland, and Belarus). And Doma Kitchen’s menu reflects this rich, fragrant cuisine with plov (braised rice or rice pilaf), kasha (braised barley or buckwheat-like risotto), and vareniki (similar to pierogies).

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

However the food isn’t all relegated to the “stans” of the world; Chef Miksyte makes liberal use of other Mediterranean ingredients, such as burrata, basil, tomato, and walnuts to showcase her global tastes. “I wanted to come to the States to become a better cook and learn more of what the world offers,” says Doma Kitchen’s stove director.

Los Angeles is all the better for it.

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I’ve been cooking for almost twenty years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love to bake and also enjoy cooking good meat

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for BorschtWhat do you always have in your fridge at home?
Fresh veggies and fruits, fresh meat or fish, few cheeses and salami. Almost nothing in the freezer. Basically I’m stocked with produce for all meals, something for breakfast, snacks and for a nice dinner.

What do you cook at home?
I’m constantly experimenting and messing around with new recipes. Often go back to authentic recipes either from Russia, Lithuania, or Persian. Weekends are BBQ.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I love to make my customers happy through eating my food. When I see the excitement after first look at the food followed up with “Wow,” “OMG,” “This looks so good and tastes even better.” The love is mutual between us – I love to cook and they like to eat.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
I hate when the customer changes the ingredients in my dishes. It’s basically changing the whole dish completely, and creating a new dish.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Your favorite cookbook author?
My Grandma

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Knives

Your favorite ingredient?
Fresh herbs and dill, of course!

Your least favorite ingredient?
Don’t have one

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Wipe down and polishing the dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Central Asian, Middle eastern, and whatever that’s on my mind

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for BorschtFavorite vegetable?
Fresh cucumbers from my mother’s garden

Chef you most admire?
Egidijus Lapinskas in Lithuania

Food you like the most to eat?
Good piece of meat, sushi, or fish

Food you dislike the most?
Overly spicy food that you can’t taste anything else.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I have two tattoos. No food tattoos to date.

Recipe: Doma Kitchen’s Borscht

i8tonite with Manhattan Beach’s Doma Kitchen Chef Kristina Miksyte & Recipe for Borscht

Doma Kitchen Borscht recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Lamb, stew meat, or whatever kind of beef you like, bone-in or boneless
  • 1 Tbsp salt + more to taste
  • 2 large or 3 medium beets, washed, peeled and grated
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 2 large or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ head of small cabbage, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and diced (**see note)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley and dill
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • Garnish: Sour cream and fresh sprigs of parsley or dill.

Instructions

  1. Wash meat in cold water, cut into 1″ pieces and place in a large soup pot with 14 cups cold water and 1 Tbsp salt. Bring it to a boil and remove the foam crud as soon as it boils (if you wait, it will be hard to get rid of the crud as it integrates into the broth and you’d have to strain it later). Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer 45 minutes – 1 hr, periodically skimming off any crud that rises to the top.
  2. Grate beets on the large grater holes (a food processor works amazingly well). Place them in a large heavy-bottom skillet with 4 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp vinegar and sauté for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to med/low and add 1 Tbsp sugar. Mix thoroughly and sauté until starting to soften, stirring occasionally (about 10 min). Remove from pan and set aside. In the same skillet (no need to wash it), Sauté onion in 1 Tbsp butter for 2 min. Add grated carrot and sauté another 5 min or until softened, adding more oil if it seems too dry.
  3. Once the meat has been cooking at least 45 min, place sliced potatoes into the soup pot and cook 10 min, then add cabbage, sautéed beets, onion & carrot, and chopped tomatoes. Cook another 10 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.
  4. Add 2 bay leaves, ¼ tsp pepper, and more salt to taste (I added another ½ tsp salt).
  5. Chop parsley and pressed garlic then stir them into the soup pot, immediately cover and remove from heat. Let the pot rest covered for 20 minutes for the flavors to meld.

The End. Go Eat. 

i8tonite with Napa’s Chef Sean O’Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za’atar Roasted Chicken

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted ChickenSean O’Toole, the chef/owner of critically acclaimed TORC in downtown Napa, developed a passion for locally farmed produce early on in his cooking career. Originally from Massachusetts, O’Toole has a broad understanding of global cuisines and techniques as well as a deep appreciation of locally sourced, artisanal foods.

Over the course of his cooking career, O’Toole cooked at San Francisco’s Ritz Carlton hotel, Restaurant Maximin in France, and Tabla Restaurant and Café Boulud in New York City. He cooked as Sous Chef at San Francisco’s Fifth Floor restaurant and Masa’s, Chef de Cuisine at Alain Ducasse’s Mix in Las Vegas, the Culinary Director of San Francisco’s Mina Group, Executive Chef at Bardessono in Yountville, and Chef/Director of Kitchen Operations at San Francisco’s Quince and Cotogna.

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted Chicken

O’Toole is culinary focused on cooking with the region’s bountiful selection of fresh products, forging longstanding relationships with the people that produce, forage, and glean them. His combination of experience, passion, and culinary skill define O’Toole’s ingredient-driven cuisine at TORC — a very personal endeavor that reflects his family heritage, and the culinary influences and mentors that have shaped his career.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook?
Any

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Straus greek yogurt

What do you cook at home?
Mostly meats and grilled vegetables

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted ChickenWhat marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
People who know what they want

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Indecisiveness

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
In that order: beer, wine, cocktails

Your favorite cookbook author?
Currently David Thompson

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Microplane

Your favorite ingredient?
Any mushroom wild and foraged

Your least favorite ingredient?
Ripe papaya

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Direct unmotivated people

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted Chicken

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French infused American

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Artichoke

Chef you most admire?
Currently Chef Jean-Francois Piège

Food you like the most to eat?
Chicken wings

Food you dislike the most?
Ripe papaya

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
One!

Recipe: Sumac and za’atar roasted chicken with roasted vegetables

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted Chicken

Recipe serves 4 people

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon ground sumac
2 teaspoons za’atar (Eastern Mediterranean spice blend containing thyme, cumin, sumac, and sesame seeds)
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, wings and wishbone removed

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Soften 2 tablespoons of the butter to room temperature and combine with the parsley, sumac, za’atar, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Fill a small disposable piping bag (or plastic bag with a corner snipped off) with the mixture and reserve.
Place the piping bag under the skin at the top of the breast and squeeze the butter mixture under the skin. Using your hands, spread it out to cover the whole breast. With butchers twine, make a loop below the knee joints on the drumsticks. Pull the neck skin underneath the bird and tuck the drumettes. Using the twine looped around the legs, tie a knot.
Coat the outside of the chicken with the remaining tablespoon of soft butter, and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a hot cast iron pan. Cook the chicken in the oven for 50 minutes, basting with the renderings every 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to rest and reserve the pan and the renderings to roast the vegetables.
Roasted vegetables:
1 piece fennel bulb, cut into quarters and cored
6 white pearl onions, peeled
6 small potatoes, cut lengthwise into quarters
Finely grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
10 Taggiasca olives, pitted
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Increase the oven temperature to 425° F. Toss the potatoes and fennel in the pan that was used to roast the chicken, so that they are coated with chicken renderings. (You may also choose to roast the vegetables in a clean pan, tossed in the renderings and additional butter or olive oil, if needed.) Roast for 15 minutes, then add the pearl onions and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Drain the excess renderings from the pan if necessary, then toss with the zest, olives and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, quarter the chicken and cut the legs in half, at the joint between the drumstick and thigh. Serve the chicken and vegetables together on individual plates, or pass family-style.

 

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite with Elia Miami’s Chef Dimitri Harvalis & Recipe for Papoutsakia

i8tonite with Elia Miami's Chef Dimitri Harvalis & Recipe for PapoutsakiaBorn in Athens, Greece, Chef Dmitri Harvalis followed his mother to New York City at the age of seventeen. He never went back. Although not fond of the Big Apple, he had already started a love affair with Miami. It was the warm air and white sand of the North American peninsula that captured his young expatriate heart.

Starting in Hollywood, Florida, Harvalis began working his way up in Taverna Opa, a group of Greek restaurants starting as a server. Over the next several years, he worked his way up the restaurant ladder. From waitperson to bar, assistant manager to manager, learning the ways of running a successful eating establishment.

“In 1997, I left to join the nightclub industry,” says Harvalis. “I worked as the General Manager for Nikki Beach Group, then one of the most popular entertainment and dining companies in South Beach.” Nikki Beach transcended the beach club concept by combining Southern European elements of music, dining, entertainment, fashion, film, and art into one. Essentially, Ibiza came to Miami. This lead to Harvalis becoming an entrepreneur. Over the next three years, he was a co-owner of RokBar, one of the area’s leading nightclubs. At the height of its status, the velvet rope swung open for movie stars (Josh Hartnett, Mickey Rourke) and music acts (Courtney Love, Tommy Lee).

Around 2012, Harvalis was having life-changing moments. Marriage. A daughter. The nightlife scene wasn’t fitting into his growing-up. “I took the decision to change my life,” he says. “I had never owned a restaurant and always wanted to have one.” So, he looked back to his Mediterranean roots and opened Elia (meaning “olive” in Greek) Miami.

i8tonite with Elia Miami's Chef Dimitri Harvalis & Recipe for Papoutsakia

Using his grandmother’s (Yiayia) recipes, Elia Miami serves fresh locally sourced ingredients with a Grecian flair. Baklava and Galaktoboureko (a native Greek custard pie) are served up for morning and afternoon repasts, but the main courses are where diners experience the flavors of Harvalis’ childhood with a mezze platter, housemade hummus, and freshly baked pita. The healthful yet delicious Mediterranean diet is at work with smatterings of tomato, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, and olives.

i8tonite with Elia Miami's Chef Dimitri Harvalis & Recipe for Papoutsakia
Tricolor quinoa and fresh avocado stack with sort steak and fresh pesto dressing

Harvalis’ says, “I’m not just the chef of the restaurant. I have a great reverence for my Grandma’s recipes and Greek flavors. That’s what I like, and that’s what I want to serve.”

i8tonite with Elia Miami's Chef Dimitri Harvalis & Recipe for Papoutsakia
Oven baked filet of salmon served with Mediterranean couscous and crème fraiche

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?   Professionally 4 years / amateur all my life

What is your favorite food to cook?  Greek, of course

What do you always have in your fridge at home?  Feta & Kalamata olives

What do you cook at home? Lots of pasta dishes (my kids love pasta)

i8tonite with Elia Miami's Chef Dimitri Harvalis & Recipe for PapoutsakiaWhat marked characteristic do you love in a customer? When they allow me to get creative  with their meal, no questions asked

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?  When they change a  recipe of mine

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?  It all depends on the mood, but wine always gets me creative

Your favorite cookbook author? My grandmother (she never wrote a book, but she is the reason everything started)

i8tonite with Elia Miami's Chef Dimitri Harvalis & Recipe for Papoutsakia
Zucchini fritters

Your favorite kitchen tool?  My knives

Your favorite ingredient? Olive oil… 4, actually – salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil

Your least favorite ingredient? Don’t have one

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?  Clean onions

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?  Mediterranean / Asian

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?  Beef, by far

Favorite vegetable?  Tomato

Chef you most admire?  Anthony Bourdain

Food you like the most to eat? Anything with meat

Food you dislike the most?   Okra

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?  7, working on 8 & 9  (9 will be a  combination of my favorite kitchen tool and heritage)

i8tonite with Elia Miami's Chef Dimitri Harvalis & Recipe for Papoutsakia
Bacon wrapped dates

 

Recipe: Papoutsakia

The meal is called PAPOUTSAKIA ( it means a little shoes in greek )
2 large eggplants
2 pounds ground beef or turkey
1 small white onion
1 tomato
salt / pepper/ oregano/ olive oil
a small amount of fresh parsley
1 lb dry shredded mozzarella
6 potatoes

Cut the large eggplants in half long ways.
Use a small spoon (or tool) to empty the eggplant heart without damaging the skin (do not open a hole).
Once finished, use a small amount of olive oil to coat the inside of the eggplant and place in the oven for 10 min (350 F).
In the meantime, take the eggplant that was removed, the onion, tomato, and parsley, and fine chop all of them.
Take a skillet and drizzle a small amount of olive oil and place it on the stove on high. After one minute, carefully add all the chopped ingredients, adding a pinch of salt, pepper, and oregano.
After about five minutes, add the ground meat of your choice and stir all of them until the meat is cooked ( usually no more than 5 – 6t minutes do not overcook it ).
Once, ready use a spoon and add the mix to the eggplant until its filled.
Top it off with the mozzarella cheese, and place in the oven on bake until the cheese turns to golden brown.
Take the potatoes and cut them in quarters long ways ( skin on or off, your choice). Place in a pan with a bit of olive oil, salt , oregano, and pepper; toss them around until seasoned, and place in the oven for 20 minutes. It can also be served with yellow saffron rice.
Oonce everything cooked, serve it with a nice glass of Cabernet and GO EAT !!!!!

 

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Pinot Noir Sauce

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet SauceA little more than two years ago, Chef Jennifer Russo opened The Market Restaurant + Bar in Phoenix’s burgeoning Arcadia neighborhood. The restaurant with a neighborhood vibe is reflective of Russo’s use of Arizona-grown produce, dairy, and meats in both her catering and brick and mortar. More importantly, Russo’s growth as a decade-long successful caterer to a full-fledged restauranteur is an indicator of the quality of chefs and restaurants being developed out of the forty-eighth state. The Valley of the Sun, known for safe, corporate restaurants, is literally hungry for independent chefs.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

Born in New Jersey but raised in Arizona, Russo has long been cooking. She started learning some of the family secrets with her father’s grandmother, who emigrated from Italy. As a teen, Russo’s passion for cookery led to a variety of food schools in her Scottsdale-area home but eventually – at the age of twenty-one – became a San Francisco transplant at one of the city’s noted gastronomic institutions. Russo says, “I waited to go to school so I could learn the cocktail classes. I wanted to be of legal age.”
After graduating, realizing the expense of living in the City by the Bay, she returned to The Grand Canyon state and worked with two venerated Sonoran desert chefs continuing her epicurean education. It began with Vincent Guerithault of Vincent’s on Camelback, which led her to a sous chef position with Mark Tarbell at Tarbell’s.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet SauceAfter working the line for years, Russo’s knees needed medical recuperation which led to the founding of her catering company. As her enterprise grew, so did the demand for her wares; clients would constantly ask when she was opening a restaurant.

Now, with a young son and several decades of operating her businesses, Russo has become as renowned as the gentlemen she worked with in Phoenix.

Below, Russo shares recipes for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce, Braised Baby Peas with Pearl Onions and Herbs, and Hot, Buttered Cauliflower Puree

Chef Questionnaire with a nod to Proust:

How long have you been cooking?
For as long as I can remember. But as soon as I could get a job, I started prep cooking @ Lewis Steven’s Catering Company at the age of 16.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love working with proteins and seasonal veg.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Beverages…Let me be honest, wine and water.

 

What do you cook at home?
I don’t get a chance to cook at home since opening The MARKET restaurant+bar. It seems silly to dirty my kitchen at home, especially when I can do that at work. But if I am cooking at home we go pretty big. As long as someone brings the dessert. You don’t want me making dessert.

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
The excitement they have for the food, wine, and cocktail menus. It makes it all worth it when they love it!

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
When they share their negative thoughts on social media. I’m here a lot. Just tell me to my face and I will do everything in my power to fix it.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
I seem to have a lot of items in delis.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
I love cookbooks from restaurants, so anything Thomas Keller is high on the list. I like how visual they are. But if I had to choose one go to, it would be Julia Child’s Mastering the art of French cooking.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Knives

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet SauceYour favorite ingredient?
That’s not possible. Flaky salt.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Peanuts * I’m allergic!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Peeling things

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mediterranean. So everything…

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Mushrooms, if I had to choose one

Chef you most admire?
Julia Child past, Thomas Keller present

Recipe: Rack of Lamb with Pinot Noir Sauce

i8tonite with Phoenix Chef Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar & Recipe for Rack of Lamb with Cabernet Sauce

INGREDIENTS
Three 8-bone racks of lamb (1 1/2 pounds each), trimmed of all fat, bones frenched
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Zest of one lemon
1 cup Pinot Noir
1 garlic clove
1 thyme sprig
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 425°. Season the lamb racks all over with coarse salt, pepper, minced garlic, & lemon zest. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet; both skillets should be ovenproof. Add 2 of the lamb racks to the large skillet and 1 rack to the medium skillet, meaty side down. Cook the racks over moderately high heat until well browned, about 4 minutes. Turn the racks and brown the other side, about 3 minutes longer.

Transfer the skillets to the oven and roast the lamb for 15 to 20 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 120°or rare and 125° for medium rare. Transfer the racks to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, set the medium skillet over high heat. Add 1/2 cup of the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Pour the wine into the large skillet and add the garlic and thyme. Set the large skillet over high heat, add the remaining 1/2 cup of wine and boil until reduced by one-third, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 8 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and discard the garlic and thyme sprig. Whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. Season with salt and pepper and strain the sauce into a warmed gravy boat.

To serve, cut the lamb into chops and arrange 3 chops on each dinner plate. Pass the Pinot Noir sauce at the table along with a little coarse salt for sprinkling on the lamb.

Recipe: Hot, Buttered Cauliflower Puree

INGREDIENTS
Two 2-pound heads of cauliflower, cored and separated into 2-inch florets
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup mashed potato
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
Salt
Pepper
Chives, chopped

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cauliflower florets until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain well. Spread the cauliflower on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes, to dry it out.

In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream with the butter and bring to a simmer over moderate heat just until the butter is melted.

Working in batches, puree the cauliflower and mashed potatoes in a blender with the warm cream mixture; transfer the puree to a medium bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and chives.

Recipe: Braised Baby Peas with Pearl Onions and Herbs

INGREDIENTS
12 pearl onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound baby peas, blanched
3 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon snipped chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

METHOD
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the pearl onions and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Peel the onions, leaving the root end intact.

In a medium, deep skillet, melt the butter. Add the pearl onions and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the peas and simmer over moderate heat until the peas are tender and bright green, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the mint and chives, season with salt and pepper and serve. When plate is complete,  garnish with roasted cauliflower florets and fresh mint.

 

The End. Go Eat. 

Photos: Joanie Simon