The School

You are currently browsing the archive for the The School category.

I am proud to say that Josh Skenes is a graduate of The French Culinary Institute/ICC. There is no finer moment for a school than when a student becomes a master. The culinary world has discovered Josh these past few years for his unique San Francisco restaurant Saison, which has garnered 3 Michelin stars and number 27 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Other giants in the field recognize his unique talents. Eric Ripert shared with me in a recent interview on Chef’s Story radio that Josh is the most interesting and talented chef of the new generation. He was intrigued with Saison’s sophistication with wooded fire. Tyler Florence told me last month it was the best meal he had all year.

What separates Skenes from the pack of highly talented chefs? His micro- focus, discipline and constant quest to learn more. When I asked him what was important in his cooking he quickly said ‘really knowing the product’. But for Josh knowing the product is extreme skiing. He gave me for an example a shallot, if you use a shallot:

  • What time of year was the shallot harvested?
  • How fresh is it?
  • How was it stored?
  • What type of cut would you use on the shallot?
  • How quickly would you use the shallot after cutting since the oxidation of the shallot will affect the taste?

I was overwhelmed with that answer. I never even thought about anyone giving the humble shallot that much respect. I then delved into a conversation about technique. I asked Josh what was the hardest technique intensive dish he has created. Without hesitation he said ‘Seven Fishes’ (an ultimate ceviche)’! The process-understanding the season to know which fish to choose, who caught the fish and how, how the fish traveled, how quickly it made it to the restaurant, how the fish was stored at the restaurant. The temperature of the fish as you cut it and placed in on the plate with the other fish of perfect temperature. The precise way to cut each fish with the exact knife. How to angle the pieces of the fish on the plate, how quickly the plate was delivered to the table and so on.

Saison doesn’t do the dish anymore. Because he was the only one who could perfectly execute it. The restaurant is only open for dinner. It serves 36 diners but this one dish was too labor intensive from the moment of the intention of fishing for it in the sea to presenting it to one special diner.

Thanks Josh for the insight to a Master’s mind!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Firstly, let me apologize for such a lull in blog posts. As President of the Friends of USA Pavilion at EXPO Milano 2015, I have had my hands full. The Pavilion is so exciting that I just have share the developments. For those of you who might not be familiar with EXPO Milano 2015, there will be a World’s Fair (EXPO) in Milan from May 2015 through October 31 2015. Six months of wonder.

USA Pavilion rendering James Biber Architects

The theme is “Feeding the Planet; Energy for Life.” Over 140 countries will participate. We have all been challenged with the daunting task of how we will responsibly feed the planet when our population explodes to 9 billion people. If we continue to produce, consume and waste food at our present rate, we will not only not have enough food but won’t have enough energy to produce the food. Climate change and dwindling natural resources like fresh water also will add to the dilemma. Each participating country will take a stab at demonstrating how to meet and solve these challenges.

The USA Pavilion theme, American Food 2.0 will highlight some of our greatest thinkers on the subject. ICC’s grad Dan Barber will speak to his Third Plate, and Dean Cesare Casella will be cooking at the JBF House Milano. Architect Jim Biber of Biber Architects has designed  a beautiful and transformative building: it is a true vertical farm. Thinc, the exhibits firm that designed and programmed the 9/11 Museum, will be designing our exhibits.

Harvesting the vertical farm, rendering James Biber Architects

The USA Pavilion will be three floors. The roof will serve as a bar/garden and communal meeting place. The middle floor is a boardwalk, boardwalks have historically been an avenues of food and community, and fun too! We were able to purchase the actual Coney Island boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy. That floor will have exciting stations speaking to the pressing issues, highlighting various points of view on how to solve them and introduce American personalities and institutions that will play key roles in solving the problems. The ground floor will be a visual delight of the great American foodscape from barbecue to immigrant food to Thanksgiving dinner.

Whew! If you are at all interested in food and the future, you must plan on visiting. This World’s Fair will be a benchmark in the history of EXPOs and will rival the best. We at ICC are proud and honored to be a part of it. Please visit USA Pavilion:American Food 2.0 website for information, social media and updates.

Roof Deck rendering James Biber Architects

A warm human touch will be the 120 student ambassadors who will serve as guides and docents. They will be bi-lingual and speak a polyglot of languages. These students are being recruited from colleges all over the country and trained by the University of Southern California.

We will also have a space across from our Pavilion that will contain food trucks. We will be showcasing American food in its diversity and deliciousness. Everything from lobster rolls to fried clams. Hamburgers to tacos. We want to bring the great bounty of American regionalism to our Pavilion and introduce the 25-30 million EXPO visitors to the real deliciousness of American cuisine.

Outside the walls of the Pavilion and the EXPO itself, we will infuse a bit of the States in the city of Milan itself. The Mayor of Milan, Guiliano Pisapia  graciously visited the ICC and is excited to welcome us to his city to showcase our top chefs and to liven the piazzas around the city with American outdoor eating events. Tailgating anyone? Also in the city we will hold TED-like talks (Beard Chats) and panel discussions to hear from a myriad of experts on the various ways we can overcome the big issues. Last but not least, we will run a James Beard House in central Milan and showcase the best and brightest chefs from the USA.

Scenes from December Milan and site visit, with Amb Reeker and, at the site with Mitchell Davis

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

At the ICC we have a lot of talented people….and many are our students. Want to have fun for the next few minutes and feel like a 2 minute trip to the Caribbean? Check out this video of our Professional Pastry Arts students creating an aquatic-themed sugar showpiece. You’ll feel transported!

Happy Summer!

Tags: , , , ,

Cultural Asset, Nyeon-im Kim, Dorothy

So why can’t the U.S. Government have designations like “Intangible Cultural Asset?” I actually met one on my recent trip to Korea. As most foodies have read and some have been lucky enough to taste, Korean cuisine is different, delicious and comforting. One of their most iconic dishes, is bibimbap.

Bibimbap

Jeonju Univesity students

On my recent trip I was invited to speak at Jeonju University which is about 3 hours south of Seoul. Jeonju is the culinary heart of Korea (similar to Lyon in France). The university has a much respected hospitality program and the town is a food mecca. Right before I gave my lecture and met the wonderful and welcoming students, we needed to tuck into lunch. That is when I met the Intangible Cultural Asset and Master of Traditional Korean food, Ms. Nyeon-im Kim. So unassuming and so dynamic, she’s in her seventies and still gets up every morning to oversee her restaurant, Gajok Hwegwan. The restaurant is touted outside with a large sign saying that this where you will find “the intangible cultural asset.” Then you enter a corner stairwell walking up two flights above a CVS type store. There on the second floor landing is an entrance lobby stacked with an array of fermenting bottles. You turn a corner and you think half of Korea is having lunch. The packed restaurant is within arms distance of a room length kitchen.  She oversees about half a dozen cooks lining up the feasts. Waitresses are buzzing back and forth.

Old Fashioned Fermentation

We were greeted in a private room by two professors from Jeonju. J.C. is one of ICC’s culinary graduates. They were so excited to have me taste Ms. Kim’s exceptional cooking. Not only did we eat the outstanding bibimbap but I had an incredible soufflé, that was more eggy than the traditional French version and had a slight fishy, acidic bite. Believe me, it was good.

The souffle

Roasted Rice Soup

When Koreans eat, they put all the plates on the table at once. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but I got to really like it. You just feel like you pulled up a chair to a buffet table and could then concentrate on your conversation with people at your table.My favorite sound in a Korean restaurant? All the laughter. No waiters interrupt the punch lines! I’d also like to share two final photos of meals with friends, one with our wonderful host for the visit, Rose Hyejung Han, the CEO of DreamVille Entertainment, and her colleague Ethan Woo, who was our indispensable liaison.

Front: Rose Hyejung Han, Dorothy Back: Jin-A Cha, Associate Professor, Department of Traditional Food Culture, Jeonju University, Jung Soon Kim, ICC Alumna and Associate Professor of Wester Cuisine, Jeonju University

Our liaison Sung Bong "Ethan"-Woo of DreamVille Entertainment and The ICC's Assistant Dean of Student Affairs/International Student Adviser Leland Scruby

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My heart is so heavy today, losing Marcella is like losing a beloved aunt, she taught me so much. She taught so many others too, through her books and classes. She was a beloved member of our ICC faculty, for over ten years, and we all mourn her passing deeply, she will always have a special place in our ICC family.  Our sympathies to her family- husband Victor, always by her side, a fixture during her classes, their son Giuliano, their daughter -in- law Lael and the grandchildren.

What she did best: teach

Prepping for class, on the left, one of her favorites Chef Susan Lifrieri-Lowry

I have two stories to share and both illustrate the kind of person she really was. Marcella gave me a recipe one Saturday over the phone, her version of fast food. I was in a rush to cook a light dinner, I’d just sent her some Swiss chard from my garden. She told me to get some chard, put some olive oil in a pan, saute a little garlic to a fragrant, golden hue and then add the softened chard (boiled for a few minutes in salt water) and salt and pepper. Here’s the brilliance: she also told me to open a can of Goya garbanzo beans, drain and add to the pan. Let warm and even crisp a little with the chard. It was delicious!

Marcella's lunch at L'Ecole, all of us in Marcella masks!

Many years ago: Dorothy, Victor Hazan, Marcella, Jacques Pepin

She also wrote me a poignant note when my mother passed away. She shared that her own mother had died at a very, very old age but still Marcella was stunned and bereft. She said, “Dorothy, even though I was in my seventies, I felt like an orphan.”

I think we are all culinary orphans today. Thank you so much for everything Marcella.

Tags: , ,

Chef Joshua Skenes and a walk-in at Saison

Lucky me! I just spent the most amazing afternoon with Joshua Skenes (FCI culinary grad 2001) at the new home of Saison restaurant. It was amazing. The space itself looks like a Tribeca loft, beautifully clean, sparse and industrial but the soul is definitely Zen. Twenty six cooks and staff worked silently with incredible focus. The delicacy of the work was impressive. Each aspect of each garnish was getting VIP care.

When Saison took San Francisco by storm it had a lot to do with Josh’s mastery of a wood burning fire. The old Saison had one outdoor oven that rarely saw a pizza. Instead, a parade of smoke kissed vegetables, fowl and meats played center stage on the menu. It was Saison’s signature. I expected the hearth would still be the focal point of this restaurant. I could hardly find it. There is a major display of wood at the entrance but the fire itself is contained in the corner of the kitchen. Not to worry.

The Saison entrance

The fire in the Saison kitchen

Josh does things his way. He designs his space not from some text-perfect kitchen schematic but from his cooking voice. He draws inspiration from many places, but at the end of the day, follows his own iconoclastic instincts. Hence, in this elegant dining room he placed his five walk-in refrigerators! I salivated as they opened and closed with beautiful products inside. The dining tables weren’t herded in a separate “dining room” but actually flow into the kitchen, so the ballet of the kitchen staff is in your face. In a sense, as you dine, you’re part of the dance.

The Saison dining room and the walk-ins

Josh in the Saison kitchen

Josh may love fire but he is relentless with sourcing perfect product. He not only wants to find an extraordinary purveyor but is meticulous in using the product at the perfect point for delicious consumption. As he said to me, you could precut radishes to be ready for the on rush of service but it just doesn’t taste the same. They couldn’t do that.

Squab

Like a curator, Josh ages his own meats and fowls. He took me to see the squab closet. He hangs his squabs for weeks until their oils break and tenderize the breasts. He uses big old hens in their entirety just to make consommé. He wraps saddles of lamb in kidney fat, so the air does not spoil the meat. To have the chance to spend an afternoon and feel the passion of this man for his restaurant was a rare treat. If you can snag a reservation, it’s a special treat too.  Try, it’s definitely worth it!

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

« Older entries