Category Archives: chefs

Montclair Food & Wine Festival: The Grand Tasting

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This past Saturday I was lucky enough to attend the grand tasting for this year’s Montclair Food & Wine Festival. Now in its second year, the grand tasting took place at the Montclair Art Museum. After walking past a small fleet of white Maserati and Lexus sports cars, guests could take photos on the red carpet before checking in and diving into the seemingly endless food and drink offerings on two floors of the museum. After checking in, I made a beeline for the Fin Raw Bar table, stacked with freshly shucked oysters and clams. At adjacent tables, Fricassee offered up silky pate on toast points, and the Ryland Inn served tiny cups of refreshing watermelon gazpacho.

Downstairs in the main atrium, revelers were greeted with fresh and punchy cocktails by Leaf Organic Vodka, before winding around the dizzying array of tables. Orange + Olive Caterers & Chef’s Table brought a new menu item for the event; a summery and light hamachi ceviche with yuzu, Brick Lane Curry House offered samosa sliders with a selection of sauces, and Tia’s Food of Love put down a spread of gorgeous bites that drew especially thick crowds around their table.

Samba dished up shrimp in a comforting and creamy butternut squash sauce, and Escape served a particularly bracing and vibrant cold asparagus soup with crab and pea shoots. Le Salbuen offered petite salmon cakes with sweet potato and micro greens that looked as beautiful as they were delicious. For a sweet finish, Little Daisy put out an impressive spread of mini confections, and Asalt & Buttery Bake Shop served up a rainbow of gorgeous macaroons that were eaten almost as quickly as they were put out. For cocktails, Upstairs’ Grown Up Lemonade stole the show, steeped with rhubarb for a pleasantly tart finish.

The silent auction, stacked with items donated by Anthropologie, Lululemon, Jersey Artisan Distillery, Samba, Thread, Watchung Booksellers, and many others, benefitted the Center for Feeding and Swallowing at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. All in all, a gorgeous event, made even lovelier when the retracting roof over the atrium was drawn back, illuminating the guests and table offerings. It’s only fitting that the culinary capital of New Jersey has an event as vibrant and celebratory as the Montclair Food & Wine Festival.

For the full post and more photos, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Asana House Juice Bar and Cafe

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Originally opened in 2008 as a yoga studio with a small juice bar in the back, Asana House Juice Bar and Cafe was juicing long before it became mainstream and cool. Debbie, still the founder and owner, says when she opened Asana House, they were one of the only juice bars around. Now, with the yoga studio next-door and the juice bar expanded to include a full menu, Asana House still leads the pack. Their menu is stacked with healthy, made to order, affordable juices and smoothies, and flavorful lunch and brunch options to satisfy both vegans and non-vegans in town.

Greg, who took over as the manager of Asana House in November, expanded the menu to include an all day brunch, seven days a week. From french toast with bananas and cinnamon, to the super popular breakfast burritos (hot sauce and avocado optional), Asana’s has all your brunch cravings covered. Their lunch specials include fresh and bright salads, wraps, and quesadillas, stacked with healthy favorites like avocado, sprouts, and house made hummus. You can even take a container of the hummus home; its deliciously garlicky and creamy, and unlike anything you can find in the supermarket. They also offer two seasonal soups of the day: one hot and one raw, made from a mix of greens, avocado, and their special spice mix. Most menu items have a yoga pose name; a nod to the studio next door.

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Even with this flavorful and curated menu, the fresh pressed juices and smoothies remain Asana House’s biggest draw. They offer ten made to order juice options, all tempting and vividly fresh. The most popular, The All Green, with kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon, apple, and ginger, would be palatable even to the most green-juice adverse skeptic. The All Green and The Soho Beauty, a blend of pineapple, cucumber, celery, lemon, lime, and mint, rank at the top of my list, with the Liver Cleanse, a mix of grapefruit, grapes, lemon, orange, and beet, a close third. Considering Whole Foods charges upwards of $9 for some of their shelf stable juices, paying $6.54 per juice (they’re a good size) at Asana House for a fresh pressed juice makes so much more sense.

For those looking for a serious health boost, Asana House can make you a fresh shot of wheatgrass, or a shot of E3Live Algea with lime and ginger. You’ll have so much energy you might even consider skipping your morning coffee, though you can grab a fresh cup at Asana House if you’re so inclined. If you’re in the market for a cleanse, Asana House will outfit you with a thoughtful and sustaining 1-5 day program with juices, smoothies, and a filling soup.

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With a small staff who seems to know nearly every customer by name, Asana House instantly makes you feel like a welcomed regular. Lots of juice bars give off a pretentious, holier than thou vibe; you won’t find a stitch of that attitude at Asana House. They offer a friendly, unpretentious mix of health food and delicious food, though here you’ll find that they’re one and the same. A place that serves wheatgrass shots alongside quesadillas made with real cheese (if you’re so inclined) is a rare find indeed.

As the weather warms up, Asana House plans to expand their offerings. Their large lot in the back (where you can park for free) will soon be home to live music and outdoor seating, and possibly a smoker. Greg hopes to bring his love of BBQ to Asana House, serving up smokey, delicious dishes through the summer. Equally as exciting is the noodle bar set to open during dinner time hours. Asana House plans to close as usual at 5, then reopen at 6 with made to order ramen noodle bowls. Greg found a local purveyor to supply fresh homemade ramen noodles, which make those sad, dried out packs of ramen look like a different breed altogether.

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I was lucky enough to get a preview of the ramen noodle bowl last week. Made with a fresh miso broth, with chili paste added for heat, a tangle of the freshest ramen noodles I’ve ever had, slivers of baby bok choy, meaty soy soaked mushrooms, sprouts, bamboo shoots, scallions, and a hard-boiled egg, its safe to say the entire bowl was absolutely delicious. Well balanced and unmistakably fresh, the care and thought in each component is unmistakable. My noodle bowl was so substantial that I brought half of it home, and happily enjoyed it cold the next day- still entirely enjoyable. Greg also found a purveyor to supply them with homemade pho noodles, adding a fantastic gluten-free option to the noodle bar.  I know I’ll be first in line when the noodle bar opens in a few weeks.

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UPDATE: The noodle bar, called Slurp, is officially open! Come by Monday-Thursday nights to try out some of these fantastic ramen and pho noodle bowls.

To read the full post, visit Devil Gourmet.

Ornellaia Vertical Tasting Experience {NJ Food & Wine Festival}

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To say that the Ornellaia vertical tasting experience was a treat would be an understatement. The opportunity to sip and compare bottles from eight different vintages of the Ornellaia vineyard is not one that most people get everyday. Located in Tuscany near the coast, Ornellaia occupies an interesting crossroads between Italian and French wine traditions. In Bolgheri, where Ornellaia Estate resides, the low hilly landscape only a few miles from the sea lends itself more to Mediterranean maritime vegetation than traditional Tuscan grapes. The area was long eschewed by vineyards for this reason, but the discovery that Bordeaux varieties could thrive in this terrain proved pivotal for Ornellaia’s success, starting at its founding in 1981.

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The wine possesses a strong Mediterranean quality, even with French Bordeaux grapes, highlighting Ornellaia’s production philosophy that wines must be the most faithful expression of the terroirs that produce them. Alex Heinz, the Ornellaia winemaker who headed up this tasting, explained that Ornellaia’s location a few miles from the sea helps keep the climate mild and even, and the light reflecting off the sea reflects and helps to ripen the grapes.

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As we walked our way through the different vintages, clear favorites emerged in the audience that often differed from the favorites of the wine makers. Axel astutely reminded us that good vintages are a gift of mother nature, which the wine makers feel they can’t take as much credit for. Tougher vintages, where the climate and weather didn’t lend themselves to easy winemaking, better showcase the wine makers’ skill, and induce more of their pride and favor. Understandably, the wine makers showed favoritism towards the wines they had the most hand in smoothing out and turning into something balanced and drinkable. Axel further explained, “a bad vintage is like a child you’re raising that never reaches his full potential, even after an extended adolescence,” making the parent (or winemaker) all the more proud when their underachiever finally grows into something of merit.

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On the topic of blending, Axel explained that “blending out of grape varieties helps express the best characteristic in the grapes, and helps them adapt to the vintage. The blending carries to catch the best flavor out of each vintage.” The wine makers stated emphatically that blended wines are always superior to single vine wines. They have more depth, flavor, and balance. And though blending is crucial, expertise must be exercised. An art rather than a science, blending, according to Axel, “is not arithmetic. You can lose quality and character with a blend,” making a light and seasoned touch all the more important.

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If you’re a wine collector, Ornellaia is the ideal wine to add to your collection. With aging potential up to thirty years, and even longer potential with the newer vintages, Ornellaia would save beautifully for a special occasion years down the road, if you can avoid the temptation of drinking it straight away. The wine makers explained that young wine highlights the skills of the winemaker, while older aged wine highlights the characteristics of the land and the grape. With an average suggested retail value of $220 in stores, and presumably much more in an NYC restaurant, Ornellaia probably isn’t your go-to bottle for a regular Friday night, but rather an ideal choice to save and celebrate with a few years down the road.

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For the full post and more photos, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Local Craft Cocktails at NJ Food & Wine Festival

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The local craft cocktail event at this years NJ food & wine festival brought together some of the Northeast’s best small batch spirits. Laird’s Apple Jack (NJ), Brooklyn Gin (NY), Bootlegger Vodka (NY) and Widow Jane Bourbon (NY) came together in creative and dangerously delicious cocktails under the expertise of mixologist Christopher James. As the mixologist and bar manager of the Ryland Inn, located in Whitehouse Station, Christopher utilizes local spirits to create unique and inspired cocktails that might just convince you to deviate from your classic G&T habit. Consider these recipes your fast track to elevated cocktails, fit to be enjoyed all spring long (whenever spring finally decides to grace us with its presence).

DSC_0966Spring Sparkler

  • 2 oz Dutch’s Sugar Wash Moonshine
  • .75 oz Demerara syrup
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • 1 spritz of absinthe from an atomizer
  • 1 dash of bitters (optional)
  1. Shake and strain into a child absinthe rinsed coupé. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Scobeyville Shrub

  • 2 oz Larid’s Applejack
  • 1.5 oz spiced rhubarb shrub syrup
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • 1 dash Dutch’s Colonial Bitters
  1. Shake and strain into a chilled coupé, garnish with a lemon wheel.

“21″ Punch

  • 2 oz Bootlegger Vodka
  • 1.5 oz grapefruit juice
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • .75 oz simple syrup
  • 6-8 sprigs fresh mint
  • 2 dashes Dutch’s Colonial Bitters
  1. Lightly muddle the mint with the grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and bitters.
  2. Add vodka, shake and double strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass. Top with soda.
  3. Garnish with half-moon of grapefruit and a mint sprig.

All recipes created by Chris James- Mixologist & Bar Manager, The Ryland Inn

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Classic vs. Contemporary Napa Styles {NJ Food & Wine Festival}

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In a sea of mass-produced wines, thoughtless blends, and plastic corks, many wine connoisseurs stick with wineries they trust to adhere to the classic, tried and true style of winemaking. In this seminar at the NJ Food & Wine FestivalStag’s Leap winemaker Christopher Paubert lead a tasting of classic California varietals and back vintages, which we tasted alongside the wines of second generation winemaker Josh Phelps from his winery Taken.

What I thought would evolve into a two-sided discussion about the merits of classic vs. contemporary winemaking practices took an entirely different shape. Christopher and Josh, representing the classic and the contemporary, respectively, seemed to borrow the best and most beneficial practices from traditional and more modern winemaking, blending the old and the new as it suited their wines to bring out the best in each varietal.

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Christopher articulated,”the new trend is what it was fifty years ago,” meaning that new wineries have wised up and look to their predecessors for guidance and tradition. He also conceded that Stag’s Leap, and many more classic wineries, now blend science and technology with tradition, resulting in a more dependable crop of grapes year after year. Forty years ago, sugar and acidity were the only benchmark for making a good wine. Today, Stag’s Leap measures the tannins of the wines each day, and checks temperature and the levels of oxygen to pinpoint when the wine reaches its zenith. Today, winemaking is a more vineyard based profession, with less time spent in the cellar and more spend outside tending to and monitoring the vines as they grow.

Sustainability is another point where classic and contemporary winemaking borrow from each other to the benefit of both. Technology, used judiciously, allows for the use of less chemicals and fertilizers. Traditional farming practices, where different crops are planted and grown to enrich the soil and deter pests, also keeps chemicals to a minimum.

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As for wine styles, Josh expressed his hope that “the sweet, over the top California style is phasing out,” in favor of more balanced wines. Both wine makers also commented on the trend of fermenting wine in cement tanks. Is it a game changer? Probably not. Both Josh and Christopher ferment their wines in stainless steel tanks, before aging them in oak barrels. They both use mostly French oak, but play with small amounts of American and Hungarian oak in smaller batches, when trying to create a spicy or smokey flavor.

DSC_0952For the full post, and details on the specific wines we tasted, visit Devil Gourmet. 

 

{Devil Gourmet FoodStyle Feature} On Restaurant Menus, Vegetables are Taking Over

Spring Pea Soup with Creme Fraiche & Field Mint- at The Glen Ellen Star.

Spring Pea Soup with Creme Fraiche & Field Mint- at The Glen Ellen Star.

VEGETABLES? REALLY?

While steak and bacon will forever have a place on a restaurant menu, lately the tide is turning towards a greener, fresher inclination. In many of the top restaurants in NYC, vegetables are taking center stage, and slowly but surely edging out the normally predominant meat dishes. Even in the entrée section of menus, usually fully occupied by the four-legged variety save for one vegetarian option at the bottom, chefs skillfully finesse vegetables into dishes that would satisfy even the most devout carnivore.

Fava Beans with Sheep’s Milk Feta & Lemon Oil, and Wood Fired Artichokes with Parmesan & Arugula- at The Glen Ellen Star.

Fava Beans with Sheep’s Milk Feta & Lemon Oil, and Wood Fired Artichokes with Parmesan & Arugula- at The Glen Ellen Star.

The Glen Ellen Star – Sonoma, CA

A few weeks ago during a trip to Sonoma, California, I had dinner at the newly minted Glen Ellen Star. Chef and owner Ari Weiswasserworked at some of the top restaurants in NYC, including DanielCorton, and Picholine, as well as a long stint at Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry, before opening his own restaurant in Sonoma. The Glen Ellen Star’s menu reads like a who’s who of spring vegetables, all grown locally and prepared with obvious thought and care.

We ordered up vegetable starters, all cooked in cast iron dishes in the Glen Ellen wood oven. The fava beans came topped with sheep’s milk feta cheese and a drizzle of lemon oil, the spring pea soup arrived with a dollop of crème fraiche and field mint, and the whole roasted cauliflower was served with house made salsa verde.  Even the vehement meat lovers at the table devoured the flavorful and complex dishes, and all the cast irons returned to the kitchen empty. While our table still opted for a wood fire pizza topped with guanciale, and some flat iron steak and lamb meatballs for entries, the vegetable focused menu was a welcomed and refreshing change. It’s not about eating strictly vegetarian, but about eating more a more balanced, seasonal, and bright meal.

View the full post, including NYC restaurant recommendations, on Devil Gourmet.

With Chef & Owner Ari Weiswasser at The Glen Ellen Star.

With Chef & Owner Ari Weiswasser at The Glen Ellen Star.

Chef’s Interview: {Iron Chef} Marc Forgione

I was lucky enough to catch Iron Chef Marc Forgione right before he jetted off to Mexico for work, research, and hopefully a little relaxation. We met up at his namesake restaurant in NYC, where we discussed his extensive travels, his new restaurant at Revel in Atlantic City, his favorite produce item to combat steak house overload, and of course, his experiences on the Food Network’s hit show Iron Chef.

EPS: So I know your dad is quite the famous chef, did you grow up cooking with him when you were little?

MF: Kind of, I mean food was always a part of our house, but when you’re an eight year old kid, you don’t really understand or care about it, your just a kid and that’s just your dad, you know what I mean? But I think it was more like in the movie Karate Kid when he’s teaching him how to paint the fence and wax the car and he doesn’t realize he’s learning how to cook, I mean do karate. I didn’t realize I was learning how to cook but when I actually got serious about it and started cooking I realized I already knew a lot more stuff then the average seventeen-year-old kid.

EPS: Is your mom a good cook too?

MF: Yeah, she’s great. Growing up my dad was really busy, so my mom was the one making us dinner.

EPS: Was it a natural choice for you to pursue a culinary career or did you consider other paths?

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MF: No I tried to do a bunch of things but cooking was always calling me. I went to UMASS Amherst and studied Hotel/Restaurant Management, so that was always sort of the direction I was going in. But I majored in forestry, psychiatry, economics, business, a bunch of different things before I finally settled on that. I only did those for one semester and then I realized I didn’t like it.

EPS: I read that you spent time cooking and working in France. Did you get to travel at all while you were there?

MF: Yes I did; I did the whole backpacking thing right out of college, so I did, I think it was something like thirty-two cities and twelve countries. And then I lived in France, and while I lived in France I also spent some time in Spain, towards the end of that trip.

EPS: Did you have a favorite city?

MF: I mean for fun reasons, actually like all together, fun, the people we met there, the ambience, we had a great time in Cinque Terre, in the south of Italy.

EPS: Do you draw culinary inspiration from your travels?

MF: Yeah, I mean my style is very American melting pot, and I’ve worked for a bunch of different chefs from different cultures, so it kind of all ties into one; kind of like New York City.

EPS: What’s it like cooking on Iron Chef? Is it as nerve-wracking as it looks on TV?

MF: Yeah I mean you start to get a little used to it, but I don’t know if its nerve-wracking but its exciting, you get those butterflies and you feel like you’re about to go into a boxing match or go play in a football game. You get that adrenaline rush, it’s a lot of fun.

EPS: Do you get more accustomed to it with practice?

MF: Yeah but you know, for somebody like myself, you always try and keep pushing yourself, so it doesn’t get easier because you’re trying to do more in that hour then you did the last time. You don’t want it to be too easy because then you know your not pushing yourself hard enough.

EPS: Was there one ingredient that really threw you on the show? Some of them are so out of the box.

MF: I didn’t like the battle Tilapia just because I don’t like the fish. Its really hard to cook with an ingredient that you don’t think tastes good.

EPS: Chef’s don’t get much free time, what do you like to do on your days off?

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MF: Now, travel. I drive back from Atlantic City a lot, and in the summertime I try and get to a beach or a pool as much as I can. I love being outside in the summer. In the winter I’ll try and fit in some snowboarding, I have family that has a house in Killington, so I try and get up there. I didn’t last winter, but I try and get a bunch of my college buddies together and we’ll go out west or something. I try and live a normal life, but its tough, especially now.

EPS: If you could open up a restaurant anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

MF: Anguilla for sure; its where I go for vacation every year, so if I could have my vacation tied into like a house and all that kind of stuff, that would be great.

EPS: What would you want your last meal to be?

MF: Delicious. I get asked that a lot, and I always go back to a beautiful pasta, with a rustic Bolognese sauce, some bread, extra virgin olive oil, simple.

EPS: Do you cook a lot at home?

MF: Yeah, I like to cook whenever I’m home, and I usually do the cooking in my house, either for my fiancé, or when I go back to my parents’ house I cook for them. I grew up in Long Island, but my family just moved to Napa. Lucky for them, but it kind of sucks for me; its not exactly right around the corner.

EPS: Do you have a most memorable meal?

MF: I had one meal, when my father came to visit me when I was living in France, and we went to this three-starred Michelin restaurant, and the seats were kind of underneath a veranda, and it was like an open porch. So basically a hurricane came in while we were eating, like wind blew out all the candles that were lit, but we were under this veranda, so we could kind of see the storm; it was pretty intense. They came out and asked us if we wanted to move inside, and we were like no we’re good here, and we proceeded to have a two or three hour, three Michelin star meal in the middle of a hurricane.

Elizabeth and Marc Forgione

EPS: You have a new restaurant that just opened at Revel in Atlantic City; what’s your menu like?

MF: It’s a steakhouse menu, so we have our steaks and our fish; but we’ve kind of revamped some of the classics: the shrimp cocktail, the wedge salad, making them fun and fresh again. And we also do some creative stuff too; chili lobster, BBQ oysters, we do the best serf and turf you’ve ever had.

EPS: Is there one produce item this summer you’re most excited about?

MF: This year, I’m really into Kirby cucumbers. Believe it or not I’ve kind of been on a diet; because I’ve opened a steak house I needed to kind of relax a little bit. So Kirby cucumbers have kind of been my go to snack. At home I just put salt on them, maybe a little sriracha, but here at the restaurant I’m using them in different salads, and appetizers and stuff.

Read the rest of the interview in my article for Hot From The Kettle. 

New Jersey Food & Wine Festival 2012

Decadence and indulgence ruled at this year’s fourth annual New Jersey Food & Wine Festival at the Crystal Springs Resort. Held this past weekend at the Grand Cascades Lodge at Crystal Springs, the festival kicked off with a Dom Perignon reception with Chef Thomas Keller, who headlined the weekend’s events. You may recognize Keller as the owner of NYC restaurant Per Se, or as the star of the new American Express commercials, but he is also a founder of the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation, a holder of multiple three Michelin Star restaurant ratings, and the author of numerous cookbooks, including The French Laundry, andAd Hoc.

Chef Keller stood in good company, working alongside renowned and venerated chefs from all over the Tri-State area at the weekend’s events. I was lucky enough to attend the Grand Tasting on Saturday night, which as the signature event of the weekend included more food and wine than even the most ambitious foodie could consume. With more than twenty-five top chefs from NJ and NYC cooking alongside forerunning wineries and distilleries from around the world, it was hard to know which way to turn in the two full levels of tables.

For my full account of this over-the-top event, see my article on Hot From The Kettle

summit food & wine festival {2011}

This weekend, the third annual Summit Wine and Food Festival took place at the Grand Hotel in Summit, which hosted dozens of impressive chefs, sommeliers, and guest speakers.

On Friday night, the festival kicked off with the Gala Tasting, where restaurants, chefs, and winemakers set up tables to showcase their signature dishes and most celebrated wines. Guests could wander around the Grand Ballroom and sample to their heart’s content, eating and drinking their fill. I myself made it my mission to try something from each table, and ended up doubling back to some of my favorites.

The hallway adjacent to the ballroom housed several cocktail stations where guests could watch drinks like cherry tomato mojitos made to order, and a chocolate table stacked with delicious flavors like pistachio, caramel and sea salt. This event provided the perfect platform to get up close and personal with the chefs and sommeliers of the weekend, and to talk with them about the food and wine they’re passionate about.

 For more details on this event, see my full article on Hot From The Kettle, and be sure to get your tickets to the 2012 festival!

interview with chef david drake

According to Chef David Drake, there are two kinds of chefs: those who grew up on the apron strings of their mother and grandmother, comfortable in the kitchen from their earliest memories, and those who come from families with terrible cooks.  Drake comes from the latter type.

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Drake’s mother cooked up bland mainstays like tuna casserole, turning Drake into a picky eater who couldn’t stand fish (now one of his signature items).Though his mother did not pass down a culinary legacy to Drake, she did instill him with the zeal to pursue a career based on passion rather than drudgery.  Drake comes from a family of people who followed their passions, many attending the Rhode Island School of Design.  His mother worked as a potter, and taught Drake to throw pots at an early age. Passion comprises the key ingredient in a culinary career; necessary to make it through the long hours and demanding tasks required to succeed.

For the full interview, check out my article on Hot From The Kettle 

interview with chef david c. felton

David C. Felton stands at the helm of the kitchen and farm at Ninety Acres Culinary Center, the restaurant situated on ninety gorgeous acres in Somerset County, New Jersey. He attended Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, and after graduating with a degree in the Culinary Arts headed across the country, picking up flavors and techniques as he went along. After working his way around the country, and traveling around the world, he set his sights on New York City, working with top-notch chefs before assuming his executive chef position at Ninety Acres.

Read the full interview on Hot From The Kettle

Chef David Burke Interview

Does the name David Burke ring a bell? It should. He’s everywhere in the culinary world. .

Burke has competed on both Iron Chef and Top Chef, won countless awards and accolades, and has amassed quite the collection of restaurants that he owns and operates, from Las Vegas to Chicago to NYC to our very own New Jersey. Oh, and he writes cookbooks and dabbles in culinary gastronomy as well, branding GourmetPops (ready to serve cocktail lollipops) and Flavorsprays to enhance your cooking with less fat and more flavor.

I had the opportunity to speak with Chef Burke a few weeks ago about his time as a private chef in Norway, cooking for Prince Charles and Julia Child; his train ride travels around Europe, and his most memorable meal ever.

EPS. Did you grow up cooking with your family?

DB. Growing up my mom cooked simple things, nothing too fancy. My dad ran marathons so we ate really healthy. He even tried to convince me that wheat germ was sugar! I didn’t really cook much growing up, I think I had one thing I would make; peanut butter and banana sandwiches dipped in French toast batter. I didn’t really start cooking until my late teens.

EPS. How did you get into cooking?

DB. I started out as a dishwasher in a restaurant where my friend worked, and just slowly worked my way up from there.

EPS. Did you always know you wanted to attend culinary school?

DB. No not really. My dad signed me up for a cooking course (William Sonoma style) to make sure it was what I really wanted to do, and I got hired there on the first day to do prep work for the class. That’s when I got more serious about cooking professionally. I met Julia Child for the first time there. Years later I cooked for her in one of my restaurants. She was an incredible lady. She was an amazing woman, with so much passion for food and cooking.

EPS. Is she as vivacious in person as she is on TV?

DB. She was 6’5,’’ the woman was huge! I must have given her six courses, I said, you know I don’t want to feed you too much, and she looked me in the eye and said ‘bring it on,’ so I put three more courses out.”

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EPS. What an amazing experience! So you attended culinary school after that culinary cooking center class?

DB. Yeah, so I graduated from high school early by one year, then went to the CIA, and then did my apprenticeships. I interned at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas before graduating from the CIA, there used to be a really impressive restaurant there, I don’t know what its like now. After that I moved to Norway to be a private chef there.

EPS. Norway! That’s so cool, how did you get that job?

DB. Well I was one of the top two students in my class at the CIA, so when this dignitary from Norway called the school looking for a chef, they sent me. I did all the prep in their home in Oslo, making stocks and freezing them in ice cube trays, doing all the prep for them for the summer at their summer house on the Fjords.

EPS. Did you cook traditional Norwegian food for them?

DB. No, they wanted traditional French and American food. I did a lot of cooking for big groups of people there. You know, cooking a whole salmon in the dishwasher because that was the only thing big enough to hold it. I cooked for the owner there; he flew in by helicopter. I didn’t really know who he was at the time but I knew he was someone important. He was really nice, polite to everyone. I do remember though, I roasted a prime rib for his dinner, and I sent out thick cut, American style slices. Prince Charles was alarmed because he’d grown up with smaller European style portions, you know, war time rations. He forgave me once he knew it was a honest mistake.

EPS. Were you able to travel during your time in Norway?

DB. Oh yeah, I took a one-month train pass around Europe. I went to Amsterdam, Brussels, Munich, Strasbourg, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Dublin, Paris, the whole deal.

EPS. Wow! What an eye-opening experience. What was your favorite city you visited?

DB. Munich was amazing, really blew me away, Strasbourg too. And Amsterdam was a pretty cool place for a twenty year old to be. Copenhagen and Paris had the most to offer from a culinary standpoint. I worked in a bunch of restaurants around Europe for a month or so at a time, all over the place really. I went to pastry school in France, before moving back to America. It’s those experiences in Europe that kind of demystified cooking for me. All the techniques I learned made the way I cook now possible.

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EPS. Do you still draw inspiration from your time traveling and working around Europe?

DB. Oh definitely, I’m still inspired by those travels and the traveling I do now. I travel all the time.

EPS. You’ve opened up so many restaurants around the country- is it a challenge balancing them all?

DB. Yeah, it is hard to balance it all; I’m constantly on the move, traveling around from place to place, trying to stay up to date with all the new trends that are always popping up. There’s always someone trying to make a move for your spot, always competition. It’s a lifestyle as much as it is a job, and its 24/7, 365 days a year. Nights, holidays, weekends, you name it. But it’s a lifestyle I’ve gotten used to after thirty years in the business.

EPS. If you could open up a restaurant anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

DB. Paris. London or Paris, but probably Paris. Hong Kong would be amazing, but its half way around the world- not so practical.

EPS. Chef’s don’t have very much free time- but what do you like to do on your day off?

DB. I like to go out to eat for dinner when I have time off, see what other chefs are up to. But other then that I don’t really plan my days off. But when I travel for work, I like to add a few extra days at the beginning or end of the trip as a kind of vacation.  I’m heading to Hawaii and Ireland this summer.

EPS. What would you want your last meal to be?

DB. Really good roast chicken, really good scrambled eggs with caviar, and a big ice cream sundae with all the fixings. A good roast chicken is harder to get than a good steak.

EPS. Where and what was your most memorable meal?

DB. It was in a small restaurant in France when I was traveling. I was eating alone, at a table by the window, and it was pouring rain outside. They served me course after course of incredible food. Those eggs I mentioned with caviar were there, oysters, pigeon made an appearance, seven courses and half a bottle of wine, amazing service. That’s my most memorable meal.

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