The Daily Meal caught up with chef Daniel Furey to learn about how his travels have influenced his work. Furey is the executive chef at Cannery Row Brewing Company in Monterey, Calif., where more than 70 artisan brews are on tap. Now specializing in serving gastropub cuisine, Furey has worked in kitchens across the U.S. including Rene Bistrot in New Orleans, Everest Restaurant in Chicago, and Tap Room in Philadelphia.
The Daily Meal: What has been your most inspirational food experience while traveling?
Daniel Furey: I cannot say there has been just one food experience — every city and place has something to offer. Growing up in New England the abundance of fresh seafood and small farm products was really inspirational. Like eating lobster on the water in Maine that just came off the boat, fresh milk and cheeses in Vermont, quahog clams cooked on an open flame on a beach at home in Connecticut.
New Orleans was definitely eye-opening in terms of a food culture — people love to eat and everyone takes pride in what they cook and the restaurants of the city. Not just Creole food, but the foods of the South; crispy fried chicken and spicy collard greens, fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, a craw-fish boil with andouille, corn, and potatoes.
TDM: What’s your favorite kitchen souvenir from your travels?
DF: My favorite cooking souvenir is probably my collection of spoons — some wide and fat, or deep and pointy, quenelling spoons, and saucing spoons. I am really bad about buying spoons, I pick them up everywhere, and have way too many to use.
TDM: If you could eat your way through one country, which one would it be and why?
DF: Vietnam. I love the food. The cuisine is based on flavor, not fat. The use of fermented items, vinegar, citrus, spicy chiles, and herbs. As well as just the sheer variety in the cuisine, deep curries, delicate vermicelli, porridge, and my all-time favorite sandwich, the bahn mi. It’s a culture and cuisine that I do not always understand but am intrigued and exited by.
Dr. Bruno Goussault, Father of Sous-Vide, Answers Your Questions
Dr Bruno Goussault, the father of sous-vide, has just been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award (Fauteuil de l’Academie) by the USA Chapter of the Académie Culinaire de France. We asked him to answer FDL readers’ burning sous-vide questions.
As the chief scientist of Cuisine Solutions Inc., a leader in pioneering and perfecting the sous-vide cooking technique, and the founder of the Culinary Research & Education Academy (CREA), Dr. Goussault is widely considered to be the founder of modern sous-vide cooking. He has trained over 80% of the three-Michelin-starred chefs around the world in the art of sous-vide, including Yannick Alléno, Heston Blumenthal, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Anne-Sophie Pic and Joël Robuchon. He sits on the board of the Association des Chimistes and Ingénieurs et Cadres des Industries Agricoles et Alimentaires in France, and was also named one of the 100 visionaries in the Albert Einstein Legacy Project’s Genius: 100 Visions of the Future initiative.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to those whose life’s work has a truly lasting effect on the culinary world as a whole.
How much do you use sous-vide at home? And what for?
I always use the sous-vide method at home as long as I have the equipment, I use it because I believe that products cooked sous-vide are better especially when you need to reheat and prepare your dishes.
Can you share your favourite sous-vide recipe with us?
My favourite recipe to cook sous-vide is an assembling recipe with three bags of products. The first bag contains a lamb shank, the second bag contains beans and the third bag contains sauce with garlic extract. If I do not have time to cook them, I get them from www.mycuisinesolutions.com.
Garlic - should it be pre-cooked before you sous-vide? Is there any use for it in the bag?
It is not necessary to precook garlic before you pack it sous-vide. Vegetables need to be cleaned and disinfected in water with vinegar before you pack them. As garlic is a vegetable this process applies.
I prefer to just add salt and pepper to meat and fish to preserve the real flavour of the product. If you sous-vide the garlic with the lamb, the flavour of the lamb will dissipate which is not my goal. Cooking the lamb and the garlic separately and marrying them together at the end allows for each product to keep its true flavour.
Some say garlic over a long time, uncooked, can cause botulism. Is this true?
I do not believe this is true. Because when you do a study on the effects of garlic the conclusion is that garlic, or garlic extract, block the germination of spores of clostridium botulism and the germination of all spores. I prefer to use the right level of garlic to proceed with the extraction of garlic followed by cryoconcentration, that way I can put of a drop of concentrate when I reheat the base for assembly.
There are so many different opinions on how to cook the perfect sous-vide egg, but for you which is best?
For me, the perfect egg is when you obtain the same viscosity between the egg yolk and the egg white. After many studies, I have found that the time and temperature of a perfect egg is 45 minutes at 63.2 degrees Celsius. After speaking to my friend and top chef, Joel Robuchon, he explained that at this temperature of cooking his 'oeuf cocotte' he obtains the best colour and texture for the egg yolk.
Any tips on how to properly peel a sous-vide egg?
You cannot technically peel the perfect egg. You must crack the egg over a slotted spoon and gently place it on your desired plate or food.
Should you pre-sear meat when cooking? Or sear at the end? Or both?
I like to do both. Pre-sear before seasoning then packing and cooking sous-vide to develop the Maillard Reaction to get a beautiful colour. I then sear at the end of the reheating process to rework the colour and give crispiness to the product.
First for taste and aroma before cooking, second for colour and crispiness during reheating.
How important is vacuum sealing? Many at-home use regular bags using water displacement to clear the air from the bag. How much impact does this have on the overall effect of sous-vide?
When you pack your product sous-vide you’re playing on two parameters, the first is pressure in mbars, the second is post evacuation time to extract the air. First, you give the level of compression on your product to respect the shape of the product which is very important. The second is to regulate the level of air or gas going into the product to determine the speed of cooking.
People using the water displacement method use sous-vide to decrease the risk of freezer burns in frozen storage. Water displacement works well for fish, seafood, chicken breasts and red meat. However, it does not work well for anything that is meat with the bone in, especially chicken legs and chicken wings, meat requiring long-term cooking or fruit and vegetables.
What's it like to see a device you developed for professionals make it into home use in a mainstream way?
I am happy to see the technique being used at home. However, I feel as though it is riskier because you do not have the same perception of cleaning and training at home as you would being a professional in a kitchen. Therefore, the hazards at home are greater. The devices are not the same, the products are different, and the freshness of the product varies because of the conditions of preservation.
Do you use reusable containers when you cook with sous-vide? How can people reduce their plastic use while cooking with a sous-vide?
Yes, I use reusable containers in the kitchen but I only use sous-vide pouches when cooking. The pouches are non-reusable, however we are sure of the safety of our plastic.
Do you have any ideas for how a more eco-friendly solution could be used for sous-vide bags?
We are underway. Cuisine Solutions and CREA are working with their suppliers to find new solutions.
How did you come to be so 'immersed' in the world of sous-vide?
I worked in a lab that had been created to find solutions and build a new technique for cooking and the preservation of food. Sous-vide cooking at precise temperature was one of those answers.
Have you seen any sous-vide uses or recipes that have completely surprised you? Or, were there any that you thought would be popular that weren't?
Yes, I was surprised by compression. It is a technique that was derived from sous-vide. I never imagined I could modify the colour of vegetable leaves or fruit by using the sous-vide method. Sous-vide helped us to compress some fruits and vegetables.
How will immersion cooking, home kitchens and commercial kitchens look in 20 years?
There will be new devices, new techniques and new development which will help shape all of these kitchens in the next 20 years. What happens when a new process deeply modifies a job?
How would you recommend doing delta-T cooking during sous-vide (raising the bath temp above the desired final core temp to increase the cooking speed without over-cooking the exterior of the food). What temperature differential is best?
Delta-T cooking is a process to correctly manage the temperature in the core of the product without overcooking, when your objective is to keep the moisture in the muscle like a ham because you destroy the water holding capacity. We have two objectives, the first is to fix the colour you need to arrive at 68 degrees and to keep the moisture in the ham you should never go over 68 degrees because you lose the water holding capacity of the meat at 68 degrees.
How One of the World’s Greatest Chefs Is Fighting Hunger and Food Waste at the Same Time
Jeremy Repanich's Most Recent Stories
Photo: courtesy Massimo Bottura/Phaidon
Imagine getting 60 of the world&rsquos greatest chefs to fly out and meet you. It sounds impossible, right? But you’re not Massimo Bottura. “You know what this is?” the chef of three-Michelin-star Osteria Francescana says as he extracts an iPhone from his pocket, holding it up in front of him. “This is a phone. I look at the phone. I start to put in the numbers of all my friends. Not even 45 minutes, every single one said, ‘We’re going to be there.'” He laughs and tucks it away again. “That was the process. It was unbelievable.”
Now Bottura wasn’t telling the titans of the industry to drop what they’re doing and fly to Italy for no good reason. As the 2015 Milan Expo (an event formerly called The World’s Fair) approached, his home country would play host with the theme “Feeding the planet, energy for life” as the driving ethos of the months-long event.
But instead of building a pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015, he decided to build a refettorio, a place where he could feed the needy during that time. The project was two-pronged: Not only would it fight hunger, but it would also take a creative approach to solving the problem of food waste. It&rsquos a problem chefs face all the time&mdashto keep their restaurants profitable, they need to get the most out of the products they buy. And that’s why Bottura called his friends.
In his book Bread Is Gold, which he released late last year, Bottura wrote, “The knowledge, creativity, and know-how of professional chefs was essential to prove that salvaged food&mdashoverripe or bruised and beyond expiration dates, as well as scraps and trimmings that otherwise would be thrown away&mdashwere not only edible but even delicious.”
So over the course of six months, chefs from Daniel Humm and Rene Redzepi to Ana Ros and more came to Milan to take the raw ingredients they had available that day and turn them into delicious meals for kids in the afternoon and the needy at night. It was like an altruistic version of the show Chopped. Bottura gathered the recipes and stories from those months and turned them into Bread Is Gold. But his work isn’t done. In the wake of that refettorio, he has opened additional soup kitchens and expanded his philanthropic efforts through his foundation, Food for Soul, which he created with his wife, Lara Gilmore. We spoke with Bottura about his soup kitchens, the world-class chefs who pitched in, how non-chefs can help, and what’s next for his foundation.
How did you bring this idea of the soup kitchen for Milan Expo to life?
I always keep the door open for the unexpected. I have big dreams, and dreaming to make a pavilion on the Exposition was like, all right, we can do it, but no one was asking us the right questions. It wasn’t the real thing, you know? They weren’t asking chefs how they could feed the planet.
So I knock on the door of the church. The archbishop’s scholar is a philosopher, and he understood immediately the quality of the project, and he said, “I’m going to give you the space.” And I said, “We’re going to do it in the center of Milan,” because I want to rebuild Miracle in Milan, the 1951 movie. They said, “Okay, let’s talk about it. Give me one week, and we’re going to go out. In the meantime, thanks for your passion, your energy, positive energy, and your ideas.”
One week later, they meet with Pope Francis, and the Pope said, “Let’s bring light to the periphery,” and instead of doing center of Milan, we’re doing outside. We went in the most neglected neighborhood, and the Church owned this theater, and that is the periphery of architecture.
When these chefs from around the world arrived, how did they integrate into the kitchen?
Some of them, like the French, they flew from Paris or from Lyon to Milan they came the same morning. Ducasse arrived the same morning at a quarter to 9. He was opening the truck, unloading everything, cooking for lunch for kids. At lunch, we usually fed kids in schools, to teach them how not to waste. Then, for dinner, the needy.
In the evening, Ducasse flew back to Paris with the last flight. So, he was there one day. Carlos Garcia from Venezuela stayed 4 days because he helped also the other chefs cook. Some people stayed longer because they were spending time in the Universal Exposition to see what was going on because it was unbelievable.
Was there an improvised dish that you created at the refettorio that really stuck with you?
Oh my god. There were so many. For me, personally, I’m so into breaking tradition and rebuild traditions to keep them alive. And I made a pesto.
The night before, some of the guests were complaining because we didn’t serve enough pasta they love pasta. I said, “Okay, tomorrow we’re going to cook some pasta,” because I saw so much basil in the refrigerator. But I didn’t have enough basil, so I add some mint, I add some thyme together. And then at the moment I had to put some pine nuts, I didn’t have pine nuts. I didn’t want to buy 45 euro for a half kilo of pine nuts, so I added bread crumbs. The pesto came out so well and so smooth and so light and so tasty it was fantastic. That was something super special.
How can people fight against food waste in their daily lives?
The best recipe is to stop buying tons of frozen food once a month and storage into freezer in your house. But the most important thing is buying the right amount of food you need for a couple of days, 3 days. Restore the relation with small shops&mdashlike butchers, farmers, farmer markets, fisherman place&mdashas they’re going to give you the best. Buy local and buy seasonal food. You’re going to eat better, you’re going to save money, and you’re going to fight waste because you’re going to cook everything you have in the refrigerator and not have so much stuff.
Along with opening more refettorios, what other initiatives has your foundation been working on?
My wife, Lara, has an amazing project. We have a disabled child, and we always thought, “What is he going to do after high school?” For him, it’s fine, because we have so many activities to do. For other kids, they’re going to have a miserable life. What if we invent something?
We found out that we could do something special to transfer tradition from the grandmothers to the disabled child&mdashthey’re very good on repetitive things&mdashand start with five kids making tortellini, handmade pasta.
The grandmothers were rolling pasta, some butchers made some pesto, and they were making tortellini. This initiative became so successful, and now there are 36 kids, and we make so much tortellini. In September, the town hall gave us beautiful space, an Italian company donated the kitchen, and in September it’s going to open this new place.
In 2018, the chef is much more than the sum of his recipes. We have shown the world that through culture, we can be really agents of change. Culture brings knowledge, knowledge opens the consciousness, and from consciousness to the sense of responsibility, the step is very short. Culture and sense of responsibility are key.
How French Laundry's chefs reach for the stars
1 of 29 French Laundry waiters and food runners line up in front of Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth who is plating up one of the thirteen courses offered on the nightly dinner serving. For many this is an once-in-a-lifetime dining experience at this three Michelin star restaurant in Yountville Ca. Saturday August 21, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
2 of 29 Food Runner Chris Gaither and De Partie Chef Adina Guest team up to plate one of thirteen-courses served Saturday August 21, 2010 at the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville Ca. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
4 of 29 Ferry Tail Egg Plant ripens on the plant at The French Laundry's garden Wednesday August 18, 2010. The 3-acre garden located directly across the street from the five start restaurant supplies 30 percent of the produce, it also inspires home gardeners who are welcome to visit and ask the staff questions. The garden is as much a test site for vegetables and flowers as a supplier to the restaurant. Right now, they're growing root vegetables from the Andes. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
5 of 29 French Laundry Executive Chef Thomas Keller and his Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth test both Australian and French summer truffles just minutes after their delivery. Nightly the staff creates an once-in-a-lifetime dining experience at this three Michelin star restaurant. Wednesday August 18, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
7 of 29 Orders of 45-Day Dry-Aged Beef Sirloin wait to be garnished at the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville Ca Saturday August 21, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
8 of 29 French Laundry Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth plunks onion blossoms that will be used as a garnish in a salad at this three Michelin star restaurant in Yountville Ca. Saturday August 21, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
10 of 29 French Laundry Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth left reaches out to clink beer bottles with his team of chefs after they changed the menu which they do nightly at the 3-Michelin star restaurant in Yountville Ca. Saturday August 21, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
11 of 29 French Laundry Executive Chef Thomas Keller center confers with his Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth right and Sous chef Anthony Secviar left as the team of chef's change the menu for tomorrow night service. Saturday August 21, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
13 of 29 Fresh live Main lobsters wait their fate out in the French Laundry prep area of the three Michelin star restaurant kitchen. Wednesday August 18, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
14 of 29 Food Runner Chris Gaither heads to one of two dinning rooms with one of thirteen-courses served Saturday August 21, 2010 at the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville Ca. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
16 of 29 French Laundry Executive Chef Thomas Keller right gives The Miller family from Walnut Creek a tour of the kitchen as they celebrated their daughters 17th birthday. Tim Miller left, daughters Allie and 13, Kate 17, and mother Debby. The staff works long hours creating for many a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience at this three Michelin star restaurant in Yountville Ca. Saturday August 21, 2010 . Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
17 of 29 One of thirteen-courses served Saturday August 21, 2010 at the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville Ca was a Salad of French Laundry garden tomatoes with globe artichokes and summer squash frisee and aged balsamic vinegar. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
19 of 29 French Laundry Chef De Partie Adina Guest uses a pairing knife to trim Blue Foot Mushrooms as she and the staff prepare for the nightly service that for most is an once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. Wednesday August 18, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
20 of 29 French Laundry chefs gather in the kitchen as Executive Chef Thomas Keller and his Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth create a new fresh menu for the following nights service. Saturday August 21, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
22 of 29 French Laundry Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth left reaches out to clink bottles with his team of chefs after they changed the menu which they do nightly at the 3-Michelin star restaurant in Yountville Ca. Saturday August 21, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
23 of 29 French Laundry Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth plates up one of the thirteen courses offered on the nightly dinner serving, an order of Atlantic Striped Bass served with Tomales Bay Clams, Summer Pole Beans and Whole Grain Mustard. Saturday August 21, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
25 of 29 French Laundry Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth works to create an once-in-a-lifetime dining experience at this three Michelin star restaurant. Saturday August 21, 2010, as he and his team plate sweet butter-poached main lobster tail, one course of thirteen. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
26 of 29 French Laundry Chef de Cuisine, Timothy Hollingsworth has a laugh with his staff as the chef's plate up a thirteen-course meal for about filthy guest, at the three Michelin star restaurant in Yountville Ca. Saturday August 21, 2010. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
28 of 29 Tourist visits The French Laundry's gardener located across the street from the five star restaurants. Wednesday August 18, 2010. The Garden supplies 30 percent of the produce, it also inspires home gardeners who are welcome to visit and ask the staff questions. Lance Iversen/The Chronicle Show More Show Less
Thomas Keller, executive chef and owner of the French Laundry, twice named "the best restaurant in the world," walked into the restaurant's waiting room, shook my hand, introduced himself, then looked me up and down and cleared his throat.
I instantly started sweating.
"You're not supposed to be wearing jeans. They're not allowed in this restaurant."
My heart pounded audibly in my ears, like some distant funereal drum procession.
"You know, but you wore jeans anyway."
I couldn't tell if this was a question or a statement. Standing there in jeans and a striped T-shirt as patrons in suits and gowns dined on the meal of a lifetime, I panicked. I wanted to explain that I hadn't been prepared to meet him, the only American-born chef awarded multiple three-star Michelin ratings simultaneously.
I'd been scheduled to spend the next day in the kitchen with him, helping the cooks prep while observing a day in the life of the restaurant, research for a story I was writing about what goes on the behind the scenes of four-star restaurants in the Bay Area. But, on my drive to Yountville I received a call saying that Chef Keller had to fly back East, some scheduling mix-up. When I found out he'd be at the restaurant that very night, I dropped what I was doing - eating a burger in St. Helena - and ran over at 9 p.m.
In preparation for my "real" day, I'd ironed my black pants, scrubbed the bottom of my kitchen clogs, in storage since I last worked the line, and even sharpened my peeler. Had I hoped, subconsciously, that Keller would come to my prep station, introduce himself and say, "Such a sharp peeler! And clean kitchen clogs! Come into my inner circle. Here's a flute of Champagne and some caviar"? Whatever my imagined scenario, it wasn't happening.
After a long beat during which I stood, mute, he said, "Follow me." We walked down a narrow hallway. Was he leading me to the secret French Laundry closet where they locked up underdressed patrons? The drumming in my ears gave way to the sounds of kitchen life - sizzling meat, clattering plates, the call and response between expeditor and line cook.
As we sat down in "the box," a small, closet-like room with a high director's chair looking out into the kitchen, I got my first glimpse of this world-renowned kitchen. I wouldn't be allowed inside until the next day, yet even behind glass, I sensed differences between this kitchen and other four-stars where I'd staged, or trained, previously.
First, I noticed the five gleaming gold stars hanging over the hood of a stove, signifying the restaurant's Mobil rating. I scanned down and realized that everything in the kitchen was gleaming. I saw a sweating line cook forgo a brief lull and chance to drink some water to scrub down the wall by his station until it, too, gleamed. A window to the manicured patio lined one wall. Windows! I thought. In a kitchen!
The cooks, mostly men, were clean-shaven, hair neatly trimmed, chef's whites spotless. I thought briefly of my chef's whites halfway through service at Gramercy Tavern in New York City, decorated with, at minimum, three types of puree. Here, it looked as if service had just begun.
Keller no longer runs the kitchen as he did pre-Per Se, pre-empire, when he'd participate in everything from menu creation to plating. He lives next door and is at the restaurant almost every day he's in Yountville, but the formidable day-to-day task of running the French Laundry lies with 30-year-old culinary chef de cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth, who oversees cooks nightly as they create and execute two different nine-course, $250 meals.
Keller is still very much the face of the restaurant, and in the single hour I sat with him in the box, three patrons came into the kitchen to thank him for their meals. After he signed one of their menus, he turned to me and said, genuinely perplexed, "They look at me like I cooked their meal. I feel awkward." He peppered our conversation with French Laundry-specific maxims and mottos. "Work ethic is established today," he said - as part of the Keller team, you must hit the ground running. He mentioned "the rule of no repetition," that no ingredient can be featured more than once on each night's menu. Twice he referred to "the dance," or how skilled chefs move and hold themselves in the kitchen.
Under the clock in the kitchen, a sign read "Sense of Urgency." On another wall was the definition of "finesse."
He handed me a slim binder before we parted, which cooks receive before their first day. "Dear Sophie," the cover letter read. "You are now part of our team and hold a position that many individuals desire." Inside, I read the Keller team's expectations of new cooks - strong work ethic, cleanliness, initiative, humility, "a love of repetition."
As I stood up and stuck out my hand to give Keller a shake goodbye, I thought of what he'd said to me earlier. It's a maxim he tries to instill in his employees. "Treat it like it's yours, and one day it will be."
"Chef, I'm so sorry about the jeans," I said. "It won't happen again."
Keller's face broke into a wide smile. "I was just kidding. You knew that, right?"
Now dressed in black pants and a chef's coat, I met Hollingsworth. A blue-eyed, blond Californian, his manner is unassuming and smiley, something unusual for someone under so much pressure. Moments after meeting me, he asked if I'd like to help check in truffles and caviar. What a gentleman.
He weighed out and smelled Australian winter truffles the size of softballs, each worth approximately $1,100. "You see how this smells a little off?" he asked me, holding one up to my nose. I didn't. "I'm going to send it back."
Then he took a mother-of-pearl spoon and in succession, scooped a generous spoonful from each caviar tin, smeared each on the fat of his thumb, then licked it off, as if he were about to take a shot of tequila. He asked me which caviar I liked best. They all tasted amazing. I willed my palate to perform, then, winging it, pointed to the second tin.
"Hmm," he said, "That was my least favorite. But to each his own." My heart sank. Hey, I'm the girl who likes the worst of the best caviar in the world, nice to meet you.
I remembered what Keller had told me the previous night: "I don't discuss price with my suppliers." If you want quality, you pay. And if you're Thomas Keller, you can. Unlike most restaurateurs, Keller doesn't struggle to keep his restaurant afloat: dinner service at the French Laundry stays at a "predictable 74 each night," said Keller - in the height of summer, in the dead of winter, always filled to capacity.
As Hollingsworth labeled each tin "TH" - each cook marks his own ingredients, to foster a sense of ownership and responsibility - I looked around.
A television inside the kitchen with a live feed to Per Se in New York showed a sprawling kitchen with cooks working, three hours ahead in their prep. What the French Laundry kitchen lacks in size - Hollingsworth affectionately describes it as "intimate" - it makes up for in other ways.
The main part is divided into six stations for canapes, fish, meat, first course, cheese and dessert, and arranged so that if one person is slammed, other cooks can help.
During service, Hollingsworth and a sous chef stand at the pass - where busers pick up the food and take it to the dining room - plating food and inspecting. Beyond the main kitchen are two other rooms where the commis - paid apprentices - and stages work on their prep list. They arrive at 5 a.m. and stay until they're done, 10 to 14 hours later. A band of windows wraps around the kitchen, and natural sunlight filters in, glinting off the hanging copper pots. Outside, lush vineyards rolled into the hills, but I was the only one looking.
Eight line cooks, here called chef de partie, in traditional French nomenclature, or "CDP," worked, heads down, mincing chives just so, trimming mushrooms to the same size. They would stay in similar poses until 5:30 p.m., when service began, breaking only briefly to eat family meal at 4:15 p.m. while standing at their stations.
Everyone is called "chef," no matter what position. It's a leveler, unusual in a kitchen I'd expected to be rigidly hierarchical. The only time Hollingsworth stood out as a superior was when he'd yell, "Elliot to the line!" and a cook would leave his station, run up to the pass and stand at attention to answer a question.
A bearded, soft-spoken man wearing a baseball cap and a dirty shirt tapped me on the shoulder. He stuck out against the clean white backdrop of the kitchen. This was Tucker Taylor, the culinary gardener, one of the reasons this restaurant is special. He runs the garden across the street, just shy of 3 acres, which provides 30 percent of the kitchen's produce (see today's Home & Garden cover story). Fruits and vegetables are harvested day of by Taylor and his team, so chefs can request produce just so - 2-inch baby zucchinis, 4-inch carrots. Unwanted produce gets kicked down the line to sister restaurants Bouchon and Ad Hoc.
Cooks won't waste, Keller told me, if they understand the work that goes into growing and harvesting the produce.
The menu changes each night - minus some Keller signature dishes - which means Laura Ramos, the culinary assistant, must type it up each day. The courses are broken down into one canape, a first course, two fish dishes, two meat dishes, a cheese course, a sorbet and a dessert. Each party receives two amuses at the start of the meal, which are not printed on the menu, and each meal is rounded out with "mignardises," bite-sized petit-fours.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Keller's restaurant and most other four-stars is that each line cook comes up with his dishes. I'd see the beginning of this process at the end of the night at the menu meeting.
At most restaurants, the quality of a line cook is measured by how quickly he churns out the same dishes every day, for months, until the menu changes. The thinking, the recipe creation, the flavor profiling - that comes at the sous-chef level or higher.
But, then again, in a further twist that differentiates them from most other line cooks, French Laundry cooks don't taste their completed dishes. Keller explained that if the cooks taste each component, and know that the flavor profiles work, the finished product will also work. On top of an ever-changing menu, if an ingredient doesn't look up to snuff when it comes in, Hollingsworth will swap it out for something better. The line cooks must not only be skilled enough to juggle new dishes every day but also be able to change their dishes on the fly.
Because of this constant evolution, Ramos types up the two menus - the chef's tasting menu and the vegetarian menu - as late as possible.
At 2 p.m., she sat at the computer by the kitchen with notes she picked up from Hollingsworth, and translated them with her best guess. Hollingsworth had written "tomato salad, eggplant, cucumber, mizuna with sesame," and she typed up, "Salad of French Laundry garden tomatoes, 'Fairy Tale' eggplant, compressed cucumber, mizuna and white sesame." Tim wrote "vendeen bouchon" she changed it to "vendéen bichonné." "Borst" became "borscht." After a few tweaks from the cooks ("I wrote parsley, not purslane!"), the menu was set for the evening.
Set, that is, for the regular riffraff. There are also mini VIPs ("minis") and maximum VIPs. Reservationists Google all customers who make a reservation, which is why you might get a candle in your dessert even if you don't tell anyone it's your birthday, or a glass of Champagne to celebrate that merger. Extras are all in an effort to keep a diner's experience as exciting as possible.
"Minimum" VIPs might be people who have visited many times - they receive a few extra courses in addition to the regular menu. Maximum VIPs, Hollingsworth said, "might be a chef coming in, or someone who is well regarded in their industry, someone we have a relationship with." If the kitchen has the time, these special guests get a completely off-the-menu menu, created that day especially for them. Julia Roberts had been in recently and stood in the kitchen waving at the television set to the cooks at Per Se, none of whom looked up. I asked Hollingsworth if she got an off-the-menu menu. "She was VIP, but not off the menu," he said, adding cryptically, "That was because of the party size."
The purpose of my day at the French Laundry was to observe, yes, but also to work. I'd attended culinary school, staged at Jean Georges in New York City and worked the line at Gramercy Tavern. I may not have been up to French Laundry caliber, but I could peel a carrot. Yet somehow, every time I asked to help, someone deftly moved me to another part of the kitchen. "Have you met so-and-so yet?" "How about lunch in the garden?"
I got close, at one point. Sous chef Nai Kang Kuan, who oversees the commis kitchen, asked me if I could quarter a chicken. He gave me a boning knife and I was about to make a cut right between the leg and thigh when a thin, elegant man tapped me on the shoulder. "Tour of the wine cellar?" It was so well choreographed that it was nearly service by the time I realized I hadn't used my knives, and when I pleaded with Hollingsworth, he gave me some baby fennel. I cut it obliquely into "hooks," and once I filled two "delis" (French Laundry vernacular for "pint container"), I retired my knives. Every time I saw a fennel hook grace the abalone plate throughout the night, my heart fluttered.
Four times a day, fresh rolls, brioche and baguettes are brought to the restaurant, twice for family meal and twice during service.
Hollingsworth took one of each kind, broke each apart to feel for texture, nodded, then threw them into the garbage. I had to restrain myself from diving in after them - they looked as if they had just come out of the oven. I thought, What if they aren't good enough? Can he tell them to bake new bread? Does he have the power to warp time?
Service begins when the computer spits out the first order from the dining room. "All right," said one cook to another, "It's game time, Cheffie."
Service progressed in spurts and lulls, but even during the lulls, everyone moved - helping another cook, scrubbing down his station, jumping up to help Hollingsworth plate at the pass. An order for two foie gras plates came in, and canape cook Nick Ferreira sent the various components to Hollingsworth - foie, pickled blueberries, cipollini onions, watercress, puffed quinoa.
Hollingsworth dotted thick, aged balsamic vinegar on the plate and arranged the blueberries on top of the foie before changing his mind and moving them. Ferreira mimicked Hollingsworth's every move, seconds behind him, so that both dishes were ready to go at the same time. Neither had seen the finished product before. Hollingsworth decided that for the next plate of foie, he wanted to brush the balsamic underneath instead of dot it. One tweak, that was it.
When trailing at Daniel Patterson's Coi, I watched a novice cook "go down in flames," as they say in the industry - undercooking meat, messing up orders, putting dirty spoons in the clean spoon container. Coi had a built-in safety net of senior chefs, so all the dishes that went to the dining room were four-star anyway, and such a scenario is inevitable in a high-pressure, low-paying, high-turnover industry where people are forced to learn and execute on the fly. At most restaurants, diners in the civilized, air-conditioned dining room have no idea how hectic things are behind the swinging doors.
Yet at the French Laundry, even the smallest dose of chaos in the kitchen seemed almost unimaginable. Line cooks are sous-chef worthy at any other restaurant. Sous chefs are executive-chef worthy. No one drags. I saw Hollingsworth get mad only once, when Ferreira started cooking a piece of foie gras too early. "Pull it out of the f- pan," Hollingsworth snarled. Then he returned to his orderly self. Of course, he knew that a reporter was in the room, and I've heard from people that sometimes he screams at chefs if they underseason. Frankly, I'd be surprised if he didn't explode every once in a while - the intensity in that kitchen is sky high.
Hollingsworth sees not only every dish that goes out but also every plate that comes back in. Waiters, returning with empty dishes from the dining room, called out so that Hollingsworth knew to fire the next course ("Table four, clear") and each time, before noting it down, he'd glance up. One plate returned half eaten.
"Everything all right?" he asked the server, who seemed to expect this and replied, "She enjoyed it, but she's just pacing herself."
Those who work at the French Laundry or Per Se value the prestige, the training, the quality of the ingredients. I spoke to a former Per Se line cook who said, "If you're the kind of person who can 100 percent buy into it - it's like the military - if you can feel good yelling commands back, then you're going to love it. If you can't, you can't pretend."
But man, they put on a good show. Over the course of the evening, I would taste dishes and burst out laughing - the flavors were so perfectly melded, the produce such high quality, the presentation so clever, the accompaniments so playful (the foie gras is presented with six kinds of salt from all over the world, including one pink and one black) that I didn't know how else to react. It seemed like cruel and unusual punishment to taste dishes within eyeshot of the cooks who had never tasted their own creations, but the cooks were so focused they didn't even glance my way. I tried to thank Hollingsworth, but could only muster a small groan of pleasure. He seemed used to that response.
I found a Nepalese cook desperate for a job at the French Laundry sweating alone in the commis kitchen. He'd called every day for months before getting a response. Two hours earlier, after one day in the kitchen, Hollingsworth had given him a sudden-death opportunity: Armed with a duck breast and anything in the kitchen, he was to create a three-course tasting menu featuring a salad, an egg dish and the duck. If it was up to French Laundry standards, maybe he'd get a job.
Hollingsworth came to check on him. "How you doin'?" he asked, all smiles. The stage reluctantly left his quinoa to talk: "So overwhelmed . trying to do my best . honored to be here . just want to learn." Tim nodded, grinning, then squinted. "Gotta visa?"
I learned later that his duck hadn't made the cut.
The savory kitchen stopped cooking, though the pastry department continued to churn out plates past midnight. The cooks scrubbed down their stations as Hollingsworth drank his post-service coffee, and a little before midnight, Ferreira, who, as canape chef was done first, heated up the macaroni and cheese from family meal. Yet, no one touched it. I got the sense that chewing would be too exhausting.
The metal of the countertop was still hot from service. Everyone got a glass for wine from the half-empty bottles left over from the dining room, and after 13 hours came the final push of the night: the menu meeting. For me, this one-hour meeting defined the ethos of the kitchen - the high expectations, the responsibility, the thoughtfulness, the talent, the sometimes rigid pursuit of perfection. Does it really matter if cucumber repeats on the menu? I wondered.
Hollingsworth called on each cook to see what he or she had planned for the next day. First up was the cheese course. "What about celery times three?" Chef Adina Guest asked. "Hooks, micro, leaves?" Hollingsworth nodded, yes. "And pearls?" she asked. He shook his head, no. Next to him, sous chef Anthony Secviar couldn't stop yawning. Nostril flares gave a few other cooks away.
Someone else read out his components. "Celery's already taken," someone said. The cooks then worked through the dish creation together, with help from Hollingsworth and Secviar. Keller participates when he's around.
For another dish, Hollingsworth suggested that Matt Peters, visiting from Per Se, accompany his meat with bone marrow pudding. "Do you know how to do that?" he asked. Peters didn't. "Oh, that's a fun one." Then Secviar stepped in, throwing out an impromptu recipe. Peters took notes in his moleskin journal, which are given to each cook to record recipes either from their peers or from the filed database on the computer. As Hollingsworth said earlier, "If you're asked to do a job, we better give you what you need to do it."
At the end of the night, exhausted cooks "shook out" - every cook entering or leaving the kitchen for the day shakes everyone else's hand - changed, and left. Some would go home to spend another few hours planning for the next night's meeting before collapsing into bed.
On the TV feed, a lone Per Se porter scrubbed the stove. In 45 minutes, Per Se commis would begin their day. And, in just three hours, French Laundry commis would switch on the lights in the kitchen where I now stood, and begin theirs.
What goes on behind the scenes at a four-star restaurant? Chronicle staff writer Sophie Brickman, a culinary graduate who has worked in top kitchens in New York, wanted to experience the pressures and pleasures of cooking at this high, unforgiving level. After a night working in the kitchens of three of The Chronicle's four-star spots, she learned that each one is different and reflects the personalities of the chef/owner.
This week, she looks at the French Laundry, which is arguably the best restaurant in the United States. Next week, she goes behind the stoves at Daniel Patterson's Coi and Roland Passot's La Folie.
140 easy dinner recipes, all in one cookbook
Dinner at home connects me to friends and family, gives me more pleasure than pressure, and nourishes my soul. For the past eight years, my Chicago Tribune newspaper column, "Dinner At Home," has allowed me to share my kitchen escapades. Happily, the best of my column's recipes have been gathered into a new cookbook, "Dinner at Home: 140 Recipes to Enjoy with Family and Friends" (Agate Surrey, $29.95), which debuts this month.
I grew up in a family that simply loves to cook and eat. Food takes center stage at every event — from reunions to picnics, birthdays, baptisms and weddings. Our obsession, passion and never-ending appetites started with my grandparents.
My paternal grandmother baked, pickled and scrimped her way to nourish eight children. My grandfather, a bricklayer, butchered and smoked hams and sausages between gigs working on some of Chicago's iconic buildings and churches. My maternal grandfather, of Sicilian descent, was a professional baker. My mother took cooking classes at the local gas company and made homemade food every night of the week for our family of seven.
I started paying attention to food in fourth grade when my teacher brought avocados to the classroom. An uncle shared his Gourmet magazine subscription with me and bought me my first cookbook.
After receiving a bachelor of science in foods and nutrition, I opted out of dietetics to do a chef's apprenticeship. I had a blast (mostly) cooking and learning in 12-hour shifts, six days a week, in the various stations.
When the editors at Cuisine Magazine offered me a full-time position in their test kitchens, I was thrilled. We cooked dim sum, shark's fin soup, clay-baked, lotus-wrapped beggar's chicken and all manner of gourmet treats.
In 1980, I began my 16-year career at the Chicago Tribune as test kitchen director. We ran recipes and stories for a style of elaborate, complicated cooking that few of us do anymore. Everyone "entertained" back then, and chefs around the world were becoming superstars. Not just Julia, but Jacques Pepin, Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Paul Bocuse, Fredy Girardet, Jeremiah Towers, Daniel Boulud, Alice Waters. They all came to the Tribune to talk food, promote their books and cook in our kitchen.
Today, thanks to international travel, food television, thousands of cookbooks and dozens of food magazines, even noncooks know a great deal about food. In the United States, it's easy to cook with influences from beyond our borders. When my food career began, I traveled all over Chicago to find such oddities as cilantro and chipotles. Now, I can cook nearly any cuisine from the supermarket down the block. I can also choose to shop online for regional or ethnic specialties, my favorite heirloom beans, imported vinegars and exotic spices. Every so often, the world comes to my door with the delivery person.
In the United States, we seem to cook differently in every decade. I know I do. I no longer make the classical French food I did in the 1970s and the elaborate sauces and tortes of the 1980s. I had my children in the 1990s, and life got more complicated, but the food on our table simplified.
Now my grill, rather than my copper pots, often saves the day. I rely on the every-increasing supply of ready-cut salad greens, snipped herbs, diced fresh squash, top-quality bottled sauces and boneless chicken found at every supermarket.
Today, I cook more vegetables and grains and less meat. I use olive oil regularly and save butter for special occasions. I cut the cream and cheese down to a fourth of what I used a decade ago. I use Greek yogurt all the time. I buy broth and stock bases, but grind my own spices whenever possible. I use tons of fresh herbs. I build flavor with condiments such as Korean chili paste on pork chops and miso over fish fillets.
The collection of recipes in "Dinner at Home" reflects the way I cook for my family and friends. Every meal out proves an inspiration, every trip to the market or grocery store sparks the creation of a dish — some new and many more familiar. I want to cook foods that nourish both body and soul. Mostly, I want my family and friends at the table with me — no matter what it holds.
Cooking for friends and family ranks among my life's greatest pleasures. I wish you the same journey.
- 1 large russet potato, peeled
- cooking spray
- 1 teaspoon smoked Cheddar salt (such as Bitterman)
Set a mandoline on the thinnest level and carefully cut potato into thin slices.
Add sliced potatoes to a bowl of water and soak for 15 minutes. Pour out water, cover potatoes with fresh water, and soak for an additional 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 10 minutes. Spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray.
Remove potatoes from the water and dry thoroughly. Sprinkle with smoked Cheddar salt and transfer to the air fryer basket, making sure not to overcrowd it. Spray the potatoes with cooking spray.
Air fry potatoes for 8 minutes. Open air fryer and shake potatoes. Cook until potatoes are golden brown, about 7 minutes more. Check to make sure they are not cooking faster and starting to burn.
Dear Bouley Friends,
There’s more than one way to experience Bouley. Our mission continues to create the most nutrient dense menus, immersing guests in a community of shared culinary knowledge for unbreakable health.
Even during this extremely challenging year, we continue to reimagine what Bouley can be. We reached new audiences through our adapted virtual programming and continue to offer catered off premises events.
Our new book ‘Bouley at Home Living Pantry’ is in development 2021, that will coincide with our Membership Program and Chef and Dr. Series.
As part of our transformation for the holidays we have a selection of keepsakes from the many incarnations of Bouley. Please enjoy the enclosed items for sale as we redesign the future ‘Bouley’. For any questions please email us at [email protected]
Stay safe, well and vigilant.
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 ¼ cups milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Stir sugar, cream, and milk into a saucepan over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Heat just until mix is hot and a small ring of foam appears around the edge.
Transfer cream mixture to a pourable container such as a large measuring cup. Stir in vanilla extract and chill mix thoroughly, at least 2 hours. (Overnight is best.)
Pour cold ice cream mix into an ice cream maker, turn on the machine, and churn according to manufacturer's directions, 20 to 25 minutes.
When ice cream is softly frozen, serve immediately or place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the ice cream and place in freezer to ripen, 2 to 3 hours.
Interview with Gordon Ramsay
This season has been the most competitive. It's very exciting, because the contestants are really raising their game. I focus on the talent—I go through the first few weeks and then I get rid of the inevitable donkeys and focus in on the real talent. The talent over the past four years has become much greater, which puts me under more scrutiny. Even now, I'm still learning what to look for in the earlier stages and how to push people just that little bit further. The added pressure in the more recent seasons has made my job ten times more exciting. 2. Do you consider Hell's Kitchen purely entertainment, or do you think it can help people cook better?
I'm not going to fool anyone by saying Hell's Kitchen isn't entertaining, but I hope it offers more than that. Even if I get just ten people off their sofa and into the kitchen after watching the show, that's better than no one at all. 3. There's a lot of cursing in your TV kitchen. Has this helped or harmed your reputation as a chef?
When I get angry, I'm just being honest, and I don't think it's ever going to be any different. I, like any good chef, want everything to be perfect. The kitchen is a highly pressurized and heated environment and sometimes it just comes out. When you are in the middle of service, it's like four to five hours of being in a pressure cooker. When you're trying to get a full restaurant served with the quality of food they expect, the smallest issue can throw your whole system into a spin. The customers don't need to know about what it takes to ensure they have a great experience, so you just get on with it, and the pressure builds and builds. 4. What is the most fun you have had as a chef?
I've been lucky enough to have had lots of incredible experiences, but last year I had the honor of cooking at Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday party in London. The atmosphere was electric, and it was a huge privilege to be involved. 5. What was your own worst kitchen nightmare?
I can't remember the last time something went really wrong. But right at the start of my career, I did a stint at a resort in the French Alps. One day the head chef asked me to put the fresh bouillabaisse outside in the freezing cold to chill it. By the evening it had festered and formed a thick froth on top. It was absolutely disgusting. 6. Joël Robuchon, Daniel Boulud, and Thomas Keller walk into Hell's Kitchen: What do you make for them?
I would cook them a classic roast dinner: roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and red wine gravy. 7. You travel a lot. Do you ever eat airplane food, or do you bring your own?
Airplane food isn't in a great state so many of the airlines serve heavy, stodgy meals. Last year we opened a restaurant at Heathrow's Terminal 5, where we offer these amazing picnics to take onboard. They're light, easy to carry, and most importantly, absolutely delicious. 8. What restaurants do you like to eat at other than your own?
I love Nobu and Chez Bruce in London. There's also a beautiful little tapas restaurant in South London called Lola Rojo . In the U.S., I recently visited Michel Richard's Citronelle , which was fantastic. 9. Are American diners different from British diners in their tastes and expectations?
Americans are far more vocal. In the U.K., if guests don't have a good meal they often won't complain, but you can guarantee you won't see them again. Americans are far more likely to voice their complaints. 10. If you could keep only one of your restaurants, which one would it be?
Our flagship in Chelsea, London . It's the only restaurant in London to hold three Michelin stars and is absolutely exquisite. I have an incredible team there, led by Clare Smyth. She's 30 years old and is the only female three-Michelin-starred chef in the U.K. 11. Your restaurants have received 13 Michelin stars over the years, but most people know you from your television shows in the U.K. and the U.S. Does that bother you?
I am constantly being asked, are you a celebrity first now rather than a chef? The answer is, and always will be, no. I haven't spent the last 20 years in the kitchen and built up the company to go and sit on a yacht in the south of France. The shows have come along and done very well and I'm proud of them, but at the end of the day it's the restaurants and the incredible teams running them that take precedence. 12. Recently you opened a new restaurant at the One&Only resort in Cape Town, South Africa. Any other new spots we should know about in your march toward world domination?
Next year we're opening in Melbourne, Australia , which is very exciting. Melbourne is an amazing, buzzy, vibrant city, and the produce available is second to none. 13. How often do you get to cook at home for your family? What do you like to cook for them?
It's rare that I am at home to cook on a weekday evening, so [my wife] Tana normally takes control with the kids' dinner. On the weekend it's my turn. I rarely do anything fancy. If I'm cooking for the children, I'll make a pasta or rice-based dish. If it's just for Tana and me, then perhaps a beautiful steak and a simple salad. 14. Have you had to deal with picky eaters in your family?
No. We've brought the children up to be willing to try different things and they love it. I don't mean feeding them truffles and caviar, but encouraging them to try different fruits and vegetables and a variety of flavors and textures. 15. Do your children like to cook?
They love helping out in the kitchen. They're growing up fast and getting to the stage where they want more responsibility. Cooking is a great way to give them that extra freedom. 16. It seems that personally, you are pretty tough. For example, you run a marathon for a children's charity every year. Is toughness—physical, emotional, whatever—a job requirement for a chef?
Yes. If you want to make it in the kitchen, you have to be tough—emotionally and physically. When I was training I was lucky enough to go and work with Joël Robuchon and Guy Savoy in France, and I had it kicked out of me there. It was incredibly tough, but it took me to another level. It taught me true passion for my craft and made me learn each area of the kitchen until I could do it with my eyes closed. I had to prove myself ten times more than any of the French boys, but it made me a better chef in the long run. 17. Three ingredients you can't live without?
Maldon salt , butter (in moderation), and fresh herbs. 18. What do you consider to be the most underrated food?
Celeriac. It's one of the ugliest vegetables around. It's absolutely hideous-looking. Perhaps that's why it's so underrated. Despite its ugly exterior, it is absolutely delicious within. It's brilliant in soups, fantastic deep-fried as vegetable chips, or grated raw in salad. 19. Is there any food you won't eat?
Any ready meal [frozen meal]. It's so easy to prepare a quick meal using fresh produce, such as a simple stir-fry, but people still resort to ready meals that all taste exactly the same. 20. What would be your last supper?
Sea bass is the king of fish, so my idea of the perfect last meal would be a beautiful fillet, pan-fried with a light sorrel sauce, or served roasted with artichokes and a chive crème fraîche.