By Amy Rosen - Monday, November 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
The combi oven can bake pizza, sear salmon and grill steak at the same time
There’s a revolution simmering in the kitchens of the nation’s restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, hotels and even prisons. Electric stoves, gas ranges and convection ovens are being ripped out to make way for the Rational, a German-made beast that can bake, roast, broil, steam, grill, fry, dehydrate, poach and perfectly reheat food.
It’s called a combi oven, and it uses both dry heat and moist heat to cook large quantities of food precisely the same way. It can also bake a pizza, sear salmon and grill a steak at the same time. The programmable Rational is popular in Europe, where more than 85 per cent of commercial kitchens use combi ovens, but the company is just beginning to make inroads in Canada. Most of the units, which cost from $15,000 to $55,000, are sold to high-volume kitchens, although they do have a few well-heeled clients who have a smaller version at home (the most famous is the White House).
At the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver this summer, executive chef Darren Brown took a visitor on a tour of his vast cooking empire, passing staff making chocolates, pickling cucumbers and checking on charcuterie before stopping in front of the Rational oven and declaring that it had revolutionized his kitchen, especially on catering jobs. They can compose and chill up to 120 meals on mobile racks, then roll them into a Rational and “reheat them to the perfect temperature in exactly eight minutes.” Continue…
By Pamela Cuthbert - Friday, October 26, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
Book by Nicholas Lander
The world has gone mad for celebrity chefs, but one man is campaigning against the tide. “Chefs, in my opinion,” says long-time Financial Times restaurant critic Lander, “have been elevated to an overly lofty position.” It’s not that he’s against great cooks—quite the contrary—but he believes greatness can be attained only through “the partnership of a visionary restaurateur alongside a talented chef.” To set the record straight, Lander travels the world to speak with 20 industry leaders who run the front-of-house of top restaurants, from public figures Danny Meyer (Union Square in New York), Joe Bastianich (Mario Batali’s partner) and Trevor Gulliver (St. John in London) to equally accomplished but lesser-known individuals like Juli Soler—Ferran Adria’s partner in elBulli—and Wagamama founder Alan Yau.
Each portrait incorporates business analysis, personal anecdotes and insights such as the role that restaurants, as vibrant gathering places, can play in urban regeneration. Design, architecture, service and other elements are considered. In the process of unfolding often dramatic tales—bankruptcies, health problems and failed marriages are common—Lander also offers a globe-trotting tour of gastronomic proportions. The culinary writing is restrained—no gastro-porn here, which is unsurprising given his three decades of solid restaurant criticism. Lander recognizes the stress that comes with creating a successful restaurant. After all, he has been a restaurateur himself and begins the book with his own tale of opening the pioneering L’Escargot in London in the ’80s, then having to sell the restaurant due to poor health. (Soon after, his career took a turn when his column was born.)
Lander writes without a hint of snobbery, and an absence of interest in all things trendy. Don’t expect to learn about hyped restaurants like Noma or Faviken. Instead, look for valuable lessons and sound advice—such as these bons mots from a man once called the world’s greatest restaurateur, the late Jean-Claude Vrinat of Taillevant in Paris. What he says might also apply to what we all need: “A love of food, a love of wine and a love of one’s fellow human beings.”
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
There’s a movement underway to convince customers their fast food is being cooked by someone other than teenage staff
Just as marketers scrape bottom in the whole “artisan” trend (official low point: Tostitos Artisan Recipes chips), the fast-food industry is gravitating to a new wholesome sales tool: the white-jacketed chef. Whether it’s Burger King’s new “Chef’s Choice” burger or Domino’s decision to feature Brandon Solano, the pizza chain’s vice-president for marketing and retail innovation, in a chef’s uniform in television ads, there’s a movement underway to convince customers their food is being cooked by someone other than the teenage staff actually slaving away in the kitchen. As a recent article in Advertising Age noted, McDonald’s executive chef Dan Coudreaut is increasingly being made available to talk about new products, while KFC’s “chief chicken officer” was used as a spokesman for the chain’s cook certification program. Just don’t try asking for wine recommendations at the drive-through.
By Jacob Richler - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 1:20 PM - 1 Comment
Maybe it’s sexism—or maybe it has something to do with women’s own expectations
In Calgary recently, catching up with star chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jackson over some small Latin plates (chorizo, gallina, oxtail empanadas, etc.) and drinks at Ox and Angela, a trendy downtown tapas bar, the conversation turned to the related topics of women in the kitchen and role models. For DeSousa is that rare commodity: she is both.
She achieved a national profile earlier this year as one of the final contestants on the inaugural season of the series Top Chef Canada. Meanwhile, in a highly unconventional arrangement, she is co-executive chef with Jackson at the enormously successful Charcut Roast House in Calgary, as well as its co-owner (with Jackson again, along with their respective spouses). Also in Calgary, where the New York and L.A.-spawned gourmet food truck trend is catching on fast, they operate a mobile burger truck called Alley Burger.
Recently a young girl, no older than four, turned up at the food truck to deliver a little homemade sculpture of a heart. Other days, mothers bring their young daughters by the restaurant proper in the hopes of introducing them to the high-profile female chef. A decade ago it was Iron Chef that got young kids interested in being chefs; now it appears to be the Top Chef series. So I asked DeSousa and Jackson who their own role models had been back in their shared, formative early days in the 1990s, when both worked in a Calgary restaurant called the Owl’s Nest.
By Pamela Cuthbert - Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 11:50 AM - 2 Comments
Seemingly humble (and frequently overlooked by diners), soup enchants great chefs
Often overlooked in restaurants in favour of the stars of the show—the meaty mains, the flashy apps, the sensual sweets—soup is frequently dismissed as an also-ran or a mere filler-upper. But great chefs know better. “I love soup. It’s a brilliant thing,” enthuses the man behind the nose-to-tail movement, pioneering chef Fergus Henderson of the Michelin-starred restaurant St. John in London, England. “Food has two things it should do: to sustain and to uplift. Both are in the nature of soup. Yet it gets forgotten.”
Revered as much for his philosophical musings as for his culinary genius, the former architect likens soup to “ﬂying buttresses,” essential to a meal’s structural integrity, and ventures that perhaps it is looked down on because “there was always soup with grandparents. Maybe that’s it in some Proustian way.”
Another reason soup is so often taken for granted may simply be its ubiquity. There isn’t a culinary culture without it.There’s turtle, truffle, French onion, hot and sour, clam chowder, miso, pasta fazool—for starters. “I don’t think there’s any other dish that can fit any style of cuisine quite so well,” says Jonathan Gushue, executive chef at Ontario’s luxe Langdon Hall hotel in Cambridge. And soup invites extremes, from terrible tinned tomato to XLB, or xiao long bao, a Shanghai dumpling creation that has online critics raving about the life-changing flavours.