One More Day

We ended up doing a little 0ver 350 covers tonight and the boys and girls did good! Just one more 16 hour shift and we can put this year behind us. I will admit at one point Aaron, chef de cuisine, and I looked at each other and it was questionable if we were going to make it through today and tomorrow with smooth services but everyone stepped up and put some really nice food out tonight.
The multivac and the berkel got a workout today along with the two polyscience thermal baths. We sous vide all our fish for tomorrow starting with super nice John Dory from Gary's Seafood, Black Grouper, Corvina, Mahi, Mero sustainable sea bass from Koko @ Honolulu Fish Co., and then moved on to the LaBelle Farms foie gras. We use Bruno Goussault spec for most of our sous vide, brining in a 10% salt water solution for 10min, then into a freshwater ice bath then patted dry and bagged with evo. Aaron made the brine yesterday and put it in the freezer overnight. The salinity is high enough so it won't freeze but gives you a nice slushy consistency that holds at about 20F. It keeps your proteins super cold while your processing it so there are no temperature issues to worry about. Then we use a thermocoupler with the hypodermic probe and sponge tape to cook the fish in batches at 56C until they reach 54C. The portions are removed and we let them sit at room temp for 5 minutes, the put them in room temp water for 5 minutes then in an ice bath for 15 minutes. The cooling procedure helps the fish retain moisture so when we sear the skin side and reheat tomorrow they will be perfectly cooked, moist and seasoned throughout. We do season the skin side when searing because we love salty crispy skin, who doesn't? The only issue to worry about is that sous vide fish skins likes to stick so we butter and oil our flat top excessively when searing and let the skin sit until crisp otherwise your portions won't look so hot.
Some people may frown upon cooking ahead of time but this is the way to go when you have 550+ on the books and your are trying to do some nice food. We are working twice as hard to provide our guests consistency and speed of service. We know that in the end our fish will be seasoned, cooked properly, executed in a timely manner, and will provide us that cushion we need to do the numbers. Not to mention it gives us more time to focus on our garnishes.
You can prep all day and all night but that doesn't mean a damn thing if you can't put the food on the plate. We have a good crew, and they are dedicated and focused. As long as the wheels don't fall once we hit 500 covers we will be able to walk away feeling good about service and enjoy the first couple hours of 2010 with some drinks in our hands and some friends to hang with.


New Years Eve

It's been pretty busy around here for the last 3 weeks and the busiest night of the year is fast approaching. Last year we pushed out 597 covers for NYE and we are on the way to do the same with 550 covers on the books. We have tried tasting menus in the past but for some reason around here they don't sell so we are running some specials on top of the a la carte menu this year.
We have a great deal on our Champagne and caviar using Tsar Nicoulai California Estate Osetra by the ounce paired with an awesome array of champagnes. If you wish to go to the russian route we will also be pairing our sustainable american caviar with 2 Stoli Elite martinis if you opt out of the champagne for no additional charge on top of the caviar. You get to choose from an array of champagnes, Mumm Cordon Rouge a mere $6 for two glasses on top of the caviar, Pierre Jouet Fleur de champagne, Tattinger Comtes Rose, or Louis Roederer Cristal(all at a considerable discount from our listed price when you pair it with the caviar).
The entree specials are
John Dory...hammock hollow root vegetables, parsnip butter, root spinach, FORVM glazed pearl onions
Wagyu Shortrib...horseradish creme fraiche, charred chicory, fingerling potatoes

We wanted to do something old school "special occasion" for the pasta this year so I figured why not put the two things that are ordered on special occasions in one dish. So this is what we came up with, foie and truffles. There may have been some inspiration from my "save the foie" stove monkeys shirt I got for christmas as I was wearing it when we came up with the dish(thanks matt). So we will be doing a beurre noisette cauliflower puree, truffle potato agnolotti, foraged mushrooms, and LaBelle Farms Foie Gras topped with a little arugula and baby radish salad. Of course a heavy handed shaving of nice winter truffles is in order to finish. We will be pushing some serious numbers so I had to figure out a way to do my foie quick and consistent. I did a test run and came up with this

1" thick slices of foie gras
1 tbsp J. LeBlanc Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fleur de sel and pepper to taste

cryovac the foie with all ingredients, sous vide at 65.3C(149.5F), for 5 minutes and put directly in an ice bath.
when ready to use just sear on both sides until warm in the center. The foie retains the fat and is cooked perfectly for pick up.

Tomorrow it all starts, $15,000 of fish, foie, and meat to break down, brine, and sous vide. Braising, blanching, cleaning, juicing, reducing, shaving, dicing, drying, frying, toasting, and trimming of various components. We are attacking NYE, the plan has been set, the stations are stacked with everyone in their strongest positions, most of the cooks know what is coming and the ones who don't are learning fast, we are going to kill this shit. No excuses, just make it fucking happen and it better be right.


The Farm

Well here it is, doesn't look like much other than 3 acres of scrub brush, palmettos, some pines, and a couple of young oaks coming up here and there. Hopefully we will begin clearing within the next month or so and we can start getting the soil ready for planting. This will be no easy task and it will require a lot of time I don't have but it's something that I will be doing for myself. I was a forestry major in Flagstaff, Az before cooking got a hold of me and have since always wanted my own plot. Staging at McCrady's last year had convinced me that this is what I have to do.

By no means will the land be ready anytime soon and there are surveys to be done, expenses to be taken care of like equipment for clearing the hardest plant in Florida to get rid of, the palmetto. Along with being a pain to get rid of they are also considered notorious hiding spots for various poisonous snakes here in Florida like the eastern diamond back rattlesnake. Click on the link to see a perfect example of one hiding among the palmetto's palm fronds.

It's only 3 acres but it is pretty dense. I already have some volunteers from the restaurant to help with the labor aspect of it. The cooks there are dedicated and seem to really want to take on the responsibility of a farm even though this will have no official affiliation with the restaurant. This is my private land and this will be used for my own organic planting purposes as well as a learning tool for any and all interested. It's about 45 minutes from the restaurant and 20 minutes from my house so it will not be too hard to make the trip in the mornings then go off to work when I need to. This is mostly horse and goat country but I'm sure a few pigs wouldn't hurt. If we fence in 1 acre and give a couple pigs 3-4 months they can serve as our personal tillers. They will root up all the soil and eat everything leaving fertilized land to be planted. It's still too early to make any decisions. We have to weigh our options and see what we are dealing with once we find out more about the soil under all that brush.

I will be reaching out to Al Rosas and many others over the next couple months for advice, initial planning, insight into the operations of the farm, organics, seed saving, planting cycles, and soil content. Granted this is only 3 acres but at least it is something and something great can be done with it. We just have to do it. I'll randomly post on the progress of my newest venture, stay tuned.

Black Sea Bass,heart of Palm, tangerine

Charlie at Hammock Hollows is supplying us with some awesome product. He runs the oldest organic farm in the state and supplies to some of the best restaurants around the country. Today we featured some of his tangerines, meyer lemons and spinach along with hearts of palm and black sea bass sashimi. I poached the hearts of palm in butter, sugar, water, salt and meyer lemon juice. We also pickled some HOP in yuzu juice, champagne vinegar, water and sugar. The baby spinach is meaty and flavorful. We did segments of tangerine and a fluid gel to support the round of poached HOP.

Gary's seafood brought in some nice black sea bass for us which got a J. LeBlanc, fleur de sel, meyer lemon zest marinade.

Honey crisp apples were compressed with yuzu rice vinegar and mirin then tossed in O blood orange oil. Micro shiso, some of Charlie's chervil, and sorrel completed the dish.

We also picked up some nice baby collards that will be featured on our "Dirty South Swordfish", red and white baby turnips have been cleaned and sous vide to complete our organic veg of the day. The turnip greens will find there way into our pasta and abalone supplement. Savannah Mustard greens that have been added to our German influenced "Ze' Idaho Berkshire" pork dish. Also floating around we will have blue tuscan kale, baby flambeau radishes, charlie's famed mixed greens along with baby romaine and little gem lettuces as well. I love Wednesdays in the fall, winter and spring when that truck pulls into the loading dock with a palette sized mystery basket for us. Charlie takes a break from Hammock Hollows in the summer to travel and start co-op farms sharing his invaluable knowledge. It is an honor to work with the ingredients he has provided.



In case you haven't noticed our "who we read" widget has expanded. My former sous chef Michael Gleason, a.k.a. HCD, is on his way to open his own restaurant. The Avery Creek Bistro just outside of Asheville, NC. This is a good opportunity for anyone with the desire to open their own place, you get to sit back and watch via his blog how it unfolds. So click on his link and read about the restaurant. We all wish him good luck.


Michael Mina

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chef Mina for a few minutes in our lounge today to shoot the shit and also to help him out with a casual dinner he will be cooking tomorrow for friends, team, and family.
My wife and I went to San Francisco in 2004 with a spot on our friends couch and a reservation at The French Laundry. We took a couple days and explored San Fran then went off to Napa for the day. After one of the best meals of my life and the descriptions we provided to our friends they wanted to experience something similar. We made our way to Restaurant Michael Mina at the Westin, his flagship of trio goodness. If your counting the trios I had over 25 courses, some plates were trios of hot and cold so 6 entirely different courses on 1 plate. The plate itself was designed by Mina with the help of some folks in Limoges to accommodate his style. We went to the bar for a couple of drinks and if you sit to the far left you can see part of the kitchen where Mina was on expo that night checking all the plates, tasting, pen behind the ear, pointing, marking tickets, instructing captains and controlling the flow.
As a younger chef it was inspiring to watch. I had back to back incredible meals and it was a trip I will never forget. Two years later I was taking over bluezoo as executive chef and the first week I was to be chef we were doing a media dinner with Michael Mina and Todd. So no pressure at all with a 2 michelin star chef coming to your restaurant to cook with you along with your boss. It was a great challenge and experience. Michael is a chef with high expectations but very personable and approachable. His sous chef Junior was a machine and informed us he was on his way to open up the restaurant in Mexico City after this was said and done which seemed appropriate, the guy was good!
So needless to say it is a great honor for myself whenever Chef Mina is around. Here is one course I had a chance to take a shot of for his 20 top in the restaurant tonight.
Sous vide lone peak beef, methocel truffle gnocchi, cauliflower puree, foraged maitake, FORVM glazed pearl onions.


More J. Girardot benefit dinner

We didn't have a driver for the moving truck to get to the Ritz so I was nominated to drive. We loaded all our savory then pulled into the loading dock by pastry and I watched them loading all these super delicate sugar pieces, chocolate sculptures, air compressors, and basically filled the entire back of the truck. So no pressure at all when you have 8 executive pastry chefs from all over the country staring at you saying "don't break anything". Lets just say it took me a while to get to the Ritz and I'm sure there where a lot of pissed off people behind me.

One of the main people that brought all of these chefs together for this benefit was our very own executive pastry chef, Laurent Branlard, two time world pastry champion
Here he is putting the finishing touches on his sugar showpiece which was no easy task to begin with, then add all day rain and 95% humidity but all of the showpieces made it throughout the night. There were 6 in all that I counted, some from Ewald Notter and his team, then Laurent and Frederic Monti along with there friends put up the other half. I like the utilization of the whole glazed cocoa pods on Laurent's showpiece.

The event itself went very well, our dish was
Rouget seared in cultured vermont butter and J. LeBlanc Olive Oil, celery root puree, methocel truffle gnocchi, tangerine fluid gel, minus 8 caviar, manni per mi olive oil, brunoise celery, red ribbon sorrel, citrus coriander blossoms, and chestnut chips. There was a lot going on and it was one of the more complex dishes that was presented. Other noteworthy dishes were the pork belly from primo with pickled mustard seeds and shallots, Voltaggio's sous vide shortrib with bitter crispy broccoli, Clay Conley's lamb tacos were killer. There were too many sweet treats to list but I had the best macaroon I have ever had by far along with candies from Norman Love, Keegan's chocolate cake, Laurents pain perdu, churros from the Notter school were awesome, I could keep going.

The evening wouldn't have been complete without some acoustic guitar and singing from Ace of Cakes co-star Geoff Manthorn who roamed around the event and talked to everyone. Cool guy.

Here are some Links to follow if you would like more info on the dinner and what it was about
keegan and voltaggio
orlando sentinel


Chef's Table,literally

We had our chef's table on Wednesday and it was a blast. We brought in a lot of great product and it was all family style and mostly french-i-fied food. We were hosting the dinner at bluezoo for all of the chefs participating in the Jerome Girardot benefit dinner. Some of our diners included Keegan Gerhard, Michael Voltaggio(who did a good job of not letting anyone know who wins tops chef this season after being harrassed by a couple of people at the table), Frederic Monti, Ewald Notter, Clay Conley, Chris James, Sebastien Thieffine and another 20 ridiculously talented chefs.
Here are some of the products we had for them
Live Maine urchin

We got some beautiful Shigoku Oysters fro Tailor Shellfish farms in Washington.

These are by far the best oysters I have ever had. They come perfectly packed, individually scrubbed, nice cup size, creamy with a hint of minerality.

Some nice size loup de mer was flown in from Portugal.

This is the fish after coming out of the brine and ready to be sous vide, this was served with parsnip puree, petite bouchot mussels, micro leeks, and the sauce was reduced mussel cuisson that we creamed out.

We also had some toro with micro shiso, pickled daikon, and togarashi.

Blanquette de veau, carved cote de boeuf, artichokes barigoule, beet salad, azeitao, brillat savarin, tarentaise, couronne lochoise, humboldt fog, and about 7 different kinds of crusty bread from our friends at Deuce France bakery. Of course there we some traditional french desserts like galette de rois, mille-feuille, and many more.

It was a great night, after putting out each round of courses chef rob, arnaud and myself joined the table to eat with our guests and talk shop. An awesome experience and one that I will not forget.


Pate and events

Turkey day leftovers are as much a part of the restaurant as they are at my house. Utilization is key whether it's folding the candied yams into some pancake batter for breakfast or constructing the perfect turkey sandwich. This year we had a lot of trim from our birds so we bagged it up with some bourbon and a touch of maple syrup.

We ground in a bunch of neuske's smoked bacon with the breast meat and livers so it would help in the moisture department. Next we folded in choux paste instead of a traditional panade. The choux paste really helped the texture and gave it a light feeling. If I ever need to make turkey burgers I will be folding in pate choux. When doing our test pieces to check for seasonings it was cooking up nice, light and moist. When putting it in the mold we added some chunks of sous vide pork belly and golden raisins. In retrospect we should have vac'd the farce once in the mold to remove all air but it still turned out ok.
We made a quick cranberry mostarda from our leftover fluid gel and there you go

There is always some shrinkage after baking a pate, I wanted to eliminate all that fat leaching out so we bagged some up and put the circulator on 64C. Dropped it in for 1 hour and pressed it between 2 plates to cool overnight. When I'm back on Monday I will check the results.

Coming up this week at bluezoo
-chef's table december 2nd- 50 chefs from all over the country here to honor Jerome Girardot with a fundraiser for him family. The menu is going to be family style and for the most part classical french, so far here is what we have

-blanquette de veau
-cote de boeuf...artichokes barigoule
-loup de mer...canaveral white shrimp, bouchot mussels cockle, vadouvan shellfish butter
-chestnut agnolotti, nantuckets, shaved brussels, butternut
-tapas style raw bar- east and west coast oysters, uni, stone crab, key west middle necks, torro, and an assortment of sauces and garnishes in various forms
-hammock hollows greens, tableside salt roasted beets, goat cheese fondue, black walnut
-cheese!!!! couronne lochoise just got in yesterday, super funk doughnut shaped cheese to resemble the "Crown of Loches"(town of loches, Loire Valley), just one of many awesome cheeses that our resident frenchy ordered.
-Laurent will be creating 5 different custom desserts for the dinner

the next day we are off to the Ritz here in Orlando for the actual fundraiser where we will be serving rouget, black truffle "gnocchi", and a slew of other micro sized time consuming prep that chef has yet to let us in on. It will be interesting.


Turkey plate

Finally got this post up, here was our holiday turkey dish.
Willie Bird brined, sous vide, seared breast. Pumpernickel and brioche stuffing, haricot vert "cassarole", cranberry fluid gel, braised and pressed dark meat, and turkey jus.

Overall a good night, 425 covers, 108 turkey sold out of 139 prepped, sold out of pumpkin soup, 57 dessert trios of pumpkin creme brulee, apple pie, and cinnamon crunch ice cream sold as well. We are happy to serve our guests on the holidays and we try to give all of them on vacation a little taste of home.



Here is our turkey jus after a full day of slowly reducing and constant skimming. Nothing in the original stock was caramelized but still we end with a dark, clean, and clear jus. Tomorrow we will butter it out lightly for some shine.

The thigh and leg braising liquid was reduced as well then mounted with butter. We added chopped sage and fleur de sel then packed it into parchment lined hotel pans. The pans were stacked and we put a weight on top of them as they were cooling. Tomorrow we will portion and sear for service.

T-day is not complete without some Blis bourbon barrel aged maple syrup which went into a foam for our pumpkin soup. After the soup was made and foamed it tasted just like a warm, slightly more savory pumpkin pie.

Now on to the cranberry fluid gel. We made a gastrique base, added the cranberries and oj then cooked them down slowly. We strained the liquid and added our agar, then pureed. It tastes just like the Ocean Spray Cranberry in a can(which is what we were going for), but in a fluid gel state. Aaron and I commented on it last year after we made it and I ended up pureeing the stuff in a can for the family when I did T-day dinner the next day and it worked perfectly. Could we have just pureed the stuff in a can? Yes! I just can't justifying serving that to paying customers, we have to use fresh ingredients and show some value for price paid. I grew up with the gelled stuff that still had the ridges from the can in the shape of a tube on the plate just sliced so for me at home I love it but couldn't do it at the restaurant. I'm hoping there will be some left over for me to take home for my day after turkey sandwich.

One of the classics is the green bean casserole. We made a mushroom bechemel, blanched some verts, folded it all together then made little bunches. These will get topped with some focaccia bread crumbs and baked.

It's all coming together. We are a seafood restaurant mainly and will sell a hefty amount of fish tomorrow for our traveling guests that have no idea what Thanksgiving is all about in the US but we have prepped about 140 portions of our "not so traditional turkey dinner" in anticipation of the people that join us year in and year out for this holiday. Now all we have to do is execute.


Knee Deep in Willie Bird

It's that time of year again and I'm sure most restaurants are in the same boat as we are. Turkey time is upon us and we have sourced some fresh Willie Birds from Sonoma. The birds are an all natural fresh product that really speaks for itself. Outside of killing your own bird it is hard to compete with this product. We spent all day yesterday breaking down the 24 birds ranging from 12-14lbs. The breasts and tenderloins have been separated, the legs and thighs as well. The carcass get's it's own VIP treatment which I will divulge later in the post. Livers reserved as well as all scrap for future charcuterie endevours.
Today we began portioning breasts where as in the past we would activa and role the breasts into cylinders, sometimes stuffing them with a farce, but this year we are headed in a different direction. This year is more of a focus on the bird itself, clean, clear, and precise. The tenderloins are cleaned of the sinew for kids portions. The legs and thighs are being braised this go round instead of cured and confit as in the past.
We went with a traditional braise instead of sous vide for the dark meat since the finished product requires it. It's is a little more difficult to pick and shred sous vide thighs and legs. Below we have arranged our thighs and legs for the braise.

**A note on the braising veg, stock, and Cib**
In the past every vegetable in the restaurant that went into a stock was heavily caramelized as well as the bones. We have been show a different way from our exec chef Robert Ciborowski and the difference speaks for itself. As a TK alum, Cib shows us how all the little details really make a difference. Combined with some Roger Verge research and TK technique our stocks and braises are better than ever. For one, celery is almost forbidden in stocks and any liquid that will be reduced to eliminate bitterness. Instead we add celery root to all our braises and stocks to replace it. I never get a bitter note from a reduction on line check anymore. So here were sub celery root for our celery and add fresh laurel, and thyme.
Beauty comes in such simple forms. Sometimes randomly arranged veg just looks like it was meant to be there.

This is where the stock comes into play. The carcasses of the turkeys get a nice long rinse in the kettle under cold water until the water coming out of the bottom is clear. At this point the only thing in the kettle is the turkey bones. Then fill just above the bones with cold water and heat the kettle gradually. We have replaced all the time it takes to roast the veg and the bones with standing over the kettle for about an hour, never leaving and constantly skimming. When it comes to a low simmer and all scum has been skimmed dump in half as much ice as you have water. If you are starting with 20 gallons, you will dump in 2ea, 5 gallon cambros of ice and TURN the kettle off at this point. The ice will cause the fat at the surface to congeal and it can be easily skimmed and removed. Now slowly start your kettle again skimming as the temperature comes to a simmer. Now add your veg(carrot, onion, celery root, thyme, laurel, traditional ratios for mirepoix to gallons of stock being made). Also you want to add about 1 bunch of leeks(whites only, very important you do not add the green tops) for every 5 gallons of stock being made. Let it come to a simmer again, and yes keep skimming. Now you let it go for 8 hours, skimming every 20 minutes. The stock will be as clear as day and the flavor really represents the time and effort.
We took this stock straight from the kettle and strained it several times then covered the legs and thighs with the stock, add a cartouche, and foil.

We let them braise for 5 hours @ 200F and bumped the temp slightly at the end to 250 for 30 minutes so the meat released from the bone easily. Braised turkey is usually pretty dry and mealy but this method turned out nicely.
Now we will pick all the meat, slowly reduce the braising liquid, mount it with butter, add any desired seasoning or herbs, and fold it into the picked legs and thighs. This will then be pressed into sheet pans and put in the fridge with a weight on them. On T-day, we will portion, sear, and reheat in the oven.

Next on the list of course was the stuffing. This recipe is an Ed Bilicki original that has stuck with us since he was the chef here before me. We have of course made our little modifications but for the most part you don't really need to mess with a good thing.
Toasted pumpernickel and brioche get tossed with caramelized mirepoix(yes this has celery in it), sage, turkey stock, and a custard base.

We press it into sheet pans and bake at 350F for 30 minutes with parchment, another sheet pan, and a couple cast iron pans on top then let it cool in the same fashion. It's basically a stuffing bread pudding. We portion it, sear it and put it on the plate.

So for now the braising liquid will finish reducing tomorrow and we will press the legs and thighs, the breasts are currently swimming in a brine then will be sous vide and seared for service. Mushroom bechemel has been made and tomorrow we make the haricot vert cassarole, focaccia scraps have been saved from service tonight to dry for a nice crunchy topping. Cranberry fluid gel will be addressed as well. The remaining stock has been reduced all day and I will post that tomorrow to show how a stock where nothing has been roasted still has great color and clarity, not to mention flavor. Stay tuned........did I mention I'm already sick of turkey!


Watermelon Radish

We finally have a minute to breathe around here before the holidays which makes it easier to post a little more. We just got kicked about 20lbs of watermelon radishes for free so I have a feeling there will be a lot of compressed, pickled, grated, and spun radishes on the menu for the next couple of days.

Here it is shaved then hit with some Valderamma Arbequina extra virgin olive oil, sweet and salty goat cheese, sel gris, and some micro radish greens.


Foie Pain Perdu

Chad and I were having a email discussion hitting on several topics,one being simplicity. There is no where to hide with simplicity, everything component must be on point. On that note, here is our foie pain perdu, the malaga soaked brioche is pan fried lightly, the center removed and replaced with a slice of foie torchon. Our "breakfast for dinner" dish. Then we fill it with some warm blis bourbon barrel matured maple syrup and finished with sel gris.

Simple, salty, sweet = ridiculous



Working on some aromas and how to incorporate them into dishes. Tried chesnuts and christmas spices but cinnamon took over everything. Herbs work well, now turning to spice blends to see how things will pan out. It's all trial and error, getting your temp right on the vaporizer is key. I tweeted Alex about aromas with nuts after his smoked hazelnuts but have had no luck with further tests. Just going to keep plugging, maybe a new utilization of our 2 compartment bowl from steelite. Next I think we will tackle BBQ aroma, something about the smell when you open the door to your smoker after 12 hours, need to capture that and give the same experience to our guests.


Travel Channel

We entertained Samantha Brown's crew tonight who were celebrating their 10th anniversary on the Travel Channel. One of their courses was thinly sliced toro that we rolled up around pickled daikon, miso caviar, yuzu air, and micro tat soi.

This one was black cod, we did a 10% saltwater brine, rinsed, pat dry, cryovac with evoo, sous vide at 56C using the thermocoupler and cooking until 54C then let them rest at room temp for 10 minutes before warming gently in the oven. The agnolotti have a butternut filling, the foraged maitakes were slow cooked in beurre monte then a little sherry vin for acid. The sweetness of the squash and the acid of the sauce complimented the fatty cod well.


Demo and stuff

Epcot Food and Wine asked us to come over for a demo. We said yes about 2 months ago to it and well later today we will be @ Epcot's Wonders of Life Pavilion, 1pm, putting together a version of our chilled maine lobster. Aaron Christian, chef de cuisine of bluezoo and myself will be there to walk through a couple techniques using our gastrovac to infuse lobster with orange essence, fennel in different textures, and whatever else we come up with from now until then.
It has been an interesting couple of days/weeks to say the least. We have been open for lunch the last 2 days with a big group at the hotel pushing out 225 covers for lunch then another 250 for dinner. We started the demo prep about 3 hours ago after service died down and will be back to work early to knock the rest out. It's Disney we are dealing with and they want everything laid out a month in advance but that is not how we work, it's a la minute improv for us so if you plan on coming I can guarantee some alterations of our components that have been printed and will be distributed for the demo.
That's cooking though, I can write a menu 2 months out but evolution takes over, you have to be able to go with the flow. Things will change. Plate ups, components, and techniques grouped together with getting your ass handed to you for the last month with no days off, throw in a couple lunch services, sleep deprivation, caffeine overload, alcohol abuse, literally living at work because there is too much to be done, 2 week notices, write ups, not knowing what day it is, yelling at FOH, getting yelled at by FOH, Todd in town for a dinner, empathizing, compromising........really I could go on.
So in the scheme of things just a normal month in terms of being a chef. With that said our demo should feel like a walk in the park compared to everything that we have gone through. Neither Aaron or myself like public speaking but we play off each other well and will knock this out. In closing come see two obsessed, semi coherent chefs talk about some food later today.


Jerome Girardot Fund

Getting a chance to play host to an awesome crowd of chefs Dec 2nd that are here in town to do a dinner for the Jerome Girardot Fund. Follow this link and learn more about Jerome's story, what we are doing to help his family and the collaborating chefs that will be putting their time in for the dinner. I will be joining Robert Ciborowski at the Ritz Carlton on December 3rd as well to complete our portion of the dinner as well.


Food and Wine Behind the Scenes

Kosta put up another great bunch of pictures from our recent food and wine dinner. Thanks to Kosta for taking the time to document and post all these pictures. We were so busy with all the preparations that I only took a half a dozen pictures or so.
Check out Kosta's blog and see all the pictures of the prep, the people and the food.


food and wine

Too much going on right now to write a long post about it so I'll give you the link to Kosta's blog, this is the second year he has come down to help us out. It was a great dinner, and good food considering we were doing a reception, amuse, and 6 courses for what ended up being 165pp.
here it is



Swan and Dolphin All Stars

What an insane week so far and its not going to get any easier. Wednesday we did a chef table for 135pp for the Darden Restaurant groupwith some great food. We cooked everything in the room in front of the guests. Needless to say there wasn't time for pictures between plate up and making 135 parsley oil and isomalt bon bons.
Once that was done it was on to prep for tonight, 20pp, "blue light special"(if you've seen the previous post on this you know what I'm talking about), all the guest sat in our garde manger kitchen after a reception in our cooler with and ice bar and couple raw appetizer selections. Here is a picture of the garde manger kitchen when we were setting up.

We plated everything from the banquet kitchen adjacent to garde manger.

The amuse was buffalo chicken mousse(bresse of course), celery puree, buttered out hot sauce, crispy bresse chicken skin, celery julienne, celery leaf, bleu cheese espuma.

The first course was french onion soup. The top part of the bowl had an Echire butter toasted crouton topped with a nice melted slice of comte and brunoise veg.

The servers place the bowl down and removed the top to reveal encapsulated french onion soup on top of an agar onion disc.

Here is how it was presented to the guest

A little ham air topped off the soup before it was covered by the lid

Our deconstucted Waldorf had an apple puree, apple gelee, brunoise apple, nitro freeze dried raisin powder, encapsulated yogurt-mayo-herb dressing, lemon juice powder, red wine vinegar powder, walnut powder, and a celery root gelee.

Here we are beginning the plate up of the rouget.

The rouget was seared in J.Leblanc and Echire butter, topped with a cartouche then pressed. Chef Cib's barigoule artichoke puree was the base, We followed up with micro parisiene of butternut squash, carrot, celery tourne, olive puree, buttered out meyer lemon vin(echire again), johnny jump ups, and chervil.

Now on to the main which was a dry aged beef tenderloin, la ratte potatoes finished with whipped echire and whiped cream, sugar and ghost white pumpkin, micro red ribbon sorrel, frissee, truffle coulis, truffle coins, savoy cabbage, and bordelaise.

Here is a closer shot of the veg.

After that Laurent went to work with a strawberry and lemon verbena custard, violet macaroon, chocolate and pear pairing, then topped it off with some tonka bean ice cream. Ridiculous to say the least.

Here is a shot of the plate minus the ice cream which went on top of some brown butter crumbs.

A very successful dinner and great to work with all the chefs from the hotel. here is everyone that had a hand in it for perspective
Robert Ciborowski-exec chef swan and dolphin
Arnaud Violtat-exec sous
Dan Herman-exec sous
Devin Queen-exec chef Il Mulino
Bogdon Sonta-complex chef de cuisine
Shannon Murray-Garden Grove exec chef
Paul Bunny-Garden Grove Sous Chef
Russ Neideg- dolphin banquet chef
Greg Shimoda-complex garde manger chef
Ceasar mendoza-dolphin garde manger chef
Laurent Branlard-complex exec pastry chef
Wesley Mayton-Dolphin exec pastry chef
Daniel Richard de la rosa- bluezoo jr. sous chef
and myself Chris Windus-bluezoo exec

It's great to put all the chefs on property in one kitchen. Everyone brings years of experience and it really shows what teamwork, drive, attention to detail, and communication can achieve.


rabbit 5 ways

One of the benefits of working in a hotel is when banquets has a site visit. They usually end up with leftover product and since we are the only restaurant on property that can actually alter our menu and utilize these products we get all the goodies. Last night we had 15 rabbits with only the hind legs removed handed to us. So we started breaking them down to loins, kidneys, frenched racks, fore legs, and scrap for stock. It's a tedious project but well worth it. Tonight we did a black pepper pasta, carrot sheet(agar and gellan), sous vide the legs overnight with duck fat and made a rillette, soaked the kidneys in milk and then basted them with brown butter, sous vide the racks ahead of time then pan seared to mr on pick up, and again sous vide the loins a la minute and gently finished in the pan as well(in my opinion the hardest part of the rabbit to execute correctly).

We agar clarified the stock and ran it through a coffee filter, the servers frenched it tableside, we added a little lemon juice and basil oil to the consomme to help with the overall flavor of the dish. Some radish greens and turnips as well.

In the end you have
1 loin
2 rack
3 kidney
4 rillette
5 consomme

The saute station loves the four pan pick up. A lite fall dish, no all we have to do is get the servers to really push it. Rabbit in Orlando is not an easy sell so it is up to them to really sell the customer on it. I'll usually give them the go ahead in pre-shift to spiel the guests on an item like this, "Try it, if you don't like it I'll buy it for you", a risk you sometimes have to take to get things moving and get people to try new things but so far we haven't bought anyone dinner on that recommendation.



Not the greatest photos but the best I could get between typing notes and trying to get some shots in.

Bouley was sick! Sharing his pholosiphy of kaiseke mixed with traditional french technique. Some of the best dishes I saw put together.

The master started by cutting the scales off a nice japanese hamachi with his custom Nenox knife instead of using a scaler so the flesh under the skin would not be damaged. I was in my fishroom here at bluezoo within the first 10 minutes of being back in the restaurant doing the same.

Jose Andres brought a great stage prescence and personality along with some of his chefs from minibar. I have already implemented two of his techniques. Littleneck clams cryovac'd and poached in simmering water for 10-15 seconds then removed and into ice, then shuck. Gives them a much nicer finished look and of course topped it off with some iberico jamon broth.

Juan Marie Arzak shared his history, philosophy, and love of food with us.

Doc Sconz and Juan Marie after his demo. It was a pleasure to finally meet Doc and his son.

Dave and Nils doing their thing, and doing it well. If I was on my way to culinary school I know where I would be going.

After the demo Dave let a couple of students and attendees take their shot at killing some live black sea bass by severing the spinal cord above the gill plate and again at the base of the tail then threading a piano wire down the spine ceasing all commands from the brain for the flesh to tighten and go into rigor. The result, crunchy sashimi, it actually had a cruch to it and it was great. I don't know how much live fish I will be bringing into the restaurant but I have a new trick for on the boat sashimi next time I go fishing.

There were so many more things to the ICC. I wish I had some pics of Sean Brock's presentation. It was a history lesson on a plate. Our good friends Chadzilla, Chef K, and Fabian. It was good to see Alex of Ideas in Food again, got to hang out with Kosta again and it was a pleasure. 3PO made a special guest appearence, Danny, my sous chef was lucky enough to attend after I won a free ticket to the event after filling out the culinary trends survey. I think he will benefit from this greatly, next year it's Aaron's turn. Seeing George, an old cook now at Olives NY, Mac and Dixon from Olives for hooking us up with some grub. Momofuku Ssam bar was good as always, pork buns, beef tendon salad, their version of the McRib, pickles and kimchee were all good. Pastrami on rye at the Stage deli was over the top, have to get it all the way of course with coleslaw and russian dressing. Halaal Chicken stand on 53rd and 6th at 3:45am with a line of about 75 people waiting for some street food. JB Prince store, could spend $10,000 in 5.5 seconds, Korin shop down by the Brooklyn bridge, ridiculous. Pre-drinking/post-drinking hot dog from who ever and where ever, Baoguette booth at the ICC was nice.

To finish it all off we had a great meal at Marea, Chef Michael White's new place next to Colombus circle and the Essex House. It was an amazing meal with great company. Myself, Danny, Kosta, and Chris(3PO, name that stuck, don't ask) celebrating his 25th birthday. It was coastal Italian cuisine at it's finest. Awesome uni covered with a melting paper thin slice of lardo on some fresh baked bread, rustic and ridiculous. All the courses were amazing and it didn't hurt walking into the restaurant, sitting two tables away from David Bouley and Pierre Gagnaire, and all of us looking at each other saying to ourselves "this is the shit".

Information overload, it will take some time to process and digest. A great experience.