Monthly Archives: April 2014

Chef Antoine Schaefer of Ferrandi Paris at the International Culinary Center

Dorothy Cann Hamilton introduces Antoine SchaeferICC Founder Dorothy Cann Hamilton with Chef Antoine Schaefer

Last week, in the middle of everything else going on with the start of catering season, I managed to have a free afternoon to catch a chef demonstration at my alma mater, the International Culinary Center.  This one was led by Chef Antoine Schaefer of FERRANDI, a culinary training school in Paris upon which the original French Culinary Institute (now known as the International Culinary Center) was modeled.  He is also the original chef-instructor at FCI and helped to design the program with the school’s founder Dorothy Cann Hamilton.

Arriving  several minutes after the demo had started, I slipped into my seat in the auditorium.  I’d thought that this would be the usual show of a few signature dishes being recreated and plated, with samples for us to munch on during the talk.  What I experienced instead was another view as to why great chefs are just that.  The food was colorful and delicious with the plating taking the experience to another level, as the photos below show.  It was the kind of talk that I find inspiring and one that makes me want to strive to do better in my own work.

Plating towerPlating Tower

Glasses filled with colored liquid support glass plates.  Various microgreens act as a “garden” around the display.

Plating with cut-out vegetablesFirst Course Plating

Vegetables cut out as “Air and Sea” served with beet spheres, foie gras in cucumber pyramids, carrot purée with shrimp, and a savory tuile with a chive-goat cheese cream.

Mondrian-esque tuna with vegetablesTuna and Vegetables displayed as Mondrian-esque Design

Tuna cooked two ways – as a tartare and seared – garnished with microgreens and plated in random formation with sliced, blanched vegetables laid out à la a Mondrian painting.

Vegetables and Tuna two waysTuna and Vegetables plated in a design inspired by Mondrian

A larger version of the plating in the first photo. Dessert TrayDessert Plating

Mango and passionfruit purée with raspberry coulis served with raspberry cream-filled choux pastry covered with a matcha paste topped with raspberry gelée alongside of a miso caramel sauce and dusted with matcha powder.

Final platesAnother view of the final plates

Buon appetito!

Pop-up Dinner with Chef Carmen Gonzalez

DIshes in sinkDirty dishes in the sink

This is what the end of every cooking gig looks like, more or less.  Someone has to do the washing up.  It was no different this past Thursday evening when renowned restaurateur Chef Carmen Gonzalez prepared a Latin-flavored dinner at The Kitchen Table NYC.  The space has an open-plan kitchen, where I worked a prep shift on Wednesday, putting together some of the components of the meal that was served to about 40 folks.

AD frying plantain crispsFrying plantain chips

The space has a long table which seats about 20 or so people plus a wrap-around counter where another 8-10 folks can enjoy the “chef’s table” experience.  It’s the kind of arrangement that breaks down the barrier between the front and back of house, more or less, with the kitchen in view of the attendees.  Many of the guests had a full-on glance of the hubub and synchronicity that takes place to get a meal plated and put in front of them.

Order of DishesOrder of the dishes with instructions

Putting on a dinner or event like this is a carefully orchestrated affair.  The guests must not see any of the sometimes frantic and often chaotic assembly and production that takes place behind the scenes.  It all must appear to move along seamlessly.  Starting with the prep schedule, through the appetizer and cocktails portion and then continuing with the plated courses and wine pairings, getting the timing just right to complete all the dishes and serve them in order, hot or cold as necessary, and in an organized fashion, pulls together servers, cooks, as well as the head chef in one concerted effort.

Getting the plates set upLaying out the plates

Someone will have set up the dinner table with everything that it needs, rows of wine glasses will have been laid out for the pre-dinner drinks, servers will have been instructed what to pass when and where to stand, and cooks will be keeping a careful eye out to make sure that all the components of the dishes are finished and ready to be served when required.  The actual serving vessels to be used will have been selected in advance so that they can just be rolled right out as needed to plate each course to send it quickly out of the kitchen to be served to the guests.

Kitchen shotThe kitchen in action

Once the first guest arrives, the adrenaline really kicks in and the event sort of takes on a life and flow of its own.  It’s hard to describe exactly, but everything really does seem to click into place.  Food comes out of ovens and off of stoves, it gets put on to plates and garnished, and those plates make it onto the table in front of the guests for them to enjoy, course after course.  There’s a beauty to the end of the evening when those dishes and the pots and pans end up piled high in the sink.  Then, of course, someone has to wash them all and put them away for the next time.

Menu for Chef Gonzalez dinnerMenu from Chef Carmen Gonzalez’s dinner

Smoked Salmon & Roe on Yucca LatkesSmoked Salmon with Crème Fraîche and Salmon Roe on Yucca Latkes

Appetizer - pork with chimichurriFried Pork Nuggets with Chimichurri

Crab & Crispy PlantainPeeky Toe Crab Salad with Avocado and Crispy Aranitas (green plantains)

Monkfish and Boniato Mash with Lobster SauceMaine Monkfish with Boniata Mash, Wild Asparagus, and Lobster Broth

Pork Loin with Salsa Verde and mashed PlantainsBerkshire Pork Loin with Sweet Plantain Purée and Salsita Verde

Stuffed Lamb Belly with GarbanzosLamb Belly Roulade with Chard and Chorizo accompanied by Chickpeas

Dessert - Mango Bread PuddingMango Bread Pudding with Rum-spiked Crème Anglaise

Buon appetito!