• Published: Feb 28th, 2009
  • Comments: None

Heading West

Welcome to San Francisco - Welcome to the Houseku

We left Chicago exhausted but with a profound sense of accomplishment. We had lost Mayur to rug replacement and some kind of warranty battle with an ice cream maker and we made our way to the smaller of the city’s two airports. Excited by heading home and being able to get some Potbelly’s sandwiches and Chicago style hot dogs before our flight would leave.

Without rest or comfort, just hours after we woke, we fought with all our strength to not overwhelm our conversation with talk of our trip to San Francisco the following weekend. There were many things we had learned over the past 72 hours and many new challenges that lay ahead. Spurred on by the staff of Alinea and our new-found confidence in our recipes, we set forth into reworking our next event to try and overcome that last 20%.

Cathy Erway

It was decided that we would be hosting one large meal in San Francisco as the space was large and majestic with two separate kitchens that could handle the task of serving thirty people twenty-five courses. We would be executing two dishes that required finding 20 liters of liquid nitrogen, which because of work and scheduling issues, we would not able to test until the day of the event.

Daniel was not going to be able to make it, as he had to return Colombia to check on Emilia Romagna and finalize some details for the new restaurant he would be opening in Cartagena that summer called Vera.

Jonny Cigar

Mayur as well had to succumb to the demands of real life and was relegated to cooking with us every night in preparations for the event but was not able to come with us.

In their place were three of the most enjoyable human beings I have ever met, Andrew Rosenberg, Cathy Erway and Jonny Cigar. Along with two San Francisco locals Keiko Takano and Jen Freeman as well as Melissa M. Martin, a friend of a friend who flew in from New Orleans we had assembled a formidable team to once again try to climb this great mountain of a meal.

Andrew Rosenberg

Once again our flight was scheduled to leave at some ungodly hour and having learned from our last experience with TSA, we were much better prepared for travels. It had been three weeks now where I was sleeping less than a handful of hours during any given night and the long sparsely filled flight was the perfect place for me to fall off into oblivion. All of my dreams were laced with frozen spheres of chewy candy canes or licorice syrup and seared scallops fueled by Brian and Akiko’s heated discussion of the best process and procedure for tackling this new menu. Jonny sat quietly a few seats away polishing his tie and reciting what I assumed was French poetry – delicately dancing with the elegant pronunciations in a way that was only possible by a man that learned to speak English in upstate New York farm country.

San Francisco provided us with the exact opposite weather conditions from Chicago, welcoming us with warm sunshine and soft floral sea breezes that made Jonny’s poetry seem all the more salient, I would assume. We picked out another very nice late model Minivan in a glistening shade of metallic dirty and headed off to find the Houseku and home for our final recreation.

  • Published: Feb 27th, 2009
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In short order

Two weeks ago, I was standing in the kitchen at Alinea. It was the coldest day of the past 15 years and the beginning of my short stage, my brief glimpse into one of the best kitchens in the world.

In the Kitchen at Alinea

In the Kitchen at Alinea

One week ago, I was standing in a kitchen of apartment off Lake Shore. It was the second coldest day of the past 15 years and we were deep into our preparations for our Chicago recreation meal, which would be attended by one of the contributors to the Alinea cookbook and one of the sous chefs I worked with in my short stage.

In a Kitchen on Lake Shore Drive

In a Kitchen on Lake Shore Drive

Today I am standing in a farmers market, with a hint of the ocean breezing past me. It is threatening to become February and I am in short sleeves and with a cold beverage sweating over my fingers. The intense selection of organic and local produce betrayed my current location and deliciousness that the northern California weather was pouring upon us was a brilliant release from the brutality of winter.

Where to find Liquid Nitrogen

Where to find Liquid Nitrogen

It would fall on Jonny and I to handle all of provisioning, as we were the only two cleared to drive the rental Town and Country and use the credit cards. Being San Francisco, the only real problem was choosing which amazing market to frequent and where to find liquid nitrogen.

Being on the west coast was the most delightful way to end this extreme cross-country tour. Except for the fact that we were cooking 6 new dishes that we would not have a chance to test until the moment we were serving them.

In hindsight this seems like an amazingly stupid move. In actuality it was based upon an intense trust of the ability of our knowledge, team and specifically the talent of Brian Sullivan. Brian was extremely proficient in the modern ingredients and techniques and was driven beyond all to recreate these mystical dishes to the exacting letter of the minds that created them. So with just a few long conversations stolen on flights and some casual note taking, the two of us had planned our the execution of the new set of dishes. The vague brutality of the naked ingredients and conceptual executions was exciting in it own right but turned out to be the crowning achievement of this final event.

Proficiency in modern techniques for napping

  • Published: Feb 26th, 2009
  • Comments: 1

Eighty Percent

Thomas Keller's - "Galette" Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras, Italian Pistachio "Financier," Compressed Red Sensation Pear and Garden Mache

Driving through the brittle cold, we wove our way from our small sandwich haven to the bowels of Chicago to a brilliant little high end market that was our key dispensary for mousse de foie gras and a couple of other little baubles that we might be needing for our evenings adventure.

Parking was not an option so as Kathryn made her way through the market I ran through the evening in my head. When we first embarked on this quest I had been in contact with the owner of Alinea about photos, flavors and what have you. In exchange for some much needed advice he asked if he could reserve to seats at one of our meals to give away in a raffle to an employee at their holiday party. I had forgotten about this until the day I showed up for my stage and was introduced to sous chef Andrew Graves. Quiet and incredibly professional, it was a few moments into my trailing of him that he let me know that he was the one who won the seats and he was really looking forward to seeing how we interpreted their food.

Over the 24 hours I spent working at Alinea in two days, I came to respect Andrew an enormous amount. As the shallow winter daylight slipped away, the reality of serving one of the Alinea chefs, who is responsible for the original dinners, created a tight knot around my midsection. Would there be enough salt, would the potatoes be hot enough, would we be able to serve our meal or would I seek his support and interaction? Clearing decisions by him, making him taste, poke, prod and not just relax and enjoy his evening?

The door burst open with a crisp bite of cold and the elegant aroma of the hot beverage Kathryn carried along with the sundry in a much smaller bag than I would have imagined. Still lost in thought I was mildly silent as the lake chased along our right side in varied tones of frigid blue. I was stuck in contemplation over the other guest for the evening whose opinion I was extremely interested in hearing.

Black Truffle Explosion Process

His name is Michael Nagrant, and he was asked by Grant Achatz to write one of the forward sections of his groundbreaking cookbook. The specific section he wrote was about the “Black Truffle Explosion,” one of the dishes we would be serving that night and one of the most unique and ingeniously simple pasta applications I had every encountered.

He was also in attendance at the meal served at Alinea just one month before, but instead of being in the kitchen, he was a guest – able to savor the same courses we would be serving. Unlike Mr. Graves, he wasn’t preparing he was eating and over the course of the series of recreations we served he would be the only person that ate both the initial meal and our interpretations.

As we fought for parking, a few miles north of the city, just inches away from Lake Shore Drive, my phone exploded in a cacophony of delayed messages. It had been trapped in the netherworld, designed by Apple and AT&T to remind us of how much we loved our beautiful telecommunication devices and how terribly useful they were. It seemed although our guests were not set to arrive for a few hours Mr. Nagrant had come by early to get dirty and participate in the exact portion of the Alinea meal that he had originally missed.

Arms full the elevator broke us into a pile of giggling and warm deliciousness. Something sweet was toasting into a caramel and its burnt candied notes were fighting with baking of yeast and simmering vegetables to see which would assail our senses first and most thoroughly.

Without many moments for pleasantries, I stumbled into the kitchen, with a warm hello from everyone and the handful of premature guests who were happily working their way through the mis en place for the night. Michael was grinning wide with a camera in hand and keen eye for capturing the ridiculousness that was evolving.

Daniel, was also full of gregariousness while he walked me around the kitchen and letting me know where we were in our preparations and list of issues we would have to creatively solve before service. Our $200 dollar Sauterne had found its way into our shellfish fumé, ruining both, our refrigerator (laundry room) had now taken to directly reflecting the outside temperature and was hovering around -10C, turning it into a freezer and crystallizing a few of the more delicate gels that would have to be replaced and worrying us all that a second flood was imminent from a frozen pipe, and someone had dropped caramel ice cream all over the floor in what was a tragic yet magically entertaining explosion.

Nothing was too dire and as it seemed Daniel had managed to create interesting and appropriate solutions to all of the problems at hand. I set forth into a flurry of movement preparing the front of house and getting the platting and staging areas ready for the never-ending pile of food that would be served over the next four hours.

Then without real drama or tragedy we served twenty-five courses of some of the most technically difficult food in the world. With a warm group of extremely interested guests, after each course the room was alive with help. Plating, preparing and story telling were danced around and embraced. The hours poured past and the wine was drained from every bottle we had access to, with a slight turn to the syrupy and charred bourbon that was replacing the delicate fruit of the sauterne.

Not being a man of subtle stature after a long evening of cookery and drinking, I confronted our two distinguished guests in their drunken and sated state. Mr. Graves had entered a state of relaxed conversation but was beyond reserved with his words and was quickly overpowered by Mr. Nagrant’s firm opinions and statements. With a stereo just feet behind me struggling to accomplish the herculean task of providing dance party beat from speakers measured in millimeters, he cleared his throat and made sure I knew that he was impressed. In his opinion, if we had been able to recreate 20% of the flavors, textures and concepts behind the dishes then we would have at least have provided an equal level of value, but he was very proud to announce that our meal had been executed to 80% of the original. With a few misses that he described as diametric interpretations of the ingredients or preparations, which were good but nothing like the original.

Savory to Sweet Course - Raspberry and Rose I Bacon, Apple and Thyme

He then walked me through the event from the tableside at Alinea, describing the majesty and pomp that created the elegant air of perfection at the meal, juxtaposing that to the open kitchen and participatory nature of our meal. With a struggle in his voice he informed me that he could not figure out which experience he enjoyed more. It was with this amazing compliment that I let Paper Planes over take me and dance along with the rest of the crowd, rejoicing in their accomplishment of either serving or eating that night’s meal.

Our team with the chef's at Alinea

  • Published: Feb 19th, 2009
  • Comments: 1

The Great Flood

Prep-list for from Saturday January, 2009

Prep-list for from Saturday January, 2009 - Photo: Michael Nagrant

Saturday morning started for me in a mid-priced hotel about a mile from the location of our dinner. It has been said that the best coffee shop in Chicago was right around the corner from us – this I cannot confirm or deny. Having entered bed well after 3:00am I was slow to rise when my alarm started making robot noises at 9:00am. It was when I reached over to quiet the singing machine that I noticed that I had missed a handful of calls and text messages from Daniel who stayed in our host’s condo with some of the rest of our team the night before. It was clear from the series of messages that he was trying to explain to me that there was a flood of biblical proportions at the apartment and I needed to come quickly.

After volley of retaliatory missed calls and text messages, I collected myself and prepared for a day during which I would be cooking in what I could only imagine was waist-deep water. Collecting a couple gallons of coffee from the aforementioned purveyor we dove head first into what could have only been a nightmare.

Upon breaking into the confines of our temporary home, I was relieved to see that there was no standing water and the only real causality for the evening was everyone’s sleep and a rug of Crate and Barrel origin. Since I had not been there I leave it to Mayur Subbarao to recount the evenings happenings to you:

Now it was late. Twenty-four courses of culinary madness served and cleared, no thanks to my own rather comical blunders: Cacao spheres in trays that had miraculously managed to invert 90 degrees onto their sides; a freezer-bowl full of cuit sous vide caramel ice cream base that had shot itself out of the freezer door all over me, my fellow dessert cooks, and the floor.

Now it was quiet; most of the cooks, including our fearless leaders Michael and Daniel, had left, and I was tidying up a few things in a kitchen that was dead silent, except for the sloshing and gurgling of a washing machine full of aprons, napkins, and caramel-soaked rags.

Hm, not so much of a sloshing and gurgling any more. More of a splashing and rushing…

I turned around to see what looked like a wave of water issuing forth from the utility room. I think I must have screamed like a six-year-old girl, because Daniel and Akiko rushed into the kitchen in mere seconds, by which point I was already ankle-deep in water. I waded to the utility room in a frenzy, only to realize that there was an office between it and the kitchen. Computers! Arrgh! was the only thing running through my head as I grabbed everything that looked vaguely electronic and piled it on the desk. Daniel and Akiko were right behind me, moving away vulnerable objects and throwing down anything absorbent… most of which was currently in spin cycle in the washing machine that had caused this mess to begin with.

Having removed everything we could (it was too late for the poor rug, RIP), we went into the utility room only to realize that the pipe leading directly into the washing machine had come loose and was now shooting water all over the place. By the time I fixed it, I looked like I’d been thrown into a swimming pool fully-dressed, and the 30-degree temperature inside the utility room was certainly not agreeing with me. Meanwhile, however, the crisis had decidedly separated the professionals from the amateurs; Daniel and Akiko were calmly mopping up the flood and cleaning the kitchen (again).

“For heaven’s sake, this happens all the time at work,” said Akiko. “You don’t want to know what gets spilled on the floor in a given day. Just go to sleep and we’ll deal with it tomorrow.”

We turned in rather calmly, and it occurred to me that somehow, flying to Chicago to execute a 24-course dinner out of an apartment kitchen with a minimal staff of volunteers which involved chilling wine on a garage roof and setting up sous vide baths in a bathroom sink…

…had given me a sense of proportion.

The hot coffee sparked the minds of those who had to battle the deluge all night and we got to work in quick fashion. Hours slipped by, and sometime just after noon I excused myself to do a little grocery shopping and to meet, for the first time, my lovely lady friend’s father.

We were doing great on time having done most of the preparation the night before and I left Daniel, Brian, Akiko and Mayur to polishing off the last few things while Kathryn and I hit up the Treasure Island and made our way to a restaurant that only served small sandwiches for our rendezvous with her Dad.

I know the idea of scheduling such an important meeting on a day already filled to the brim with nervous tension, possible calamity and exhaustion seems reckless but life does not always allow you to choose the field for your greatest battles. I wasn’t too concerned because I had some inside information that let me know that we both liked Ayn Rand, specifically Atlas Shrugged, for what I could only assume was her pride in accomplishment, enduring work ethic and rape fantasy.

Needless to say the tiny sandwiches were small, talk was delightful and uplifting and as we broke from the small building and into the brutal cold I was alive with excitement. That night we would be serving diner to two of the only people in the world who could actually give us an honest comparison to the meal that we were trying to recreate and I was giddy in anticipation.

  • Published: Feb 15th, 2009
  • Comments: None

From our town to Chi-town

A Cold Car

Daniel Castaño in an exceptionally cold car


I departed Chicago a changed man, alive with new ideas, concepts and a much better grasp of what would be necessary to accomplish our next series of dinners in a fashion that would befitting the original hosts.

Our recreation dinners in Chicago would be our first attempts at performing such a high level of haute cuisine away from our home kitchen and became the template for what you could imagine as a monumental logistical nightmare. The meal itself was long and the ingredients fragile, with many preparations that would have to be accomplished in Chicago without the help of a proper work space. We would have to not only bring some of the more intricate prepared foods but we would need to bring a vast amount of specific equipment as well as finding some of the immovable devices locally with friendly or sympathetic owners.

We decided to split the meals into a Friday and Saturday seating of roughly half the number of guests we had served in New York. A more reasonable goal with all of the new challenges we had to overcome to serve twenty-five of the most technically difficult dishes in the world.


Silpat with pear chips - Sally Ryan

Our flights were booked for Thursday the 21st of January, 2009,  so early in the morning it would be offensive to most people who don’t work as long shore men. We travelled light on clothes, as every carry on and checked bag was filled to the teeth with food and equipment (a truncated list of some of the items: sous vide rib cap, dehydrator, silpats, micro-planes, yuba, low and high acyl gellan, veal demi-glace, apple fruit leather, sodium hexametaphosphate, truffle stock, truffle soup -a quart of which was lost in the packing process in New York. That quart of soup cost $125.00 hence why I wasn’t told about it until arrival in Chicago and needed to make our shopping list).


Dehydrator with red curry raisins

It seemed from the get go that security guards at the airport were going to love us, but it wasn’t until they got to our immersion circulator that the love was really felt. Being wildly expensive we obtained a pelican case for what is one of the most essential pieces of cooking equipment we owned. This steel reinforced case only reinforced the idea that even after x-raying it twice, the TSA needed to poke in and around this case, while I reiterated my explanation of its purpose with the kind of deft tact and skill that can only come with being awake and at an airport before the sun rises. Needless to say it was discovered not to be dangerous and we were on our way.

  • Published: Feb 15th, 2009
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Friday Night in Chicago

Brian Sullivan, checking courses 1-4 before service

Brian Sullivan, checking courses 1-4 before service Photo: Sally Ryan

Veal Demi-Glace

Upon arriving in Chicago, on Thursday 21 January,  2009, we were a flurry of action, transforming our lovely host’s beautiful condo into a functioning kitchen and dining room. We were again blessed with a painful cold snap, which we used to our benefit by turning what was supposed to be a washer and dryer room into a walk-in freezer by opening the windows. Seems silly but this open and flat cold space was the key to being able to make this apartment a functional space to serve the meal.

After many trips to the supermarket, wine store, fish monger, butcher, cheese monger, Treasure Island and Alinea for vacuum packing, we had gotten ourselves in a good place and were ready to receive our guests for the evening. In a stroke of luck two of our guests for the evening happened to be amazing photographers and provided us some amazing shots of our prep, the dinner and the plating of the courses.

Thomas Keller's - "Calotte De Boeuf Grillee" - Grant Achatz's - Lamb, Fennel, Pernod, Coffee-Scented Air

Thomas Keller's - "Calotte De Boeuf Grillee" - Grant Achatz's - Lamb, Fennel, Pernod, Coffee-Scented Air - Photo: Adam Keats

I will save my words for evaluating our success or failures for Friday and leave it to Kyle Ryan from the Onion to give you his opinion. For what he missed from his drunken notes in terms of accuracy he makes up for in delicious creativity and having a wife who is a brilliant photographer. As it was we finished the night with a strong sense of accomplishment behind us and a great desire to attack Saturday’s event with fervor. We would be serving not only a sous chef from Alinea who cooked at all of the dinners we were recreating but one of the co-authors of the Alinea cookbook, local food writer and attendee of the original Alinea meal. The pressure was on but sleep came easy for me at least before what would become an amazingly ridiculous day.

Grant Achatz's - Spice Cake, Rum, Persimmon, Carrot

Grant Achatz's - Spice Cake, Rum, Persimmon, Carrot - Photo: Sally Ryan

  • Published: Jan 22nd, 2009
  • Comments: 1


So with an offhanded comment in a local New York publication inviting me to come and stage (intern in French pronounced with an AHGEE like mirage) at his restaurant, I found myself just a few days later speaking with Grant Achatz confirming the details for the few shorts days I would be spending in the kitchen at Alinea. The timing wasn’t the best as he was going to be presenting at Madrid Fusion the same week we were planning our Chicago dinner, so I came out the week prior for a few days of abuse and learning.

After hearing that her conversation had sparked my impending collision with the kitchen at Alinea, Jordana, TONY journalist, asked me if I would be kind enough to write about my experiences and take some photos from the short time I was going to be staging at Alinea. Owing her at least this much I did my best at capitulating all of the details and information I could.

These words were broken into a three part story that was posted on TimeOut NY in early February, 2009.

Inside Alinea: Part one

Inside Alinea: Part two

Inside Alinea: Part three

Inside Alinea: Inside Alinea – The Slideshow

As are most things in this world, the slide show for TimeOut NY has been edited and subsequently contains only a select number of the photos that were captured during my short time in the kitchen at Alinea. Therefore, for you enjoyment, please fine below the entire collection.

Please click on the little I in the upper right hand corner of the photo to provide you with a brief (or sometime lengthy) description of each photograph and its context.

Stage At Alinea

."\n"[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000111.jpg]7460Potatoes to be peeled
Peeling Potatoes - It was this menial task that I waited for until the beginning of my second shift. It was with great pride that I peeled these potatoes for Dave Beran and made some tasty chips.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000112.jpg]710Black Truffles
Here is a collection of black truffles that will easily surpass your rent. These were thinly sliced and then pressure cooked to be reduced into a juice.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000114.jpg]850Fish Prep
Sous Chef John breaking down fish for the evening's service while I prepared these trays for making a cauliflower custard with carrageenan
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000116.jpg]800The Hot Pass
Here is a quick glimpse at the hot pass during prep. The huge piece of beef was systematically broken down over the course of about an hour by Chef Achatz while a hundred other things went on around him in a flurry.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000117.jpg]660The Hot Line
Here is a little peek at the hot line during prep. One of the amazing things about the kitchen at Alinea is that it is very flexible. Here you can see an induction burner working, which was moved across the room right after this was finished.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000119.jpg]610Rum Spheres
These are rum spheres that are made with sodium alginate and calcium lactate. They are part of the "Spice Cake" dessert and are being rinsed here in fresh water after being formed.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000123.jpg]620The Cold Pass
Here is a group of other stages working furiously at the cold pass line getting ready for service. Bob is the older gentleman in the middle there. He is from Perth and he had the hugest knife ever and was really rad but felt out of place with the science.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000124.jpg]540Hot line during service
This was easily the busiest part of the kitchen. Putting out all of the hot entrees and most of the hot starting courses as well.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000127.jpg]530Lobster Powder
This is Lobster Powder. It was tasty and delicious and seems to be easy to make.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000129.jpg]620Achatz and Nick Kokonas owner of Alinea
Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas the owner of Alinea speaking before service.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000130.jpg]570Waygu beef
Here chef Dave Beran is preparing a Japanese charcoal grilled or waygu beef
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000132.jpg]470The Hot Pass - Service
Here you can see the hot pass in full swing in the middle of dinner service.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000134.jpg]480Coffee Air
These little bowls in the front of the frame are designed to be super heated and then filled with spices and then that black river rock is also super heated and placed on top of the spices and covered. The heat releases an amazing aroma as the dinner eats the dish. (paired with the lamb)
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000147.jpg]420Verical plating
Here is the beginning of the vertical chestnut plating
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000151.jpg]420Chestnut Finished
Here the chestnut dish is finished being plated and is ready for service where the waiter will lift the glass tube and let the dish fall on the plate.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000136.jpg]340The Start of turbot
Here is the beginning of the very complicated Turbot Plating.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000138.jpg]360Seafood Pudding
A bit of seafood pudding is added which is made from a seafood fume and agar
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000139.jpg]310Potatoes
Whipped potatoes added
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000141.jpg]350Turbot
here the turbot is added and covered in a butter sauce
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000143.jpg]410Finished Turbot
Covered with chamomile gel, shellfish, celery, celery leaves, and saffron puffs.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000149.jpg]360Delicate Fingers
Here chef Andrew Graves delicate fingers place the incredibly thin sauce gel on top of the turbot.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000145.jpg]310Little tweezer
A little last minute tweezer action on some turbot getting ready to go out the dinning room.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000153.jpg]410The formidible Lamb
This long dish was the Lamb dish that we fought over blindly. Once i saw its proper composition it became clear what we needed to do to create it. it was a marvel to watch it come together.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000154.jpg]380More lamb
Lamb Neck, Sous Vide Fennel, Lamb Tongue
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000155.jpg]330Coffee Air
The hot stone is covered in the spice and coffee blend right before the Lamb dish is served.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000148.jpg]310An Amazing chocolate dessert
this was plated about 30 minutes before it was needed so that the pastry chefs could help on the hot line and once it was called for it was finished in a few quick moves.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000146.jpg]310Spice cake
This is the infamous spice cake awaiting service.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000150.jpg]320The Hot pass and bob
Hi bob
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000156.jpg]350Finishing touches
With a hyssop glass that was incredibly difficult to make and added little in the way of flavoring but was out of this world beautiful.
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000157.jpg]340Hot pass at the end of service
Right before the team meeting began here was the
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000158.jpg]430Team meeting one
Chef Achatz with a group of senior chefs
[img src=http://www.arazorashinyknife.com/wp-content/gallery/stageatalinea/thumbs/thumbs_p1000163.jpg]400Craig
Craig, our man on the inside.
  • Published: Jan 18th, 2009
  • Comments: 1

and then…


A gratuitous display of pasta

In the midst of trying to recreate the series of ground breaking dinners that Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz served at their world renowned restaurants, the years of my life ticked over into another decade and with a riotous amount of celebration I became thirty. The week after, the New Year was filled with various celebrations befitting such a monumental accomplishment. My family got together for nice Italian meal on the date of my actual birth and a collection of good friends and I went to Mr. Castaño’s restaurant in midtown the next night for some serious brutality. All of this was wrapped up in a weeklong celebration showered over me by my lovely lady friend. It was a delicious week and I was very grateful for the much need break from the grueling hours of prep, cooking, planning and trying to squeeze in my day job between dinners.

So when Saturday came around I believed it was time to get back to business. We had the first of four test dinners to prepare ourselves for menu changes that Keller and Achatz executed at Alinea and the French Laundry. Being the creative forces that they were they did not just rest on their laurels and serve the same menu at all three restaurants, but they changed about 40% of the menu each meal. This kept us quite busy, writing recipes, researching techniques and then testing everything before our next series of events in Chicago and San Francisco.

We were going to split the menu up into pieces and practice some of the new elements while refining some of the harder elements we had come close to perfecting at our first series of events. Each night we would be serving eight of the twenty-four courses, paired with wine, and as you can see from these photos, a long series of cooking lessons and demonstrations.

Needless to say I was not aware of the fact that on Saturday after our test dinner my lovely lady friend had planned a huge surprise birthday party for me! So as we were cleaning up at the Whisk and Ladle, a steady stream of my friends and loved ones started to roll in carrying presents and copious amount of tasty beverages and treats. The very coy team that had been working with me all night whipped out all of their surprises and converted our dinner from a Keller/Achatz themed evening to a custom made party for me. Resplendent with special treats, fancy cocktails dreamed up by Mayur just for the evening and a very dangerous piñata which severely injured my lovely lady friend.

As luck would have it our good friend Steph Goralnick was there and was able to take some amazing photos of us cooking, the food and just some amazing interactions.

That evening’s menu:
Thomas Keller and Jonathan Benno (chef de cuisine per se):
“Galette” Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras, Italian Pistachio “Financier,” Compressed Red Sensation Pear and Garden Mache


Foie Gras

Thomas Keller's Foie Gras "Financier"

Thomas Keller and Cory Lee (chef de cuisine the French Laundry)

Salmon Cornet – Black sesame tuile and red onion crème fraîche
White sturgeon caviar – Lemon verbena gelée, cauliflower

A Lemon Verbena Party

Just seconds before plating all of the evenings Lemon Verbena Gels

Japanese Greenup Abalone – yuzu, tapioca, seaweed, matsutake mushroom broth

Snake River Farm’s “Calotte De Boeuf Grillee,” brisket and cabbage dumplings, horseradish pudding, sour cherries


Sour Cherry

Thomas Keller's Calotte de boeuf with sour cherry reduction and brisket dumplings

Chocolate S’mores – graham cracker ‘crunch,’ chocolate ‘crémeux,’ creamy “fluff” toasted marshmallow, chocolate emulsion



Thomas Keller's "S'mores"

Grant Achatz

Hot Potato-Cold Potato, Chive, Black Truffle
Black Truffle Explosion, Romaine, Parmesan


Black Truffle Explosion

A delicate collection of pasta wrapped around a black truffle juice enriched eith butter and topped with wilted romaine lettuce Parmesan and a slice of Black Truffle

Prepared with: Jesse Carter, Cathy Erway, Deborah Gorman, Mark Losinger, Akiko Moorman, Andrew Rosenberg, Mayur Subbarao


A battle of plating

Deborah Gorman, Andrew Rosenberg, Cathy Erway

…and a very special thanks and love my lovely lady friend for throwing me the most amazing thirtieth birthday party (week) ever!

For more information please click on the photo and read along with the captions.
All photos taken by Steph Goralnick © 2009

Birthday Test Dinner

A surprise birthday party while serving 8 of the next 24 course Keller/Achatz recreation in Chicago. This party was held at A Whisk and Ladle and quickly dissolved into a riotous birthday party thrown by my lovely Kathryn. All of these amazing photographs were taken by the amazing Steph Goralnick http://www.sgoralnick.com/

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