This is article two of a two-part installation from the Symrise-Star Chefs Colorado Roundtable.
“Heating up sauces that you don’t want to recook—like consommé—in the microwave is perfect,” says Chef Max MacKissock from Bar Dough in Denver, CO. The utterance of the tool, microwave, sends a hum through the crowd.
April’s Symrise-Star Chefs Colorado roundtable discussion features five of the state’s vanguard chefs and mixologists—and the integration of a microwave is not exactly a technique anyone expects to hear glorified. Sitting next to MacKissock is fellow Denver-based Spuntino Chef Cindhura Reddy, and Bartender and General Manager Austin Carson. The circle also includes Boulder’s Pastry Chef Alberto Hernandez from Frasca Food & Wine and Pizzeria Locale, and Basta Community Chef Kelly Whitaker.
Not one of the panelists disagrees with the microwave tip—at least, not openly. In fact, Hernandez also uses the device in the creation of his seasonal mouthwatering pistachio and basil cake. The delicious sweet features a cucumber sauce, honeydew, tonic syrup and pecorino with strawberry and raspberry sorbet. Plus, 40 seconds in the microwave for a warm touch.
A microwave is only one of many micro trends to unfold during the conversation about what inspires these culinary leaders. And the fact is overshadowed by larger elements at play: For one, many of the chefs note that seasonal foods play a primary role in their menu development.
For Hernandez, he worked in a savory-based space in Italy. Now at Frasca Food & Wine, he develops the sweet side of the plate, which has presented a learning curve filled with challenges, he says. “I don’t know a lot of Italian pastries, and I try to twist everything up. I always start with what fresh ingredients I have—what’s in season—and go from there,” he explains. For example, his winter-season citrus-integrated panna cotta.
“Juniper berry is infused in the panna cotta—a beautiful cheese—plus grapefruit and pomelos. Sake is the flavor balance of the citrus. Then, we torch it until we get charred segments—in essence, that for me is the best part of the dessert,” says Hernandez.
Whitaker notes the inspiration he finds in the stories behind the people he meets while he travels to explore new food.
“Behind a great product is a great person. A lot of our inspiration comes from it: like when I visit an oyster farm. I find not only someone who does oysters, but I then also find out why they’re doing what they do it, and then we eat it.” The experience is full circle.
Reddy also holds a similar cross-cultural, seasonal style in the kitchen. Raised on Indian dishes that her parents served, Reddy traveled in her twenties to study farming and food, which included time in Europe and Asia. She kept journals on the dishes and ingredients she experienced. Today, she still flips back through those pages to trigger memories and fresh ideas, be it inspiration from curry in Thailand or a piece of chocolate in Spain.
“I grew up eating a lot of goat and that’s been on forefront of menu,” she says. “We have an el tartare made with Colorado Elk. One ingredient incorporated in the recipe is ginger garlic paste, which is the base of any South Indian curry. You pare it down with clarified butter. Using that is a nice play on what you’d normally see in tartare. And I always have the ingredients in my fridge at home.”
It seems the best ingredients for success include a balance of traditional framework and an open mind to adding your own twist—even if the idea is adopted from across the world.
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