Chefs produce fresh, intricate dishes for events day after
day, but the work put into these dishes starts long before their final preparation in the kitchen.
Right now, our chefs are about to introduce the Summer 2016 menus to the sales team. They’ve spent the last few months imagining, testing, and bringing these dishes to life. Below Chef de Cuisine Mark Russell explains what inspires him to create GP menu items and how he takes these dishes from concept to plate.
I was told many years ago to keep things simple and cook only what I what I know. A glib sort of statement that would have come from a seasoned line cook or sous chef along with the question “Would you serve that to your mother?” It was one line “bumper-sticker-speak” designed to maintain base control during heavy production and chaotic serve outs, and just that it did.
I did not grow up eating foie gras and caviar at holidays or any other occasion. I was introduced, as most cooks are, to the finer things on menus through tasting during service; sometimes a stolen scoop of beluga caviar in the walk-in fridge or a misshapen lobe of foie gras that couldn’t be served.
Over the years, these finer menu items became familiar. They became what I knew. Through repetition, they had become banal. Scrap foie was whisked into sauces, frozen in dribs and drabs. Cheep caviar stirred into mayonnaise to dollop on fish.
To combat my growing boredom of heavy sauces, exotic ingredients and “decadence, I have begun to explore the mundane and the common.
I recall my childhood, in particular the time my mother poured a jar of her canned tomatoes into a bowl one Sunday dinner; their summer peak flavors preserved in each jar. They contained flavors that bore little resemblance to anything available commercially.
Now thirty years later, I am finding those flavors in the produce of Katchkie Farm. We have spinach this winter, grown in our greens house, beets and celery root.
If I pay attention, as we move into spring, study the planting schedules and talk with the farmers, menu ideas filter in organically, without struggle.
Herbs, blossoms and tiny things in spring. Hearty squash, tomatoes and beans in the summer heat. Slowly waning into fall’s canning season and winter’s storage harvests. The biodinamic movement of animal agriculture through the year. Long braises in colder weather, coaxing out flavors from storage roots and preserved vegetables. All of this movement in the farm’s crops fleshes out our menus at Great Performances. We simply need to write it down on the calendar.
Our Gargouillou for spring
This spring look for our version of a classic Gargouillou, a spring mosaic of “what comes from the garden.” And this summer, during peak growing season, look for a new dish of heirloom Katchkie tomatoes, tomato water and basil oil, named in our menu as “Tomatoes Right Now From The Farm.” This is one of the dishes I’m introducing to the GP Sales Team this week for them to pass along to our clients in a few months and that I’m very looking forward to serving at our Summer ‘16 events.