Garlic Scape Vichyssoise
A couple of weeks back, I was representing Lockwood at the Wine Enthusiast’s Toast of the Town at the Field Museum. All was under control at our station where we were serving a chilled asparagus soup with a mushroom dumpling and truffled creme fraiche. Since I began participating in these events, where hundreds – if not thousands – of small portions need to be prepared in a staggering short period of time, I make it as simple as I can on myself in regards to plating. Quality, attractiveness, and depth of flavor are surely important, but I learned the hard way to keep it simple. In the end, it makes more sense to do a simple soup with a simple garnish than scallops with artichoke in three forms and a sauce of almonds, golden raisins, brown butter, lime and an almond foam (my dish at my first event). If one dish is made, the scallop is definitely the winner in appearance and complexity. When 1000 need to be done quickly however, the consistency of the easy dish makes more sense and likely will leave a better impression.
The other advantage to this is that it allows my team and myself to meander about the room and see what others are up to. Across the way from us on this evening was Blackbird’s chef and recent winner of Food & Wine’s Best New Chef, Mike Sheerin. He was plating his dish in a controlled pace, but there were certainly more components to his contribution than ours. Anyhow, I’ve gotten to know him well enough to feel comfortable in asking him if I could be his stagier for about 15 minutes for the plate up. He generously obliged, and didn’t even get too mad when I got a little too generous with one of the ingredients. While plating up, I noticed some really nice micro sized leaves he was using that didn’t look familiar to me. I asked what they were and where he got them, and he told me they were foraged locally by a comedian who sunlights (opposite of moonlight since his day job is in the night… huh?). I asked if he’d send his contact info, he did, and here we are, arriving at some relevance to the above photo.
Dave Odd is the foragers name (firstname.lastname@example.org), and he is responsible for all of the ingredients… with the obvious exception of the salmon and some seasonings. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble getting used to him showing up in my kitchen every day if need be with his Whole Foods bags full of goodies that he forages from the surrounding areas.
In summation, to all of you nose tipped chefs who think you’re too big to go without your name on your coat, rewards can be reaped simply by putting down the ego (even for a few minutes) and going back to being an apprentice. Great discoveries will frequently lurk in the most unexpected places.