Results tagged chef from David Lebovitz

Judy Rodgers

I was deeply saddened when I heard that someone who happens to have been a culinary icon (and hero) of mine, and who I was fortunate enough to work with in the kitchen, is no longer standing behind her stove. This morning I learned that Judy Rodgers the chef-owner of Zuni Café, had passed. I was fortunate the work with Judy for a few years on and off at Chez Panisse. Judy was incredibly dynamic as a person; so much so that I think even she had trouble dealing with all her energy! She was also a dynamic cook. And like the best cooks, her food wasn’t ever about her: It was about the food.

The roast chicken with bread salad at Zuni was the most iconic dish she made and was always worth waiting for. (Although once we drank too many martinis from the bar while we waited for it, and when I got home, I realized that I’d skipped out on the bill! – which I did go back and pay the next day.) The Caesar Salad at the restaurant was the best you could get, as were the pillow-light ricotta gnocchi and the excellent hamburger, which was perfect in every way. Whatever Judy made, was the best. In fact, one of the best things I ever ate in my entire life was a simple salad she’d handed to me one night at Chez Panisse, composed of escarole, rabbit loin, potatoes, and garlic confit smeared on toasts, all tumbled together with a warm, mustardy-dressing. I never dreamed a simple salad could taste so good, and I still remember the exact moment when I put the first forkful in my mouth – it was so, so good, and I still think about it nearly twenty-five years later.

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And This Time, I Mean It

granola bars

With just a week left before my move, things have gotten rather frantic around here. I won’t bore you with stories about delays, budget overruns, a bruised eardrum from someone yelling in my ear when I’m standing just a foot away, and so on, but I can now say with confidence that I understand why there are so many pills in the medicine cabinets across France. Chez David has become a mini Vallé des poupées (Valley of the Dolls), with most of my efforts right now concentrating on trying to obtain a minimum of three hours of solid sleep per night. And, of course, making sure blog posts don’t have a single typo in them.

Needless to say, visitors can forget my requests for bringing over corn tortillas or dried cranberries – I need a reload on ExcedrinPM. What I thought would be a relatively straightforward project has become a lesson in how much patience and good humor are left in me. I made the grave error of stepping in freshly poured cement, which has occurred only once during my 53 years on this earth, but someone on the job has not let me forget it and has mentioned it at least seven times since I did it. And it was only yesterday.

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Chez Panisse Anniversary Weekend

olives

Well, the anniversary fête for Chez Panisse finally came to an end and I was more than glad that I came for the weekend of events. From the moment I had my first sip of Bandol rosé on Friday afternoon to the big final blow-out event for the hundreds of people who’d worked in the restaurant and café on Sunday, hoo-boy, the weekend marked a milestone in my life. And although Alice Waters swore there wouldn’t be another anniversary celebration like this, I’ve learned never to count out this fiercely determined woman.

heirloom tomatochez panisse glass
chez panisse 40plum tart

One of the main things I learned at the restaurant, and from Alice, was that less is more. I’m as guilty as the next person of saying this, but when I hear people say they didn’t like a restaurant because they left and were still hungry, I’m glad that I no longer feel the need to qualify a restaurant based on how distended by stomach feels. Yes, we eat the feed ourselves, but I’m not so sure the hype about extreme eating and so forth have had all that many positive effects on society and our health. During breakfast with a friend at a local café, I was amazed at the amount of food on the plate that was presented to me. (Although I did somehow manage to eat it all, as well as the heaping plate of carnitas I had the day before. So I should keep my mouth shut, in more ways than one.)

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Inside the Kitchen of the Queen Mary 2

croissants

The phrase “runs a tight ship” isn’t applicable anywhere more than in the kitchens of an ocean liner. When you’ve got over two thousand guests to feed, plus a staff of around a thousand or so, a “tight ship” is essential. But also having the right temperament to deal with various needs that might arise is important, especially when you’re dealing with a multicultural staff, special events, nearly a dozen kitchens, and – well, you name it, it’s likely the kitchen staff on the Queen Mary 2 has seen it.

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Blood, Bones & Butter

I started reading Blood, Bones & Butter, not quite knowing what to expect. Gabrielle Hamilton is the chef of Prune restaurant in New York City and for those who haven’t been, it’s a rather modest little place that aspires (and succeeds) in doing nothing more than serving very good food, simply prepared, in a friendly space.

Hamilton is a very good writer, but I wasn’t sure if her story would be anything that I could relate to. Was it going to be a nasty retelling of events in her past? Were we going to learn her philosophy of cooking? Was she writing to settle some old scores? Thankfully it was not really any of those, although they’re woven into her story as she reveals some things in her life (and hides a few) that made her who she is today.

It’s hard to write a memoir and be honest, while at the same time, not alienating readers. For example, people think that living in Paris means sitting around in cafés all day eating croissants and macarons, and someone has to show them otherwise ; ) Life isn’t always rosy and showing your flaws, and pointing out a few in others, is just part of reality. One doesn’t need to dwell on them – and Hamilton certainly doesn’t – but she does include a number of incidents that manage to convey to us “the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef”, which is the apt subtitle of this book.

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Le Pont de Brent

first courses

After my visit to the Vevey market with Chef Stéphane Décotterd, we headed back to Le Pont de Brent, his restaurant located above the lakeside Swiss town of Montreux. While he was laying out the fish for the day, which he had just sourced, I noticed the kitchen was unusually calm for pre-service and I didn’t see anyone in the usual panic that happens in restaurant kitchens just before the customers arrive. The cooks were quietly doing tasks like peeling and slicing vegetables into tiny pieces, rolling leeks around scallops with thin wisps of black truffles in between, and baking off miniature tartlet shells.

lobster butter pot

Laid out neatly on trays, he showed me the different fish he had, from a kite-sized Turbot to a blue lobster from Brittany, with tiny black eggs stuck in between all the craws and crevasses.

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Hirsinger Chocolate

Jura chocolates

I wasn’t expecting to find a great chocolate shop in the Jura, a region of France known best for its exceptional cheeses, namely Mont d’Or, Comté, and Bleu de Gex. But a friend had arranged a visit for me since he knew I loved chocolate, and I was surprised (yet happy) to see such a sleek store run by a master chocolatier in a lesser-known part of France, where I was visiting.

sesame chocolates French chocolates

It’s a bit unusual to find sophisticated pastries in the smaller towns in the countryside. One of the main reasons is that, as you can imagine, they’re expensive to produce because of the work involved and the ingredients. So many of the chocolatiers and pastry makers set up shop in Paris. But Édouard Hirsinger the forth generation of chocolatiers and pastry makers in his family, who’ve been in business for over a hundred years in the charming little town of Arbois, seems to be doing pretty well right where he is.

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Mirazur

pink grapefuit sorbet, panna cotta, peaches

During my trip to the Côte d’Azur with Matt and Adam, after the second or third day, we realized that we hadn’t eaten in any restaurants. With the fresh ingredients available, we were preparing our own meals (pretty well, I might add), and we didn’t feel the need to hand over the cooking duties to a third-party. It was a bit of heaven being in part of the country where garden-fresh vegetables are abundant, and we found ourselves gorging on local specialties that we made ourselves, like aïoli and socca, and not craving any meat or cheese.

But one restaurant did catch my eye, which many consider the best restaurant on the Côte d’Azur, and that’s Mirazur, located in Menton, a small town that meets the radiantly blue Mediterranean and is literally walking distance to Italy. When I wrote to Rosa Jackson, who teaches regional cooking classes in nearby Nice, about the restaurant, she wrote me right back; “… if you go, you should arrange in advance to visit their vegetable garden, it’s amazing!”

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