Culinary Techniques

What Would I Serve at Dinner?

Posted by on Jan 30, 2014 in Culinary Techniques, Food, Menu Development | 0 comments

If you read my newsletter the The Rubber Band Door Knob, you know I went through a all juice detox. Three days, all juice to cleanse the body and the mind. I couldn’t put all of my thoughts down in the newsletter but I wanted to share my approach to healthier cooking at home. The concept is to look at the development of a menu where the ingredients are not just randomly selected nor the techniques used a whimsy. The process of electing items takes time and can be hazardous. No you are not going to loose life or limb writing a menu but there are preverbal cliffs and treacherous turns in the words you use. Menu writing is an art. Some do it well and others are a little to heavy with the fluff and descriptions used.

My process is to ensure that what is written is what is served. It also requires the ingredients and combinations of those ingredients are of high quality. So in an attempt to demonstrate the results of my not so scientific research about how to  incorporate the principles of  the juicing detox into a menu this is it.

The menu needs to have a start middle and an end. The flow need to make sense from course to course. Mild to strong to bold and  memorable at the end. There needs to be balance between luxurious and simple  from raw to cooked. I want to ensure that the person eating the dishes know what is each dish from all of the clues that we provide. These clues are:

  • The Written Word- This is the creation of perception of what they are going to eat as well as how a server articulates what’s between the lines from the growers and producers to techniques and culinary inspirations of the culinary team. The menu should not be a shopping list with directions on how to get to the farm.
  • The Visual- When the plate  is put down in front of the guests, can they see a variety of heights, textures, colors and perspectives of the food. Does it look like what was described? How many tomes have heard “this is nothing like what I expected when I ordered it”. Pasta in a bowl should look like every piece is perfectly coated in the sauce, there is a taste of all the ingredients in every bite. A huge meat ball on top of spaghetti looks great but how well does it really eat?
  • The Taste: Remember, I have mentioned this many times there is a huge difference between flavor and taste. Taste is subjective. For example, fresh halibut has a clean slightly sweet taste with a sublime saltiness. That is the flavor of the fish. However if I don’t like halibut that is a taste preference.  Thus a taste preference is a personal opinion. It is the chef’s responsibility to ensure that all of the flavors are balanced to create a taste experience that is enjoyed by that particular guest. Sometimes we cook for us and don’t necessarily please our guests as they may not have the same tastes as us.

All right enough, here’s my menu

First Course

This should be a something that is going to wake up the palate and get the bodies internal system ready to digest the rest of the meal. This course need to have functionality and set a tone for the rest of the meal. I use the principles of cold press juicing here with raw beets, pears, kale, fresh ginger, mint, carrots pulped and squeeze through cheese cloth and chilled. I would shake this over ice and pour into a cordial glass. The salad would be on the side and eaten on the biscotti like bruschetta. All of these raw greens are a great way of awaking the digestive system. Kale and dark leafy greens, the new work horse.


Cold Pressed Beet and Pear Cocktail with a Sweet Pea, Lactino Kale, Blue Cheese Salad and Smoked Bacon Crumble  served with a Fennel Seed and Barley Biscotti


This is the heart of the meal. I chose Halibut as it was what I had. However it is a firm thick fish which is rich and slightly buttery. I wanted to serve it with a minimal amount of carbohydrates and additional fats. I have seen too many cream sauces served with this in the past. Here I want to incorporate freshness and some great textures to balance the flake and suppleness of the cooked fish. 


Zatar Rubbed Grilled Hallibut with Roasted Spaghetti Squashed Tossed in a Parsley and Almond Pesto, Red Quinoa and Chick Pea Salad, Avocado and Yogurt Puree, Shaved Fennel, and Baby ArugulaIMG_1388


This is always a toss-up. There are times when splurging on rich intense items is called for. Usually the trigger is some kind of emotional event. It is to create a memorable end to a event such as to revive the mind after a bad day or to celebrate an event such as birthday. For a family to splurge on big desserts several nights of the week is not good  for the wallet nor the waste line. In this case i wanted something refreshing to close out the meal and something that wouldn’t settle in the stomach. When I was in China last year, Dragon Fruit was served for snacks and to finish a meal. There was some in the market the other day so I picked some up to have my kids experience the flavors and know what it was if they came across it again.


Diced Dragon Fruit with Lime, Chili Powder and Cilantro

The Journey Continues: A path to success.

Posted by on Jul 1, 2013 in ACF, Culinary Techniques, Menu Development | 0 comments

Denver Cold Food Tryouts 057I having travelling down this road for several years now. A few people understand what I am doing but few don’t get it or understand. I cannot fully explain how this journey ultimately affects my career but I know one thing. It is a lot of work. It takes time away from family, friends and unfortunately my garden and gold game. I didn’t have a good one in the first place. However the process of getting to a competition whether it be the culinary Olympics or your first amateur baking contest is the same. Here are some the ways this process has helped with my career and especially my cooking.

1) Planning: You need to be extremely organized and thorough in your preparations, shopping, packing and in the kitchen. I use multiple pack lists to make sure I have everything I need. My process begins with the schedule. I mark my calendar well in advance and set practice dates, shopping days and prep days prior to practice or competition. Running my own business, I am the company. I don’t have the luxury of a purchasing department.  I have to shop both retail and from wholesalers. It requires a planned route with the right coolers to hold the items and shopping list to make the process smooth. Shopping for everything yourself helps in other ways which I will explain later. Once you get everything purchased and ready, you  need to have a place for it and the right tool or container to process it further.Denver Cold Food Tryouts 008

2) Frugality: If you pay any attention to the industry news and the prices of items at your local grocery store, you realize that food is not cheap anymore. This preparation of food for sometimes non-consumption is expense. I try not to be wasteful. You need to purchase just what you need. When buying asparagus, by one really good bunch not two. Try and figure out how to get the greatest yield out of an item.  In the case of asparagus,  the money is the tips nut what can you do with the stalks, and peels? It takes thought and discipline not to throw it in the can. With the focus on “whole hog” butchery, this same principle can be applied to anything.

3) Educated: This study of every aspect of an ingredient forces to you to continually look at others. Research and development are a huge part of the this process. Looking at menus, reading texts, listening, web-browsing and of course tasting is vital to the success of a finished dish. I spend a vast amount of time visualizing flavors, colors, shapes, textures and compatibility of foods in my head. In the morning having a coffee, during my runs and even at the oddest times. Things pop into your head. I get an idea then I research the concept  and see if I can find some reference to an already know dish in a book or restaurant. You look at anything that is going to give you an advantage. “Does it make sense” are words that continually filter through this learning process. You can’t just sometimes do something for the sake of  just doing it. It can work but for a competitor at the highest level, it is all about perfection.

4) Detailed: It comes down to details. In the  world of culinary competition, it is the detail and preciseness of a cold food platter that is the difference between a certificate and a medal. It is the perfection and minute details that make the difference in that exclusive gold medal. Items which are presented cold can be weighed, measured and dissected to ensure that those details are consistent in every item presented.  Having spent hours coating items in gel where you are concerned about the affect of air movement and ripples you might get the picture. It can drive you crazy sometimes. It is all about the pursuit of perfectionDenver Cold Food Tryouts 015

5) Driven: You have to be motivated to do the work. When preparing and training, there is always something to do. Cold food takes time. Being on your feet for 24 to 36 hours is not uncommon for culinary competitors. In the hot kitchen, there is no time to spare and you can’t believe how time flies and how little time you have in reality. Three and half hours can feel like 30 minutes. You need to be mentally as well as physically fit.

If you look at each of the traits that I briefly describe, you will see the characteristics of some of the best chefs I know. That is why I do it. I want to be around them and challenge myself against the best. If you want to know more read this article at the link below.

Chefs, consumers embrace seafood charcuterie

Posted by on Sep 13, 2012 in Culinary Techniques, Food, Menu Development, News | 0 comments

Just another way American Chef’s are pushing themselves to master traditional techniques with American ingredients and creative spirit. It is these kinds of trends that get me excited about the possibilties of modern cuisine. It is about great ingredients and applying the right technique to make a great dish. Molecular manipulation is dead in most circles. A great pate and real bread what can go wrong with that.  What do you think?

Chefs, consumers embrace seafood charcuterie | Nation’s Restaurant News.

Need Expert Cooking Advice? Let American Culinary Federation Chefs Answer Your Holiday Kitchen Questions

Posted by on Nov 9, 2011 in ACF, Consulting, Culinary Techniques | 0 comments

Here is another example of why it is important to speak to an ACF affliated chef. John Reed CEC, CCA, ACE and Customized Culinary Solutions is listed in the Chefpertise Guide.


ACF_CM5 | pr111103 – Need Expert Cooking Advice? Let American Culinary Federation Chefs Answer Your Holiday Kitchen Questions.

An autumn soup tames wild mushrooms – Related Stories – ProChef SmartBrief

Posted by on Nov 8, 2011 in Culinary Techniques, Food, Menu Development | 0 comments

I was thinking about wild mushrooms as I prepare for my team practice this weekend. When working with any ingredient, I try to see how many different was it can be prepared. Getting the full potential from an ingredient takes time and skills. It is also a great cost saving practice. I take the peels and trimmings to make mushroom reduction to fortify soups and sauces. Here is a quick recipe for a mushroom soup I came across. Enjoy

An autumn soup tames wild mushrooms – Related Stories – ProChef SmartBrief.