James Beard's Protégés
by Kate Heyhoe
Among culinary heroes, James Beard is the All-American, a man as devoted to a good hot dog as he was a decadent dose of caviar. Though he passed away decades ago, he left a permanent imprint on aspiring cooks and chefs, which continues to be fostered through the James Beard Foundation in New York.
This larger-than-life maverick delightfully broke the rules, and he was also a seminal figure who spearheaded a movement for Americans to eat better, both at home and in restaurants. The James Beard Foundation has taken great pride in his work and strives to perpetuate the master's commitment to the fine art of eating by encouraging the most adventurous, courageous, and creative of chefs. Now, some of these pivotal chefs are profiled with photos, recipes, and tips in a drop-dead gorgeous collection, Winning Styles Cookbook: Recipes from the James Beard Foundation Award-Winning Chefs.
You can find sample recipes, photos, and more information about this book in our Cookbook Profiles feature on the Winning Styles Cookbook. Some of the most revealing sections of the book come in the chefs' background information. Despite their celebrity status these days, these chefs are real people. In some cases, against all odds, they endured the most unpleasant situations, often resorting to a kitchen job without any real aspirations to become a chef. Or, as in the case of Patrick O'Connell, being completely insecure about roasting a Thanksgiving turkey. The snippets below give a refreshing glimpse at the humans beneath the toques, with handy tips for all cooks.
Tips, Tidbits, and Tales
from some of the "Winning Styles" Chefs
"When sautéing, home cooks rarely get the pan hot enough and have trouble sufficiently browning the meat or fish they are cooking. You have to be patient and wait until the oil in the pan is almost smoking before you add the meat or fish. Also, be sure to pat the meat or fish dry before adding to the pan." Susan Spicer
Roberto Donna still uses a ravioli press that was presented to him by the chefs he worked for as a boy in his hometown of San Raffaele Cimena.
"I dread and loathe Thanksgiving dinner. In the early days we knew we had to serve it. I had never cooked a turkey or wanted to; I'd only seen my mom do it. It was a total disaster and took seven or eight years before it got better." —Patrick O'Connell
Thierry Rautureau's favorite tool: "A Swedish fish spatula with a slight bend at the widest part. "It's practical, well-made, flexible. It fits nicely in the hand and picks things up without breaking them."
Always striving to find ways to increase customer comfort, Gary Danko provides unusual monogrammed hooks to conveniently hang purses from the table, keeping the floor free of impediments and allowing easy access to the bags.
"Match your cooking method to the fish you are cooking. Sauté delicate fish in peanut oil, which tolerates heat and fast cooking. Firm fish like grouper should be roasted, and any fish can be poached in seasoned liquid." —Robert Kinkead
For 10 years of his tenure at the celebrated Atlanta Ritz-Carlton, Guenther Seeger literally cooked in a hallway because the hotel did not have adequate kitchen facilities at the time.
Despite having a successful restaurant in Boston's North End, Michael Schlow admits to being an avid New York Yankees fan.
"Opened mussels that do not close immediately when tapped should be discarded." —Sanford D'Amato
"Toast whole black peppercorns in a cast iron pan before grinding them." —Robert McGrath
Charlie Trotter majored in political science in college and for relaxation began cooking for his roommates at the University of Wisconsin.
Lidia Bastianich attended school in Queens and helped out the family with a part-time job at Walken's Bakery, owned by actor Christopher Walken's family.
Julian Serrano recalls his early days in Miami, "I thought I could speak English but quickly learned otherwise. I was getting off a bus, going through the crowd saying, 'Excuse me, please.' I told a friend about it and discovered I was actually saying, 'Kiss me, please.'"
Whether you're an armchair gourmand or an avid, active cook, this is a volume well worth it's weight in salt.
Winning Styles Cookbook
Crab Salad with Mango, Avocado and Tropical Fruit Purée (by Patrick O'Connell)
Swordfish au Poivre with Parsnip Purée and Red Wine Braised Shallots (by Ken Oringer)
Grilled Skirt Steak with Thai Salad and Chile-Lime Sauce (by Susan Spicer)
Lemon Pound Cake with Caramelized Apricots (by Sanford D'Amato)
Kate's Global Kitchen for February 2004:
02/06/04 Candy is Dandy! But Is It Politically Correct?
02/13/04 Food Fights For Fun and Love
02/20/04 A N'awlins' Mardi Gras Meal
02/27/04 James Beard's Protégés
Copyright © 2004, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created February 2004