THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES TAKE -2–AMERICAN CHEF : GRAHAM ELLIOT
The Électrons Libres, is a group of chefs that are as individual or a leaders of a group have taken a unique route that goes beyond the learning process. Their philosophy transforms the cuisine of the present time as well as the cuisine of the future in a specific area (place) or country. Sometimes they are the leaders of a culinary movement but often, they are alone in their search.
This Series focuses on emerging chefs, but nothing prevents an already highly acclaimed chef (in his country) will become known worldwide, age helping!
Graham Elliot is of this category. Early thirties, he is already a star chef in the Windy City (Chicago) and a rising star in the United States. After training in the kitchens of Dean Fearing, Charlie Trotter and Tru Restaurant, he is truly out and reward (Four-star) when he became chef of Avenue at The Peninsula.
In May 2008, he opened his eponymous restaurant to make a cuisine fit for his personality; generous, honest, pure and iconoclast. A casual fine dining restaurant where he meets one of his mantras If it’s not broken, break it!
This personality larger than life led him to become culinary director of Lollapalooza music festival (2010), music is his other passion. also, don’t forget his presence as a judge at MasterChef (2010) alongside GordonRamsay and Joe Bastianich. In addition, it recently launched its new restaurant Grahamwich, a fast-casual sandwich concept. With Chef Elliot, Chicago is still on the gastronomic map!
Q+A WITH GRAHAM ELLIOT (www.grahamelliot.com ):
1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?
GElliot- I often say to all my cooks to keep their plates looking like you were walking through the forest and stumbled on this dish. The same can be said for the foundation of cuisine in our kitchen. Simple, bright, and natural.
2-(Scoffier) Since your debut at Avenues at The Peninsula and the accolades like Best New Chef from Food & Wine magazine (2004). How your cuisine has changed?
GElliot- I remember talking to David Kinch (Manresa) in Thailand when we were doing an event together. He told me the older he gets the less he wants to put on a plate. I think as chefs we all mature in our own ways. Sometimes less is better. Currently my senses seek bright, acidic balances.
3-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?
GElliot- I’ve always had the biggest sweet tooth. And it doesn’t seem to be lessoning at all!
4-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?
GElliot- It seems that there are such great quality products available that we didn’t have even 10 years ago. I really like what blis is doing with their vinegars, caviar and syrups.
5-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires your cuisine?
GElliot- The arts are what really inspire me – from visual to nature and even music. As a team at GE, we will go to museums and walk around taking in all the amazing pieces. We will then go back to the restaurant and discuss what moved us and how we can bring that into our cooking.
6-(Scoffier) Do you explain the concept and the idea (in first) behind your new restaurant Grahamwich?
GElliot- Grahamwich is Chicago’s new fast-casual sandwich joint and the latest venture for me. Everyone speaks ‘sandwich’ – one part tasty filling; two parts bready goodness. While it might not change your life, it will certainly brighten your day.
The sandwiches are made with full-flavored, and sometimes surprising, ingredients in exacted combinations. A concise menu of eight inspired sandwiches, hot and cold, include Beef Shortrib with baby watercress, shoestring potatoes, pickled shallots, creamy horseradish, on pretzel bread; Pastrami Reuben with rutabaga sauerkraut, toasted caraway, gruyere fondue, 1,000 island on marble rye; Turkey Confit with candied yams, stewed cranberries, field greens, sage mayo on a dinner roll; Jibarito Tacos with pork shoulder, green mango, queso fresco, habanero mustard on crispy plantains; and Smoked Whitefish with shredded carrots, salted almonds, raisin chutney, curry aioli on Indian naan.
7-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your Menu at Graham Elliott Restaurant?
GElliot- In the beginning, I did all the menus and recipes. But now I’m passionate about empowering and guiding my chefs to formulate their ideas and putting them on the menu. Just like making a great dish with great ingredients, you need to put together a team of great people that work well together and inspire each other.
8-(Scoffier) Do you spend as much of time to choose and pick your produces? What is your relationship with your suppliers?
GElliot- Last summer, my team made a big effort to go out to the markets and meet the farmers and form relationships. This year we are looking to have the farmers plant certain varieties of vegetables and grow things just for us.
9-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from new technology (sous-vide etc.) in your cooking techniques? If yes, which?
GElliot- I look at modern techniques as just another way to approach a dish. Just like regional cuisines from America or different worldly regions, we use these techniques and ingredients like all of the choices we have when coming up with dishes. Currently we sous vide meat and vegetables, compress fruits in our cryovac machine, use hydrocollaids and gums to give a sauce the desired texture and dehydrators to add texture.
10-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Graham Elliott?
GElliot- The only dish that has lasted since the inception of the restaurant is our take on the Caesar salad. We use baby gem lettuce instead of the typical romaine, make a twinkie out of brioche and stuff it with a garlic marscapone filling and dress it with an anchioade. Of course you have to finish it with a couple of Spanish style anchovies.
11-(Scoffier) After two restaurants, the future MASTERCHEF (Fox Series) etc. What is your goal (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurants? Do you think about write a book, others?
GElliot- We’ve been in talks about a book for quite some time now. We have a pretty good idea on what direction we want it to go. I also have quite a few loyal team members that I would like to give the opportunity to run their own places.
12-(Scoffier) I am curious. I know you are culinary director for the Festival Lolapalloza. It is another passion or there is a link between your cuisine and the music?
GElliot- I guess you could say both. I love music. I own 5 guitars, used to be in a band, and will throw down at any karaoke venue in this universe. Just like a band, each member has a sound they play to add to the whole. Usually the lead singer gets all the praise but each musician must be in sync with each other to execute the desired sound. This is a pretty easy comparison to the way we run are kitchen.
RECIPE: Deconstructed Caesar
Ingredients & Progression Recipe
-Gem lettuce = 3 heads
1. Cut 2/3rd of the way down from the top of the lettuce. Discard the upper part. Cut the bottom 1/3rd into 4 equal pieces. Repeat to the remaining 2 heads of romaine. Soak all pieces in cold water to remove any dirt. Pat dry and reserve for later.
-Egg yolk – 1 each
-Shallot – 1 tbs chopped
-Garlic – 2 cloves
-Sour cream – 2 tbs
-Dijon mustard – 1 tsp
-Italian parsley – ½ bunch
-Freshly squeezed lemon juice – 3tbs
-Water – 3 tbs
-Anchovy oil – 1 tsp
-Canola oil – 1 cup
-Grated Parmesan – ¾ cup
1. In a high speed blender, add all ingredients except for oils, water and cheese. Puree until smooth. Next add parmesan and puree for 1 minute. Finally add oils at a small steady stream. Pause every 10 seconds to make oil is fully incorporated. Add a small amount of water if dressing gets to thick.
-Cream cheese – 2 oz
-Mascarpone cheese – 3 oz
-Half and half -1 oz
-Grated parmesan – 2 oz
-Shallot – ½ tbs, minced
-Garlic- 1 tbs, minced
-Salt- to taste
1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients and mix until fully incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fill a pastry bag with the mixture. Reserve for later.
-Brioche bread – ½ loaf of uncut brioche
-Butter – ½ cup melted
1. Using a serrated knife, remove all of the crust from the bread. Cut 1 in. X 3 in. rectangles from the brioche. Melt the butter in a small sauce pot. Brush all side of the twinkie with melted butter. In a non stick sauté pan, gently brown the twinkie on medium heat. Remove from pan and let rest on a paper towel to soak up any excess butter. Reserve for later.
-Parmesan regiano – 4 oz
1. Using a micro plane, carefully grate the Parmesan over a bowl.
-Spanish anchovy – 12 fillets
-Black pepper = fresh ground from a pepper mil
1. Use a rounded spoon end to hollow out the twinkies. Try and do this with only 2 holes to help retain the shape of twinkie. Pipe in the mascarpone filling until each twinkie is stuffed full. Place twinkies in the oven at 350 for 3 minutes to warm the center. Next, using a paint brush, coat each piece of romaine generously with dressing and roll in parmesan fluff. Place twinkie on plate and gently rest the 3 pieces of lettuce on top of the twinkie. Garnish with Spanish anchovy on each piece of lettuce and fresh ground black pepper.
Graham Elliot Restaurant + Grahamwich/Executive Chef Graham Elliot
217 W. Huron Sreet
Chicago, IL (USA) 60610
1. BlackBook Magazine, February 11, 2010, http://www.blackbookmag.com/article/industry-insiders-graham-elliot-bowles-chef/15977
2. Nightline (TV), July 15, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyRb4Kd9Zto
3. NBC Chicago (TV), 2009, http://www.nbcchicago.com/around-town/archive/Grahm-Elliot-WIll-Perfom-At-Lollapalooza.html
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