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THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES TAKE -2–AMERICAN CHEFS: JUSTIN HILBERT

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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.

Justin Hilbert was born in Pennsylvania. He began his career at The George Hotel on the Isle of Wight (England). But it was during a trip in 2006, where he worked at Mugaritz (Andoni Aduriz), he had a real revelation. Upon his return to New York, he had the opportunity to work with pastry chef Alex Stupak (WD-50) before flying out on his own and open Gwynnett St. in October 2011.

Like many emerging chefs, Justin Hilbert focus on the best local produce, and trying to find himself around New York or elsewhere in the United States. But unlike some, Chef Hilbert has a mastery of techniques and technologies enabling it to play on textures to magnify the flavors. Perhaps the result of his knowledge of pastry or a true “team effort” with his sous chef and friend Owen Clark … Who knows!

Seeing his “cuisine” for the first time, we are struck by its beauty, by an unique image that hides a great complexity.

Q+A WITH JUSTIN HILBERT (www.gwynnettst.com ):

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?

JHilbert– We try and use whatever is in season and products we can find locally. For the most part we focus on a key ingredient and highlight it in several cooking methods or textures adding complementing notes, the main focus is balance and harmony.

2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

JHilbert– I love the flavors of birch and spruce. When I was a child I loved birch beer. There is this brand of soda from Pennsylvania my father would always buy when I was a kid that I loved. So, whenever my parents come to dinner at the restaurant they always bring me some. It reminds me of my youth.

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?

JHilbert– My sous chef Owen Clark. He’s been a dear friend for quite sometime. Also, the team of chefs here at the restaurant. Sometimes during service I stop and think to myself how grateful I to have such a quality group of inspired individuals working with me. I feel very blessed to have them here and keeping them excited is what inspires me most.

4-(Scoffier) You worked in pastry at WD-50 with Alex Stupak. Do you have two roles at Gwynnetts St.: Executive chef and pastry chef?

JHilbert– Yes, I suppose I’m the pastry chef as well. I have always wanted to be part of everything in the kitchen, pastry always interested me just as much as savory. When I got to WD-50, Wylie didn’t have any positions available. I mentioned that I knew a bit about pastry and Alex was looking for someone in that department. After a few days he offered me the position. I was out of my league at the time but I learned so much from him it was an amazing experience. Working with him and Rosio Sanchez was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in cooking professionally.

5-(Scoffier) How do you develop your recipes at Gwynnetts St.? What are your source(s) of inspiration ?

JHilbert- We draw inspiration from everything a lot of it has to do with what is at that market. My mind gets stuck on an ingredient and then the focus becomes composing a dish based around it.

6-(Scoffier) The aesthetics of your “cuisine” is superb, are you thinking about this in the preparation of the menu?

JHilbert– Sometimes I envision a dish in my head before it even goes on the plate. Aesthetics have always been important for me however, everything that goes on the plate is there for a reason every component needs to compliment the other. The idea is to create something that looks as good as it tastes the perception of value is just as important to me as the quality of ingredients.

7-(Scoffier) I know your sous chef (Owen Clark) is important to you and has a good knowledge of foraging. Is it hard for you to buy (and find) locally?

JHilbert– The most frustrating thing is that we get some really cool things in from different people that are short lived. We get really excited when we find new things and work them into a dish and then before we know it they’re out of season.

8-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Justin Hilbert at Gwynnetts St.?

JHilbert- Recipe: Milk, Mint and Green Strawberry

9-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?

JHilbert– I’d like to make this restaurant the best I possibly can. My goal is to keep creating new and interesting food that people enjoy, tell their friends about and come back again. Whatever comes with that will be greatly appreciated. I’ve been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to do so and for now my focus is set on cooking.

RECIPE: Milk, Mint and Green Strawberry

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INGREDIENTS & PROGRESSION RECIPE

For the mint cake:
-30g mint leaves
-300g whole eggs
-110g almond flour
-125g caster sugar
-40g cake flour
-2g salt

Procedure:
1. In a blender combine the mint leaves with the eggs and blend on high until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend on high until smooth.
2. Strain the mixture and place into an isi canister. Charge twice and refrigerate for a few hours.

For the mint gel:
-700g water
-200g sugar
-200g liquid glucose
-9g agar agar
-100g mint leaves

Procedure:
1. Place the water in the blender and add the agar agar. Blend for one minute to ensure hydration. Place in a pot along with the glucose and sugar. Bring to a boil.
2. Place the mint leaves in a blend and add the boiling liquid. Blend until smooth. Quickly strain the mixture into an ice bath add whisk until set. Allow the agar to set and return to the blender and blend until smooth, strain and refrigerate.

For the milk streusel:
-200g dry nonfat milk solids
-250g flour
-250g caster sugar
-10g salt
-200g butter cubed very cold

Procedure:
1. Place all the dry ingredients in a food processor and blend. Add the butter in slowly until incorporated. 2. Place on a try lined with bakers paper and chill. Bake at 275F for 40-45 minutes until firm but not colored. Cool and store in an airtight container.

For the milk sorbet:
-600g full fat high quality farmers milk
-200g dry non fat milk solids
-100g corn maltodextrin
-200g sorbet base
-2 sheets gelatin
-2g sorbet stabilizer

For the sorbet base:
-1000g water
-800g caster suagr
-20g trimoline
-200g atomized glucose
( place in a pot bring to a boil and chill)

Procedure:
1. Place the milk, maltodextrin and milk powder in a blender and blend until smooth. Bloom the gelatin sheets in ice water for 10 minutes. Bring the sorbet base to a boil add the gelatin. 2. Blend the milk and slowly add in the sorbet base. Turn the blend to high and add in the sorbet stabilizer. Strain and chill in an ice bath. 3. Once cold place the mixture in a Pace Jet beaker and freeze over night.

For the green strawberry leather:
-300g green strawberries
-30g atomized glucose
-30g green strawberry pickling liquid

Procedure:
1. Place the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. 2. Spread the mixture onto acetate and dehydrate for two hours. Remove and store in an airtight container.

For the sweet pickled green strawberriess:
-200g green strawberries
-50g white wine vinegar
-100g caster sugar
-100g water
-2 sprigs of mint

Procedure:
1. Place the sugar, water, vinegar and mint in a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiled strain the liquid into an ice bath. 2. Place the strawberries in vacuum bags 50g per bag adding 20g of liquid per bag. Seal on the highest setting ,refrigerate and reserve.

To finish:
1. Make five slits in a paper cup around the bottom. Fill the cup 1/3 of the way up with the cake batter and microwave for thirty seconds. 2. Spin the sorbet in the Paco Jet one full cycle and return to the freezer. 3. Place the cake on a place and garnish with remaining ingredients finish with the sorbet.

FURTHER INFORMATION

GWYNNETT ST./Chef Justin Hilbert
312 Graham Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11211
www.gwynnettst.com

PRESS
1. New York Times, Review by Peter Wells, April 3, 2012
2. New Yorker, Tables for Two, June 4, 2012
3. Business Week, Review by Ryan Sutton, Sept 12, 2012

NOTE: Copyright for the photos: Gwynnett St. Restaurant

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier © 2008-2012

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THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES TAKE -2–AMERICAN CHEFS: FREDRIK BERSELIUS/RICHARD KUO

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 pop-up concept, more and more permanent, comes from the chefs Fredrik Berselius and Richard Kuo. Two chefs, one from Stockholm and the other raised in Australia, who decided after passages from among the best chefs (Per Se, WD-50 and Corton) to start their own restaurant. A small space of 18 chairs in Williamsburg where you can enjoy a tasting menu for $ 45!

It is said Frej is a “Nordic cuisine in NYC”, I would rather say after talking to Fredrik Berselius that the two chefs have a unique creativity influenced by certain characteristics of the “New Nordic Cuisine”, by excellent basic techniques and by their environment (New York, producers etc.). A “cuisine” that makes me sometimes think at James Lowe & Isaac McHale (London).

…Or when New York becomes the meeting point of Sweden, Australia and … products of New York State, this gives Frej’s cuisine!

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Q+A WITH FREDRIK BERSELIUS/RICHARD KUO (www.frejnyc.com ):

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine at Frej?

FBerselius/RKuo- Our food is simple and local, the flavors are heavily influenced by Scandinavia. Cooking techniques are mixed of old traditional ways and modern new ones. We wanted to serve a meal in a way we like to eat and make it more accessible to younger people and others who normally don’t go out and eat tasting menus.
We focus on trying to build relationships with suppliers who are passionate about what they do. We try and work with directly small producers rather than working with big distributers, working with people who can help us understand what they do best and in turn we learn how to understand our products better.

2-(Scoffier) Can we feel your origins in the concept? (Is there a bit of Australia and Sweden in your cuisine…)

FBerselius/RKuo- Because we want to work with local ingredients and believe there are many similarities between New York, the Northeast and Sweden, having a Scandinavian approach wasmost natural. Australia has amazing produce, seafood and meat, the overall knowledge just help us understand the quality of ingredients better.

3-(Scoffier) Frej is a pop-up concept, the goal is to open a permanent restaurant?

FBerselius/RKuo- Our goal was always to open a restaurant but when things didn’t work out as planned this approach was the second best. We planned for a restaurant and adapted Frej to being a food concept within an existing space. We wanted to look at it as a collaboration with a space or bar until we found our own place. People soon started calling it a pop up because we did not know how long we would exist there.

4-(Scoffier) I had the chance to do several interviews with excellent chefs for two years, and most have made a stint in New York but they left to open their restaurant in their country… Why New York, what do you like?

FBerselius/RKuo- Its hard not to fall in love with NYC. There are so many great things about this place but eventually it always seem to turn into a love hate relationship. So many good things out weigh the bad stuff but working in NYC can be hard and tiring. You very likely work very long days, don’t do much other than work and sleep and when you want a vacation you quit your job :). European chefs are often here on a visa that is difficult to renew. I worked with so many great people who left NY not liking it very much, totally burned out, just to come back a few months later visiting.. and wanting to move back.

5-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

FBerselius/RKuo- There are so many flavors from child hood. I miss things like wild strawberries and milk in the summer or a house that smell of baked bread. Or simply being able to pick mushrooms or go fishing a few minutes from your house.

6-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires your cuisine?

FBerselius/RKuo- There are so many people who inspire us. I don’t have that there is one mentor out there but there are always memories of those moments when a chef tell you something.. and it gets stuck in your head. So every time you peel your carrot you or chuck on oyster you can hear your chef standing behind you saying them words again. Many of the the people who have influenced us are just amazing cooks we have worked with in other restaurants.

7-(Scoffier) How do you develop your recipes for your menu? What are your source(s) of inspiration ?

FBerselius/RKuo- Dishes normally grow over a period of time but we also try and change menu often enough to keep ourselves motivated. Our food start out simple with a look at whats around us, in the garden or market or in the wild. There is always an idea of what will be available at a certain time a year so we plan around that. Then there are cases where we buy a whole animal and you have to figure out what to do with all the parts. A dish can grow from a memory of food or memory of an experience or just trying to figure out an ingredient or animal part.

8-(Scoffier) Some describe your cuisine like “Nordic cuisine”, is this possible in New York?

FBerselius/RKuo- Because we want to work with local ingredients and because we believe there are so many similarities between New York and the areas north of New York and Sweden, having a scandinavian approach was the most natural thing to do.

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Frej?

FBerselius/RKuo-Recipe: Sunchoke, pear, hazelnut, beef liver.

10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef and for your restaurant?

FBerselius/RKuo- We want to try and push Frej forward. We want to do everything better everyday. Building better relationships with our suppliers and people we work with help. We are working on new plates with our pottery lady Jane Herold.
We are finding better and fresher fish with our fish lady. We are making little steps but trying to make them in the right direction.

RECIPE: Sunchoke, Pear, Hazelnut, Beef liver (no photo for this recipe)

INGREDIENTS & INSTRUCTIONS

-2 Kg sunchokes

-500g beef liver

-115g shallot, sliced

-25g sugar

-40g apple cider vinegar

-Thyme

-Salt

-200g veal stock

-150g pork stock

-30g butter

-Oil for cooking

-2 Bosc pear

-200 g Elderflower vinegar

-100 g Sugar

-300 gwater

-Fresh hazelnuts

-Hazelnut oil

Sunchokes:

1. Scrub and wash sunchokes. Peel skin into big strips and keep in ice water.

2. Place flesh in bag with oil and season. Cook in bag at 93 celcius until tender. Puree and check seasoning.

3. Blanch skin in salted water until translucent. Shock in ice bath. Dry skin in dehydrator for 5 hours or overnight. Toss with hazelnut oil and salt.

Beef liver:

1. Clean liver and dice into 2 cm cubes. Sear in hot pan in oil until you get color, transfer liver to cold tray and chill. In the same pan add shallot and butter and cook until soft. Add sugar and thyme and let caramelize lightly.

2. Deglaze with vinegar and stock (Reduce by 1/3).

3. Cool cooking liquid to room temp and mix with cool liver at full speed until sauce consistency.

4. Pass through a fine sieve and season. Keep sauce at 54 celcius.

Pear:

1. Peel pear. Slice pear 2 mm thick slices and cut with a small ring cutter. Bring sugarand water to a boil and add vinegar. Pour over pear and let cool. Cover and let sit for at least one week.

Hazelnut:

1. Clean hazelnut of skin and blacken them lightly with a torch. Season with hazelnut oil and salt.

Serve:

Arrange proportionate amounts of sunchoke puree and sauce to pear and hazelnut on plate. Add skin and thyme. Finish with hazelnut oil.

FURTHER INFORMATION

FREJ (inside Kinfolk)/Chef (s) Fredrik Berselius+Richard Kuo

90 Wythe Ave (North 11 street)

Brooklyn/NYC

New York

PRESS

1. NY Times (Review by Peter Wells), May 8, 2012

2.Eater interview (by Gabe Ulla), April 6, 2012

NOTE: Copyright for the photo ©Frej.

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier ©2008-2012</p

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