Tag Archives: Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Seeing Stars and What They Mean: Michelin Magic

5 Oct

The Michelin Guide to restaurants has been around for more than 100 years and claims more gravitas, by sheer longevity, than most other dining guides. Recognition bestowed by this particular institution, known as the Red Guide, can make or break a restaurant — “especially in France,” said Rita Jammet, one of New York’s celebrated foodies, at the New York awards celebration last night. Ms. Jammet and her husband, Andre, owned the iconic restaurant La Caravelle in New York. Chef Jammet’s roots go back to his family’s hotel, Le Bristol, considered one of the finest in France, where the prestige power of Michelin’s stars, quite impressively, still charts the course of the French dining scene. Gaining a star, or two, can boost a restaurant’s customer base and launch a chef onto the world scene; losing a star can result in profound loss of esteem and business.

In Italy, there is generally a different story to tell by those well acquainted with authentic regional cuisine. Arthur Schwartz, author of Naples at Table and The Southern Italian Table, says that his colleagues there stay clear of Michelin-starred restaurants. “They are not Italian,” he smiles, “they are French.”

But here in New York, the stakes are not quite so high and there is American-style diversity scattered amongst the stars. Although the Michelin ratings still emphasize formality and presentation once indicated by the commandments of French dining, there are some newcomers on the scene. Jaipur-born chef Hemant Mathur was delighted that his restaurant Tulsi retained its one-star status from last year and continues his tradition of being the first Indian chef to receive any stars in New York during his tenure at Devi. He was also proud enough of his heritage to point out that there are two other Indian restaurants in New York deserving of Michelin stars: Junoon and Tamarind Tribeca. In London, where Indian cuisine is an integral part of their culinary landscape, there are only four Indian restaurants deserving of Michelin’s attention. Chef Mathur said that Tulsi’s star has brought more than a 25 percent increase in business and attention from diners the world over.

Diversity continues among the 2013 guide’s shout-out to several Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian and Scandinavian restaurants.

Most agree that a Michelin nod can add great verve to the spirit of the chosen chef, their owners and their staff. Oceana’s chef Ben Pollinger received his first Michelin star in 2007 and has retained it ever since. “It perfectly fits our business model,” he says. “Our customers, both American and international, feel they will get their money’s worth because the star is a symbol of excellence and prestige.”

The attendees at the swank celebration last night at New York’s Capitale on the Bowery, included tuxedoed chefs and chefs-in-whites. The former were sipping champagne in one hand and back-patting their colleagues with the other. It’s always fun to see Jean-Georges Vongerichten glide around a room, or watch Eric Ripert sincerely connect with the public, or spot Daniel Boulud and television chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli full of Michelin bonhomie. Even restaurant guru, Drew Nieporent (co-owner of Nobu) was proud to report that his two-star restaurant Corton and chef Paul Liebrandt again received two-stars this year. The latter group that night, uber-chefs Michael White (Ai Fiori), Julien Jouhannaud (Adour), and Gavin Kaysen (Café Boulud), actually spent the evening cooking. There was Agnolotti with butternut squash puree, brown butter and sage; Guinea hen terrine with rutabaga and pickled mushrooms, and Salade de coquillages with perfectly cooked langoustines, coco bean and tomato pesto.

The Michelin guide, published in 23 countries, has three publications in the United States: New York, Chicago and San Francisco. The Los Angeles and Las Vegas guides have been halted. Would be interesting to know why.

The 2013 Michelin Guide is now available for sale on line and is considerably less ($18.99) than any main course in any Michelin-starred restaurant. Their mobile app is less ($.99/24 hours) than a cup of joe. Bon appétit.

In Time for the Holidays: Star-Chefs Keep it Simple

2 Dec

Most of us prepare traditional, time-honored, often-complicated recipes during the holidays as a tribute to the slavish hours put in by our mothers in years gone by. These elaborate dishes are the culinary equivalent of a photo album, honoring not only our ancestors but what they ate around a shared table. But what if we were “given permission” by today’s star chefs to keep-it-simple? Then maybe we would! During the holidays, when too many people are in the kitchen, too many meals to prepare, and expectations that are exalted, this approach allows the harried cook to have as much fun as their guests. The idea? To fulfill the promise of abundance without the burden.

This year, some of the world’s most revered chefs inadvertently satisfy this need in new cookbooks coming out this season.  Many of the most illustrious —  Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Marc Vetri, Daniel Humm, Heston Blumenthal, and Ferran Adria – share some of their simpler ideas  in titles such as “Home-Cooking with Jean-Georges,” “Heston Blumenthal at Home”, Vetri’s “Rustic Italian Food,”  Adria’s “The Family Meal,”  and Jacob Kenedy’s (from London’s hot restaurant Bocca), approachable tome, “Bocca.” Even Daniel Humm, in his uber-sophisticated book “11 Madison Park,” presents some do-able, holiday recipes. If you look hard enough, you will find them. I have had the pleasure of browsing these inspiring books and found recipes that meet “radically simple” standards: not too many ingredients, simple procedures, with an existential trade-off of time and effort. These are the dishes that one craves during the busiest time in our lives. Sporting the colors and flavors of the season while they infuse the spirit of tradition with a shot of modernity. Crafting a holiday meal from these collective works would look something like this:

Jean-Georges’ Crab Toast with Sriracha Mayonnaise
Heston Blumenthal’s Creamy Leek and Potato Soup
Daniel Humm’s Almond Vinaigrette on a salad of endive, watercress & Roquefort
Jacob Kenedy’s Duck Cooked Like A Pig
Ferran Adria’s Catalan-style Turkey Legs
Heston Blumenthal’s Slow-cooked Rib of Beef (1 ingredient/new technique)
Daniel Humm’s Extreme Carrot Puree (two ingredients)
Marc Vetri’s Fennel Gratin
Heston Blumenthal’s Beetroot Relish
Jean-George’s Fresh Corn Pudding Cake
Marc Vetri’s Olive Oil Cake
Heston Blumenthal’s Potted Stilton with Apricot, Onion & Ginger Chutney

Some of the above tomes are intimidating indeed. But if you are lucky to get any of these books as holiday gifts, you might have fun looking for radically simple recipes to call your own. And before too long, as lights alight on Menorahs and Christmas trees everywhere, look no further than here for this year’s radically favorite holiday dishes, including some of my own.

Chopra and Vongerichten Talk Delicious

4 Nov

Credit: Warwick Brown

The other night at the miraculously curated abc home furnishings store, near New York’s Union Square, there was an unorthodox kind of culinary happening. Deepak and Jean-Georges, two men famous enough that we’re all on a first-name basis with them, created a four-star recipe for the launch of Vongerichten’s newest book, Home Cooking with Jean-Georges:  My Favorite Simple Recipes (Clarkson Potter.) The ingredients? Dozens of food world habitués (Bittman, Danny Meyer, the top magazine food editors), an ultra-chic sampling from both men’s fan clubs, fabulous farm-to-table hors d’oeuvres supplied by this year’s best new restaurant — none other than abckitchen (located on store’s first floor); generous bar-to-glass offerings of lemon-thyme vodka martinis and champagne; a film crew; a thoughtfully-decorated “organic tv studio,” candles, cushions, and the collegial collaboration of Deepak and JGV, all supervised by the formidable Paulette Cole — owner, visionary and astute aesthete of the abc collective.

Not unlike sitting in front of a couple of jazz musicians who riff and make the air between them meaningful, DC and JGV, made their own kind of music with humor and candor at the intersection of commerce and education. Commerce?  We were there to buy JGV’s new book (it’s really lovely and one of his most accessible). Education? That’s what Chopra sells — a beneficent sharing of healthy mindfulness  — his own brand of “magic seasoning.” It’s clear that they both love food and that they share so much of its majesty. Deepak expressing his algorithm about the five senses, the six tastes, and the seven colors, while Jean-Georges talked about his love of umami and the tastes of Asia where he spent his formative years learning to be a chef — Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok. When JGV returned to New York in 1986 following his stints in Asia, he headed not for the farmer’s market (“there was hardly anything to buy way back then,” he mused), but to Chinatown for a healthy dose of fresh produce and “exotic” ingredients. Whereas these may have become staples in many of our pantries, we have come to know and respect them largely due to Jean-Georges’ wildly inventive, brilliantly hued, inclusion of Asian verve into French classicism.

Deepak’s wildly informed medical prowess has him inserting dozens of heart-mind-body connections to the joys of eating. “The same neuropeptides that are found in our brain are also found in our stomachs.” “The mood we are in when we eat greatly affects the metabolism of our food in both positive and negative ways.”  “Prana, or life energy, is so closely tied to the health of the food we eat — so make it organic, sustainable,” — all underscoring the dynamic  relationship of food and health.

For 25 years now, I’ve called Jean-Georges the “pilot light” of creativity — for in the culinary kingdom of great talent and artistry, it is quite remarkable to soar to the top — and then stay there — with every new endeavor. He was the original “juice man;” he replaced heavy sauces and stocks with vibrant vegetable extractions. He’s a zealot, and his exquisitely light style of cooking sparked a culinary revolution in America. For a stint, he was “in the weeds” — as his ever-changing world of taste laid in the wild — little-known leaves, weeds, and flowers like Queen Anne’s lace, chicory root, and pigweed — more poetically called lamb’s quarters.  And now, he’s a farm-to-table guy, just like Chopra who uttered the word locavore last night, like a prayer.

These guys have a lot in common. Deepak has written over 65 books; Jean-Georges has 27 restaurants with more on the way. They are both pioneers and at the forefront of important cultural and sociological movements. They are both involved in aspects of their craft that extend way beyond the limits imposed by anyone else. They are free-thinkers and seem to agree with other great thinkers that: “food is medicine” and “you are what you eat.” They may also both believe in a spirituality of food. I know I do.

And at the end, they both agreed, “It is always about delicious.”

News Update

3 Nov

Credit: Warwick Brown

Read more about the wonderful dialogue between Deepak Chopra and Jean-Georges Vongerichten at abc home — on the occasion of the launch of JGV’s new cookbook:  On my Huffington Post site later today.

On our way to Napa Valley to the Culinary Institute of America today.  Michael Whiteman (husband) will be giving the key-note speech on “global flavor trends” to 700 chefs!   Will be reporting from there.

Stay tuned for Thanksgiving recipes coming up next week.

Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: