Careme's creations

French History: The First Celebrity Chef

At the height of the French Revolution in 1792, a young eight year old boy named Marie-Antoine Carême was abandoned by his family. Carême, the 16th child born to his very poor family, began working as a “kitchen boy” in Paris.

Walking down the streets of Paris in the early 1800’s, the Eiffel Tower—built in 1887—was still decades away from becoming a fixture of the Parisian skyline. At the time, restaurants were just becoming a staple of Parisian culture, as French cuisine began finding its footing in history and became codified into the cuisine that we know today.

Careme portrait
Photo from Getty Images

By 1810 the once orphaned child, Carême was a young man making a name for himself as the first celebrity chef in history. Working under well-known pâtissier Sylvain Bailly, he became one of the first modern chefs to focus on the appearance of plating and presentation, contributing to its importance in many cuisines today. After designing Napoleon Bonaparte’s wedding cake to his second wife, Marie-Louise of Austria, he solidified his place in history as the founding father of French cuisine.

Times had changed by 1814. 30 years after Carême was abandoned by his family, he found himself surrounded by crowds gathered outside his shop, Patisserie de la Rue de la Paix. And, just as he gained notoriety in France, Carême left to travel the world and cook for nobility, furthering his fame. While he once struggled to survive, decades later, he found himself sought after by many.

Throughout history, Carême worked for many notable figures including Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (Talleyrand)—Napoleon’s chief diplomat, Napoleon himself, Russian Emperor Alexander 1, Russian Princess Catherine Bagration and finally in the kitchens of Baron James de Rothschild. All of these famous figures in history helped to cement his reputation as the first celebrity chef and allowed him to create the many lavish items we still recreate today.

French cuisine is one of the most well documented cuisines in history, which, in addition to its timelessness, is one of the reasons it is the foundation for cooking throughout the world. The impact that Marie-Antoine Carême had on Haute Cuisine in the 18th and 19th centuries—and later, the world of cooking itself—would be forever immortalized in his many cookbooks and writings on French Cuisine. In part due to Carême’s need for fame and adoration—which led to a photograph in each of his cookbooks so people would recognize him—French cuisine was finally chronicled and able to be passed down.

Chef Ben teaching students

Today, chefs wear a white jacket and toque in kitchens for many reasons—cleanliness, prestige, and order, among other elements. Even this can be credited to Carême’s desire to be noticed and create a distinction among his peers in the kitchen. His creation of the four mother sauces—béchamel, velouté, espagnole and allemande—would help to build many foundational French entrées for centuries to come. Today, with credit to Escoffier’s adaptation, they are taught as the five mother sauces, replacing allemande with hollandaise and sauce tomate. Carême’s influence expanded to pastry as well. He perfected the souffléwas possibly the first chef to pipe meringue through a pastry bag, and codified many elements of modern gastronomy.

Jacques Torres making a croquemboucheThe croquembouche, which Dean of Pastry Arts Jacques Torres, demonstrates every year as a holiday tradition, can be credited to Carême when he first fashioned it to impress royalty. While Escoffier remains more widely-known than Carême, he popularized Carême’s initial ideas of the brigade system and modernized it to the system we have today. Even today, we tip our toques to Carême for codifying the fundamentals of French cooking as we know it.

How to Improve your Plating Skills with Chef Hervé Malivert

Chef HerveChef Hervé Malivert’s enthusiasm for the kitchen began at a young age and his love & experience with plating journeys back decades. Enjoying photography as his favorite hobby, Chef Hervé has an eye for creating beautifully intricate dishes which he shares with his followers on Instagram (check him out on Instagram @chef_herve_malivert).  As the Director of Culinary Arts & Technology, Chef Hervé’s sense of adventure is put to good use researching and developing new techniques to include in ICC’s curriculum.

From kitchens across the globe, to the kitchens of ICC, Chef Hervé has always understood that plating has an important “visual effect” for guests and students. It will not change the taste of your dish or the understanding that the student has, but it will change the first impression and set them up for a flawless meal or lesson. Think about looking at two pictures of the Caribbean, one has a picture perfect blue sky, and the other is during a hurricane. Which picture would inspire you to venture to the Caribbean? It is the same with dining, eating, and learning.

Plated dishIf you do not innately have an artistic eye for plating, it is possible to train yourself and improve with time. Most chefs are not born with an immediate knowledge of how to create an artistic dish. It takes years of precision, practice, and patience, so we joined ICC’s resident Master-of-Plating in the kitchen to get a behind-the-scenes look at his process.

Read on to find out Chef’s tips to improve your plating:

  1. Learn how to cook and properly combine flavors together. A beautiful plating will mean nothing if the food doesn’t taste good or go well together.
  2. Knife skills, knife skills, knife skills! The first step of presentation is symmetry and accuracy.
  3. The focal point of the dish is the item which draws your attention. Be aware of what your eye will notice first, avoid negative space, add some elevation to give your dish depth, and of course be mindful of the plate itself.
  4. A well designed plate will have a sense of balance. Balance doesn’t necessarily mean symmetry. Putting too many items on the plate will make it visually unappealing.
  5. Simple geometric shapes are the skeleton of plating design. All plating presentations can be defined by simple geometric shapes: lines, arcs, circles, etc.
  6. Most importantly: love what you do. Be passionate, and the inspiration will come.

Now that you have some plating tips in your chef’s toolkit, it is important to understand how to develop an idea for a dish. Follow Chef’s steps on how he conceptualizes, cooks, and plates a dish and you will be on your way to mastering your own artful creations!

PlatingChef Hervé’s Steps to Plating

  1. Start by envisioning the dish you’d like to make. You may even have an idea already in your head.
  2. Pick your protein or main ingredient, if you haven’t already. Decide how you want to cook it and how you want to cut and present it on the plate. This is vital to how the dish will look.
  3. Conceptualize the flavor profile of your dish. Do you want a bold dish, or would you rather the flavors speak for themselves?
  4. Pick the plate your dish should go on. Does a soup make sense in a long shallow bowl? Probably not. The plate will allow your food to speak for itself.
  5. Cut your ingredients properly as you are prepping and cooking. A thin slice of an onion may work better than a minced onion on your dish. Think about this beforehand and make sure to execute it with the knife skills you have been practicing.
  6. Cook your dish.
  7. Plate it. It may be helpful to use tweezers. Hint: Chef Herve uses surgical grade tweezers to plate, and this is what many fine dining restaurants do as well!
  8. Try again and edit your dish. You will never be satisfied with your first plating. It is perfectly ok to edit it and try again.
  9. Serve to your happy customers, family, or yourself!

Plated dish

 

 

Always remember to admire beautiful plating, and that the inspiration from a dish can come from anywhere. Working alongside amazing chefs helped Chef Hervé to find his inner inspiration and allowed him to improve his skills. Nowadays, with the power of social media, the internet, books and magazines, inspiration is endless!

One of Chef Pablo's creations

What It’s Like to Attend A Masterclass with Chef and Sommelier Pablo Ranea

Written by: Aditya Malhotra, Intensive Sommelier Training Student

Earlier this month, students and alumni enjoyed a star studded masterclass when Chef and Sommelier Pablo Ranea visited ICC’s California campus and world renowned Argentinean wine maker, Santiago Achaval of Matervini Winery, was brought in via a Skype call. During this special event, we had the opportunity to taste a total of ten different wines, and by the end of the day, we gained a new perspective on each of the wines. We started off by sampling 8 Malbecs, each coming from a different elevation, then moved onto a white Torrontes as an aperitif and finished off with a Matervini white.

Argentina is well regarded for its unique culinary style, from quick snacks like empanadas to hearty, quality steaks, and for its high-quality wine produced from ancient vines throughout the country’s varied elevations. During Chef Pablo’s visit, we learned all about Argentina’s cuisine and wine.

This event was especially impressive because as Chef Pablo introduced each wine, he also did a live cooking demonstration of dishes that would pair well. For his first dish, he showed us an interesting technique designed to soften the structure of the octopus meat which he called “Asustar,” which means “to scare or frighten.” This technique involved holding the octopus by the head and submerging the tentacles into boiling water for only 10-15 seconds and then quickly removing them from the heat; Chef Pablo recommended repeating the process about four times. The completed dish was comprised of the expertly prepared octopus, chorizo and potato puree, and topped with the famous Argentinean Chimichurri sauce.

Pastel de PapaLater on, Chef Pablo demonstrated how to prepare “Pastel de Papa,” which comprises the traditional Empanadas Mendocinas with a skirt steak filling. Chef Pablo noted that cutting the skirt steak prevents the filling from drying out. For this dish, Chef Pablo called for some audience participation. Everyone was pretty excited to roll up their sleeves and learn from the master himself.

Pablo Ranea began his career as a Graphic Designer which truly explains the beauty in his food presentation. His preparations looked like art on a plate!

Chef Pablo was the Executive Chef for ten years at The Azafran restaurant, considered to be one of the best restaurants of Mendoza, where he developed his concept of “New Argentinean Cuisine.” It was during his time at Azafran that he also recognized the fact that wines of Argentina were becoming increasingly sophisticated and in higher demand in world markets than ever before. With these thoughts in mind, Chef Pablo saw a need for Argentinean chefs to match their food to great wines. He took matters into his own hands by studying to become a Sommelier, gaining his certification in 2012. Since then, Pablo has been working as a mediating consultant between restaurants and wineries by developing recipes and selecting appropriate wine parings.

In regards to the meaning of “New Argentinean Cuisine,” Pablo explains that he aims to discover contemporary takes on traditional dishes by utilizing a variety of quality regional ingredients. For example, combining lamb that was raised in southern Patagonia, garnished with quinoa harvested from the mountainous region of the Andes, finished with a sauce made with corn or tapioca from the north-east. In this way, pulling ingredients from all corners of Argentina into one dish, Chef Pablo has been able to create a whole new dish which is still exponentially Argentinean.

As a firm believer in the importance of learning from new places, people and experiences, Chef Pablo has become more of a “Nomad Chef,” taking time away from the stationary restaurant setting to travel internationally with his partner Alejandro Cohen. Over the last two years, as they travel the world, they make an effort to share with others their knowledge and passion about Argentinean cuisine and wine by leading cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and hosting pop-up dinners. The students at the ICC were more than honored to have had a chance to meet them.

Check out my tasting notes about the wines from the event below. You may even want to pick up a bottle for yourself!

Selection of Argentinean Wines from Pablo Ranea event

  1. Nieto Senetiner- Torrontes 2016, Yellow color with greenish shades. The nose has a bouquet of white flowers, white peach and citrus fruit like orange and grapefruit
  2. Mi Terruno Reserve- Malbec 2014, Intense red colour with violet hues. Good body with sweet and round tannins. Typical Malbec red fruit aromas of plums and cherry with vanilla notes from the oak aging.
  3. Don Nicanor, Barrel Select- Malbec 2014, Intense purple-red hue and exquisite fruity notes of cherry and red currant.
  4. Rutini Encuentro-Malbec, aged 12 months in French and American Oak, violets floral notes, and fresh red and black fruits. Full-bodied tannins and rich dark chocolatey marmalade fruit notes are present on the mouth.
  5. Guachezco Oro-Malbec 2013 aged 16 months in barrels of French, American and Hungarian oak, displays a deep red colour. The notes of red fruits, plums and blackberries are combined with notes of cranberry along with aromas of caramel, vanilla and mocha from the time spent in the oak.
  6. Rutini Cabernet Malbec 2013 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Malbec, 12 Months in French and American Oak. On the nose, full bodied fruit aromas of cherry, marmalade & plum. The mouth feel combines the mature fruit essence with rich spices of vanilla & chocolate from the time in oak.
  7. Matervini Finca Malbec, grown at 3200 feet of altitude, in alluvial soils. The combination of this soil and old vines results in this classic wine from Mendoza, with flavors of attractive austerity and rich mouth feel at the same time,
  8. Matervini Antes Andes Valles Calchaquies Malbec, planted at 7800 feet of altitude a distinctive Malbec, fresh and full of fruit, with a wild feeling to it and mineral notes that make it a typical wine from Salta.
  9. Matervini Blanco, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier, cofermented, the juice is allowed 5 days of skin contact prior to fermentation. This decadent white wine has the structure of an old world wine but still had some zesty youth. A great way to finish the tastings.

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Jae Lee, 2016 California Culinary Arts Graduate

After immigrating to America, Jae Lee owned and ran a successful Japanese restaurant. Over time though, he realized the need for a solid culinary education to build on and solidify his knowledge. Read the story of how Jae Lee went from 2016 California Culinary Arts graduate to Sushi Chef and General Manager of Kenji Sushi in San Jose, California.


There are times when you’re so tired from work, but still can’t hate it because you love what you do.” – Jae Lee


ICC: What were the steps and thoughts that lead you to the decision to attend the ICC?

Jae: I was born and raised in Korea, and during my childhood days, I remember always making my own snacks after school. Even with the instant cup noodles, I tried something different by adding seafood and some spices to make a fancy noodle soup and I did this pretty much throughout my childhood days. After I graduated high school, I wanted to go to culinary school in the U.S. but I first had to take ESL classes and learn English. During those days, I worked part-time jobs in the food industry. After I got married, I thought skipping culinary school and owning my own business would be a good idea so I started my own Japanese restaurant. I owned this restaurant for seven years and although is was successful, I wished I knew more than just Japanese or Korean food. I wanted to broaden my knowledge in professional culinary techniques. I had regrets on not going to culinary school, so I sold my business and found ICC.


ICC: Today, you have taken on responsibility in your family’s business—How you get involved with Kenji and what are some of your day-to-day tasks?

Jae: Working as a Sushi Chef and also in general management, I start my mornings off by making sure all staff members are prepared for the day. I check the receipt and quality of all deliveries for the day’s ingredients and I ensure the cleanliness of the restaurant. The task that gives me the most joy is creating a meal with raw fish behind the sushi bar while a customer is in front me watching how I make things. I love seeing the smiling faces of customers and hearing them tell me that they love what I made them.

I work at Kenji because my family owns the restaurant but, my main motivation is the style and the concept that this restaurant pursues. It blends in with my previous Japanese restaurant business and the new things I learned at ICC.


ICC: What advice would you give to someone considering enrolling in culinary school?

You should not hesitate to pursue a culinary education if you love sharing with people the food you’ve made. You learn so much in school! Even after owning my own restaurant business for 7 years, there’s still so much I learned. Coming to ICC was definitely one of the best decision I made throughout my career.


ICC: What were your greatest challenges at school and how were you able to overcome them?

Jae: My greatest challenge at school was attending evening classes while working full time but my passion for learning new things kept me going.


ICC: What is the best industry advice you’ve ever received?

Jae: The best advice I’ve ever received was when one of my professors who said that most important thing about business is the ‘concept of the restaurant’. Because my career goal is to have my own restaurant again, I find this very practical advice.


ICC: Tell us about your current role at Kenji Sushi in San Jose?

Jae: I work as a Sushi Chef at Kenji and also do general management. I start my morning off by making sure all staff is covered, checking all deliveries for today’s ingredients and cleanliness of the restaurant. Creating a meal with raw fish behind the sushi bar, while a customer is in front of you watching how you make things; this is one of my joy of my job. Seeing the smiling faces of customers telling me they love what I made them.


Connect with Jae Lee on Instagram via  @jay_lee_man and @kenji_sushi.