Things I learned at Starchefs

A mini list of things that come to mind after three days of demos and discussions.

1) To make a super crispy, wafer thin skin on a duck breast, freeze the duck by placing breast skin side down on a flat piece of dry ice and weigh it down for  25 mins.  Poke skin with pin or a pet brush (composed of many tiny metal spokes) to rupture membrane.  Same effect as scoring.  Place on a hot plancha and sear until perfectly browned.  Finish in oven.  Wow.  duck breasts

2) For a crackling concept that will blow your mind:  remove skin from rack of pork bones.  Dehydrate until 13% water remains.  Grind skin to 5 mm granules and then adhere back on pork rack with tapioca starch slurry.  Freeze  rack in nitrogen.  Dip in warm water for a second.  Fry until mini cracklings cover loin.

3) By covering crystalized salt in oil, you preserve the crunchy texture when you season because the salt will not dissolve with water contact.

4) Beer floats are actually a delicious concept

5)  Pierre Gagnaire (whom I adore and slightly idolize) was given a market basket today and ended up creating 6-7 dishes.  Two of the dishes tasted exactly like Taco Bell’s Nachos Bell Grande.IMG_4796

6)If you mix sugar, vinegar and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and heat til 160-ish, and then dip something into this mixture (like prunes in the front), and then place in a kryo-vac, the air molecules expand and you are left with fluffy, puffed, crunchy, aerated charcoal-y looking things (in the back).IMG_4786

7) Jose Garcia and sous chefs Reuben and Brad demonstrated how to recreate a simple summer pleasure.  Mini corns can be reproduced by  shaving the kernels off the cob (about 10 mini corns needed per recreated corn), mixing them with methyl cellulose, and wrapping set corn water in the center (agar?), in oiled parchment to form the perfect shape.  Grill to finish.mini corns

8)  You can flavor alcohol with things such as bbq sauce, and then remove the solids by adding liquid nitrogen.  The liquid nitrogen also removes any water that is in the unadulterated alcohol, so some must be replaced if being used as a sipping alcohol.

9)  Chef Paco Torreblanca made gorgeous desserts and talked about how simplicity was his new direction.  He made gorgeous, uncomplicated flourishes. He started with white chocolate that he brushed on to the back of a sheet tray with a comb,  let it set in the fridge, and then brought it out to warm a bit.   He then took a small side spatula and dragged about an inch and a half of width down across the horizontal lines, creating many delicate flower garnishes.  So technically beautiful and simple!

10) Dave Arnold and Nils Noren demonstrated how to anesthetize a fish (sprinkling an illegal anesthetizer into the water!) and drain the blood.  By putting the fish to sleep, the fish doesn’t struggle when caught and therefore the muscles don’t contract and damage the flesh to the fish.  By sticking a thin wire up the spinal cord, you cut spinal connections and slow down the onset of rigor mortis.  And if you eat the fish immediately after letting out all the blood, the flesh is crispy and snappy. dave and fish

There are so many things to comment on, but these were a few that really stuck out and made an impression.  I’m already counting down the days until next year…

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4 responses to “Things I learned at Starchefs

  1. this sounds amazing! was it a seminar for cooks?

  2. yes! it’s been going on for four years and i’ve worked it every year. it’s always a bit chaotic in the kitchens, but the information that’s presented is so so cool!

  3. Molecular Gastronomy experiment of the day: Take group of painfully talented-angst filled, lab coat wearing cooks with limited classic background, add lots of chemicals like hydrocolloids, sodium alginate, guar gum, silly putty, legal elephant tranquilizer and shake vigorously in a pot of liquid nitrogen with green food coloring, tap gently with a furniture mallet, collect shards and fill pacojet beakers. Process, spread on silpats and cut into small cubes and what do you get? Solution to world hunger aka soilent green! See gourmet movie circa 1970’s starring Chaz Heston. Wish I coulda been hangin with you there Clair!

  4. Were charcoal look-y things tasty?
    Smazing stuff!

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