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eG Foodblog: BryanZ - Alchemy

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#1 BryanZ

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 10:20 PM

I never imagined that my first post in my first eGullet foodblog would be so difficult to begin. With so much to share over the next week, I hardly know where to start. I want to make these next several days engagingly fun, witty, and intimately personal so that anyone so inclined may easily immerse themselves into my food-obsessed world. My goal is to bring enough of my (hopefully) unique personality and perspective to make this blog as interesting as possible. And, of course, I welcome any questions, comments, feedback, or musings that you all may have. Together, I think we can make this a really fun week.

With that said, let's begin.

First, a little on my background for those who may be unfamiliar. As you may have surmised, my name is Bryan. I'm currently living in northern central New Jersey and am 19 years old. During the school year, I attend Duke University in Durham, NC and am actively involved in the food community both on campus and in the surrounding area. At home, I cook a lot and work a little, much to the chagrin of my bank account. I'm half-Japanese, in case you're wondering, and this identity has played a relatively significant role in my culinary philosophy. By the way, I turn 20 on the 15th of July, in the midst of this foodblog. This scares me to no end; my childhood is but over. I'm more than willing to talk further about my background, culinary or otherwise, if anyone is interested. Just ask.

Now let's introduce some of this week's crew.

First, the Girlfriend.
Posted Image
Offical taste-tester and capable of eating her own body weight of, well, just about anything. You know the stereotypical jock boyfriend (usually a football player in those TV family sitcoms) who eats his girlfriend's family out of house and home, my situation is eerily similar. She also apparently picks herbs while looking mysterious and deep in thought.

Next, the Mother.
Posted Image
Pays for groceries and other toys. Provides general financial and moral support. Drinks a lot of wine, as seen here.

Finally, the Sister.
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Takes care of the pastry stuff that I'm too lazy to do. Baking, ice creams, sorbets, all that jazz.

I must confess to not being on eG much in the prior week or so. Just a couple of days ago I returned from a trip to Anguilla and French St. Martin, two Caribbean islands known for having very good food. Perhaps fittingly, in Anguilla we stayed at the Cuisinart Resort and Spa, a great luxury resort owned by the Cuisinart kitchen appliance people. I'm not sure if this is directly relevant to food per se, but I'm more than willing to reflect on the meals of my recent travels if anyone is interested.

Bringing us to the here and now, this week marks the beginning of New York City's Summer Restaurant Week 2006. While Restaurant Week has it haters and admirers--I'm of the latter camp--it does offer the opportunity to eat at many of the city's top restaurants on the cheap. Today, Monday, I have two lunches and a dinner planned as part of Restaurant Week. After that, I swing downtown to see a concert at the Bowey Ballroom and perhaps stop by at Room 4 Dessert, Will Goldfarb's (akwa on eG) hypermodern dessert bar.

On Wednesday I have two more lunches and another dinner.

On Friday the family is off to California for a weekend trip. We're driving from LA to San Francisco up the coast with an overnight stop in Carmel. Then on Sunday I've got meals at Bouchon and Gary Danko. Then, this blog must unfortunately come to an end.

Of course, I'll be cooking a good deal, too. Some of the things I'll be playing with this week include carbonated fruit, a recently purchased commerical induction burner, my new mini-water bath, and trying to figure how to make alginated butter orbs (the plight of many a molecular-inclined cook). Much more on all this in the coming days.

Finally, I'm working on a long-term project of opening up an underground restaurant in my apartment/dorm next semester, similar to the late and great StudioKitchen in Philadelphia. If people are interested in this or have advice to give (or legal counsel) please post. My concept is called Z Kitchen. The site is up and running but still in beta development. My Z Kitchen e-Lab, HEAVILY influenced by the brilliant people at ideasinfood (twodogs on eG), is also in its infancy.

So, yeah, a lot to do and only a week to do it in. I hope you all continue to tune in and participate and ask questions and all that fun stuff.

ETA: My mother requested I add a picture of myself. So, Hi.
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Edited by BryanZ, 09 July 2006 - 11:03 PM.


#2 alanamoana

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 10:48 PM

holy cr@p!

1) nyc restaurant week
2) our second (in a short period of time) youngster blog
3) hapa blogging (that'd be a half asian person for you haoles)
4) road trip
5) molecular gastronomy experimentation

that's a mighty tall order bryanz, but i'm sure you can fill it!

#3 cathrynapple

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 11:10 PM

aw, i'm glad it's you, bryan! good luck!

#4 Daniel

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Posted 09 July 2006 - 11:22 PM

Good luck Bryan Z.. I wish I was going to be around this week to follow you.. Looking forward to reading it when I return..

#5 Pan

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 12:41 AM

This'll be great! Bryan, have fun!

#6 Lori in PA

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 03:32 AM

I'm looking forward to the week -- I have a feeling I'll learn a lot, not being molecularly inclined myself.
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#7 Hiroyuki

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 03:39 AM

I'm half-Japanese, in case you're wondering, and this identity has played a relatively significant role in my culinary philosophy.

OK, tell us more about it!

#8 Syrah

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 03:41 AM

I'm half-Japanese, in case you're wondering, and this identity has played a relatively significant role in my culinary philosophy.

OK, tell us more about it!

View Post

My thoughts exactly!

#9 H. du Bois

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 04:09 AM

I'm really, really looking forward to this food blog. Go Bryan!

#10 Susan in FL

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 05:13 AM

I'm half-Japanese, in case you're wondering, and this identity has played a relatively significant role in my culinary philosophy.

OK, tell us more about it!

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My thoughts exactly!

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And mine, too!

Good morning, teenager. There are only five days for us to greet you that way. Have fun. I'm looking forward to hearing how you will celebrate July 15th.

I would also love to know more about the Caribbean eats you had during the past week, and what it was like at the the Cuisinart Resort and Spa. I would say with its name, it's food related. :wink: Did you learn some new stuff about Caribbean cuisine, or get some cooking ideas?
Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

#11 Luckylies

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 05:24 AM

I'm deeply envious of your precociousness, I believe at 19 I was smoking pot and cutting class... Could you please make some more heat stable ravioli? (with measurements etc) I'd really like to start experimenting along with you... It's funny, who would think you'd need a blog, with so many people following what you were doing anyway? :smile:

I'm really excited to see what you'll do!
does this come in pork?

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#12 Shalmanese

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 05:50 AM

Looking forward to reading about your exploits. Currently struggling through the tail end of a thesis which has severely hampered my cooking mojo so I'm expecting to live vicariously through you!
PS: I am a guy.

#13 Shaya

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:05 AM

Hi Bryan, I am looking forward to getting into your culinary food-obsessed world (many would say I live in that world but I think there are relative degrees of this affliction!).

My kids, particularly my 3-year-old, are really interested in cooking. He always tells me he will cook for me when he is older. I was wondering, did you start in the kitchen really young? Who influenced you? Did you read about food from a young age too?

#14 Varmint

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:07 AM

The concept of a high-end eating establishment in a student apartment is brilliant. And having it at Duke, where the students have, ahem, a bit of discretionary income, could be an ideal combination. Hell, I'll give it it try!

I also love the fact that this is the second blog in a row from a resident of the Triangle (OK, so Bryan won't be in NC during this time, but he lives here most of the year when he isn't traveling around the world).
Dean McCord
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#15 cdh

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:07 AM

Does sound like a promising week. Lots of detail on the molecular experiments, please. Pick up lots of goodies to play with at Room4Dessert and let us know how they all work.
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#16 Swisskaese

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:27 AM

I'm deeply envious of your precociousness, I believe at 19 I was smoking pot and cutting class... Could you please make some more heat stable ravioli? (with measurements etc) I'd really like to start experimenting along with you... It's funny, who would think you'd need a blog, with so many people following what you were doing anyway?  :smile:

I'm really excited to see what you'll do!

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I don't even remember being 19! :wink:

I am molecularly-challenged. I am interested to see what you come up with.

What are you studying at Duke?

Edited by Swisskaese, 10 July 2006 - 06:27 AM.


#17 BryanZ

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:38 AM

I'm half-Japanese, in case you're wondering, and this identity has played a relatively significant role in my culinary philosophy.

OK, tell us more about it!

View Post

My thoughts exactly!

View Post


As you might imagine, having any sort of dual racial identity makes one feel somewhat unique. For someone as into food as I am, it's not difficult to extend this dual identity into cooking. On the practical level, I'm grateful for having traveled extensively throughout Japan. I've stayed in many of Japan's top ryokans (traditional inns) and have eaten at many great restaurants. I'll post some pictures from last summer later this evening when I have more time. Speaking more philosophically, I believe that the Japanese respect for ingredients, simplicity of flavors, etc has been well instilled in me from a young age through my mother. I'll admit that the way I think about food now is somewhat gimmicky and trendy, but the ingrained respect for food and the beauty of it is what makes my passion for food more than just fleeting.


Good morning, teenager.  There are only five days for us to greet you that way.  Have fun.  I'm looking forward to hearing how you will celebrate July 15th.

I would also love to know more about the Caribbean eats you had during the past week, and what it was like at the the Cuisinart Resort and Spa.  I would say with its name, it's food related.  :wink:  Did you learn some new stuff about Caribbean cuisine, or get some cooking ideas?

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Of course, both Anguilla and St. Martin have beautiful beaches and great weather. But after a disappointing trip (foodwise) to St. John last summer we really wanted to combine beaches with food. In the end, it was the food that was the most surprising. I have a few pictures from the trip of some of the better food I ate. It's worth noting that the Cuisinart's fine dining restaurant was some of the best and certainly the most creative "resort" food I've ever had, solid NY Times 2-star fare. Anguilla also has a restaurant overseen by Michel Rostang, a very famous Michelin 2-star Chef, in the Mallihouana resort. It's worth noting that the Cuisinart's food is better. I suppose you might expect that coming from the Cuisinart people. Caribbean food "related" pictures are coming later tonight.


Hi Bryan, I am looking forward to getting into your culinary food-obsessed world (many would say I live in that world but I think there are relative degrees of this affliction!).

My kids, particularly my 3-year-old, are really interested in cooking.  He always tells me he will cook for me when he is older.  I was wondering, did you start in the kitchen really young? Who influenced you? Did you read about food from a young age too?

View Post


My mother is a pretty good cook. Admitedly she's not spectacular, but she always wanted to make sure we (my sister and I) ate well. My father doesn't care that much about food, so his influence isn't significant. Of course, however, I'm very grateful for their ability to more or less provide for me. Anyway, I started really getting into food at about 12 or 13. I began cooking at home and a couple years after that I convinced my parents to partially redo the kitchen (Viking range, stainless appliances, new counters and sink, etc; our floors, however, are still HIDEOUS) when we were doing other home renovations. From then, I've been cooking as much as possible, with my mother's great support. My most significant influences include, perhaps naturally Japanese and French cuisine (because I'm big time Francophile), and, generally, creative-thinking chefs. Dufresne, Achatz, Keller, Vongerichten, Liebrandt, Mason, and the pair at ideasinfood immediately come to mind. As I mentioned before my most recent and ambitious project is trying to open this underground restaurant. I guess I like doing my own thing and this venture will certainly be a test of that.

As for now, I'm late in picking up the Girlfriend for a day in the city. No time for breakfast, but I PROMISE I will unleash a whirlwind of pictures late tonight. Expect 3 NYC restaurant meals, the eats of Japan and the Caribbean, and maybe some other random stuff.

Please ask questions, I'm anxiously waiting to get back to them all.

#18 BryanZ

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:39 AM

At Duke I'm majoring in Economics and History and am getting a certificate in Markets and Management, Duke's closest thing to a pre-business program. So I'm sort of pre-law, pre-business, pre-not knowing what to do with my life.

#19 FabulousFoodBabe

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 06:53 AM

Ah, a blog featuring some of my favorite things: Duke, Jersey, and California! Bryan, why do so many Duke students come from this area? I love the underground restaurant concept and am anxious to see it unfold.

Once again, I'm having major "kids who can cook" envy.

At Duke I'm majoring in Economics and History and am getting a certificate in Markets and Management, Duke's closest thing to a pre-business program.  So I'm sort of pre-law, pre-business, pre-not knowing what to do with my life.

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Bryan, Mr. FB's degree is in "Business Management Science" -- they broke the mold after that one! :laugh: (FWIW, he 'knew' at 21 what he wanted to do forever, and by the time he was 40, changed his mind twice.)
"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

#20 johnder

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 07:16 AM

This is gonna be sweeeet.

So exciting? Will there be sous-vide excitement? Sodium Alginate crazyness?

Oh boy.
John Deragon

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#21 I_call_the_duck

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 07:24 AM

Hey Bryan,
I’ve been having trouble keeping up with everyone’s blogs of late.

1. I’m very impressed with the type of cooking that you’ve accomplished at such a young age. Ah, to be 20 again …For me 36 was the traumatic year, since I was no longer in the desirable 18-35 demographic. But I digress.
2. I’m jealous of your stove. Can we see the rest of the kitchen? And if Sandy hasn’t yet asked, the obligatory fridge shot?
3. Man, I wish I can get myself to Z-Kitchen.
4. blog on!
Karen C.

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Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

#22 racheld

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 07:44 AM

We hoped it would be you!!! (And the picture of all those gizmos and thingamabobs from Jane Jetson's kitchen confirmed it). Wow---a whole week of travels and cooking and dining and alchemy with those amazing tools.

And a birthday, as well. Nice. You're a Tuesday's Child, and on the day you were born, we were on our Honeymoon. With all you've added to eG, I consider that a special gift.

Could you work in a hand-written grocery list or recipe, please. And a shot of your hands at work.

This is gonna be a great weeeeeeek!! :smile:

Edited by racheld, 10 July 2006 - 07:45 AM.

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#23 Bueno

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 08:34 AM

I can't wait for this BLOG to get rollin'!

I must also add, on a completely superficial level, that you have a lot of good-looking people in your life. It feels like I'm preparing to watch a foodie version of my favourite primetime TV drama, acted out by hot celebrities.

*munches popcorn*

#24 Ann_T

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 09:00 AM

Wow Bryan, you have so much planned for the week. I know I'm really going to enjoy your Blog.


Ann

#25 Abra

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 09:21 AM

I'm really looking forward to this blog, except....are you going to have ANY time to cook?

#26 Genny

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 09:47 AM

How exciting Bryan! I've had waaay to much life lately to be on eG much but I will certainly try to keep up with you this week!

I'm surprised with your bend towards molecular cooking that you are not majoring in a scientific field of study such as molecular biology. No worries on knowing what you want to be when you grow up, most of us don't, or rather, didn't. :biggrin: And unless you are very single minded or averse to change, the likelyhood that you'll have multiple sequential careers is high.

Can you say why you have not chosen to go to a culinary school to be the next big thing in the culinary world you have such a passion for?

I've not looked much into the molecular cooking thing so I have no idea what you are trying to do with the butter. Can you explain more?

I'd love to hear more about your work process: how do you plan your menu, is it around the fresh produce you find at the grocer or do you start with a protein in mind and go from there? I imagine you are feeding the whole family when you cook, are there any foods you stay away from because of general dislikes?

What cookbooks do you own or use the most?

Last question: will your sister be making your birthday cake since shes the baker?

Thanks in advance for a whirlwind of fun this week!

Edited by Genny, 10 July 2006 - 10:22 AM.


#27 carpetbagger, esq.

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 10:01 AM

Finally, I'm working on a long-term project of opening up an underground restaurant in my apartment/dorm next semester, similar to the late and great StudioKitchen in Philadelphia.  If people are interested in this or have advice to give (or legal counsel) please post.  My concept is called Z Kitchen.  The site is up and running but still in beta development.  My Z Kitchen e-Lab, HEAVILY influenced by the brilliant people at ideasinfood (twodogs on eG), is also in its infancy.

View Post


not to rain on your parade, but this comes from the dook apartment/residence hall terms

V. TERMS AFFECTING RIGHTS, ORDER, HEALTH AND SAFETY
P. Selling or soliciting, to include the operation of a private enterprise, on the premises of University housing by residents or outsiders, that is either commercial or unrelated to University objectives or activities, is prohibited.

and if you're living in a residence hall:

V. TERMS AFFECTING RIGHTS, ORDER, HEALTH AND SAFETY
O. Selling or soliciting, to include the operation of a private enterprise, in the residence halls, by residents or outsiders, which is either commercial or unrelated to University objectives or activities is prohibited.

also, on your website, you have the "z kitchen is not" section twice. not only is it set up on its own, but it also looks like you hit paste accidentally in the "z kitchen is" section.

since you're technically not allowed to have an enterprise like z.kitchen in your apt/dorm, one idea to get around it would be to set up a student group like "dookies as foodies", where you could have an official presence on campus. not only would you be able to hold dining events on campus (not just in your apt), but you could lobby for a budget. one possible benefit of the student org route is that with other members, you could move the location from place to place, offering different themes at each. i realize that reduces the amount of control you have over the enterprise, but you are limited by campus policy.

#28 philadining

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 10:18 AM

Cool deal, looking forward to observing your adventures. I'd like to see as many weird, squishy, translucent spheres of unlikely food as your family can tolerate...

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#29 MarketStEl

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 10:18 AM

I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy!

I expect to be astounded this week. Please don't let me down.

You mentioned the brand of the range; I assume the fridge is similarly high-end?

(This morning, as I was showering, I was internally fuming over the base-model Frigidaire which our landlord installed about three years ago after the Hotpoint that was part of the original appliance suite conked out. Soon after it went in, the fridge door somehow developed a gap in its bottom left corner (on the side that opens), which the landlord's appliance repair folk "fixed" by stuffing plastic bags in the gasket. Ever since, we've had serious moisture problems, which I was told the last time I complained were because we don't close the door fully -- how can we? Now we get rime in the freezer, including rime that blocks the forced-air vents, the temp control in the fridge is stuck on the coldest setting, and neither the freezer nor the fridge are as cold as they ought to be, and I don't think that's entirely because I've got the freezer almost completely full right now--I shouldn't be able to press my finger into a chicken breast that's been sitting inside it for 12 hours. I was thinking, Maybe we should buy a good fridge and take it off our rent--or maybe not, and take it with us should we move? Okay, rant over. Sorry.)

I know we sort of discussed writing about food in another thread a while back on this board. Have you done anything else in this regard since then? And have you given serious thought to doing so? You are a good solid writer, and while the pay's not fabulous (unless you work those Duke connections to land at a top-tier newspaper or magazine), it's very rewarding work.
Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia
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#30 tupac17616

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 10:21 AM

Wow, Bryan, I'm thrilled to see you blogging this week! It will be a remarkable week, no doubt. I'll look forward to your NYC restaurant week reports. And of course all the wonderful food you turn out in your own kitchen.
I, too, would like to know if you've considered culinary school as an option for yourself. Especially considering how interested you are in the restaurant concept. There are, of course, a great number of well-regarded chefs who are self-trained. Having such great skill already, as well as the more creative molecular gastronomy that you seem to be involved in, perhaps the traditional methods taught in culinary school would only stifle to your wonderful creativity. I'd be curious what your thoughts are on this.





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