What a day! I'm sorry to have not posted but I've been out in NYC from just after 9:00AM to now, just past 1:30AM. Plenty to report and post, and I promise to get to those pictures I mentioned before and the fridge/kitchen shots people have been requesting. First, however, I'll answer some of the most direct questions that have been posed thus far.
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?
While culinary school has always been something I've thought about, it's not all that practical for me. I worked my ass off in high school to get into a top college and feel that I need to get that under my belt, so to speak. I think I would like to go to culinary school after college, but might be pressured into law school or business school by my parents. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but culinary school is kind of "back burner" in terms of my greater education. Perhaps my dream is to run restaurants, from the operations and business perspectives, though I'm not to sure how realistic this is.
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?
In the Cooking forum a few of us have played around with sodium alginate and calcium chloride to essentially create "ravioli," "orbs," or "caviar" essentially made from pure liquid. This is a technique developed by Ferran Adria at El Bulli, and the process has just entered the public domain.
Here are some of my examples. I know some of you have seen these, and I will try some more experiments through the week, but for those who are unfamiliar with the process this is what it looks like.
Poached salmon, canteloupe caviar
Earl grey orb, lemon zest, honey
(Left to right) Pea caviar, pea ravioli, pea noodles
So what I'm trying to do is create a ravioli or orb out of butter. I've had this at Alinea, in a dish created by pastry chef Alex Stupak. The problem is that when butter melts it separates. In order to make a nice orb I have to keep the butter emulsified. Tonyy13 suggested making a beurre monte (butter and water emulsion) and I further theorized to stabilize the emulsion with lecithin (a vegetable-based emulsifier). If this is over your head, I'll try to explain it further when I do some more experiments.
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?
I have two styles of cooking: restaurant (which is ironic because I've never cooked in a restaurant) and home.
My home cooking is probably very typical for most serious eG members. I try to take simple dishes and execute them as well as possible. If I'm making pasta with mushroom sauce, I'll make fresh pasta, use chanterelles and porcinis and other flavorful mushrooms, and maybe make a couple truffled poached eggs to give some body to the sauce. If I'm making steaks I'll buy the best beef I can find, work on perfecting my searing techniques, and maybe, if I'm feeling ambitious, make a potato foam rather than making frites or roasting them.
My "restaurant" cooking is based heavily on my dining experiences. Here, I'm even more obsessed with seasonality both in the literal sense of using sesonal ingredients and in the more figurative sense of making sure a dish "feels" like spring, summer, winter or fall. With this said, I may start with an idea more than an actual protein and build from there. When I'm at the market, I start to play with the idea I have in mind to make it a reality given the available products.
What cookbooks do you own or use the most?
I don't use too many cookbooks. I used to but not so much any more. Now, as alluded to previously, my food is more idea-driven than recipe-driven. With that said, I love the French Laundry Cookbook. It's inspirational. I also like JG Vongerichten's and have been known to use the Le Bernardin, Babbo, and Nobu cookbooks for inspiration.
Last question: will your sister be making your birthday cake since shes the baker?
I'm actually not much of a cake person. Perhaps this says something about my personality, but I don't love baked goods as much as most people and CANNOT STAND commercially produced desserts and sweets. So, no, my sister will not be making me a cake.
Somewhat tangentially related, some people have asked me what I'll be doing on the 15th to celebrate my birthday. Since we'll be in Cali., I don't think anything special will happen and my meals at Bouchon and Gary Danko the next day will kind of be the equivalent to my culinary birthday present.
The Girlfriend is supposed to take my to Jose Andres' Minibar
on the 22nd for my birthday dinner from her, but she might be going to Italy with a friend, thus forcing me to cancel the reservation. If we do end up going, it should be an awesome meal.
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.
This is unfortunate. I'll just pretend I've never read the above statements should anyone official ask. I think a bit of civil disobedience is in order. I will push forward (and do my best to catalog my progress).
You mentioned the brand of the range; I assume the fridge is similarly high-end?
I use a Viking six burner range with gas oven. I also have a much older Jenn-Air electric oven. My fridge is a not-that-great GE. I wanted to get a true commercial unit but our cabinetry was cut especially for a model with the GE's dimensions. Kind of a shame, but whatever.
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.
In fact, I have. I'm the food and dining editor for The Chronicle
, Duke's daily independent newspaper. If you're so inclined you can click on the link and type my last name, Zupon, into the search bar to read some of my work. In the past year I've covered everythign from restaurant reviews, to food sustainability, to molecular gastronomy. I might try to do some writing for the local city paper, but I'm not sure if I'll have the time.