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24 Hours of Cooking


paulraphael
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Saturday night I finished a 24 hour endurance stunt with my friends at A Razor, A Shiny Knife: prepare and serve three high end, 8 course meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), completely from scratch, on location, in 24 hours. While wearing a suit and tie.

The clock started ticking at 10pm Friday night, as we browned bones for veal stock, got the two immersion circulators warming up, made butter, incubated the creme fraiche, started the baguette and croissant dough, and unpacked ingredients in our two kitchens. The location was a pair of adjoining penthouse apartments, in a newly built, uninhabited brooklyn apartment building, which had been (absurdly ... insanely) offered to our event for free by the landlord. The gas had not been turned on yet, so we had no stove burners or hot water. And the elevator was broken. And even though our arsenal of high tech gear rivaled both Alinea and Fermilab, our chefs had managed to forget the can opener and corkscrew.

But the great challenge of the evening (not counting the two hour setback caused by the deep fryer breaking--rectified by the MagGuyver-like skills of our photographer) was one of our own making: trying to find ANYTHING--ingredients, equipment, space to work--amid the chaos of two disorganized workspaces and a constantly rotating gaggle of sleep-deprived cooks.

The experience was insanely fun and thoroughly educational. We made the deadline with one minute to spare (with a bit of a cheat: we sent out the two dessert courses simultaneously, rather than waiting for the diners to eat them in sequence).

The circus atmosphere was punctuated by a Japanese film crew, who stayed on location shooting a documentary of the event, with only one short break, from 9:30pm Friday to 11:30pm Saturday! Our all-nighter will be nothing compared with the marathon session in store for their editor.

I'll post links to the official debriefing and pictures, once they're online.

These are the same guys who made news last year by recreating Thomas Keller's and Grant Achatz's famous 24 course colaborative meal, in a Brooklyn loft. My kind of lunatics!

The chef and mastermind was Michael Cirino, who handled the cooks, guests, and chaos like a rockstar. I hope to collaborate with him again soon. But not too soon.

Here's the menu. It doesn't tell the whole story ... most dishes included at least a couple of molecular biological twists and surprises:

Breakfast:

1. Croissant with butter and jam

2. Charentais Melon, Bourbon, Bacon

3. Slow Poached Eggs, Rarebit, Crumpets and Tea

4. Asparagus Oscar

5. Chicken and Waffles

6. Red Leaf Salad, Tomato, Zucchini, Ricotta

7. “Mozzareaps”, Agave, Saffron, Cilantro

8. Maple, Bacon, Walnut

Lunch:

1. Pickle Plate

2. Steel Head Trout Roe, Pluot , Mache, Bread Crumbs

3. Cucumber, Celery, Tomato, Cress

4. Asparagus, Red onion, Pecorino, Egg, Black Truffle

5. Soft shell crab Ban Mi Sandwich

6. Canard Confit, Smoked Almonds and String Beans

7. Green Papaya, Daikon, Pork Belly, Cilantro, Aji Amarillo

8. Caramelized Pineapple, Crème Fraîche, Rosemary, Pine nut

Dinner:

1. Salmon, Meyer Lemon, Balinese Long Pepper, Molasses, Saffron

2. Foie gras, Cucumber, Strawberry, Aji, Almonds

3. Lobster, Aji, Key Lime, Thai basil

4. Chawan Mushi

5. Beef Rib, Morels, Garlic, Garbanzo Bean

6. Potato, Smoke, Egg Yolk, Chives

7. Coconut, White Peaches, Sriracha, Lavender

8. Chocolate, Cherry, Honey, Cream

Menu was written with Daniel Castaño

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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Was there one crew of diners as well?

Three crews. Each meal sat 15 to 18 people. I don't think any guest stayed for more than one of the meals.

But many of the guests helped in the kitchens, sometimes for long stretches. This is part of the idea with wiht the Razor/Shiny knife events: full participation. At any point guests could come by, stroll into the kitchen, get a demonstration on anything from running the sous vide vacuum machine to binding short ribs into perfect blocks with transglutaminase ... and then get their hands dirty doing it.

It's a great idea. Double the fun, triple the chaos.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

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Sounds fantastic.  I think I'd be stuffed from breakfast for the rest of the day.

Yeah, probably!

Unfortunately I didn't get to try even a single full dish ... just nibbles of individual components here and there (which ranged from amazing to curious to beta-quality). Every plate had multiple components on it; each component was prepared by different people who often weren't even talking to one another.

It led to some funny moments. Ocasionally the film crew would come over to interview me about what I was doing. I'd try to act like a t.v. chef and smile and be educational. "What we have here is a mouseline of blackfoot silky chickens from Chinatown. The breasts have been cooked sous vide, then puréed with heavy cream, and I'm now blending in 2 grams of Activa, which is a name for transglutamase. It forms covalent bonds between protein molecules, binding them together, and then it vanishes. When I spread the purée into these waffle molds, the Activa will set it into solid waffles that can be deep fried."

Then the t.v. host would ask, reasonably, "so what dish will this be a part of?"

And I'd look at her like a deer in headlights. I'd have no idea.

So she'd ask, "well, is it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner?"

Again, no idea.

So it will be clear to the Japanese foodie public that my role was to mix this stuff over here with that stuff over there. And then scuttle off mindlessly to the next project ...

Edited by paulraphael (log)

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This was an event that I would have loved to attend and thought seriously about making the trip down to the city for. I look forward to reading and seeing more details.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Sounds wildly fun!  There's only one part I don't get...the suit and tie.

When I was told, "oh, one more thing: wear a suit" ... i knew for sure they were out of their minds.

The logic went something like this: we're often accused of taking ourselves too seriously, so why not take ourselves WAY too seriously, by dressing up?

This being the goal, I think we should have gone all the way ... tuxedos, top hats, tails.

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