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Washington's Rising Star Chefs


vengroff
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StarChefs is sponsoring a series of Rising Stars Revue events around the country to recognize hot up and coming chefs.

The DC edition will be at Hotel Monoco on September 16. The chefs are Morou of Signatures, Fabio Trabocchi of Maestro, John Wabeck of Firefly, Koji Terano of Sushi Ko, Jamie Leeds of 15 ria and Cliff Wharton of TenPenh, Pastry Chef Steve Klc of Zaytinya, Jaleo and Café Atlantico and Host Chef Jay Comfort of Poste.

You can read more about it here. Tickets are for sale for $60 here.

For those in the restaurant business, there will also be a career seminar associated with the event.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Anyone know anything more about this one?

The Beard Foundation event sounds REALLY cool, but $300 might be a little out of the price range. $60 sounds pretty reasonable, but I don't know what to expect.

Bill Russell

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I have no idea what to expect either. But I think the idea of the rising star category is that these are some of the chefs who may be showing up at the $300 Beard events in years to come. In this case, one of them (Fabio Trabocci) already is.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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I've been to a lot of these kinds of events and cooked at a lot of them as well--multi-station walkaround tastings or seated multi-course dinners--and can tell you there is no guarantee and no relationship of value to price. Merit aside, politics, media connections, friendships and celebrity "can" come into play as to who gets invited to go where. (Remember--chefs and restaurants foot all their own bills, expenses and travel to "cook" at the Beard House.) Some of the more expensive events for charity or Beard dinners can have a surprisingly high percentage of lousy food with celebrity chefs mailing it in, then again, it could be great--but often it isn't anywhere near the quality you'd get in that particular chef's restaurant. So keep that in mind and keep your expectations reasonable going in. There are usually a few underwhelming dishes which pale in comparison to some other impressive dishes. You just roll the dice you get a roster of chefs who care so much about their stuff that they choose what to do wisely--from the chef's perspective doing things off-site is never easy especially if you have to travel to do it--and then stay on top of it to ensure what goes out is the best it can be.

One nice aspect is the opportunity to mingle and chat up other foodies--as a chef I appreciate that and appreciate the one-on-one interactions. There's also that direct connection and spark you get when someone wanders by, takes a spoonful of something and goes "wow." I'm sure there will be a further announcement of some sort, a menu released with wines, etc. soon--but this event should be a real bargain $$$-wise and very interesting. At this point I'm planning to do a version of the Turkish Coffee Chocolate dessert in a glass (from Zaytinya) and the arroz con leche a la moderna from Jaleo.

I'm honored that Fabio is a part of this--how could he not be? I just discovered John Wabeck was selected for this event--deservedly so, so congratulations to John--who also has decided to reveal the fact that he's been an eGulleteer for a while as well. Frankly, I haven't eaten at Sushi-Ko or Signatures since their new chefs took over and both Morou and Koji are part of this, plus (I believe) Jamie Leeds and Jay Comfort, so this should be special and fun. To be the only pastry chef selected from DC puts the pressure on but it is an honor I'm taking very seriously.

John--which dish are you planning to do?

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I'm doing "seared scallops with gingered grits and smoked bacon viniagrette" and "heirloom tomatoes with green curry-coconut emulsion and Asiago cheese."

I just hope Jay gives me preferential treatment in the kitchen, being a fellow Kimpton chef and all.

I agree with Steve on the fact that a lot of this gets mailed in, but I am quite certain that this lineup will not. It is kind of a big deal.

Agree wholeheartedly with the fact that off-site events are tough - I almost always never cook anything (always try to do cold stuff) as it could turn into a trainwreck real quick. But scallops are the easiest thing to cook. I just hope Jamie does her roasted pig, that is good stuff.

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

Not the body of a man from earth, not the face of the one you love

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

I just got back from the event. I'll write more tomorrow, but here are some initial photographs to whet your appetite. Please note that I am not going to post pictures of every dish. This is entirely a reflection on the limitiations of my photographic skills, not on those of the chefs. Each of the eight chefs presented two dishes.

John W. from Firefly brought some lovely heirloom tomatoes. More about what he made with them later:

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Here is John's scallop dish:

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Koji Terano from Sushi-Ko put together this flounder carpaccio with black truffle vinaigrette.

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Fabio Trabocchi from Maestro did a lychee panna cotta with house-made grappa and basil.

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Morou from Signatures presented Caramelized Maine Lobster with Madagascar Vanilla, Truffled Tapioca Risotto, Fennel Confit and Olive Oil Foam.

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Here are Jamie Leeds from 15ria and her two assitants with duck confit salad wrapped in watermelon radishes.

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And not forgetting the lone pastry chef, our own Steve Klc prepared his modern take on Arroz con Leche.

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I'll be back tomorrow with more pictures and more detailed descriptions of the food and the event around it. Thanks to the StarChefs organization and all the participating chefs and their culinary student assistants for making this a great event.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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In addition to preparing and serving their dishes, the chefs spent time earlier in the day doing a panel discussion for local culinary students. They discussed their careers, their decisions, their management styles, staging abroad, and many other topics of interest to students eager to one day be in their clogs.

Here are the chefs on the panel:

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Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

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Welcome to the there's-more-where-those-came-from department.

In this installment, I'll show you a little bit about the setup of the event and how the chefs adapted. It's always a challenge to cook away from your own kitchen. In this case, the chefs were working in booths around the perimeter of a large ballroom in the Hotel Monaco. Host chef Jay Comfort was kind enough to offer refrigeration and other equipment from his restaurant Poste on the ground floor of the hotel. In the main ballroom, each chef had two banquet tables to work on. One in front was for buffet service, and one in back was for preperation and plating. Here's Koji and an assistant in their booth, with an eager customer going for his salmon confit.

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In such a small space, with limited room for equipment, most of the chefs did as much of their prep work in their own kitchens and then did final assembly and plating on site. Jamie Leeds' short ribs braised in molasses were an ideal dish for this sort of approach.

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At the other end of the spectrum, John brought in portable gas burners to sear his scallops a la minute. He was a brave man to attempt this, but he did a phenomenal job of pulling it off.

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Others chefs decorated their booths with signature items of their own. Steve Klc put his ISI Profi Whips on display front and center. They were used to foam his Arroz con Leche. He also displayed some of the raw flavorings that went into his Arroz Con Leche and Turkish Coffee Chocolate desserts

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At Fabio's booth, there were his signature sculptures of a fish and a lobster, from the dining room at Maestro. He also had on-hand iced grappa basilico for finishing the panna cotta.

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In the center of the ballroom, guests were able to peruse the offerings around them and move from station to station as the mood struck them. Although the dishes were primarily non-Asian, I found the best way to graze was to hold onto a pair of chopsticks from Koji's booth and ignore the silverware available at the other stations. In between stations, wine selected to be paired with each of the dishes was available. My personal favorite was the Arele vin santo Steve Klc chose to pair with his dessert courses.

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Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Actually, brave equaled stupid yesterday. I never, ever cook things for these events, but somehow got talked into it.

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

Not the body of a man from earth, not the face of the one you love

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Hey Steve, what's the chocolate you displayed on that one plate? I don't recognize its label.

Thanks Vengroff for these images. I recognize a few L'academie denizens in the pictures. Some of the pics really sing with the food, like the panna cotta Chef Fabio contributed. Looks like a nice time, with some really cool food.

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Look at it this way: searing off scallops means you don't have to talk to people. Though there are always people who like pressing the flesh, many of the chefs I know aren't among them. Besides which those plates look gorgeous!

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And now, back to the food.

Here is Jay Comfort's rabbit-fennel sausage with sweet potato puree and apple choucroute.

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Next up, Cliff Wharton's macadamia crusted halibut.

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And Fabio's lobster ravioli.

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Thanks again to all the chefs and the organizers. It was a great event.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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Thanks (I think).

Overall, I thought it was a great event, was good to meet some of the people like Koji and Fabio. The panel discussion hopefully will get to a few people, and the crowd seemingly was very into food in general, which is always good.

The boys from Signatures threw a great after party, which concluded in many of the externs having a late night snack with some chefs at El Wong Grande.

Firefly Restaurant

Washington, DC

Not the body of a man from earth, not the face of the one you love

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Hey Steve, what's the chocolate you displayed on that one plate? I don't recognize its label.

E. Guittard L'Harmonie Dark 64%. Steve can probably tell you more, though. I'm just reading the label.

i69.jpg

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

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Darren--thanks for chronicling this--it had to take away from your enjoyment of the event. I'm also glad to see some of the actual dishes--we were working so hard plating up the two desserts for the crowd I wasn't able to wander around. And the only chef to send food over to the pastry chef's table was Cliff of Ten Penh--who I had not met before last night--and I have to say his red curry shrimp was fantastic.

For me, the only other food I had was at Signatures afterward and I was very impressed with what Morou passed around and the bubbly that Todd Thrasher, the Signatures gm and sommelier, poured. We started off with wasabi-crusted watermelon skewers--imagine a 4" long dowel rod of watermelon on a skewer, with the watermelon being about 1/4" in diameter. Cool, stylishly arresting and a tingly surprise. Then kobe beef about 4 different ways, my favorites being the kobe beef steak and cheese sandwich, the kobe fritter and a sweetish kobe kebob glazed with barbecue sauce served with a funky but good cabbage slaw. Morou's sous chef--Jerry? Jeff? worked hard all night churning out several eclectic strongly seasoned sushi-style tuna and salmon rolls and tiny cornets of salmon roe resting atop a light wasabi foam. Morou's food isn't for the meek--but all his accents last night were in the right place and it made me want to come back to try more.

As for the chocolate, yes, that's the E. Guittard "vintage" label and I use different E. Guittard chocolate varieties and blends in all the restaurants.

I believe all the chef's recipes from this event are up on the starchefs website, too, so you can put recipe to photo if you're so inclined.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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