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Feb 23, 2018
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Top Chef

Sauce Celebrity Chef Series presents a morning with Richard Blais

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Attention St. Louis foodophiles and Top Chef aficionados, crack open your March calendars because Bravo’s Top Chef: All-Stars winner Richard Blais is coming to The Lou.

As part of our Sauce Celebrity Chef Series, Blais will join us on March 30 from 10 a.m. to noon at The Market at The Cheshire. While attendees munch on fresh treats provided by The Market, Blais will provide demonstrations of his expert cooking techniques. From his winning Top Chef dishes (Remember his cornbread with foie gras ice cream and whipped mango?) to his use of liquid nitrogen, ready all your burning questions, for Blais will also be conducting a Q&A session.

Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased here. A ticket includes savory snacks and a signed-copy of Blais’ new cookbook, Try This At Home. Want more Blais? Also on March 30, The Cheshire is hosting a dinner with Blais; find more details here.

By the Book: Tyson Cole and Jessica Dupuy’s Uchi Salad

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

I love Top Chef. With each new season, my sister and I are convinced that this season is the best yet and that there will never be a contestant better than our current favorite. Top Chef Texas was no exception. From the beginning, we were fans of Paul Qui, executive chef at Uchiko, a Tyson Cole restaurant in Austin, Texas. Maybe we are biased: We always root for the Asians. Or maybe it was because his food always looked awesome. Or maybe he just wasn’t crazy like Heather Terhune, who seemed to pick on Beverly Kim to no end. Needless to say, we were thrilled that he won, and I was inspired to cook out of Uchi, The Cookbook – a book documenting the dishes at Cole’s renowned Austin restaurant, where Qui started his career.

The book is beautiful with big photographs of the restaurant, the staff and the food. You can tell from perusing the book that Cole is thoughtful about every step of a dish – from a hand-written chart about what flavor profile combinations work well together to sketches of the dish when it was first conceived to gorgeous photographs of the finished product. The book is for those who are more adventurous in the kitchen, since some of the recipes are difficult to execute. But it does offer helpful tips to the home cook who is not as familiar with Japanese cooking as well. For example, in the sushi chapter, Sushi 101 offers several tips on how to eat sushi (the purpose of that pickled ginger, how to spot nitrate-laden fish, etc.) as well as advice for enjoying sake (Hint: It’s best cold.). There’s also a section on sushi rice: the proper way to make it and how to sidestep common errors. Nearly every recipe in the book lists ingredients by weight instead of volume, so you’ll want to grab your kitchen scale before cracking it open.

I chose to make the Uchi Salad from the Daily Specials section of the book. Cole largely attributes the creativity in this chapter to Qui.

This isn’t your traditionally dressed salad. Instead, the lettuce leaves are treated like chips: seasoned and then dipped into a spicy, creamy edamame dressing. As with any simple dish, quality ingredients are important. At Uchi, Cole uses hydroponic romaine from a nearby Texas farm. Likewise, try and use the best lettuce you can find if you plan to make this dish at home.

The final product was a nice twist on salad and the perfect hands-on dish for a dinner party. But frankly, that dressing would be delicious as a dip with pita chips, spread on toast or used as a sauce for fish. Try it on your favorite snack food. I bet it’s great.

Uchi Salad
Baby romaine salad with edamame and jalapeño dressing

This was a challenge I posed to Paul Qui. I wanted something interactive on the table for the customer in much the same way chips and salsa are at a Tex-Mex restaurant. So, I asked for something like a salad that was clean and healthy but that you could eat with your hands. We came up with this sauce, with roasted jalapeños and edamame, and hydroponic romaine that we get from a local farm called Bluebonnet Farm.

For the edamame-jalapeño dressing:
9 oz. edamame, shucked
2½ oz. peeled garlic, roughly chopped
1½ oz. peeled shallots, roughly chopped
2 to 4 oz. vegetable oil (as needed)
2½ oz. jalapeño
1 oz. Sushi Zu (recipe follows)
2 oz. water (as needed)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine edamame, garlic, shallots and vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Sweat the mix until ingredients become translucent. Strain and reserve oil. Place 2 or 3 whole jalapeños on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Let jalapeños cool, then peel and seed. Place vegetables in a blender along with the remaining raw jalapeños (seeds included). Start with a small amount of water, and purée, slowly adding more water. Add Sushi Zu. Emulsify by slowly adding the reserved oil while blending. Consistency should be about the same viscosity of mayonnaise.

Sushi Zu
2 oz. kombu seaweed*
8 oz. rice wine vinegar
8 oz. sugar

*Kombu seaweed may be found at Asian markets. (Note: I found it at Local Harvest.)

Wipe kombu with wet paper towel until all salt sediment has been removed. Whisk remaining ingredients together in a small sauce pot over medium-low heat until sugar has dissolved. Let the kombu steep for 10 minutes before removing. Refrigerate Sushi Zu for later use.

For the bell pepper piperade
6½ oz. yellow bell pepper, rough chopped
3½ oz. peeled shallot, rough chopped
1½ oz. peeled garlic, rough chopped
3½ oz. olive oil
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch paprika
Pinch finely chopped parsley

Combine the first 5 ingredients and sweat vegetables until tender. Add paprika and remove from heat. When mixture has cooled down, add chopped parlsey. Reserve at room temperature for later use.

1 head baby romaine lettuce
Fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Assembly: Rinse and towel dry whole lettuce leaves. Place lettuce leaves, stem down into two shot glasses, creating a bouquet-like arrangement in each glass. Add a small squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt on the leaves. In another small vessel or cup, partially fill with edamame-jalapeño dressing. Spoon a small amount of the room-temperature piperade on top of the dressing to finish.

Have you ever eaten a dish from a former Top Chef contestant, either at his/her restaurant or one you made at home? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Uchi The Cookbook.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Sally, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won her a copy of One Girl Cookies, which we also review on page 31 of the March issue of Sauce. Sally, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew!

Eli Kirshtein rolls into STL next week for Top Chef: The Tour

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

040810_eliIf you’re both a foodie and a sucker for reality TV, you spend Wednesday nights glued to Top Chef Masters on Bravo. And you’ve probably been watching the original Top Chef season after season, through every clever triumph of fusion cuisine and each sickening failure of raw meat inadvertently served to a judge.

Meet your idols next week, when Top Chef: The Tour 3 kicks off right here in St. Louis. Season six’s Eli Kirshtein and season four’s Nikki Cascone will host live, interactive cooking shows at 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 14 at Soulard Market. (It’s sponsored by Charter Communications, L’École Culinaire and Favazza’s on the Hill). The fun includes restaurant-style table seating, a Quickfire Challenge for the public, face time with the stars, a Top Chef merch table and a photo op at the judges’ table.

We checked in with Kirshtein, who made his mark in season six by surviving for 12 of 14 episodes and impressing with his on-the-fly creativity, yen for unusual combinations and his spiky-hair-and-sideburns combo. Here’s his take on everything from his “techno-organic” style to working at NYC’s premiere kosher boite to chef groupies.

You’re currently the guest chef at NYC’s Solo, a kosher restaurant. How do you handle the limitations of that style?
It doesn’t really faze me, it’s just a different style of cooking. You know, in Japanese cooking you don’t use butter, and in Mediterranean cooking you don’t use soy sauce. It’s just a different set of rules. Great food should be great food, and there’s no excuse for anything else.

What other projects are you working on now?
The single most exciting project outside of my cooking projects that is I’m going to be featured in an issue of Spider-Man. My girlfriend is a comics person and one of the chief editors from Marvel hit me up on Twitter and it grew from there. My character will have the hair, the sideburns, the glasses, the smarminess, everything.

You call your style “techno-organic.” What does that mean?
I feel like people use the word “molecular” a lot in reference to me, and I hate that term, it’s not accurate. There are probably only two guys who really do that. My goal is to find gorgeous, perfect, beautiful ingredients and join them with modern, contemporary techniques.

They really pressure the contestants on Top Chef. Your response to getting booted has been described as very emotional.
We had been under an immense amount of stress for six weeks. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I was upset. It was like a big, giant exhale.

Why are so many chefs heavily tattooed these days?
I have one tattoo on my back I got when I was 18. I don’t think it’s the food industry. Walk into a hipster, transitional part of any town and you see people covered in tattoos. It’s the only fad I can think of that is permanent.

In season six, you had some serious disagreements with cheftestant Robin Leventhal.
I have mixed feelings about it. I wish I had handled myself slightly differently, but at the end of the day, I don’t totally regret it. My take on her is the exact same now as it was then. Her outpouring to the media re-emphasizes the point that it doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 70 or however old she is, you can still be just as immature as anybody else.

What’s up with the sideburns?
I had facial hair back in high school, but in culinary school they make you shave everything off. When I got out of culinary school I went with the sideburns instead of a full beard. I just wish I was in Motorhead circa 1978.

How do you get your hair to stand up like that?
Murray’s Afro Wax. If anybody from Murray’s reads this article, I’d love to talk to them about being their official spokesman.

There are a number of videos of you cooking on YouTube in which you let loose with the four- and 12-letter cuss words like a hockey coach.
The funny thing is that I feel like I have a very large vocabulary. It’s just a part of my vernacular at the end of the day.

Are there chef groupies out there?
A few. I don’t think they’re quite as outlandish or intense as regular rock groupies. They’re just foodies who happen to know who you are.

– Byron Kerman

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