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Chef David Burke’s Plating Practices

Chef David Burke’s Plating Practices

Plating can be an intimidating thing, but once you remove the stress from it and start thinking like Picasso, it can be quite fun. Presenting your meal is the last stage of cooking, so when you plate well, that’s when you’re really a proud chef. Because cooking is like an art to me, it’s no surprise I treat plating like an art as well. This is how I compose my pieces.

Start with the Plate

Don’t think about the food you have to put on it, but think about the color, shape, and size of the plate. Have fun with the different sizes you use, but never let the plate overpower your dish. It should never be so big or shallow that the food disappears.

Colors and Dimensions

You always want a bit of height with your plate, so place a piece of meat on top of vegetables, or garnish with micro greens. Color is important, too, but makes sure that any you include are reflective of the dish and the season.

Bull's-Eye

When I begin to plate, I start at the center and work my way out. This helps you visualize what you’re working toward, and it also helps to keep the plate clean.

Oils

Oils are like a different paint brush to use when it comes to plating. Use oils to add drops, lines, or swirls to your plate to make it look artistic. Things to remember with oils are to keep it clean and always use oils that will mesh well with the flavors of your cooked dish.

Stay Off the Rim

Never place herbs or sauces on the rim of the plate and always add them last. I even go as far as cutting herbs tableside and pouring the sauce after the plate has been placed in front of the guest.

Presenting Meat

If you’re serving a piece of meat, poultry, or fish that is more beautiful whole than it is cut up, present it tableside and then slice it before you plate. The real art is in the food, so don’t tarnish it just for serving.

For all those whiskey lovers out there, you’re in luck, because I think that these two liquors will remain high on the "hot" list for 2013.

David Burke is a world-renowned chef and restaurateur. To learn more about him, visit his website and his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter @ChefDavidBurke.


Who needs fine china when you can eat calamari from a clog?

“The hanging is everything in this dish,” says David Burke, the celebrity chef behind restaurant chainlet BLT Prime. In late October, when Republican representative Kevin McCarthy tweeted a photo of himself dining at the Prime location in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, with the caption “Great night with the President,” the first thing that most people noticed about the photo was four strips of bacon, dangling from wooden clothespins on a miniature clothesline. “The concept is inspired by Peking ducks hanging in Chinatown windows,” says Burke, who insists that a clothesline is the best way to serve his bacon, which drips its own rendered fat onto a single flaccid pickle spear. He advises eating the bacon by using a provided pair of scissors to snip off bites, before finishing with the pickle for digestive aid.

Though Burke calls the entire production “a work of art,” it’s still enough to make any art lover long for the grounded simplicity of a plate.

The Trump incident was quickly posted to “WeWantPlates,” a subreddit that has been around since 2015, cataloging the list of crimes against restaurant plating (or lack thereof). A pizza pie acting as the 26-inch rims on a tire. A shovel’s worth of mixed grill. Breakfast served on a literal bookcase. All no doubt envisioned by chefs who watched a few too many episodes of Iron Chef and suddenly thought the key to haute cuisine was not in the food, but in how flamboyantly it’s presented to the customer.

“Problems occur when restaurants push the envelope too far,” says Ross McGinnes, author of We Want Plates: The Crusade Against Food on Slates, Chips in Mugs, and Drinks in Jam Jars. (He actually copyrighted the term “We Want Plates” and started posting plateless content on Twitter in March 2015, a few months before the subreddit was spawned.) “I’m not talking about ‘fine dining,’ but more the try-hards.”

But is there ever a case when a plate or a bowl just won’t do a food justice? Maybe.

McGinnes says seafood seems to work for some reason. He cites sushi served in hulking wooden boats and prawns peeking out of a pint glass, shrimp cocktail style. (“But not a pint of bacon, or peas, or spaghetti [we’ve seen them all],” he says.) Burke’s plating stunts, likewise, have often revolved around seafood. He’s served angry lobster on a bed of nails at davidburke & donatella in the mid-aughts, sashimi on salt blocks at David Burke’s Primehouse in the late aughts, and tuna poke in a can, which is currently available at New York’s David Burke Tavern.

If the majority of these seem silly today, the occasional clothesline actually does have a place on modern restaurant tables. At Szechuan Mountain House in Manhattan’s East Village, pork belly is featured in a dish called Liang Yi, literally “hanging clothes” in Chinese. Strips of pork and translucently thin slices of cucumber are hung on a little dowel, which causes the food to tent over a bowl of minced garlic and chile oil—the pork’s fat drippings eventually create a silky, spicy dipping sauce below. It’s simple, elegant, and delicious.

“[A]lthough the portion was considerably smaller than usual in this fancified iteration,” wrote The New Yorker’s Jiayang Fan, “the crunch of the cucumber had been preserved, pairing more effectively with the marbled, gamy meat.”

Still, for the most part, we’ve aged out of the era of non-plates that plagued the mid-aughts. A bacon clothesline or a salad placed atop a goldfish bowl or an apple crumble served on an iPad (depicting a plate image, natch) is a sure sign these days of an outdated restaurant trying too hard to impress and overly concerned with making it to Instagram. (In 2018, Burke bragged that his bacon clothesline was the most copied dish in America.)

But at the Michelin three-star restaurant DiverXO in Madrid, Mohawked chef David Muñoz is keeping the plateless dream alive. Maintaining the restaurant’s theme of street food (to the tune of €250 for 19 bites), his Pekingese dumplings are served on a sheet of greaseproof paper splattered with strawberry hoisin sauce. His chile king crab is served on the half shell, no plate underneath. Most dishes are served on what Muñoz calls “canvases,” believing that to eat his food is to enter his art.

With what he describes as an “avant-garde or die” menu that started this October, Muñoz has scrapped not just plates but serving vessels altogether, as he has begun plating dishes directly into the palms of people’s hands. For a “dish” he calls Hedgehog in Hand, a pile of spongy sea urchin are added to the center of the palm, followed by a flourish of sea grape, a toasted annatto veil, and a dab of Palo Cortado sauce.

Just last month, a WeWantPlates commenter posted an image of his palm plate at DiverXO, setting off a frenzy of amused, if not stupefied, replies. “This is like the absolute meta of this sub, the final boss, just giving you nothing at all,” wrote one person. “I know where my hands have been. No way would I be eating anything off them,” remarked someone else. It quickly became the subreddit’s top post of all time, with more than 69,000 upvotes and 3,300 comments.

“I think this is the end. Nothing tops this. Mods shut this sub down, we’re done here,” said another commenter. Another Redditor proposed that this wasn’t the end, just time to create another subreddit: “r/WeWantLiterallyAnything.”


Chef David Burke’s Plating Practices - Recipes

616 N. Rush Street (at Ontario) • Chicago, IL 60611
312.660.6000

Breakfast – Monday through Sunday: 7 – 11 a.m.
Lunch – Monday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Brunch – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Dinner – Sunday: 5:30 – 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday: 5:30 – 10 p.m. Friday & Saturday: 5:30 – 10:30 p.m.

Since its inception in 2006, David Burke’s Primehouse, located at 616 N. Rush St. at The James Hotel, has continued to redefine the modern American steakhouse by pushing the envelope of culinary creativity. The menu is marked by notable and whimsical dishes that are signature to the innovative style of Chef David Burke, under the guidance of Executive Chef Dino Tsaknis. The first chef to own his bull, Burke’s commitment to quality is evident in the USDA prime grade, hand-selected beef served in Primehouse. The restaurant dry-ages its meat in a Himalayan salt-tiled aging room on premise. Tours of this unique facility can be arranged upon reservation. Primehouse is one of Chicago’s most award-winning steakhouses including being named #1 steakhouse in Chicago by Chicago magazine (October 2013). For reservations or more information, call 312-660-6000, or visit www.davidburkesprimehouse.com.

Amanda Warren – Pastry Chef, David Burke’s Primehouse & The James Chicago

A seven year veteran of the Primehouse kitchen, Chef Amanda Warren is currently Pastry Chef of David Burke’s Primehouse & The James Chicago where she oversees all pastry operations for the venerable steakhouse and award-wining boutique hotel including banquets, catering and in-room dining in addition to all seasonal menus for brunch lunch and dinner. With creative concepts, detailed recipes and classic plating techniques, patrons can expect a delicious, innovative and elegant end to every meal.

Amanda’s interest with pastry began when she was child as her mother and grandmother loved to bake. After graduating from Aquinas College in Michigan with a degree in mathematics, she worked for an insurance college but quickly found out spending the day behind a desk wasn’t for her. It was a former co-worker who gave her the idea of turning her hobby of baking into a profession.

Soon, she enrolled in the French Pastry School where she studied under Chefs Jacquy Pfeiffer and Sebastien Cannone. After graduating in 2008, she began her career as Pastry Intern in the kitchen of David Burke’s Primehouse. Amanda consistently excelled with her knowledge of pastry recipes and plating and moved through the ranks to become Pastry Chef in August 2014. With her easygoing nature, attention to detail, and dependability, Amanda has emerged as one of the kitchens’ most admired and respected chefs.

However, she hasn’t completely left her previous devotion to mathematics behind. Amanda enjoys teaching the pastry staff on how to better recipes by playing around with the various ratios and formulas behind each dish. In her free time, Amanda enjoys running and playing volleyball, of which she was Academic All-American in college, as well as relaxing with her husband and son in Morton Grove, IL. Her pastry knowledge includes a range of cakes and tarts to chocolate and sugar candies with an emphasis on ice creams and sorbets.

A NOTE from Baconfest Chicago:

Primehouse is one of an elite class of 8 year Baconfest Chicago Veteran Restaurants. They are always AWESOME to have around and make amazing food! Viva la Primehouse!


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Chef Coat Giveaway 2

Posted On: September 29, 2011 by ChefsResources

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The contest has ended!! I put all the names in the hat, closed my eyes, mixed them up and… The winner is MPHILLIPS! Enjoy your new chef coat and thanks to everyone who participated.

Chefs Resources has teamed with Crooked Brook Chef Coats for our second giveaway! They make premium professional chef coats geared towards comfort, style and functionality. Their coats are killer and there are two ways to enter.

Contest ends October 15, 2011 at midnight pacific standard time.

Although all Crooked Brook chef coats are made to order, they have some chef jackets in various styles and sizes that were accidentally not made according to the customer’s specifications, or have slight imperfections. These men’s and women’s chef coats cannot be sold as new so, I have partnered with Crooked Brook and we are offering them as giveaways.

Chef Coat Style BSM100, Size 46

White 100% 8oz Cotton Gabardine

Left shoulder sleeve tailored welt pocket

Contest Requirements

No purchase is necessary. You need to register with Chef’s Resources in order to see the comment section at the bottom of this page. There are two ways to get entered into the free drawing. First entry method: if you have purchased the Fishmonger App or the Cuts of Beef App, leave a review for the app in iTunes or Android Market and post a comment on this page saying you have rated one of the apps (include the name you used on the app review page so I know who’s who). You can get two entries in the drawing if you do a review for both apps and post a comment here saying so. (Not valid for entry into this contest if you have already reviewed the app prior to October 1st).

Here are links to the review pages:

Cuts of Beef – iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cuts-of-beef/id454144405?mt=8#

Fishmonger – iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fishmonger/id441373820?mt=8#

Fishmonger – Android https://market.android.com/details?id=com.qbiki.fishmonger2

Cuts of Beef – Android https://market.android.com/details?id=com.qbiki.cutsofbeef2


Second
entry method: if you do not own the Fishmonger or Cuts of Beef apps no worries! You can enter by going to our home page and give us a Google Plus vote by clicking on the Google Plus button located in the upper left region of the page and leave a comment on this page (not the home page) saying you have done so. (For information on Google Plus visit this link.)

The Fine Print

You need to register to add a comment, but we do not share your email with any third parties, we do not sell our email list .
Contest ends midnight (pacific standard time) 10/15/11
Winner will be chosen by a random drawing of qualified entrants.
Winner will be notified by email by 10/19/11 and will also be posted on this page. Odds of winning are dependent upon the number of entries.
Void where prohibited by law.
Prize will be shipped to winner within 30 days of contest end.
You must be 18 years or older to win.
US and Canada residents only,
US recipients must be a resident of one of the 48 contiguous states.
Canada recipients will be responsible for all duties, tariffs, and taxes.
You can enter by regular mail by sending your entry to the address below. Mail-in entries must be date stamped no later than midnight 10/15/11
Chef’s Resources
1450 Sunset Avenue #A
Ferndale, WA 98248

I +1’d as well. Love this site. Found a lot of very useful things. The downloadable content is awesome! I left a comment there as well!

I +1’ed you! Nice site, very useful.

Nice! Thanks for the +1 and the comments! Several others have +1’d the site but have not posted a comment here on this page yet. As a reminder, posting on this page is necessary to qualify for the contest.

I added a +1 to your terrific website!


Celebrity chef David Burke named culinary director for Adelphi Group

1 of 111 Celebrity chef David Burke, the new culinary director of the Saratoga Springs-based Adelphi Hospitality Group, poses in the kitchen of the company's Adelphi Hotel in downtown Saratoga. Burke, associated with many top restaurants in New York City and elsewhere over the past 30 years, will supervise food service in the hotel's restaurant, called The Blue Hen its bar, Morrissey's Lounge catering operations and the company's next-door steakhouse, Salt & Char. New menus are being introduced this week. (Photo by Steve Barnes/Times Union.) Show More Show Less

2 of 111 Celebrity chef David Burke, the new culinary director of the Saratoga Springs-based Adelphi Hospitality Group, poses in the dining room of The Blue Hen, the restaurant in the company's Adelphi Hotel in downtown Saratoga. Burke, associated with many top restaurants in New York City and elsewhere over the past 30 years, will supervise food service in the hotel's restaurant, called The Blue Hen its bar, Morrissey's Lounge catering operations and the company's next-door steakhouse, Salt & Char. New menus are being introduced this week. (Photo by Steve Barnes/Times Union.) Show More Show Less

4 of 111 Celebrity chef David Burke, the new culinary director of the Saratoga Springs-based Adelphi Hospitality Group, poses in the dining room of The Blue Hen, the restaurant in the company's Adelphi Hotel in downtown Saratoga. Burke, associated with many top restaurants in New York City and elsewhere over the past 30 years, will supervise food service in The Blue Hen the hotel's bar, called Morrissey's Lounge its catering operations and the company's next-door steakhouse, Salt & Char. New menus are being introduced this week. (Photo by Steve Barnes/Times Union.) Show More Show Less

5 of 111 Buy Photo Mack brin rabbit terrine en croute, foie gras, foraged muchrooms at The Blue Hen in the Adelphi Hotel on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union) Lori Van Buren Show More Show Less

7 of 111 Buy Photo Venison rack, red wine cabbage, sweet potato, pears at The Blue Hen in the Adelphi Hotel on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union) Lori Van Buren Show More Show Less

8 of 111 Buy Photo Pastured hen, black truffles, chanterelles, pickled ramps at The Blue Hen in the Adelphi Hotel on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union) Lori Van Buren Show More Show Less

10 of 111 Buy Photo Uni custard with artichokes, lemon confit at The Blue Hen in the Adelphi Hotel on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union) Lori Van Buren Show More Show Less

11 of 111 Buy Photo Sweet breads, parsnip tarragon, ras al hanout at The Blue Hen in the Adelphi Hotel on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union) Lori Van Buren Show More Show Less

13 of 111 Buy Photo Mack brin rabbit terrine en croute, foie gras, foraged muchrooms at The Blue Hen in the Adelphi Hotel on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union) Lori Van Buren Show More Show Less

14 of 111 Buy Photo A view of The Blue Hen at the Adelphi Hotel on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Blue Hen will be used for serving breakfast and dinners. The hotel opened back up for business on Sunday following a multi-year renovation project. (Paul Buckowski / Times Union) PAUL BUCKOWSKI Show More Show Less

16 of 111 Buy Photo Exterior of The Blue Hen in the Adelphi Hotel on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union) Lori Van Buren Show More Show Less

Desserts at Blue Hen at the Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs.

19 of 111 Buy Photo A view of The Blue Hen Terrace at the Adelphi Hotel on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The Blue Hen Terrace will be used for serving breakfast and dinners. The hotel opened back up for business on Sunday following a multi-year renovation project. (Paul Buckowski / Times Union) PAUL BUCKOWSKI Show More Show Less

20 of 111 Buy Photo The Blue Hen Restaurant at The Adelphi Hotel on Broadway Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren / Times Union) Lori Van Buren Show More Show Less

A dish at Morrissey's at the Adelphi Hotel. (Provided)

23 of 111 A Classic Negroni cocktail at Morrissey's at the Adelphi Hotel. (Provided) Show More Show Less

25 of 111 A small plate of king crab, black garlic and sesame tahini at Morrissey's at the Adelphi Hotel. (Provided) Show More Show Less

26 of 111 Roasted oysters with crispy ginger, ponzu and chili oil at Morrissey's at the Adelphi Hotel. (Provided) Show More Show Less

28 of 111 A flatbread at Morrissey's at the Adelphi Hotel. (Provided) Show More Show Less

29 of 111 A flatbread at Morrissey's at the Adelphi Hotel. (Provided) Show More Show Less

31 of 111 Buy Photo A view looking down the hallway on the second floor at the Adelphi Hotel on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The hotel opened back up for business on Sunday following a multi-year renovation project. (Paul Buckowski / Times Union) PAUL BUCKOWSKI Show More Show Less

Click through the slideshow for a few restaurants we've visited recently in Saratoga Springs.

Amuse on Broadway
420 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-421-4254
Web: amuseonbroadway.com
Read the review

Amuse on Broadway
420 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-421-4254
Web: amuseonbroadway.com
Read the review

Boquerones, tomatoes and capers.

Amuse on Broadway
420 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-421-4254
Web: amuseonbroadway.com
Read the review

Butternut squash, eggplant, chickpeas, tomatoes served with bulgur salad.

Amuse on Broadway
420 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-421-4254
Web: amuseonbroadway.com
Read the review

Labneh with orange marmalade.

Amuse on Broadway
420 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-421-4254
Web: amuseonbroadway.com
Read the review

Cod and chermoula served with basmati rice.

Amuse on Broadway
420 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-421-4254
Web: amuseonbroadway.com
Read the review

Fish at 30 Lake
30 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs
Web: fishat30lake.com
Phone: 518-539-3474
Read the review

Fish at 30 Lake
30 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs
Web: fishat30lake.com
Phone: 518-539-3474
Read the review

Fish at 30 Lake
30 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs
Web: fishat30lake.com
Phone: 518-539-3474
Read the review

Fish at 30 Lake
30 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs
Web: fishat30lake.com
Phone: 518-539-3474
Read the review

12 pack - 8 chef selected oysters, 4 clams.

Fish at 30 Lake
30 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs
Web: fishat30lake.com
Phone: 518-539-3474
Read the review

Baked Block Island swordfish - basil souffle, lobster mashed potato, haricot verts, red pepper coulis, balsamic reduction.

Fish at 30 Lake
30 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs
Web: fishat30lake.com
Phone: 518-539-3474
Read the review

Pan-seared day boat scallops - creamy parsnip puree, roasted chanterelle mushrooms, thyme and limoncello glace.

Fish at 30 Lake
30 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs
Web: fishat30lake.com
Phone: 518-539-3474
Read the review

Upstate Apple Wellington - poached Saratoga apple maple oatmeal en croute, bird chili caramel.

Fish at 30 Lake
30 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs
Web: fishat30lake.com
Phone: 518-539-3474
Read the review

Chai "Old Fashion" - Anejo rum, mezcal, maple chai syrup, bitters blend.

Tatu Tacos & Tequila
17 Maple Ave., second floor, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-450-19559
Web: tatuny.com
Read the review

Tatu Tacos & Tequila
17 Maple Ave., second floor, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-450-19559
Web: tatuny.com
Read the review

Tatu Tacos & Tequila
17 Maple Ave., second floor, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-450-19559
Web: tatuny.com
Read the review

Hell Followed drink, made up of reposado tequila, spotted tongue sauce, scorpion chili, a tart cherry sauce, fresh citrus, and sumac salt rim.

Tatu Tacos & Tequila
17 Maple Ave., second floor, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-450-19559
Web: tatuny.com
Read the review

Sikil P'aak, an old Mayan dish, of pureed pumpkin seeds with charred tomatoes, onions, habanero peppers.

Tatu Tacos & Tequila
17 Maple Ave., second floor, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-450-19559
Web: tatuny.com
Read the review

Pulpo tacos, charred baby octopus.

Tatu Tacos & Tequila
17 Maple Ave., second floor, Saratoga Springs
Phone: 518-450-19559
Web: tatuny.com
Read the review

Salbute Con Pavo, a handmade puffed blue corn tortilla topped with slow-cooked black turkey stew.

Panza's, 129 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-584-6882. Web: panzasrestaurant.com. Read the review. A view of a painting of the Saratoga Race Course on a wall inside at Panza's restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union)

Panza's, 129 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-584-6882. Web: panzasrestaurant.com. Read the review. A view of crispy Long Island duckling a' la flike at Panza's restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union)

Panza's , 129 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-584-6882. Web: panzasrestaurant.com . Read the review . A view of veal chop saltimbocca at Panza's restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union)

Panza's, 129 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-584-6882. Web: panzasrestaurant.com. Read the review. A view of aunt Celia's eggplant parmigiana at Panza's restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union)

Panza's, 129 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-584-6882. Web: panzasrestaurant.com. Read the review. A view of ma Panza's meatballs at Panza's restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union)

Panza's, 129 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-584-6882. Web: panzasrestaurant.com. Read the review. A view of fettuccini carbonara at Panza's restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union)

Panza's, 129 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-584-6882. Web: panzasrestaurant.com. Read the review. A view of smoked burrata at Panza's restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union)

Panza's, 129 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-584-6882. Web: panzasrestaurant.com. Read the review. A view of Mississippi mud pie at Panza's restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union)

Panza's , 129 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Phone: 518-584-6882. Web: panzasrestaurant.com . Read the review . A view of The Grotto inside at Panza's restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (Paul Buckowski/Times Union)

15 Church, 15 Church St. Phone: 518-587-1515. Web: 15churchrestaurant.com/. Read the review. Exterior.

15 Church, 15 Church St. Phone: 518-587-1515. Web: 15churchrestaurant.com. Read the review. The Patio.

15 Church, 15 Church St. Phone: 518-587-1515. Web: 15churchrestaurant.com. Read the review. Bone-in ribeye special.

15 Church, 15 Church St. Phone: 518-587-1515. Web: 15churchrestaurant.com/. Read the review. Avocado & Crab Toast appetizer.

15 Church, 15 Church St. Phone: 518-587-1515. Web: 15churchrestaurant.com. Read the review. Chef Michael Mastrantuono.

15 Church, 15 Church St. Phone: 518-587-1515. Web: 15churchrestaurant.com/. Read the review. Clockwise from top: blood orange margarita, virgin raspberry lemonade and a champagne mojito.

Cantina, 408 Broadway. Phone: 518-587-5577. Website: cantinasaratoga.com. Read the review.

Cantina, 408 Broadway. Phone: 518-587-5577. Website: cantinasaratoga.com. Read the review. Carne asada tacos - lime garlic marinated steak, avocado-tomatillo salsa, crema, pico de gallo.

Cantina, 408 Broadway. Phone: 518-587-5577. Website: cantinasaratoga.com. Read the review. Interior.

Cantina, 408 Broadway. Phone: 518-587-5577. Website: cantinasaratoga.com. Read the review. Chicken verde enchilada - flour tortilla, chicken tinga, queso blanco, salsa verde, queso fundido, cotija cheese, cilantro.

Cantina, 408 Broadway. Phone: 518-587-5577. Website: cantinasaratoga.com. Read the review. Stuffed jalapenos - roasted peppers, monterey jack, queso blanco, ranchero crema, cilantro.

Cantina, 408 Broadway. Phone: 518-587-5577. Website: cantinasaratoga.com. Read the review. La Borracha - The Botanist gin, cucumber, lime, pineapple, hibiscus pisco.

Cantina, 408 Broadway. Phone: 518-587-5577. Website: cantinasaratoga.com. Read the review. Hamachi Tartare Tacos.

Flatbread Social. 518-886-1198. 84 Henry St. Web: flatbread.social. Read the review.

Flatbread Social. 518-886-1198. 84 Henry St. Web: flatbread.social. Read the review. Shuffleboards in Flatbread Social.

Flatbread Social. 518-886-1198. 84 Henry St. Web: flatbread.social. Read the review. Bar area.

Flatbread Social. 518-886-1198. 84 Henry St. Web: flatbread.social. Read the review. The beets salad fire roasted beets, goat cheese, pistachio brittle, arugula, Italian olive oil.

Flatbread Social. 518-886-1198. 84 Henry St. Web: flatbread.social. Read the review. Sunday salad cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, Mediterranean olives, chick peas, roasted garlic, roasted red pepper, blue cheese, lemon dressing.

Flatbread Social. 518-886-1198. 84 Henry St. Web: flatbread.social. Read the review. Green goddess pizza charred broccoli, asparagus, roasted garlic, chili flakes, chili oil, herb ricotta, fresh mozzarella.

Flatbread Social. 518-886-1198. 84 Henry St. Web: flatbread.social. Read the review. Wood-fired wings garlic honey habanero.

Flatbread Social. 518-886-1198. 84 Henry St. Web: flatbread.social. Read the review. Pepperoni in her eyes and cheese in her heart pizza pepperoni, sliced red onions, fire roasted tomato sauce mozzarella.

Flatbread Social. 518-886-1198. 84 Henry St. Web: flatbread.social. Read the review. From left, cucumber aqua fresca, pineapple aqua fresca, and house mad lemonade aqua fresca non-alcoholic drinks.

Flatbread Social. 518-886-1198. 84 Henry St. Web: flatbread.social. Read the review. Wood-fired pizza ovens.

SARATOGA SPRINGS &mdash "This will be about thinking fresh," said celebrity chef David Burke.

Sitting in the dining room of The Blue Hen restaurant at the sumptuously renovated Adelphi Hotel last week, Burke, 55, was speaking specifically about sourcing ingredients from local farms once the growing season starts.

But he was also, if unintentionally, summing up the attitude he's trying to instill in staff at the Adelphi and the Salt & Char steakhouse next door. Both are owned by Saratoga-based Adelphi Hospitality Group, of which Burke has just been named culinary director.

A little later, Burke &mdash who has been associated with dozens of restaurants over the past 30 years, is a cookbook author and has made many appearances on the Food Network &mdash said, "We're putting new systems in place, rethinking the way things have been done."

Most obvious for customers are new menus for both restaurants and for Morrissey's Lounge, as the Adelphi's bar is called. They include Burke signatures such as Clothesline Bacon, an $18 appetizer at Salt & Char with thick slices of cured pork belly slung across what looks like a miniature clothesline roasted chicken seasoned in a brine that incorporates seaweed and a $16 potato topped with a lobster tail and splashed with lobster-infused sour cream, called the Sour Lobster Baked Potato.

Salt & Char also serves among its beef choices three large prime-grade steaks, from 24 to 36 ounces and costing $90 to $125, that have been dry-aged in a cooler lined with blocks of Himalayan salt that was built to Burke's specification by Allen Brothers, a top meat supplier in Chicago and a relationship holdover from when Burke had a steakhouse in the Windy City.

The process is proprietary enough to have its own patent, and the menu lists the number: "7,998,517 B2."

"But this isn't only about special-occasion nights," said Burke, whose appointment by the Adelphi Group has been rumored for months but was not finalized until recently. He cited as an example $20 burger-and-a-beer specials and other promotions to lure area residents during quieter months.

The hiring of Burke by the Adelphi Hospitality Group is an attempt to bring stability to an extravagantly expensive project &mdash more than $30 million for the hotel and Salt & Char, according to published reports &mdash with culinary operations beset by difficulty behind the scenes even as diners and critics swooned over top-flight food and drink.

Since long before Salt & Char opened in July 2016, AHG was intent on finding a marquee chef to head its food-service operations in Saratoga and perhaps at future properties it hopes to build. Its first attempt, with internationally acclaimed chef Gray Kunz, ended embarrassingly when a disaffected Kunz left within months of Salt & Char's debut and more than a year before the opening of the Adelphi.

Kunz&rsquos immediate successor, Braden Reardon, who had been running Salt & Char on a day-to-day basis under Kunz, stepped up to oversee development of the hotel&rsquos food service. Reardon resigned in January.

Burke said he visited Saratoga and the Adelphi five years ago at the invitation of executives from AHG's parent company, Richbell Capital, a real-estate firm that bought the hotel in 2012 as its first venture into the hospitality field. Richbell has offices in Saratoga, New York City and Washington. Sources familiar with AHG's thinking said it first approached top restaurant names with a connection to Saratoga: Danny Meyer, whose Union Square Hospitality Group includes major Manhattan restaurants and the Shake Shack chain, which has a location at Saratoga Race Course and celebrity chef Bobby Flay, a thoroughbred owner and regular visitor to Saratoga and the track. After those negotiations fizzled, Kunz became the signature chef for AHG.

Burke and Jean Marie Philippou, Adelphi project coordinator for AHG, said Burke was the company's first choice from the beginning, but he then was involved in a business partnership uninterested in expansion.

&ldquoThe time was right, and I was able to do it now,&rdquo Burke said.

Burke has an extensive resumé dating back to receiving, at age 26, three stars from The New York Times in 1988 as executive chef of the River Café in Brooklyn. His first restaurant under his own name, davidburke & donatella, opened in 2003 on Manhattan&rsquos Upper East Side. In 2015 he joined ESquared Hospitality, which has about a dozen restaurant concepts including BLT Prime inside the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where President Donald J. Trump has dined.


HUMBLE INGREDIENTS INFORM A VEGETABLE-FORWARD SALAD

When the temperature drops and winds are howling, it’s natural to want to curl up indoors, sheltered from the cold. We don our favorite layers and yearn for comfort food that is satisfying and hearty. Make it healthy and you’ve got a winning combination.

Such is the case with chef David Burke’s winter beet and quinoa salad with blood orange and shaved fennel. Conceiving it as a tasty mid-winter salad, Burke found his inspiration by reflecting on our agrarian past, a time when early Americans relied upon traditional and humble ingredients during winter months.

We’re talking root crops such as beets, onions, carrots and turnips, which settlers in the Northeast could store in root cellars. Lacking refrigeration, they used these cool, dark places – essentially, holes dug underground or partially underground – to get them through the barren months of winter. Root cellars not only protected the foods from freezing but maintained an even, cool temperature and humidity – a perfect environment for beets, which have rich jewel-colored tones, and are sweet and very rich in vitamins and minerals.

The blood orange used in this salad, containing loads of vitamin C, is native to Sicily and grown in the U.S., primarily in Florida and California. Citrus is at its peak during our cold winter months. Quinoa, a seed (not a grain) that the ancient Incans referred to as the mother of all grains, has had a resurgence in the past decade. Not only is it gluten-free, but it also contains an abundance of protein, dietary fiber and essential amino acids. Adding fennel, an herb with a delicate anise-flavor, provides a satisfying crunchy texture to the salad plus the health benefits of vitamin B. When combined with the acid in sherry vinegar, the ingredients make a powerfully nutritious, delicious and attractive dish.

Chef Burke has supplied a recipe to make at home, or you can sample it at David Burke Orange Lawn at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club. Follow him


Key Life Lessons for Personal Sustainability

The mission of this session is for seasoned chefs to share key moments experienced to inspire the importance of “Personal Sustainability”. Chef Beriau, Chef Recinella and Chef O' Palenick have experienced such great careers and feel it's time to start passing on “priceless moments” that have helped them to be successful. Join us as the Chefs discuss important topics and wisdom on topics such as healthy life style choices, stress relief activities, financial stability, continual professional development, and smart career choices.


Changing or leaving an ingredient out of a recipe

We've all heard rumors of chefs leaving out or changing ingredients in a recipe before giving it to someone else. It may have happened before and could still happen today, but chefs who hand out incomplete recipes are running the risk of alienating their colleagues.

"And as for the old trick of leaving out some crucial little detail, well, that's a fast track to lost good will," says Matt Sartwell in an interview with Restaurant Business Magazine. "Unless a chef has an incredibly surprising secret ingredient, he or she is probably succeeding on the basis of more than just a recipe." Therefore, the trick of handing out an incomplete recipe is often no good.

Home cooks may feel a different kind of pressure when asked for a recipe from their family and friends. While they may be tempted to alter the recipe so their neighbor won't get the same results, the cook runs the risk of looking like a jerk if they hand over a yellow cake recipe with no eggs in the ingredients, and a birthday party is ruined as a result.


The Japanese Origins of Modern Fine Dining

At Manresa, in Los Gatos, California, a perfectly poached halibut arrives topped with an auburn, whisper-thin crisp of eggplant. At Eleven Madison Park in New York, a clambake is re-imagined as a pair of perfectly shucked clams adorned with tiny herbs and finely shaved vegetables, all served alongside earthenware teapots of veloute. At El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, a steak tartare studded with the surprise of mustard ice cream references its own long history. And at Noma in Copenhagen, an array of “green shoots” are artfully, yet seemingly casually, placed on a circular dish, evoking a precise season — the last abundance of fall.

Around the world, a single aesthetic dominates the uppermost echelons of fine dining: The courses will be small and many. The plates and vessels will be distinct, often rustic, and sometimes surprising. The elaborate plating demands precision, either to execute a clever visual joke, or to produce a heart-stopping evocation of terroir. And all of these bites tell a story — of an ingredient, a person, or a very specific place. Each of these stories is unique, but not so unique that Central in Lima cannot be compared to Gaggan in Bangkok. Where, exactly, did this intense, exacting, intellectual form of haute cuisine come from?

While no cuisine actually emerges from a point of cultural purity, the predominant narrative for the genealogy of contemporary international fine dining is that its paternity is exclusively French. The story starts something like this: In 19th-century France, the height of tableside luxury was a feast that was heavy, complex, meat-centric, and occasionally theatrical, all duck a la presse and mille feuille. This bechamel-coated hegemony prevailed until 1925 when, far from the Parisian dining capital, the chef Fernand Point opened La Pyramide in southeastern France. Breaking with tradition, Point began to explicitly build his menu around peak ingredients, seasonality, and playfulness. He pioneered the use of baby vegetables, while also keeping much of France’s emphasis on decadence: La Pyramide’s signature dish was the spectacular poularde en vessie, a foie gras-stuffed chicken cooked in a pig bladder and opened tableside.

But Point is just prologue: the story really kicks off a few decades later, when some of Point’s disciples — most notably, Paul Bocuse — create nouvelle cuisine. Propelled by the hunger for change in post-1968 France, not to mention its own trio of hype men in the form of André Gayot, Christian Millau, and Henri Gault, this new generation of French chefs exploded the remaining French culinary orthodoxies by introducing light sauces, minimal cooking times, and more artful presentation. The new movement fundamentally reshaped what it meant to cook and eat at the highest levels, especially when it came to aesthetics — though, thankfully, diners are free of its heedlessly experimental heyday of lobster dishes served with melon.

Clambake with velouté at Eleven Madison Park Adam Goldberg / A Life Worth Eating

Scallop with fresh peas and caviar at N/Naka Wonho Frank Lee

Missing from that tidy story are a whole host of influences, most notably where this new style of cooking came from. There’s little precedent in Europe for the lightly cooked, lightly sauced, yet intricately plated dishes, what the late writer and critic Josh Ozersky called “tweezer food,” before it appeared suddenly and decisively in France in the 1960s. A great deal of nouvelle cuisine’s innovations, in fact, paralleled classical aspects of Japanese dining, especially the movement’s emphasis on shorter cooking times minimalist, playful plating and a focus on extracting the essential aspects of an ingredient, rather than transforming it. Perhaps not coincidentally, from the time that French chefs began visiting Japan (and Japanese chefs began training in France) in the mid-1960s, fine dining has become increasingly like Japan’s most formal dining tradition, kaiseki.

Kaiseki is most easily defined as Japanese haute cuisine, but like many translations, that equivalence leaves out key context. For one, while European haute cuisine descended from royal court banquets, kaiseki’s cultural legacy is tied both to the dining habits of the elite and to the Zen Buddhist tradition of the tea ceremony, which highlighted the rustic and the seasonal as a meditation on impermanence. Niki Nakayama, a classically trained kaiseki chef who is currently exploring the idea of Californian kaiseki at her Los Angeles restaurant N/Naka, describes it simply, as the most formal way of dining in Japan. In her telling, the tea ceremony included food that was simple, vegan, and could be served as a snack later, the cuisine evolved into a celebratory meal for samurai.

Modern kaiseki, whose most famous practitioners, like Yoshihiro Murata and Kunio Tokuoka, are often second- or third-generation kaiseki chefs, dates to the postwar period in Japan, and features highly structured, multi-course meals that showcase micro-seasons, where menus shift dramatically depending on the availability of ingredients. Another notable aspect of kaiseki is how visual it is, partly to showcase seasonality, and partly to delight and surprise the diner. (Yes, there’s foraging.)

While in most of the preceding sentences, one could switch out “kaiseki” for “Noma,” in kaiseki many of these practices derive from the larger Japanese aesthetic philosophy of wabi-sabi, an untranslatable concept rooted in the acceptance of imperfection. Nakayama explains that, as wabi-sabi applies to food, the task of kaiseki is to answer the question, “How can you make the simple things complicated, and simplify the complicated?” She offers the example of meticulously creating a dashi broth that appears totally clear, like water, but is in fact suffused with layered, complex flavors the dish is technically demanding but humble, apparently simple and yet anything but.

Kaiseki is openly beloved and studied by many of the world’s most famous chefs, who clamber to book meals with its most revered practitioners. Many of these restaurants are nearly impossible to get into, which might be one reason why kaiseki is lesser known in the West than French cuisine — or even than high-end sushi, whose influence on the fancier side of dining has been acknowledged for decades. But its vocabulary is everywhere. “As someone who knows Japanese cuisine, I see plating [that makes] people say, ‘Oh, so innovative,’” Nakayama says. “Well, yes in some ways, but no in others. It’s much more familiar to me.”

Culinary influence is messy and often untraceable, and neither the media nor the most visible chefs have ever completely obscured Japan’s influence. But the conversation between the global fine dining and Japanese cuisine is often presented in bursts, or as generalized inspiration catalyzed by specific, French individuals.

There is one individual who played a decisive role in bringing French chefs to Japan, though: Shizuo Tsuji, a Francophile, culinary ambassador, and founder of Japan’s most well-known cooking school, which he named after himself. In 1965, shortly after Paul Bocuse received his third Michelin star, he visited Tsuji’s school (now known as Tsuji Culinary Institute), where the pair struck up a friendship the trip led to a surprisingly outsized Japanese influence on Bocuse’s cooking. Tsuji then invited other notable French chefs to Japan, both to teach at his school but also to introduce them to Japanese cuisine.

Dish by dish, influence is difficult to prove forensically — Jean and Pierre Troisgros, two key nouvelle cuisine innovators, were already serving their famous lightly cooked salmon with sorrel in 1966, just a year after Bocuse’s visit to Japan, and in that era, every aspect of French culture was primed for radical change — but when nouvelle cuisine exploded in the late 1960s, it employed many of the key techniques and aesthetics of Japanese food. Daniel Boulud told the LA Times in 2007 that those visits, which exposed the chefs to kaiseki, inspired their adoption of the tasting-menu format — setting the terms for a vision of fine dining that is still in practice today (sorry, Julia Child).

Assorted delicacies, field caviar with maitake mush at Kitcho Adam Goldberg / A Life Worth Eating

Sweetbreads and bitter greens at Noma Adam Goldberg / A Life Worth Eating

In the preface to his incredibly influential (but in- and out-of-print) 1980 cookbook Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art, Tsuji argued that the culinary revolution that swept through the Western world had much more to do with Japan than many of its adherents or prophets let on. “Even though they may not admit it, those arbiters of haute cuisine, the great French chefs, have come to Japan and seen with their own eyes what we do here,” Tsuji writes, “and I think I can detect something of what they have seen emerging in their nouvelle cuisine and cuisine minceur,” a variation on nouvelle.

For a sense of how radically French cooking changed when nouvelle cuisine gained traction, the eyes are often enough. There’s a notable visual transformation in how fine dining looks between Point and Bocuse, between traditional French fine dining and what became known as nouvelle cuisine. At L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, Paul Bocuse serves a dish that’s an homage to his mentor — a fillet of white fish that’s swimming in a yellow-beige sauce and served on a white plate that perfectly evokes the classic dishes of the mid-20th century — and that would never be served on a high-end menu today. At the same restaurant, Bocuse also serves a fish dish of his own invention, featuring a fillet of red mullet covered in potato “scales,” with an artful arrangement of sauce in a leaf-shaped counterpoint. The leap, from white food with white sauce on a white plate to more visual evocation, was made in less than a generation.

The early history of the interplay between Japanese and French cuisine is so muddled that some of fine dining’s most famous chefs — even ones with restaurants in France and Japan — don’t always agree on their place within it. At a conference held last winter in Tokyo by Relais & Châteaux, a global alliance of independently owned luxury hotels and restaurants, Jean-Robert Pitte, a professor of geography focused on foodways, gave a presentation on the mutual cross-pollination between Japan and Europe, especially France. After a familiar review of the historical record, he invited the audience, packed with influential restaurateurs, hoteliers, and chefs, to consider the greatest hits of fine dining over the past 30 years.

Pitte introduced key aspects of kaiseki, then flicked through a slideshow of elaborate small plates from European restaurants and catalogued how un-European they were. The precise cutting and humble vegetables that lend beauty to Michel Bras’s legendary Gargouillou of Young Vegetables, according to Pitte, was “one of the first entries of Japanese aesthetics in French cuisine.” In another slide, Pitte pointed to the spray of color and flowers in a recent dish by Pierre Gagnaire as a far cry from monochromatic French food — but very close to the rainbow of kaiseki. Traditional French cuisine, he argued, was focused on a harmony of flavors and presentation — a balanced “symphony.” Now, European chefs were cooking in a deconstructed, hyper-colorful, raw, visual style that Pitte feared was in danger of becoming soulless, either from losing its own cultural roots, or from not incorporating the specific celebration of terroir and change in the Japanese cuisine it borrowed from.

Later in the day, Bras and Gagnaire, two of France’s current culinary eminences grises, took the stage as part of another panel about Japan’s influence on French cooking. They complicated Pitte’s argument that they were deeply influenced by, and indebted to, Japanese cuisine from the start of their careers. The pair claimed that their food came first, and that their discovery of Japan came second. Gagnaire said that when he traveled to Japan after starting out as a chef, he discovered they were “soul mates,” in an improvised speech that seemed to imply the country spoke to values or qualities he already had, rather than imparting new ones.

When reached over email, Bras explained that his first vegetable menu dates to 1978, and that he conceived of the Gargouillou of Young Vegetables, featured in Pitte’s slideshow of kaiseki-esque dishes, in 1981 — but he didn’t make his first trip to Japan until 1985. Bras emphasized, both at the conference and over email, his deep love and respect for Japanese cuisine, and how its traditions had deepened his own cooking considerably. Perhaps because Japanese aesthetics travel outside the country primarily in terms of visuals and ingredients, rather than training in specific kitchens, he suggested, the influence is omnipresent but difficult to pin down, an issue not confined to French cooking. “That's a global phenomenon,” he wrote.

In contrast to Bras’s and Gagnaire’s late introductions to Japan proper, the chef David Kinch, who is a generation younger and a pillar of California fine dining best known for his restaurant Manresa, readily catalogued the myriad ways Japan had influenced him as a young chef, starting with the moment of “wonder” when he tried sushi for the first time. At the conference, Kinch described the many instances he learned from Japanese chefs and writers, from the hard work — and sharp knives — of the Japanese stages he worked alongside in Europe, to the revelations that Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking presented to him as a young cook in the 1980s.

Kinch also offered an example of how a single visit to Japan could overturn the existing order: During his time at a New York restaurant in the 1990s, he witnessed the owner return from a month in Japan “a transformed man.” The restaurant took a complete “U-turn”: The cooking times diminished, the focus shifted to color and freshness, and the era’s omnipresent white plates were shelved for more evocative cooking vessels.

The complete portrait painted by Kinch, Bras, and Gagnaire is not a single moment of disruption but a constant stream of influence. In a culinary culture where greatness — not to mention money — flows toward chefs trained in specific European lineages, it can be a source of discomfort to acknowledge the omnipresent and complex influence of an Asian culture, one often gleaned through consumption. Kinch emphasized his own struggle not to create a surface-level fusion of California and Japanese cooking, but to instead truly and deeply incorporate the values he admired into his own work.

Halibut with eggplant, lemon verbena, and licorice at Manresa Bill Addison / Eater

Herring roe, flower, Japanese licorice stem at Gora Kadan Adam Goldberg / A Life Worth Eating

With the rise of global chef empires and incessant travel, the era of Japan’s removed influence is ending. Certainly this is true in California, which, as Kinch noted, is on the Pacific Rim. In addition to the state’s thriving Japanese culture, chefs are now much more likely to have trained in Japan, rather than confining their interactions to eating and research trips. Besides Niki Nakayama’s N/Naka, Los Angeles also boasts its own kappo restaurant (a more casual variation of Japanese fine dining, served at a chef’s counter), by David Schlosser, who trained extensively at Japanese restaurants in the U.S. and Japan, and Single Thread, which brands itself as a Japanese-style inn whose chef, Kyle Connaughton, worked at Michel Bras’s restaurant in Hokkaido. In other words, Japan has begun to take its rightful place as anointed culinary influencer, both in Europe and especially in the U.S.

If anything though, the credit could go much, much further. Even as Japanese chefs thrive in Paris, and Japan explicitly shapes California’s fine dining culture, the role of specific Japanese people and traditions in shaping everything from nouvelle cuisine to molecular gastronomy has been lost. Sources from the 1970s more explicitly note the obvious Japanese aspects of nouvelle cuisine than contemporary accounts do in 1975 Gael Greene roasted American food media’s tardy mania for the French craze, especially its obsession with raw fish, “as if sushi and sashimi had never existed.”

There’s a tendency in food writing right now to claim that everything in Japan is better, perfect, that Tokyo is the new Paris, or the best food city, period. Often this is in regard to foods not thought of as distinctly Japanese — Neapolitan pizza, American cocktails, wherever the hell third wave coffee came from. But the way my breath stops when I see photos of kaiseki makes me wonder if we have it a little wrong. Maybe, after decades of being half-knowingly exposed to approaches from another culture, encountering the fully contextualized version is a thrill many Western diners (mostly) can’t name. That parade of Japanese-ish plates at special-occasion dinners has left non-Japanese diners both better prepared to appreciate the original and able see what they’ve been missing.

Beyond questions of credit and fairness, digging into the philosophy of kaiseki can save globalized fine dining from its worst excesses. Those tiny yet elaborate courses of peak-season perfect ingredients are ripe for both the fetishizing gaze of Chef’s Table and the snarky eye-roll of diners weary of cliche. Too often these meals feel like a copy of a copy of a copy, a flower here and a sprig of moss there because that’s what looks cool, rather than conveying depth beyond the spectacle. Kaiseki is not just pretty or challenging — it is a meal full of jokes, references, and stories that play on the tradition’s formalized structure or the time of year. The level of thought and care that goes into kaiseki is also universal among the world’s best chefs conceptual rigor and narrative, not unique ingredients or technical skill, are what can make this omnipresent style of dining transcendent.

The night before the conference, and Pitte’s talk, journalists in attendance were served a formal dinner at Aoyagi, a kaiseki restaurant by Hirohisa Koyama. I remember remarking at the utter perfection especially of the visual presentation, beginning with a first course, a long, narrow black-lacquer bento box lined with small, square, elegant bites. American food writers love to describe kaiseki as jewel-studded, and I can’t avoid the cliche in my own work — the meal was a treat and a treasure. But unlike jewels, the bites were not meant to last — and I appreciated their beauty, their complex simplicity, and our shared impermanence, as they slid down my throat.


Watch the video: Chef David Burkes Duck Recipe (December 2021).