Sunday, April 29, 2012

Duck, Duck, Goose

A few months ago for the first time in a long time I was given a homework assignment. Beginning on May 4, Cannon Beach artists showcase their newest material in the annual Spring Art Unveiling weekend. It was decided that some of the chefs from around the city would be paired with local artists and create an entire meal, or just a single course inspired by a piece of artwork that was to be showcased for the weekend. Those meals would be offered in the restaurants, the thought being that it would help create buzz for the annual festival which seems to be rapidly gaining popularity. In a meeting with the other two line level chefs in our company the assignments were given. While I go back and forth on the "food is art" argument, what I am positive of is that some very good chef's out there need to lighten up. I am all for serious and professional in the kitchen, but I still like to have the underlying whimsy in my day to day food, and more then anything I absolutely hate food that looks better then it tastes, or the effort involved to make food look amazing, but the lack of effort to season it, or cook it correctly. I also think that if I can get someone to recal an experience, or even taste or flavor while they eat from an earlier point in their life, I am totally fulfilled. Art or not, it doesnt bother me either way.  While I had hoped we would arm wrestle, or at least draw straws for the different galleries it had been already predetermined. One chef was assigned a glass blowing gallery that does some magnificent glass work in a vast array of vibrant colors, the other a bronze type sculpture gallery. Both were given the opportunity to have pieces specifically made for the event. I already knew my assignment.

David Jonathon Marshal along with his wife own Modern Villa Gallery in Cannon Beach. His original artwork hangs in every room, and the lobby of the resort that we own. Until our remodel a year or so ago at the restaurant (where we went with a more traditional decor) his artwork also decorated our fine restaurant walls. I encourage you to check out his work on the Modern Villa gallery website. While we have never met he is in the restaurant with his wife fairly often. His reputation for being a tad on the eclectic side preceded him. I was nervous, mostly due to my lack of confidence that I could make this work. I have never considered myself to be creative. In fact for a long time it was something that I really stressed out about earlier on in my cooking career. I don't think on my feet as fast as I would like to. My best creative process happens as I fall asleep at night, not on the fly in a loud kitchen. Most of the time dishes in the kitchen are just a combination of things that I need to sell, in a format that my customers will buy. It is that easy. When people ask me what my thought process was to create a dish I always smirk a bit. Chances are I walked into the walk in and saw three things that needed to go and I put them together using only a background of technique and experience. It seems to work well for me now and while I still stress the lack of my own creativity I don't stress it nearly as much as I used to. The artist on the other hand is an amazingly creative person. His work in beach scenes, pears (in many of his paintings-as they resemble the shape of the body of a gorgeous woman) musical instruments, and much more are all fantastic. He also seems to be one of the more successful artists in the city, and has the ability to sell his work at a price that is out of the reach of a chef's salary.

I immediately called the gallery and asked his amazingly polite wife if there was as certain piece that the artist wanted to showcase in particular. My way of not having to chose. There was, and she quickly emailed it to me. The title of the painting is Duck, Duck, Goose. I was bewildered. Luckily the artist has a back story with most, if not all of his work and I was able to read a bit about the story behind the painting. Also I emailed him back asking some basic cheat type questions about his own food preferences, foods he considered inspirational, and his own eating habits- especially while he worked. The painting was huge, and with a price tag of over 17k it is also expensive. I thought and researched all day for a week. It was the only thing I thought about while I fell asleep for more then a week. The print made it's way to my locker door, the inside of the kitchen door at the restaurant, and even the desktop of the computer in the office. The artist, the presumed pressure from our own top brass, and the ability to help showcase all of the local artists in our fair city made me dig pretty deep. I needed to hit this out of the park.

The very short version of the story goes that the elderly man (Edison) boarded the craft in Menlo Park en route to Detroit to pitch his idea of this winged green transport to Henry Ford, but rather Mr. Ford and Edison created the game duck, duck, goose. I really latched on to the fowl and while I would've loved to do a duck liver mousse, a duck terrine, and some seared fois gras (goose liver) I knew I couldn't be that literal about it. It made sense for me to present the dish in some sort of 3, whether a tasting of three preparations, or as three courses. Eventually I became fixated on what the fowl would have to eat to make this journey. I researched heavily what birds in a domesticated or wild setting would eat, and worked through what foods I could showcase of those that still held true to my own cooking style and the style of the restaurant.

Halibut, Halibut, Snapper-

1st- cornmeal crusted local snapper over braised greens with toasted hazelnuts, topped with flying fish roe
2nd- Seared halibut over a "scratch" risotto, with a anchovy, caper, and brown butter sauce
3rd- Corn sugar bruleed halibut over a savory bread pudding with herb sauteed pears, marscapone butter sauce, and dehydrated corn garnish.

It will be presented all on one elongated plate at one time. I was super stoked with the final product as I was able to work some really great undertones in there, and just as important I think it is fairly coy and whimsical. I am only showcasing things that these fowl would eat, the final attempt to really be in a manner that you wouldn't notice unless I told you. You are eating what these fowl would consider a feast. Also I was able to hit a few underlying issues. I was able to showcase corn in every manner possible without ever giving the customer straight corn, also hopefully showcasing that in general we feed the animals that we consume far, far to much corn. I also got a bit of a glutenous feeling to the whole thing hopefully touching on the hot button term "gavage" which is the process of force feeding both ducks and geese for fois gras production. Those arguments are better left for a post all of their own. The hazelnuts appear as do the pears as they are popular finishes for animals for consumption, usually pigs for prosciutto. The "scratch" risotto is actually the scratch that I feed my own chickens here at the house. It is different from their food, but a small handful every morning and they will dig and scratch at it all day. It is corn based and we are pretty sure it is totally edible. The last offering allowed me to play with sweet vs savory and that is rapidly becoming one of my favorite things to do. Savory foods walking the slim line of almost desserty. The menu bounced around a bit but was pretty much accepted as it sat, and after seeing a few of the other chef's pairings from around the city I am grateful I did invest the time and effort on it. It is available beginning tonight and going through until Sunday evening for the cool price of 26.99. Thanks for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment