Known more commonly as hen-of-the-woods, the fan-shaped maitake mushroom devoid of the classic cap has gotten chefs’ attention for more than its standout flavor. “The maitake mushroom is the most medicinal of all the wild mushrooms,” says David Bouley, renowned chef and owner of Bouley and Brushstroke. “When I have fresh ones, I serve them raw, sliced thinly on the plate with a dollop of creme fraiche and caviar,” he says. “The earthiness, creaminess and saltiness blend together beautifully.”
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It’s the dead of winter in most of the country, and a salad of sweet, juicy oranges is like sitting in the warmth of the summer sun. Gerard Craft, the five-time James Beard-nominated Best Chef: Midwest, is serving a beautiful Orange Salad tossed with picholine olives, tarragon leaves, red onion and extra virgin olive oil at Pastaria, one of his four St. Louis restaurants (others are Niche, Brasserie by Niche and Taste by Niche).
Take a glance around the airy dining room at Natural Epicurean — the health-minded restaurant at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. — and you may be surprised to find diners perusing tablets, not menus. The tablets are stocked with in-depth nutritional information, allergy alerts and gluten-free ratings for the menu developed by Sous Chef David Patterson with guidance from the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. “A growing segment of diners are in tune with nutrition and diet, and they are reaching for our tablets, because they are looking to eat well, but they may have dietary restrictions,” said Patterson.
When Chef Brad Farmerie opened Public in New York City’s hip Nolita neighborhood in 2003, fresh from a stint at London’s Providores, he was already taking chances with dishes like grilled kangaroo on a coriander falafel with lemon tahini sauce and green pepper relish. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. The dish is like sunshine on a cold, gray day. It became a signature and it is a perfect example of his gift — marrying unorthodox ingredients with layers of contrasting textures and a riot of flavors. It put him on the map as a serious player among New York City’s culinary consigliere.
There was a time when carrot skins, radish greens and beet tops used to go straight from the cutting board to the trash bin. Then came the compost movement and all those vegetable scraps were destined for a future as fantastic fertilizer. Now comes chef Chris Barnett of Los Angeles’ Stir Market — a boutique California take on the classic European food-hall experience — who’s decided that one chef’s trash is indeed another’s treasure. Rather than toss his vegetable scraps in the garbage or compost bin, he uses them on his menu — think nose-to-tail cooking but with a carrot standing in for a pig.
If you’ve ever thought, “How can I get my kids to eat more vegetables?” you might want to read on. Chef Erin Smith of Main Kitchen, a beautiful new restaurant in the JW Marriott Houston Downtown, turns fresh carrots into fluffy pancakes and serves them in a short stack for breakfast with maple syrup. Other than the pancakes’ slight orange hue, you’d never know carrots were the main ingredient. Smith uses carrots from local farms like Black Hill Ranch and Sustainable Harvesters, and makes her pancakes gluten-free by using chickpea flour from a local gristmill.
At Boqueria, one of New York City’s most-popular Spanish tapas joints, Chef Marc Vidal goes a long way to transport diners to Barcelona’s bustling and beautiful Boqueria market. He serves a menu of Spanish classics like patatas bravas, albondigas, croquetas and gambas alla ajillo. But he also loves to cook with the seasons. Every Friday morning, Vidal grabs a cup of coffee and heads to the Union Square Greenmarket where he and his team of chefs meet up to peruse the stalls for ingredients and brainstorm for the restaurant’s ever-changing Market Menu. “We just walk around and see what’s going on,” says Vidal, whose parents were restaurateurs in Barcelona. “The market menu is the fun part for us. It’s our chance to be creative and work with the seasons.”
“Local farmers literally come to our door, and they show us what they’re growing and teach us about all these cool new things,” said Ford Fry, the James Beard Foundation Award-nominated chef and restaurateur who heads acclaimed, locally focused Atlanta destinations, including The Optimist, King + Duke , No. 246 and JCT.Kitchen & Bar. Fry is fond of frilly mustard greens and the little flowery shoots that sprout early on from collard-green plants. “We love to use those,” he said.
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson always has a way of getting our attention. At 23, an executive chef at Aquavit, he received a three-star review from The New York Times. At the time, he was the youngest to earn that accolade. But it’s not just that he was a culinary prodigy or an expert at Scandinavian cookery long before we’d ever heard of “new Nordic” cuisine. It’s that he provides us with a new way to look at food, interpreting it through a lens influenced by his being born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and trained in the kitchens of Europe. When he’s not introducing us to less familiar cuisines, he’s taking the more familiar ones and feeding them to us better than those before him, just as he does at his restaurant Red Rooster.
In his new cookbook, Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home, Samuelsson steps out of his restaurant and invites us into his Harlem brownstone. It is there in his home kitchen where he blends near and dear cultures and cuisines with the multiethnic neighborhood in which he now lives and works. The 150 colorful and feel-good recipes are ones he hopes create lasting memories for those he shares them with.
“The question isn’t whether or not you need to eat fat; it’s ‘What kind of fat are you eating?’” says chef Franklin Becker, owner of The Little Beet and The Little Beet Table in New York City. Becker got a wake-up call in 1993 when, at age 27, he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It forced him to change both how he ate and how he cooked. Now, he’s set out to change everyone else’s habits too. He started by revolutionizing the way New Yorkers eat on the run. His quick-service spot, The Little Beet, opened in midtown Manhattan in January 2014. With lines out the door at lunchtime, it’s not surprising that another New York location is set to open soon and more units are being planned. He also just opened a full-service fine dining version, called The Little Beet Table. And now he’s out with a new cookbook that captures his eating philosophy. Good Fat Cooking (Rodale, 2014) is filled with recipes that utilize healthy unsaturated fats to produce incredibly flavorful dishes.