Monday, November 24, 2008

Thomas Keller talk at Phili Free Library

<Update> The place was packed. Even at 15 minutes early, my gf and I struggled to find 2 adjacent seats together. Given the conversations around us, it sounded like there were mostly restaurant industry folk here. And for good reason, Keller expressed that the book and accompanying talk were geared for other chefs.

And despite my gf nodding off in the middle of the short talk, it was fairly interesting. It was my first time really hearing about sous-vide. Well, rather sous-vide as thought of from a high-end chef. Apparently, the concept of sous-vide has been around for some time and been relegated to the frozen/instant section of supermarkets like Minute Rice.

From Keller's perspective, sous vide cooking is vacuum-packing meat or vegetables in a plastic bag and boiling the bag at a low temperature. Because it is vacuum packed, you don't lose all the flavor in the air or water if you cook the ingredients in an open environment and particularly for the meat, because it's cooked at a lower temperature than normal, you can get ridiculously succulent tasty steaks, short ribs, etc. You can get more info at: Chowhound, Wikipedia, and oh course, Thomas Keller's book, Under-Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide.

Keller was prompted by Michael Ruhlman, who has written a number of books, a couple of them with Keller himself. If you can actually see in the blurry photos, Ruhlman is the one on the left standing (introducing Keller) and Keller is sitting on the right.

The Q&A were honestly a little of a turn-off in that some of the questions Keller didn't really answer or other questions, which admittedly demonstrated some ignorance on the part of the asker, Keller reacted to a bit snottily. But umm, it is Thomas Keller, so I guess he should be given some leeway.

A few tid-bits from the Q&A, some of which are poorly summarized quotes:
Q: This question is from a home-cook. How do you go about timing multipl orders of steaks if you are cooking them sous-vide and they are ordered differently: say one is a rare, one is a medium-rare and one is a medium?
A: Well, at my restaurants, we don't allow customers to specify doneness. We only serve meat the right way. (implying medium-rare)
(The crowd laughs and applauds.)

Q: Are you ever going to open a restaurant in Phili?
A: Well, I love visiting Philadelphia, but I'd rather not have to come here and have to work.

Q: How does sous vide affect herbs and spices?
A: Similar to how all of flavors of meats and vegetables are captured when they're vacuumed, the flavor and spices are also full in flavor. As a result, we try to be minimal with our herbs and spices. In particular, you have to be careful using them in sous vide, since flecks of spices sticks to your piece of meat, there will be bursts of flavor in those spots. We got around this by putting our spices in little plastic bags and poked holes in them. Or even better we soaked(?) our fats and oils in the spices and then just used the oils in the sous vide.

And for your viewing pleasure, the utter failure of a video clip. No audio, 1/3 blocked by the microphone man and 1/3 blurry. Brilliant!

PS. There's going to be a talk by Joses Garces, chef of Amada and Tinto, coming up in two weeks on December 8th. I'm expecting this talk to be equally as packed too. More info at the Philadelphia Free Library Website.

----- Original Post ------

I'm excited to be able to go hear Thomas Keller, chef of the French Laundry, speak at the Philadelphia Free Library tonight. If you're free, it's at 7:30pm at 1901 Vine Street.

More information here

(I'll try to post pictures and a summary later on)

[via foobooz)

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