Latest Artical

On my recent tour of southwest France, I was finally able to visit my friends Carrie and Marcel at Domaine des Enfants in the Roussillon. My trip happened to be toward the end of September, which fellow wine lovers will recognize as harvest, so I was lucky enough to see the behind-the-scenes of wine-making in a rustic corner of the world.

Despite how busy they were with harvest, Carrie and Marcel still made time for me (side note: I highly recommend making friends with winemakers.) It was a truly incredible experience. Highlights include, but are not limited to: touring the scrubland hillside vineyards (a tough go in my rental car), seeing grey schist up close, and watching pigeage à la main (manual punchdown) in demi-muid.

The mostly-Spanish pickers camp out near the winery, in campers and little huts built for this purpose. The harvest crew doesn’t always eat together, but they try to throw a few parties during harvest, followed by an end-of-harvest feast. A typical dinner during harvest is grilled Catalan sausage, homemade aïoli, and grilled vegetables. Couscous, bread, Spanish beer and the Domaine’s wine rounds out the meal.

The harvest party at harvest's end is the biggest and best. Everybody pitches in, so in addition to the grilling, the Spanish crew makes their local specialty, Fideua (similar to paella) and Marcel, being Swiss, makes a big Raclette. Oh, and beer. There's lots (and lots) of Spanish beer. Salud!

Top Chef alum Bryan Voltaggio a wide network of restaurants: From fine-dining, progressive establishments like VOLT in his hometown Frederick, Maryland, and RANGE in Washington, D.C. to casual concepts like Lunch Box and Family Meal. Voltaggio and his team have taken the mid-Atlantic region by storm. And on day 3 of ICC this year, he took the Main Stage by storm with left-and right-hand men Graeme Ritchie and Mattie McGhee, who helm VOLT and RANGE respectively. The three chefs discussed the synergy and inspiration in their kitchens, and how to stay on top of their game. Here's what we took away:

Start the day with a question: Ask yourself “What do I cook today?” at the moment you wake up each morning. It sets you up for a challenge, and pushes you to create new and exciting things.
Prioritize communication: An open communication allows creativity to flow freely. A brigade of cooks means you have great, fresh ideas up for grabs, however you look at it. “It is crucial to what we do,” said Voltaggio. But it doesn't stop there. Ideas can be shared from one restaurant to another and evolved to fit the restaurant’s personality and approach.
Drop your ego: Creating dishes and developing a menu are not a one man show, but rather a collaborative effort. Allow cooks and coworkers to have their voice on the menu. Let them pitch their concerns and dislikes. “If the dish does not work for them, it doesn't work for the diners either,” said Voltaggio.
Never jeopardize classic cooking: Using high technology and modern techniques do not mean you should exchew the subtleties and nuances of the basics. Ritchie’s binchōtan-grilled, shio koji-rubbed wagyu short rib may be New American at its peak, but it stems from a deep understanding of cuisine and ingredients.
Connect to connect: Technologies allow work in the kitchen to flow more easily than before. Tools and apps that cooks can use to document, take photos, organize, and connect with other chefs are accessible, beneficial, and cost little to nothing.
Be open to change: And always welcome new ideas. “Bring passion with you and let it show on the plate,” said McGhee. “And let others shape that too.” So when Ideas in Food’s Alex Talbot suggested McGhee serve octopus a la plancha on top of his braised beef cheek and tongue, combining his two dishes into one, a new dish was born. “We’re putting this on the menu at RANGE tomorrow,” said Voltaggio.

One hour is generally not enough time to prep, cook, and plate, but it was a challenge that six chefs tackled head-on at the high-pressure 6th Vitamix Challenge on the Main Stage at ICC this year. By day’s end, Bostonian Pastry Chef Kate Holowchik emerged from the vortex as victorious. Holowchik—formerly of jm Curley and Bread & Salt—recently joined the team at Yvonne’s in Boston’s Downtown Crossing.

Her winning recipe, Inverted Baked Alaska, is a tip-of-the-hat to the classic Baked Alaska. “I wanted to pay homage to the past as well as pave way for the future,” said Holowchik. She utilized the Vita-Prep throughout dish prep—from blending the butter popcorn ice cream that she later poached in a water bath to grinding popcorn into flour to be spun with other ingredients into a cake. The burnt caramel foam, which she discharged from a N2O siphon into liquid nitrogen, was added a la minute and “popped” all over the place. It was the theatrical element of the dish—and creative applications of Vita-Prep—that put Holowchik on top.

As the ultimate victor of the 6th Annual Vitamix Challenge, Holowchik received a Vita-Prep 3, a Vitamix XL, The Quiet One, as well as a $500 American Express Gift Certificate. Greg Garrison of Prohibition in Charleston, South Carolina took Runner-Up.