top chef masters

Review: Jonathan Waxman’s “Italian, My Way”

When foodies talk about chefs they speak in hushed tones about the likes of Mario Batali, Emeril Legasse and Todd English.  When those chefs get together they speak in hushed tones about chefs like Daniel Boulud, Jacques Pépin and Jonathan Waxman.

Johnathon WaxmanChef Jonathan Waxman is one of the all time great American chefs hailing from the “Provence of the US,” Northern California.  But Waxman’s early days were spent chasing the rock and roll dream (been there) relying on his trusty trombone to lead him to fame and fortune (done that).  Eventually he gave up his dreams of rock stardom in lieu of becoming a chef (got the T-shirt).

When many think of Waxman they think of the French trained chef that helped define California Cuisine as the executive chef of Alice Water’s famed Chez Panisse in Berkley.  But it wasn’t until 1979 that people began to realize his brilliance.  That was when he left Water’s tutelage to open Michael’s Restaurant in Santa Monica.

Soon the accolades came flooding in and it didn’t take long for Waxman to move to the bright lights of New York.  It is there that he opened Jams Restaurant on East 79th Street and it has since been followed by Bud’s, Hulot’s, Jams of London and Table 29.

Through the years Waxman has played mentor to dozens, perhaps hundreds of young chefs including Iron Chef Bobby Flay.  Flay worked the line at both Bud and Jams and it was Waxman who first introduced the young chef to Southwestern Cuisine.  Flay says of his mentor, “Jonathan Waxman was the first person to teach me what good food was.”

So it came as some surprise to me that Jonathan Waxman, master of California Cuisine and a pioneer of Southwestern had just published a cookbook of Italian recipes entitled Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life into Italian Classics (available at amazon).

So I got a review copy from the publisher and decided to take it for a spin around the block.  First thing you see on the cover are the words, “Forward by Tom Colicchio.”  Man, if Colicchio is writing your foreword it is a testament to the regard other chefs of caliber hold you in.

If you are one of those people that simply cannot stand a cookbook that is not overflowing with brilliant and colorful food porn then this is not the book for you.  If you love innovative recipes from someone who is truly one of the great cooks of our generation then saunter on over to amazon and order a copy.

Not that there are no pictures.  There are a few, mostly in black and white and crafted in an artistic, almost nostalgic format, like looking through an old photo album with your 90 year old Sicilian grandmother.

But the heart and soul of every cookbook are the recipes and Waxman has put together 150 where he re-imagines classic Italian cuisine.  Nothing drastic, mind you, the chef simply applies the spirit of Italy to the ingredients found stateside.  Take for instance this little gem:

: Hanger Steak with Salsa Piccante
  • 1 24-ounce hanger steak
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Hatch or red Fresno chilies
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamico
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Trim steak and season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Bring it to room temperature.
  3. To make the salsa: Put the garlic, onion, chilies and olive oil into a cast-iron skillet. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, deglaze with the balsamico and then puree everything in a food processor fitted with a metal blade until chunky.
  4. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Sear the hanger until dark mahogany in color and crispy on all sides – this takes vigilance, but only about 8 minutes total. Hanger should be rare to medium-rare. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes, then slice.
  5. Serve with salsa.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4-6

Meal type: supper

Culinary tradition: Italian

 

Colicchio And Another Son

Tom ColicchioCheflebrity birth week continues.  A few days ago I took great pleasure in announcing that Cooking Channel star Roger Mooking and his wife welcomed a new daughter to their family.  Today comes word that Top Chef star Tom Colicchio and his wife Lori Silverbush has given birth to their third son.  Top Chef’s top chef Tweeted the new arrival.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/tom_colicchio/status/50273274202046465″]

 

Congratulations!

Colicchio

Review: America’s Next Great Restaurant

AMERICA’S NEXT GREAT RESTAURANT

NBC’s briefing:

America's Next Great Restaurant ReviewFrom Emmy Award-winning producers Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz of Magical Elves (“Top Chef” and “Project Runway”) comes “America’s Next Great Restaurant.” In this delectable new alternative series, people from every walk of life will vie for the opportunity of a lifetime to see their original restaurant concept spring to life – starting with the opening of a restaurant chain in three locations – Hollywood, Minneapolis and New York City.

Funding the restaurant concepts are four accredited investors: Bobby Flay, distinguished restaurateur (“Iron Chef America: The Series,” “Throwdown! with Bobby Flay”); Curtis Stone, internationally renowned chef (NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” “Take Home Chef”); Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle; and Lorena Garcia, executive chef and restaurateur.

I just watched the premiere of America’s Next Great Restaurant with Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, Lorena Garcia and Steve Ells.  Typical reality show framework.  A group of wannabe’s (I love that) hoping be the recipient of a life changing win.

The first episode followed the American Idol script with a group of people – some are locks to make the top 10, some are on the fence and about a half dozen were only brought in to embarrass themselves on national TV.

That’s one of my major problems with reality TV is that it tends to cater to the very worst traits in humanity.  In this case the desire to see other people fail .  It’s sick.  There is nothing to separate people who love to watch those terrible singers from the people who filled the Roman Coliseum to watch their neighbors torn to shreds by lions.  They are barbarians.

America’s Next Great Restaurant is far better than that glorified karaoke contest which makes a week of programming out of failures.  Plus the winner won’t end up with a contract that cripples their career for years to come.  I’m not a fan of fast casual restaurants but the judges they picked have proven it can be done right.  With the unsavory part out of the way I’m looking forward to the rest of the show.  Nuf for now.

Top Chef Addiction? We Got Your Fix

Bravo’s Top Chef is one of the most popular food-based television programs in history and devotees to the popular reality show are often left Jonesing for more.

Top Chef PodcastTop Chef PodcastWell I have a solution:  Jeff Houck (Food Writer for the Tampa Tribune) and Katie Machol (Food & Drink Editor for the Daily Loaf) not only lead a lively and sometimes bawdy live Tweet during each new Top Chef episode but they also have the best Top Chef recap in the known universe.

The Top Chef Podcast on CL Radio is like a methadone clinic for Top Chef junkies.  Did you miss an episode and now you’re wondering who won, who packed their knives or how much cleavage Gail Simmons was showing?  You can always catch the Top Chef Podcast here:

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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