Chef’s Interviews

Chef Joe Baker

by Mari on November 5, 2014

Joe_Baker

Joseph Baker grew up in rural Montana, where the necessity for home-cooked meals instilled in him a value for simple, well-prepared food. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and after his four years of service, he applied his discipline and precision to study the culinary arts with a newfound vigor. He enrolled in L’Academy de Cuisine to study pastry, and has since worked at many acclaimed hotel restaurants including CityZen, Texas Spice, Las Canarias, Ostra, and Mansion on Turtle Creek. Baker is now teaching at Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas Texas.

What made you want to be a pastry chef?
I was always intrigued. As a young child, I always watched competitions on TV where they would make sugar sculptures. After that, I constantly saw patterns where bread and desserts were the heros of most meals. Even to this day I am still enamored with a very simple baguette. It is four basic ingredients, but when combined properly and handled well there is considerably more to be said. Many of the people I know brag more about the bread that they ate instead of the entree, so being a pastry chef always interested me. As a pastry chef, I can have the same six ingredients and give you anything- from ice cream, doughnuts, cakes, to pate au choux.

What is the difference between the standard pastry and the Togiharu pastry knife?
The Togiharu brand has the overall dedication that Korin gives to their knives, and when I use the knife it has a balance and weight that feel seamless and effortless as I move it. A lot of times in pastry, we have to portion a full sized sheet tray down to bite sized portions. It can be done with a smaller knife but it just takes so much longer. I really appreciate the long thin blade of the Togiharu pastry knife that I can very cleanly and perfectly cut my pastries in less time and in fewer movements. It makes it a better product all around, and fits the pastry knife that I would look for at every single level.

How did you hear about the Togiharu pastry knife?
When I was in culinary school my chef instructor had a pastry knife, and he only used it for one minor application. I remembered he said it was very thin, long, sharp, and perfect for everything we do as pastry chefs, but it was probably 5 or 6 years after that I had still never seen one. When you’re shopping around for knives, especially as a pastry chef, you don’t need a lot of them but you want quality products. Eventually I found Korin and I can tell when I looked at it that it wasn’t a simple plastic handle with a stamped out blade, it was clearly more than that. It had a higher level of craftsmanship and looked more substantial than other confectioner’s knives that I have seen.

What inspires you to cook and create new recipes?
When I see a recipe that is always done a specific way, my first question is “why?” I try to understand the process and see if it can be reduced or simplified. In my own experience, knowing why something works and how to manipulate it has always given me much better results than if I were to understand a recipe. When it comes to flavors, I’ll think of new combinations as I taste things. I’m fairly well known in the pastry circle for using a lot of vegetables in my desserts. I really like to use root vegetables like parsnips and beets, which can be awkward for your standard diner. The strangest flavor combination I’ve ever tried and was really pleased with was a toasted marshmallow ice cream with actual toasted marshmallows as the base, and roasted turnips. It’s just one of those things you can’t tell to everybody out there, so I reserve it for the really adventurous.

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Chef Takashi Yagihashi

by Mari on October 29, 2014

Born in the coastal city of Mito, Japan, Chef Takashi Yagihashi’s interest in cooking was piqued at a young age. Takashi began working in a restaurant as a teenager, and upon his graduation from college his natural culinary talent was recognized by the owner, who invited him to America to help open a new restaurant there. He accepted the offer, and in his years in Chicago Takashi refined the classical elements of his technique and developed his personal style as a chef. He was offered a position as the Executive Chef of Tribute in Detroit, which rocketed into the spotlight under his guidance. This position also won him acclaim as one of Food and Wine’s “Best New Chefs,” as well as the title of “Best Chef: Midwest” from the James Beard Foundation. He has since opened The Slurping Turtle, and his namesake restaurant Takashi has received the coveted Michelin star in 2010 and 2011. Both restaurants found instant success and are renowned for their distinctive style, artful blend of Japanese and French techniques, and exquisite contrast of textures and flavors.

Do you have a mentor or chef who particularly inspired you?
When I was young I was good friends with chef Pierre Gagnaire. I went to visit his restaurant in Japan to stage after he received 3 stars from the Michelin Guide. It was an amazing experience, but unfortunately he had to close. After he closed he opened a restaurant in Paris where he became very famous. He was so special, with such unique ideas and a fundamental approach to cooking. What was explained in the menu and what actually appeared in the dish was completely different. It was fascinating to learn and to see him change the menu almost daily, depending on the new techniques he discovered.

What do you like about Japanese knives?
People always say that a knife is the extension of your hand, but when I get a new knife it’s not a part of me yet. Japanese knives require you to sharpen them and take care of them. Everyone sharpens their knives a little differently, but as you learn and get used to that specific knife, it slowly becomes a part of you. You can never stop improving, but its important to figure out what you want to achieve and plan out your goals for your future.

What is your goal for your profession?
I would like to make my restaurant successful.

What is your advice for aspiring chefs?
Keep an open mind and set yearly goals for yourself then measure your progress.

Do you have a mentor or chef who particularly inspired you?
When I was young I was good friends with Chef Pierre Gagnaire. I went to visit his restaurant in Japan to stage after he received 3 stars from the Michelin Guide. It was an amazing experience, but unfortunately he had to close. After he closed he opened a restaurant in Paris where he became very famous. He was so special, with such unique ideas and a fundamental approach to cooking. What was explained in the menu and what actually appeared in the dish was completely different. It was fascinating to learn and to see him change the menu almost daily, depending on the new techniques he discovered.

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Chef Kristen Kish

by Mari on October 22, 2014

Kristen Kish

Kristen Kish discovered her love for cooking at a young age, a passion that was further cultivated as she attended Le Cordon Bleu at her mother’s suggestion. Since graduating in 2006, Kish has worked in many restaurants before joining the Stir team in 2011. She draws inspiration and fulfillment from the energy and the camaraderie of the industry, and most recently has won critical acclaim for her success on Bravo’s Top Chef Season Ten: Seattle, becoming the second woman to win the coveted title of Top Chef. She is currently the Chef de Cuisine of Boston’s only Relais & Chateaux property and Chef Barbara Lynch’s newest restaurant, Menton.

What made you want to be a chef?
It all started when I was 5 years old, when I would watch “Great Chefs in the World,” a cooking show on the Discovery Channel. It had all of the European chefs and it was being dubbed over into English. Seeing that at such a young age sparked my interest.

What the most important aspect of cooking to you?
It is all about the passion and the drive. A really great dining experience requires more from a chef then textbook execution. You have to cook with your heart in order to make your guests feel the soul of your cooking. You can be a great cook and a great chef, but if you don’t have the passion then it is not going to translate to the guests.

What inspires you to cook and create new recipes?
I get my inspiration from everywhere, and admittedly mostly from places that aren’t food related. I love going to museums, because art really inspires me. When I look at cookbooks, I tend to like the ones that are super artistic- more art books than cookbooks. I don’t necessarily read recipes even if I look up how to do something, because I like to make up my own flavor profiles. What I find when I read recipes is that it becomes implanted in my brain. If you were to ask me that question when I was much younger as a chef, I would have tried to find things in the world that forced me to come up with something, rather than it just letting it come to me.

What was a life changing epiphany that you had during your career?
When I was younger I tried to be the chefs that I saw and thought were successful, but that doesn’t work. I was young and trying to make a name for myself. I was trying to make their style of food or personality, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to get me anywhere. At that point I started over, I took a job on the line as a cook and I took that time to figure out who I was as a chef and what my style of cooking would be. No one else’s successes can be your’s, because you have to find your own way to discover what you want to be.

Do you have any advice for chefs who are thinking about buying their first Japanese knives?
My whole recommendation would be to just go in and hold the knife. My favorite knife isn’t necessarily going to be perfect for them. Everybody at Korin is really knowledgeable and can find the right fit of you based on what kind of cutting you are going to do and how much are you going to be using it. I couldn’t tell somebody what knife they should buy. They need to go in to touch them, use them, and see them to see what fits their particular style.

I have many many knives, but the knives I use daily are the Togiharu chef and Misono petty. One of these days I will buy one of those stunning Nenox knives, but I could never cut anything with them because they are too beautiful. That would be something that sits on a shelf for me, so I can look at. There is something about a beautiful knife that inspires you to cook as well.

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Chef Anthony Ricco

October 15, 2014

Anthony Ricco was born and raised in Brooklyn. Growing up in an Italian family, his curiosity in cooking was piqued at a young age by his grandmother’s love of cooking. He transitioned from construction work to his first position at China Grill Restaurant, which proved to be the stepping stone for an exciting culinary career. [...]

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Chef Herb Wilson

October 8, 2014

Herb Wilson made a name for himself early working with Chefs Patrick Clark and Larry Forgione, before traveling abroad to work at the Michelin three star restaurants Gerard Pangaud and Le Freres Troisgros in Paris. Returning to New York, he became the executive chef of Le Refuge. In 1996 he opened Bambou, a Caribbean concept [...]

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Chef Paul Liebrandt

October 1, 2014

Paul Liebrandt’s cuisine seamlessly melds classical tradition with a contemporary, graphic style. During his teenage years, Leibrandt worked under Marco Pierre White, Pierre Gagnaire, and Jean-George Vongerichten before travelling to New York to work as Chef de Cuisine at Bouley Bakery. In 2000 he joined Atlas as the Executive Chef, becoming director of Papillon. In [...]

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Chef Seamus Mullen

September 24, 2014

  Seamus Mullen is an award-winning New York chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author. He is known for his innovative approach to modern Spanish cuisine, and for being one of the leading chefs in the country. His first solo restaurant, Tertulia, has been highly acclaimed by top food critics and was a finalist for one of [...]

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Chef Marc Forgione

September 17, 2014

Marc Forgione joined his culinary legend father Larry Forgione in the industry at the young age of 16. When asked why he decided to immerse himself in the culinary industry he explains, “Most kids don’t want to do what dad did when they grow up. I wanted to do something different and I tried to [...]

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Chef Atsushi Kono

September 10, 2014

Atsushi Kono is the executive chef of Torishin restaurant in New York. Torishin specializes in a Japanese grilling style called yakitori, and is the second yakitori restaurant in the United States to earn a coveted Michelin Star. Kono has been active collaborator for a Japanese non-profit organization’s educational programs and fund raising events as a [...]

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Chef Nils Noren

September 3, 2014

  Nils Noren is both a world renowned chef and culinary educator. After graduating from culinary school in his hometown of Gävle, Sweden, he spent many years working at some of the most esteemed restaurants in Stockholm before moving to Aquavit in New York. In 2006, he was appointed Vice President of Culinary Arts and [...]

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