FROM OUR FIRST ISSUE, Edible celebrates the people who cook our food in our Meet the Chef series:
Chef Jeff White: From Fry Cook to Top Chef
Step into the Boiler House these days and peek into the kitchen. Chances are you’ll see Executive Chef Jeff White working shoulder to shoulder with his staff. Easygoing and friendly, the 41-year-old chef said his pet peeve is a messy kitchen.
“Sloppy decks mean sloppy thinking. Everything just moves a lot more smoothly when everybody cleans up as they go along,” Chef White said. Making sure things move smoothly is a major consideration in a kitchen that turns out about 600 covers on a weekend night.
Chef White gravitated to the culinary arts as soon as he could start working “officially” at age 15. He began his career at Tom’s Ribs on Nacogdoches Road … washing pots. He worked his way through high school in that kitchen, cleaning dishes, bussing tables and chopping vegetables.
“All the cool guys there were cooking, so I really wanted to be on the line, too,” he said. He finally got the chance just shy of turning 18 — as a fry cook.
“I was the fry guy, making all the onion-ring loaves and the fried trout. I remember when things would slow down, we would take the trout heads and line them up on the dishwasher with cigarettes in their mouths,” he said. “We were just kids in the kitchen then.”
When he graduated from high school, managers at Tom’s ceremoniously offered him a job in the kitchen for $4.75 an hour.
“So I went to college,” he said.
Chef White did not study culinary arts, though. Instead, he delved into mechanical engineering at Texas State Technical College.
“I was married, with a baby, and I needed a real job. So I went to work at Palmer’s in San Marcos and landed a job as a line cook. Having a full-time job and being a full-time student was very tough with a young family,” he said.
Somehow, he managed. Even before graduating, the San Antonio native became executive chef at the upscale Hill Country restaurant and worked there three years.
“As a line cook, I got the chance to create a few specials and they named me exec chef, but I didn’t know a thing about running a kitchen and relied on accounting majors and lots of other people to show me how to do this and how to do that. They never really knew what I didn’t know, I don’t think,” he said.
“I just couldn’t pay attention — I was always thinking about food,” he adds.
After college, he took a job drafting for a construction company, but was always thinking up new dishes, creating joy in the kitchen.
Since then, working 10 to 17 hours a day is part of his routine. Chef White said he wouldn’t have it any other way, and his family life is interwoven with his vocation.
“Finding a balance between personal and work life is always tricky, but no matter how hard you work or how tired you are, you find a way to make time, even if they (relatives) have to come to the restaurant to celebrate a special occasion,” he said.
His daughter, Kaileigh, now 18, is at the Navy boot camp on the Great Lakes in Michigan. And this time he’ll be going to celebrate with her.
“I get to go see her graduate in Chicago next month,” he said.
But there was a point in his career when taking time off wasn’t in the game plan.
On his quest to become a great chef, he sought the best and most reputable masters to help hone his skills. He received a warm welcome into the kitchens of some of the area’s most acclaimed restaurants: from Louis 106 in Austin and L’Etoile in San Antonio to Chef Bruce Auden’s Biga on the Banks, the Westin Riverwalk, Restaurant Acenar and the Grey Moss Inn.
“I’d have to say I was most influenced by Chef Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks. He allowed me to build my own style. Bruce really taught me how to run a kitchen and with his Chef de Cuisine Martin Stembera, I learned a lot about Asian techniques,” he said. “Almost everything I know about French techniques I learned from Thiery (Burkle of L’Etoile).”
The idea of buying fresh and local made the biggest impression.
“Bruce used lots of locally sourced ingredients and I learned how imperative it is to buy local and be connected to where your food comes from,” Chef White said.
By 2008, less than 10 years after officially switching careers, Chef White was appointed executive and corporate chef for the Columbia Culinary Team. An opportunity to work with Chef Johnny Hernandez at True Flavors Catering beckoned three years later and during 2012 he was invited to help open The Boiler House at the Pearl. Just a year later, he became executive chef.
He’s accumulated accolades and awards, including First Place in the San Antonio Herb Fair in 2003 and The People’s Choice Bronze Award for Taste of Elegance in 2005. Chef White was also an American Culinary Federation Guest Chef at the James Beard House in New York City.
In his relatively new role at The Boiler House, Chef White creates marvelous menus and fosters a collaborative atmosphere.
“I‘ve been in almost every role in many kitchens and I got to see and practice many management styles. Where I feel most comfortable is as a mentor — in my kitchen we all work together. I learned the best way to manage is by example. I wouldn’t ask anybody to do anything I wouldn’t do and I don’t like to see idle hands,” he said.
Chef White especially enjoys preparing charcuterie, the art of cooking, curing and preserving meats, pâtés, foie gras and confits.
“Making prosciutto from scratch, creating mortadella from sweetbread and lamb tongue or pastrami from duck breast takes time and plenty of labor, but the specialized techniques are wonderful. Learning to use the kidneys, the heart, the feet parts of the animal, parts of an animal that are all delicious and underutilized today, is essential in my book,” Chef White said.
Many of the chef’s techniques are rooted in centuries-old traditions and methods that use the whole animal.
“You’re not wasting any part of the animal that died — that shows respect for the farmer and the animal,” he said. “When creating a plate, we reach for a balance of flavors of textures. It’s easy to get lost in the technique and forget the goal — but the idea is to present the cured meats in their most natural state to preserve the flavor and quality — and it’s important to stick with the old-and-tested traditional methods to achieve the best results,” he added.
While the meat-centric Boiler House serves up charcuterie, mouth-watering steaks, grilled skewers and even game, the restaurant also offers plenty of salads and vegetables — almost all of it from local farms. And on the weekends, Chef White often walks around the Pearl Farmers Market just outside the restaurant’s door and buys fresh produce directly from the farmers.
“Working at Biga on the Banks opened my eyes to this concept. You can develop a personal relationship with the people you buy from – you know where your food comes from, how they grow it, sometimes you even get to see the places it comes from,” he said.
That’s a good thing, too, because by necessity, whatever they choose to cook at the restaurant has to be fresh.
“There’s no fryer at the Boiler House,” he said with a smile, “and there’s no freezer here, either. So everything we make is fresh.”
Chef White explained the thing he loves most about his work is the sense of community among the food professionals in San Antonio. He is a member of a new chefs group, the Chef Cooperatives, with a mission to support area farmers through special events and locally sourcing menus as much as possible.
“I love the chef community here — we support each other and each other’s restaurants; we promote each other. Our camaraderie allows us to experiment and elevate the food scene here for everyone in the city, and everyone contributes to make it happen,” Chef White said.
Super Bowl Special
Arugula & Roasted Pepper Pesto Dip
Prep Time: 20 minutes, yields approximately 6 ounces
2 cups arugula leaves, rinsed, drained and stemmed
1⁄2 cup pistachios (if salted, omit added salt)
3 oz. Asiago cheese, grated
2 oz. fire-roasted sweet peppers (red or yellow)
1⁄4 tsp crushed Italian red pepper
5 cloves of garlic
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
1. Using a food processor, gently pulse ingredients until they are thoroughly combined.
2. Scrape sides down with a rubber spatula, approximately 1 minute.
3. Serve or refrigerate in an airtight container, up to 4 days.
Best served with poultry or other white game meats, warm or baked cheeses, toasts, crackers, fresh apples, pears or as a sandwich condiment.
Recipe reprinted with permission from “Pesto Power, An Exploration of International Sauces as Condiments” by Chuck Hernandez, A Bunny Hat Production 2013. Visit www.arugulacatering.com/book for more information about this local cookbook. Nutritional information per serving (approximately): 1,701calories; 31 grams carbohydrates; 166 grams fat; 140 grams protein; 1,539 milligrams sodium; 9 grams sugar.
PICK UP THE CURRENT ISSUE OF EDIBLE SAN ANTONIO FOR MORE SUPER BOWL RECIPES!
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Happy New Year, San Antonio!
Back by popular demand ~ our favorite dish to ring in the New Year!
The Salad: Lucky Black-eyed Pea Salad from the kitchen of Paula Nottingham.
(Photo by Earl Nottingham)Prep time: 20 minutes Total Time: 8 hours, 20 minutes, Serves 6
1 (16-oz.) package frozen black-eyed peas
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup red pepper jelly
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 large fresh peaches, peeled and diced
2 cups torn watercress
Prepare peas according to package directions, simmering only until tender but firm; drain and let cool for one hour.
Whisk together cilantro and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl.
Add cooked black-eyed peas, bell pepper and onion, tossing to coat; cover and chill 8
Stir peaches and watercress into pea mixture just before serving.Recipe adapted from Southern Living Cooking for Christmas, 2012. Approximate nutritional
information per serving 156 calories; 9 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams fat; 13 grams
protein; 1,192 milligrams sodium; 5 grams sugar.
Enjoy this recipe treat for the first night of Hanukkah:
Not your Bubbe’s latkes …
The potato pancake is a delicious hallmark of the Hanukkah celebration – but the honor has little to do with the fact that latkes are made from potatoes. The Festival of Lights, which starts at sunset on Dec. 16 this year, celebrates all fried foods to commemorate the miracle of a little bottle of olive oil.
Sometime before 165 BC, the Greek king of Syria, Antiochus, banned all Jewish practices and forced the people to accept and worship Greek Gods. His soldiers desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, and finally, a small band of Jewish rebels, the Maccabees, fought back. And they won. The people cleaned and restored the Temple, but to rededicate the Temple, they needed to light the Menorah, which was supposed to burn all night, every night. It took eight days to make the oil for the Menorah, but all they had was one little bottle, just enough for one day.
They lit the Menorah anyway, and miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. Those in charge declared an eight-day festival to celebrate the miraculous oil. So Hanukkah is a happy holiday because it celebrates a triumph – not the military one, but the triumph of a little bottle of oil that lit up the Temple for 8 days more than 2000 years ago.
Today’s latkes are still fried, of course, but for Di-Anna Arias, Vice President of Sales & Culinary Vision for Don Strange of Texas, the delicious pancakes pack a ton of culinary potential. She notes latkes weren’t always made from potatoes. People made latkes from whatever was seasonally available, so today’s creative latke dishes are actually a throwback to ancient times.
Ms. Arias said she’s experimented with sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, guacamole, cheese and even tuna.
“Latkes are so delicious. We eat them year round. They can be prepared in so many different ways. And simple variations make a big impact,” she said.
The classic potato pancake, made with grated potatoes, onions and eggs, is traditionally served with applesauce, but latkes can also be topped with sweet or savory condiments, served as a side dish or even a dessert. Ms. Arias also suggests making them in different sizes for different purposes.
“Make an appetizer with mini latkes and just add a little crème fraiche and caviar. The possibilities are endless,” she explained. “There’s no rule that says you have to use potatoes or only serve them for Hanukkah.”
Ms. Arias also recently developed a recipe for a root vegetable latke.
Di-Anna Arias cooked and styled this root vegetable latke for Edible San Antonio. (Photo by Whitney Kelly Schrader)
“It’s a take off of the classic latke, but we use root vegetables like parsnip, golden beet, sweet potato and carrot. And we serve it topped with Don Strange cranberry and pecan chutney,” Ms. Arias said.
She uses a little kitchen magic to make the root vegetable latkes a success every time.
“The trick is to roast the vegetables first – for about 25 minutes at 375 degrees — so they caramelize a little. Then just follow the recipe for the classic potato latkes, using the root vegetables instead of potatoes,” she said.
Ms. Arias also created several versions of a “Latke Benedict,” which demonstrates the versatility of the potato pancake. Instead of bread, the latke takes over as the base with a poached egg and artichoke hollandaise sauce on top. She also suggests adding smoked salmon and crème fraîche for a delectable departure from the classic.
“We’ve even featured latkes made with parsnips and sweet potatoes (parsnips add a great flavor) and topped them with roasted figs, ricotta and honey. There are no limits to the flavor combinations you can create,” she added.
Go ahead. Create your own classic. And remember latkes are just as delightful straight from the pan. Enjoy!
RECIPE: CLASSIC POTATO LATKES (courtesy Di-Anna Arias, Don Strange of Texas)
Makes 3 dozen
2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed and cut into quarters lengthwise
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
2 large eggs
cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying (Safflower is best)
Using food processor with a coarse grating disc, grate the potatoes and onion. Transfer mixture to a strainer and using a paper towel on your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Working quickly so mixture will not discolor, add the eggs, flour, salt, pepper and baking powder and mix until flour is absorbed.
Heat a medium sized heavy-bottomed skillet over medium to high heat, and pour in about 1⁄4 inch of the oil. Once the oil is hot, drop a heaping tablespoon of batter into the hot pan.
Use a spatula to shape into rounds. When the edges are brown and crispy, flip.
Cook the second side until golden brown, about five minutes.
Continue cooking latkes in batches, adding more oil as necessary.
Transfer the latkes to a plate lined with a paper towel and sprinkle with kosher salt.
For Latke Eggs Benedict:
Use 2 Tablespoons of Classic Potato Latke batter to add to the hot oil.
Flatten latke in pan to make a 3 inch round.
Add sliced smoked salmon and shaved artichoke heart.
Top with a perfectly poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.
Learn about coffee this Saturday, Dec. 13 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at La Villita at the San Antonio Coffee Festival!
featuring these LOCAL TEXAS Coffee Companies …
And don’t miss the “Coffee After-Hours”
Coffee Cocktail Tasting Flights from these 7 LOCAL Restaurants:
Cheers, it’s Oktoberfest!
Let’s drink up some knowledge.
A mid-17th-century Jamestown family harvests the fruits of their labors, including squash, pumpkins, apples and corn (Sidney E. King, artist)
Hops: The Geologic Ingredient Hops, the flower of the common hop plant (Humulus lupulus L.), is best known for its use to flavor beers. It is a female plant species that grows as a vine and is native to temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, such as North America, Europe, and western Asia. There are many varieties of hops, which are used in the flavoring process of brewing beer. Each variety, grown in various areas, provides a different accent of flavor, contributing to the different flavors for each brand of beer. Other factors that can affect flavor are ingredients, such as barley and wheat, and the different brewing techniques.
Hops are a species of vine, whose flowers are used in the beer-brewing process. It provides flavor to beer, and has several varieties. This variety is called Cascade.
As hops plays an important role in the flavor profiles of beer, the alcohol and viscosity (thickness) are a function of other ingredients such as initial sugar content, which is then fermented by yeast into alcohol. The Cascade variety of hops can grow to be extremely large and provide a great harvest and flavor for nearby breweries. Each type of hops requires different soil conditions, but hops in general share some broad requirements.The soil must be crumbly and well drained with low soil acidity. Hops also require access to a lot of water, so the presence of surface water is extremely beneficial. In addition to its geologic mapping, soil geochemistry, and national streamgage network USGS, tracks flood and drought conditions that can significantly affect the growth of hops. Geology Makes a Fine Wine It’s not just hops that rely on geology, not all grapes are ideal for wine-making. In fact, the soil, geology, and climate combine to make the difference between low-value table grapes and delicious wine. Most winemakers will say that nature and the Earth are as important as people in making the best wine. Unlike hops, though, cultivators need to be concerned about giving grapes too many nutrients. In this video, USGS scientist Larry Meinert describes how grapes, when supplied with too much water and nutrients can over-produce and result in mediocre wine. Unlike most gardening, the more stressed the grapes, the better they become for wine production.
Wine-making grapes, like these Syrah (or Shiraz) grapes, require different growing conditions than grapes meant for eating. Cultivating wine grapes involves trying to concentrate sugars and encourage thicker skins, because these are what give wine its flavor. To do that, one of the most important factors to look for is the drainage of the soils. These grapes are grown on a greenstone schist formation in northern Maryland.
To do that, one of the most important factors to look for is the drainage of the soils. Proper Soil Means the “Sauce” Won’t Spoil Soil chemistry and nutrients play a big role in the taste of the various hop and grape varieties. Soil drainage is an extremely important factor in the success of grape growing. The better the drainage, the more concentrated flavor can be in grapes and therefore the better the wine. Better drainage is usually found in loose soils where the water can flow away from the vines. When wine grapes have access to too much water, the sugars are diluted and the grapes grow too large, meaning the skins aren’t thick enough to provide proper flavor and color. Soil drainage can be studied either through geologic mapping or through remote sensing surveying, like 3DEP. The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) initiative is being developed to respond to growing needs for high-quality topographic data and for a wide range of other three-dimensional representations of the Nation’s natural and constructed features through high-quality light detection and ranging (lidar). Diatomite: The Natural Filter Filtering is a key step to the beer and wine-making process. It is important to make sure that these beverages are clean and healthy. Luckily, the Earth has provided a natural filter in the process, a mineral called Diatomite, or diatomaceous earth, used in agriculture for grain storage as an anticaking agent, an insecticide, and as a natural de-wormer. Some farmers add it to their livestock and poultry feed to prevent the caking of feed. Diatomite is a chalk-like, soft, and very fine-grained sedimentary rock, usually light in color (white if pure, but usually gray, and rarely black). It is very finely porous, very low in density (floating on water at least until saturated), and essentially chemically inert in most liquids and gases.
The principal use of diatomite is as a filter aid, an absorbent for industrial spills, and in toothpaste. It is also used as filler in a variety of products from paints to dry chemicals, and as insulation material. USGS tracks these uses as well as the supply and production of diatomite in its annual Mineral Commodity Summaries. Start with Science Amidst all the fun and festivities, there is still much to learn. USGS provides the science and information to understand the potential, production, and consumption of all minerals, water, and climate conditions in the wine and beer making process. So whether you’re celebrating Oktoberfest with a cold pumpkin-spiced beer or a glass of red wine, make sure to learn some science with every sip!
A film that reminds us that “food is memory.”
At the movies with Covo & Covo
By Delia Covo and Frederic Covo
In every issue, we screen and review a film related to food. For our reviews on current feature films, check www.EdibleSA.com and sign up for the free Edible SA newsletter, which premieres in late August.
Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) directed The Hundred Foot Journey, easily one of the best films of the year so far. The foodie film underscores the joys of cooking and absolutely showcases food as the universal language, with the power to tear people apart and, well, you’ll have to go see this magnificent film to learn more.
The movie tells the story of a successful restaurateur family from Mumbai whose lives are turned upside down when tragedy strikes. To restart their lives, they decide to leave the land where their roots ran deep and travel through Europe to find a home. They are of course, the ultimate foodies, and their mission is to return to the culinary landscape where they are most likely to succeed again. Papa, played perfectly by Om Puri, decides the family will settle in a quaint town in the south of France. Madame Mallory, the not-so-welcoming neighbor, owns the Michelin-starred classical French restaurant across the street. And the battles begin.
Foodies will certainly understand this quote, delivered with great aplomb by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) in the scene above:
“In this restaurant, the cuisine is not an old, tired marriage, it is a passionate affair.”
Juliet Blake, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey produced this charming film that embodies cooking as an art, local and fresh foods, complimentary flavor sensations, modern techniques and the power of emotions while cooking. Add fabulous cinematography to the mix — and audiences will enjoy the bonus of being carried along the tranquil and bucolic scenery of southern France, giving all a moment to appreciate the farmers markets and fresh foods growing in the nearby pastures.
The compelling screenplay is based on the delicious novel “The Hundred Foot Journey” by Richard C. Morais, who recently released his second work, “Brooklyn Buddhaland.”
The movie runs about two hours and 30 minutes, but the time flew by. The entire staff agrees this is a must-see film for our readers.
We were sad to see it end. Splurge and go enjoy “The Hundred Foot Journey,” which opens nationwide August 8.
“CHEF” serves up warm delights
At the movies with Covo & Covo
Every issue, we screen and review a film related to food. For our reviews on current feature films, check www.EdibleSA.com and sign up for the free Edible SA newsletter, which premieres in August.
By Angela Covo and Frederic Covo
Jon Favreau, writer, director and lead in the new film “Chef,” gets back to his cinematic roots and serves up a delicious indie based on an idea “that hit me all at once.”
“And then I wrote this thing (I have a lot of really, really good 8-page scripts, by the way). I didn’t want to lose the scent, I was tracking it like a creature in the woods — and in less than a couple of weeks it was written,” he shared.
After a couple of huge films (think Ironman), the friendly, easygoing filmmaker said the landscape is ripe for doing smaller films.
“You can do smaller movies now again. I think that’s really good for all of us, because the big films have to appeal to everybody … to make its money back. But little ones like this, you can create for you and for an audience that will connect with it more personally, even if not everybody feels it,” he said.
And he assembled a stellar cast to get the job done: John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Scarlett Johansson, Emjay Anthony, Robert Downey, Jr. and Bobby Cannavale. (A little trivia: NY Times food critic Andrew Platt is the brother of Oliver Platt, who plays the food critic).
The plot is easy to swallow too – a chef is already a little estranged from his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony) because he’s always so busy. But when he lets the pressures of work and a well-meaning food critic (Oliver Platt) completely dominate his vista, he loses sight of what’s important and hits rock bottom. His evolution is the feel good part of the film, but there’s so much more.
Part road trip, part drama, part comedy and commentary on the techno aspects of today’s society, Mr. Favreau succeeds in his endeavor. He created a terrific, light-hearted film that tells a story and shares the passion of the culinary world, from the inside out.
You won’t find shoot-‘em-ups or explosions here. You will get to see a father-son relationship develop (kudos to the wonderful young Emjay Anthony for a great job), the inner workings of a professional kitchen and the mind of a chef, some pretty amazing dishes and how wonderful life can be when you just let it happen.
Oh yeah, and remember to not to go see this film hungry, because you will suffer. We could almost smell the delicious meals and those Cubanos on the screen, thanks in no small part to Chef Roy Choi.
Culinary prep for the film
Mr. Favreau wanted to depict the nitty-gritty side of being a well-known chef. So he roped in Chef Roy Choi, affectionately known as the king of food trucks in LA, to teach the cast everything they needed to know to make the film as real as possible.
Chef Roy jumped right in as the culinary and technical advisor and put Mr. Favreau through an intense training period.
“It was more like a boot camp,” the actor said. “Roy said I ate like a 9-year-old boy, because I had this whole list of things that I wouldn’t eat. I wanted to show I was serious about this thing because a chef will taste anything and eat anything especially if it’s being served to them by somebody. That’s because it’s a medium, it’s an exchange.”
Together, the duo created kitchen scenes that ring true, and will certainly resonate with many of our professional cooking friends. Chef Roy shared everything, from the proper choreography and etiquette in a professional kitchen to the proper knives to use and when. The degree of authenticity they achieved alone makes this film worth your time and trouble.
And most important, the passion and dedication required to be successful in today’s culinary scene shines through.
Note: There is a free online cookbook available with Chef Roy Choi’s recipes for the movie at www.bakespace.com, no need to sign up for free access to the book. Bonus tip: Make sure you stay for the credits, it will be worth your while.
We rate this a must-see film for all foodies and anyone who enjoys a good film.
And for those of you inspired to start your own truck … Ms. Lakendra Lewis will have all the information you need in the August/September issue! Also see page 53 in the June/July issue for the recipe to make the perfect Cubano sandwich.