The New American Chef: Cooking with the Best of Flavors and Techniques from Around the World
November 2003, ©2003
In this book, the authors explore the ingredients and cuisines that inspire chefs across the country. Aspiring chefs will learn to understand the ingredients, flavors, cooking techniques, and classical dishes from 10 different cuisines- Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Moroccan, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.
MEET THE NEW AMERICAN CHEF.
CELEBRATING THE SEASONS THROUGH ALL THE SENSES.
While seasonality is a popular culinary touchstone throughout the world, the Japanese take their celebration of the seasons beyond the selection of produce in the market to the consideration of the flowers on the table, the types of bowls and plates used for serving the food, and the linens that dress the table. Seasonality is observed in every aspect of their lives—from the fabric of their clothing to the art on their walls.
PROCURING THE BEST INGREDIENTS.
The word “recipe” in Italian means “to procure”—and indeed, the most important aspect of good food in Italy starts with selecting the right ingredients. Learning to be as discriminating as an Italian chef will hold you in good stead when selecting ingredients from any part of the world.
LETTING INGREDIENTS TASTE OF WHAT THEY ARE.
While many countries are capable of serving and appreciating unadorned food, nowhere but in Spain is th is taken to such an extreme. The classic dishes of Spain are the simplest ones that let the natural flavors of the ingredients shine through. It is the only country whose regions are actually named after dishes: stews, roasts, rice, and fried foods.
WESTERN TECHNIQUES AND SAVOIR FAIRE.
The French contributed a codification of recipes and techniques to professional cooking, which is why most American cooking schools teach French technique. These techniques are timeless and consistent, and mastering the classics will give your cooking a solid foundation upon which to build.
EASTERN TECHNIQUES AND A YIN-YANG BALANCE.
The underlying philosophy of Chinese cuisine is rooted in the concept of yin-yang: a constant balance. Balance in Chinese cuisine is raised to an art form, both within a single dish, as well as among dishes on a menu. Understanding the concept of yin-yang and how to apply it to your cooking—in any vernacular—will make you a better chef.
THE MASTERFUL USE OF SPICES.
No other cuisine is as well known for spices as Indian. India consumes more spices per capita than any other nation on earth. From subtle to powerful Indian spicing is a force to be reckoned with—whether flavoring meats in the North or vegetarian dishes in the South—as well as a skill to be mastered.
WHERE CHILES REIGN SUPREME.
While chiles are an important part of cuisines elsewhere in the world, in Mexico they play the starring role: as a flavoring agent, as a condiment, as a vegetable, and more. Dish for dish, Mexicans manage to coax more flavor out of fresh and dried chiles than any other cooks on earth—indeed, Mexico’s very cuisine would not be the same without them.
BALANCING STRONG FLAVORS AND AROMATICS.
While in other countries a dish might first be appreciated with the eyes, in Thailand it is first appreciated through its scintillating aromas. No other cuisine employs aromatics as effectively as does Thai, and the intense sensory experience continues with the first bite, when the salty, sour, fiery, and sweet flavors begin their dance on the palate.
ENCOURAGING TACTILE AND TASTEFUL INTERACTION.
While the mark of culinary perfection elsewhere is the absence of salt and pepper on the table, in Vietnam, dishes are frequently served with a dizzying array of condiments—whether sauces, sprouts, and herbs for a dish of pho to lettuce leaves and a bowl of dipping sauce accompanying a plate of hot spring rolls. It is the diner’s own seasoning and preparation that completes the dish and the experience.
FEASTING IN COMFORT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
All countries have their celebrations and festivals, but in Morocco, feasting is a way of life. Their mealtime rituals—from hand-washing to lounging on cushions and pillows—all underscore the importance they place on their sensual enjoyment of food.
DISTINGUISHED CULINARY EXPERTS.
They live in New York City and can be found online at www.newamericanchef.com.
Michael Donnelly is a New York based photographer whose work has appeared in Gourmet, House & Garden, Travel & Leisure, and the World of Interiors.
- Chronicles new "global cuisine" in a familiar, passionate, and lively style.
- Features 100 approachable recipes for professionals and serious food enthusiasts.
- Provides interviews with the industry's leading chefs, food authorities, and food critics, including Jane and Michael Stern, Jean Georges Vongerichten, Paula Wolfert, Norman Van Aken, and many others.
Their analysis of the current culinary situation hits the nail on the head. "Whereas a young professional cook may have had the opportunity in years past to develop a solid grounding in classic technique (most frequently French) before branching off into multiethnic experimentation, today the same cook has to work from day one with an extraordinarily wide variety of ingredients and techniques," they write. "The widespread availability of international ingredients has outpaced our ability to assimilate them into our daily cooking. This represents both a major opportunity and a major challenge for the New American chef."
Few full service restaurant operators or, especially, restaurant critics would argue against Dornenburg's and Page's thesis.
This book is designed to fill the ever-widening information gap. And while it seems like an impossibly large topic to cover, this clever duo devised a format that distills the essentials of 10 influential cuisines (Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Moroccan, Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese) into digestible lessons for the reader.
Each chapter begins with a lengthy profile of a particular country's cuisine, with key fundamentals spelled out via interviews with respected chefs and cookbook authors. Then come recipes (one hundred in all for the book) that enable the reader to tackle the lessons just learned. Dozens of celebrity chefs dot the roster of contributors.
"We've narrowed down the gist of what you need to know about each cuisine in order to retain its spirit in your cooking," Dornenburg and Page say. "In thirty pages per cuisine, we can make you feel like you have just taken an immersion course in that cuisine and our experts will enable you to better reproduce its food and its spirit in your kitchen."
What a godsend. This book will be of value to just about anyone who works in the back of the house or write a menu cooked there. (Restaurant Hospitality, December 2003)
"The New American Chef...explores flavors and techniques in the words of the chefs themselves" —Gael Greene (New York, December 22, 2003)