Moonstruck by Master Chocolatier, Julian Rose

French Canadian Julian Rose is a master chocolatier and the director of research & development for Portland’s Moonstruck Chocolates. Julian is classically trained both in pastry and confections and is a highly regarded authority on chocolate. Dessert Professional magazine recently named him one of the top ten chocolatiers in North America.

I reached out to Julian, hoping to snag a list of his most influential cookbooks. His response was brief and the book choices weighed heavily on molecular gastronomy. While science is a major component for confectioners, his list surprised me. I arranged a call with Julian, hoping to learn more about him and the motivations behind his list.

Julian turned to molecular gastronomy…seeking “a complete approach to food.”

“It’s a conscious decision.”

In school, he found instructors offered insufficient answers to his questions, “We do it this way because…that’s what you do.”

“I wanted to understand why things worked—not ‘just because.’” He adds, “I don’t push molecular gastronomy, but it’s the foundation of the way food reacts.”

Julian is quick to acknowledge that molecular gastronomy has its pros and cons. “It’s a mistake to do 100% molecular gastronomy.” Balancing science and traditional technique, he emphasizes, “You need to put your soul into it the food.”

After graduating from culinary school, Julian specifically sought out mentors who would explain pastry techniques in depth. While he admired their knowledge, he adds, “Their jobs were easier because they understood the food.”

“Every chef has access to the same ingredients—some pull it off better than others.” Why? It’s in the science.

Mentor Jacques Belanger was a master craftsman in France, and taught specialty classes at the culinary academy. “I took four of his classes. He was approachable and down-to-earth. Happy to share information—a quality I admired.” As Julian explains, he developed entire classes on eggs. “It was fascinating!” Belanger emphasized that timing was critical. When eggs were added to a dish had an effect on the final products’ structure. “For example, egg yolks cook differently than egg whites.”

Turning to his list of books, Julian notes a self-titled copy by Paco Torreblanca. “Paco cooks for the king and queen of Spain and he’s very generous with recipes.” His voice builds with a harnessed enthusiasm, “I asked him for his very best chocolate cake and he gave it to me!”

While some chefs are notoriously secretive with their recipes, Julian takes an opposing view, “Sharing [recipes] makes you better. It’s out there for the world…and it pushes you to be better.”

Julian sheds light on Paco’s career. “He used to be a culinary chef but he didn’t derive pleasure from it. Pacco is very exact and he wasn’t getting satisfaction from being a culinary chef. But in baking, there’s a big difference between 10 milligrams and 15.

Because of his culinary background, he has an interesting approach to pastry. He uses flavor associations that are very different--utilizing herbs and savory spices.”

He continues, “Paco’s presentations are also very naked and yet delicate in the way he holds back. For example, he uses a crystallized branch of rosemary on a cake. You open the box and get a whiff of rosemary. It creates a desire and you immediately want to eat the cake.

Everything Paco does is spot on—there’s nothing neglected. For example, his boxes are black with a small window so you can see a tiny view of what’s inside. It’s the right box. Everything is spot on. For him, there is no other way. From the moment he gets up in the morning, he’s a professional. He would not do less, because he would not be satisfied.”

Within the context of food, Julian says, “I am both a sculptor and a painter.” Exposing the vulnearable nature of the artist, he adds, “Inside, you’re never happy with what you express on the outside. It never comes to life exactly the way you wanted it to be—the perfect expression.”

Julian picks up momentum and sums, “There’s a fine line between ‘artists’ and ‘chefs.’” It’s the creative drive that fuels the passion. “You have to be an artist to be in this business.”

Traca’s note: I’m intrigued by the process of moving from idea to expression and I asked Julian, “How do you capture your ideas?”

“I carry a voice recorder with me.” His voice trails off. “Sometimes I get inspired standing on the corner of a street. I used to try remembering those bits of inspiration and by the time I put pen to paper, it was lost. A friend of mine bought me that tape recorder and I carry it with me everywhere. So when I’m standing on a street corner…or wherever I am, I can capture those ideas. I play back the tape and record those ideas in my notebook.

When I have a dry spell, it’s a source of inspiration.”

Most Influential Books:

Fine Chocolate, Great Experience by Jean-Pierre Wybauw This is a wonderful book on fine chocolate and one of the first books to explore the science of chocolate on all facets.

Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This This one is not exactly a cook book but a food science book with in depth relations to food transformation. Herve This is the grandfather of molecular cuisine and trend setter!

The Science of the Oven by Herve This This is a great book exploring the science behind cooking. It has the fundamental explanations on how food reacts to heat and cold.

Taste Buds and Molecules by Francois Chartier This is a book exploring the taste buds and how the perceive flavors. Then by taking a given wine, tells you how to compose a flavor association in a menu. (French, not available in English. Read comments here.)

Paco Torreblanca by Paco Torreblanca This recipe book is a very progressive pastry bible from one of Europe’s best pastry chefs from Spain. Paco has a natural sense of aesthetics and flavor association like no one else!


Master Chocolatier and Director of Research & Development
Moonstruck Chocolate Co.

World-renowned chef Julian Rose joined Portland-based Moonstruck Chocolate Co. as its Master Chocolatier and Director of Research and Development in October 2007. Chef Rose is a classically educated pastry chef and confectioner who is known the world over as an authority on chocolate, and he brings more than 25 years of experience to his position with Moonstruck Chocolate Co.

As Master Chocolatier and Director of R&D at Moonstruck Chocolate Co., Rose is responsible for developing new products, refining existing ones and ensuring the utmost quality of the entire Moonstruck Chocolate Co. product line, which includes chocolates, beverages and pastries.

Rose came to Moonstruck Chocolate Co. from the world of private consulting following a seven-year stint at large European chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut. Rose served as Callebaut’s North American Technical Advisor, as well as Director of Callebaut’s Chocolate Academy in Canada. In these roles,Rose taught and demonstrated the subtle secrets of chocolate to the best pastry chefs, confectioners and culinary instructors throughout the U.S.,Canada and Mexico.

Rose was born and raised in Montreal, where his family owned a well-known and well-regarded pastry shop, “Patisserie Rose,” for nearly 40 years. Rose began working in the shop at a young age and in 1980 decided to formalize his education, enrolling in the pastry program at the prestigious Institut de tourisme et d’hotellerie du Quebec (ITHQ). After graduating with honors,Rose took over the pastry chef positions at two restaurants in Montreal while continuing to work in his family’s pastry shop on weekends. In 1984, he returned to ITHQ to attend the chocolate and confectionary program, continuing his never-ending quest to perfect his craft.

Shortly after, Rose began a private consulting business that counted Barry Callebaut as a client, and in 2000 he went to work for Callebaut. Since joining Moonstruck Chocolate Co., he has created a number of acclaimed new products, including the company’s first Sea Salt Caramels, the unique Chocolate Moonsticks and the politically themed Election Collection ’08, featuring truffles handcrafted in the shapes of donkeys and elephants.

Judging the Tasty Awards

While celebrity chefs have become a household names, behind the scenes, there's an army of people who make the magic happen -- television execs, style editors, designers, producers, podcasters, and vidbloggers. And now, finally, the spotlight is on them.

2010 launches the 1st Annual TASTY Awards, honoring the best achievements in food, wine and style programming.

Where else can you get Tony Bourdain/Alton Brown/Andrew Zimmerman/Tim Gunn/Ming Tsai/Guy Fieri smackdown???

I'm honored to be on the judging panel for this award.

But wait! You can jump in on the action too:

- Vote
in the Viewer's Choice Awards.

- And if you want to attend the splashy gala festivities in San Francisco...rubbing elbows with the likes of Tyler Florence and producers from No Reservations, purchase tickets here.

Mark your calendars, people. Winners will be revealed on January 14th!

In the Words of "Mr. Spain," Gerry Dawes

This post is part of a series called: Books That Paved the Way, highlighting culinary luminaries and the books that influenced their careers.

In the days leading up to
The Worlds of Flavor Conference, I received a note from Gerry Dawes. A hearty welcome followed a congenial, “Stop and say hello!” Little did I know, that generous nod was from the foremost authority on Spanish food & wine. Gerry has a long list of accolades--including the first to introduce American readers to maestro of molecular gastronomy Ferran Adrià--but industry folks call him simply, “Mr. Spain.”

At the conference, Gerry led a compelling discussion on Spanish stre
et food. Through images and stories, he artfully crafted a culinary sense of place, taking us on an insider’s nosh through Barcelona’s largest indoor market, Boquería. Gerry drove home the importance of both terroir and the people, leaving little to wonder why Spanish cuisine is one of the hottest culinary trends.

When I approached Gerry about his most influential books, his response revealed a wealth of information…and more than a few surprises. Generously peppered with autobiographical insight, Gerry’s words read like an arm wrapped around your shoulder, guiding you to the good stuff.

Influential Cookbooks for a “Self-taught” Cook

by Gerry Dawes©2009

First off, I rarely use cookbooks, I fly without instruments most of the time. Between the Korean produce market five miles away in Ramsey, NJ, which also has fish and shellfish, and the local supermarkets around Suffern, NY, where I live, I cook from the lay of the land, picking out what vegetables, etc. look best, then I put them together in ever-changing combinations, even when I am alone and not cooking for Kay, my SE (Spousal Equivalent).

Breakfast might include scrambled eggs with chopped scallions or leeks, red peppers, little cubes of eggplant, jalapeño and/or habanero peppers and the finished dish will be topped with grated cheese and freshly ground black pepper. I often accompany this with Mexican salsa, Spanish chorizo and cherry tomatoes quick-sautéed with jalapeños, garlic and cilantro or Italian polenta on the side. When I make my own salsa (like gazpacho, in season only), I use Rick Bayless’s basic salsa recipe (I add cooked corn, fresh-cut from the cob) from his excellent Mexican Kitchen cookbook, but that salsa is for margarita time–my World’s Best Margaritas require a signed disclaimer and the recipe [self-developed from Taxco, Mexico; from a Mexican doctor friend from Morella and from Maria’s Mexican Kitchen in Santa Fe and using Torres Licor de Naranja from Spain]. The recipe is so secret that I would have to kill you if I told you all of it. For the civilian version of my margarita recipe, see the book Peace, Love and Barbecue--written by Mike Mills and his daughter, Amy Mills Tunnicliffe–with some authentic down-home barbecue recipes for dishes to keep your drinks company.

Dinner might be Spanish rosemary-and-thyme-and-olive oil basted, grilled rib lamb chops with all-i-oil or roasted chicken breasts with sherry, leeks, lime juice, cilantro, garlic and Spanish extra virgin olive oil, served with a melange of quick-sautéed vegetables (last night it was cherry tomatoes, red peppers, scallions, eggplant and parsley) and Yukon gold fingerling potatoes boiled Canary Islands style with lots of salt in the water so they come out like papas arrugadas. But, since I couldn’t want to make the classic Canarias mojo (I was out of fresh cilantro), I used yogurt mixed with Dijon mustard, black pepper and drained Spanish capers as a sauce for the papas. That and a glass of Casal Novo Mencía, a delicious red wine from Galicia with moderate alcohol and no oak, was dinner. Lunch is often leftovers or a can of Progresso soup doctored up with sherry, grated cheese and sometimes Oriental chili sauce.

Several cookbooks influenced me and helped me develop my shoot-from-the-hip style. One in particular was Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking, which I first encountered in the early 1970s when I was living in Southern Spain and just learning how to cook on a counter top, Butano gas-fired, two-burner affair at our fairy-tale apartment ($56 a month) in Sevilla’s jasmine-, orange blossom- and dama de noche-scented, sound-of-Sevillanas-permeated, Barrio de Santa Cruz (The Old Jewish Quarter), where I spent parts of almost six years and in Mijas, an artist’s village overlooking the Costa del Sol, where I lived for nearly three years more.

When I first opened Elizabeth David’s book, I wondered, “Who is this crazy English woman?” She was often imprecise in her measurements--which I was to discover is only of deadly importance in pastry cooking--so she left one guessing just how big a glass of wine, etc. to add to a dish. But, by cooking a few of her recipes–her beurre blanc is still my benchmark–I realized that I was getting a feel for what the dish should be like and that the rules were not that rigid. It was indeed cooking a bit intuitively with Ms. David as your guide (when you try to teach children how to ride a bicycle, you don’t hold on to the seat of the bike, you hold onto the child’s shoulders, so they soon learn to keep the bike balanced–cooking is much that way, learning balance that does not come from rigidity.) I made a number of recipes from French Provincial Cooking, but it was the lessons the book taught that stayed with me longer than the Daube Provençal.

Also, when I was living in Southern Spain in the early 1970s, my former wife, Diana and I, acquired Julia Child’s The French Chef Cookbook with that awful television photo on the front. I was very skeptical at first until I began cooking whole fancy meals from that book and found out that Julia was indeed the real deal. (I had several memorable casual enconters with Julia years later at food events, but one of the best was having drinks with her at Ducasse in Manhattan and having her autograph that now tattered, dog-eared, well-used copy of The French Chef Cookbook and telling her how she had helped teach us to cook.)

Still in the French vein, Waverly Root’s marvelous The Food of France, was an excellent overview of French regional food, fine writing and a very good read. Although in the intervening years, I have come to believe that Spanish modernized regional cuisine is on a par with that of France, writing about Spanish food in English has seldom reached the level of Elizabeth David or Waverly Root.

The American cookbooks that influenced me most and contributed to my modest cooking style, once I moved to New York, were The James Beard Cookbook and James Beard’s Fish Cookery, both of which have great recipes and teach the user good fundamentals. And The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet cookbook, spun out of columns written by Bryan Miller with recipes developed by Pierre Franey, not only had great appeal because of their time frame for cooking a complete meal, the recipes were often exceptional.

Since I am supposed to be a Spanish food freak, I should get on to the Spanish cookbooks and food books that have had the greatest influence on me. First off, kudos to Penelope Casas, whose The Foods and Wines of Spain; Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain, etc. were for years the benchmarks in English in the United States for anyone seeking to learn about Spanish Cuisine. And, if you can find a copy, The Cooking of Spain and Portugal (Time-Life Series), which Peter S. Feibleman did an excellent job editing and putting together, was (and still is) superb for authentic, quintessential recipes for such Spanish classic dishes as gazpacho, paella, cocido madrileño, etc.

One monumental influence, the impossible-to-find, self-published classic, Adventures in Taste: The Wines and Folk Food of Spain will always be near the top of my list. In 1972, Donn Pohren, a Minneapolis-born American who lived in Spain for decades and was the world's greatest foreign expert on flamenco, published this idiosyncratic underground classic, which outlined wine-and-food trips all over Spain and included specific restaurants and tapas bars, mentioning specific dishes, for which he often included the recipe obtained from that establishment.

I was living in southern Spain when I first encountered Pohren's book (privately printed in Spain) soon after it was published and it had a profound effect on me. At first, I merely wanted to have some of the wine and food experiences that Pohren had described, but I soon found myself cooking from his authentic regional recipes, including pollo or conejo al ajillo (garlic chicken or rabbit), pochas con perdiz or codorniz (white cranberry bean-like bean stew with partridge or quail) and the inforgettable, undoubtedly Moorish-influenced, Málaga mountain-village dish, caldereta de chivo (a kid [goat] dish with kid’s liver, garlic and the juice of two lemons). In the early years, I never traveled without Adventures in Taste. Soon, I was having new experiences of my own, using Pohren’s book and James A. Michener’s Iberia as my compass, which led me to a multitude of adventures that provided me with the platform from which I eventually became a widely published writer on Spanish wine and food and a recognized authority in the field.

And, when I was living in Mijas, I came to know Janet Mendel, who wrote a food column for Lookout magazine and subsequently published a number of books using recipes obtained from the regional cooks she encountered, most of them in Andalucía. Her Cooking in Spain; Traditional Spanish Cooking; Great Dishes From Spain; and My Kitchen in Spain are an important body of work on the traditional cuisines of Spain. In the early years, her books were not available in the United States, but now they are and I highly recommend them for anyone who seeks to understand the basics behind good Spanish regional cooking.

Anya Von Bremzen’s The New Spanish Table also should be on anyone’s bookshelf. And, if you can find remaindered or used copies of Könemann’s Culinaria Spain, buy every copy you can lay your hands on and give them as gifts. The articles (by several authors) and photographs are exceptional. Just the chapter on the little-known cuisine, cheese and wines of the Canary Islands is worth the cost of the book alone.

The last two books on my “short” list come from my dear friend, Teresa Barrenechea, who for nearly a decade cooked at her Marichu restaurants in New York, the Spanish restaurants that I frequent most in this country. Barrenechea’s The Basque Table, her first book (which also contains classic Spanish recipes common to other regions of Spain), and her The Cuisines of Spain: Exploring Regional Home Cooking are musts for anyone serious about Spanish cooking.

Though some of my cooking style came from cookbooks in the early years, most of what I picked up comes from cooks like the great chef, Raúl Aleixandre, of Valencia’s Ca Sento, who taught me how to cook shellfish; Doña María (my Spanish “mother”), whose gazpacho recipe is still tops; and people like Manolo Pérez Pascuas of Viña Pedrosa in Ribera del Duero and Basilio Izquierdo in La Rioja, who taught me that the only real way to have baby lamb rib chops is grilled over grapevine cuttings.

And there are a multitude of restaurants and tapas bars around Spain, working with impeccable, locally available products that are so good that it is futile to try to duplicate them by using their recipes at home. Nothing done out of a cookbook can duplicate the terroir of rodaballo (turbot) grilled whole over coals on an outdoor grill at Elkano or Kaia in Getaria (Basque country); arros con conejo y caracoles (thin-layer rice cooked in a paella with wild rabbit and wild snails that having been put with fresh rosemary branches) at Casa Elias in a tiny Alicante pueblo; or Albert Asín’s addictive mongetes (beans) with a squirt of balsamic vinegar at Pinotxo and Quím Marqués fried artichokes at Quím de la Boquería, both in Barcelona’s sensational Boquería market. To have these dishes, it is preferable to beg, borrow or steal to get back to these places–and many more around Spain–to have the “real thing” and let those cooks who have mastered these dishes do what no cookbook can really do: Make you believe in magic!

!Buen Provecho!



Gerry Dawes is a New York-based writer/photographer specializing in Spain. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. In 2003, he was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award). Dawes was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés.

Sharing Our Strength

This post is in conjunction with Share our Strength, and the 12 Days of Sharing campaign to end child hunger.

Jennifer Perillo has organized an all-star team of bloggers sharing their favorite holiday recipes, and a drool-worthy list of giveaways (the Wusthof knife set is calling me!) Check out these fabulous recipes in the Virtual Cookie Jar and please, drop a donation in the bucket. One in four children are hungry in America.

As a child, the financial state of my family ebbed far more than it flowed. We were in serious jeopardy more than once. I’d like to think I was oblivious to the trouble, but it was difficult to hide. Constant worrying manifested itself physically. My mother suffered from bleeding ulcers and ongoing back problems most of my life. Hurt and frustration turned to anger and individually, we comforted ourselves the best we could.

My brother and I earned extra money by delivering newspapers. He took the morning route, and I covered afternoons and weekends. Winters, he shoveled snow for money, and I sold Girl Scout cookies to secure a free trip to camp.

In the early years, my mom was on the career track. That came to an abrupt end the summer I was six. I was at the babysitter’s house…and fell from a tree. I dropped 16 feet and landed on my back. Rushed to the hospital, they did exploratory surgery, checking for internal bleeding. E-rays confirmed a broken vertebra in my back. I was hospitalized, and then strapped in a brace for 6 months. Before I left the hospital, I also contracted the chicken pox. My mother was forced to quit her job and nursed me back to health. From that point on, babysitters were out of the question. Mom worked only while we were in school, and never in the summers.

I’ll never forget the day I rode my bike to the bank. Depositing funds from my paper route, the teller passed my savings book across the cool marble counter and I proudly checked my balance. My entire savings had been wiped out! The teller offered little explanation other than, “The numbers don’t lie.”

I cried all the way home, falling into my mother’s arms, wailing, “The bank stole my money!”

After the sobbing subsided, she explained what happened. We shared a joint account and in desperation, she withdrew the money to pay taxes on our house. There was no alternative. I was 10, maybe 11, but I’ll never forget that look on her face. I can’t imagine what went through her mind. Embarrassed and ashamed, she vowed to pay me back, somehow.

We knew lean times….but we never went hungry. I’m sure it was close sometimes.

After my humble background, my life in food seems quite ridiculous sometimes. While foodies debate the merits of grass fed vs. grain fed, fair trade vs. locovore and declare “I’m so over pork belly and truffles.” The fact of the matter is, these are choices of luxury.

When there’s a rumble in your belly and the cupboards are bare…the situation becomes dire. I know. Our house in the suburbs with the perfectly manicured lawn hid many secrets.

In the richest country in the world, hunger is far more prevalent than you might imagine. And that is why I’m proud to join Share Our Strength’s mission to end child hunger in America.

Can you help?

With Share Our Strength’s buying power, $25 can make a significant impact. Skip one night out on the town and donate to a worthy cause…The price of one entrée, can help end child hunger.



Chocolate Crinkles

When times were flush, mom made these Chocolate Crinkles. Rolled in powdered sugar, they expand when baked, creating snowflake patterns against a chocolaty background. Mom would pack them in shirt boxes, lined with tissue. Stacked in our garage through the frozen Midwest winter, the cookie-laden boxes would last for weeks. My brother and I became quite stealthy, sneaking into the garage for “just one more…” Word of warning…drifting powdered sugar may leave tell-tale evidence on your chest!

Makes about 72

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Stir together oil, chocolate and granulated sugar. Blend in one egg at a time until well

mixed. Add vanilla. Stir flour, baking powder, and salt into oil mixture. Chill several hours or overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into confectioner's sugar. Roll in sugar; shape into balls. Place about 2" apart on greased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Update: This post was profiled on Food News Journal's Best of the Blogs, December 18, 2009.

Jon Rowley's Quest for Flavor

Flavor guru, Jon Rowley

This is the first installment of a series called:
Books That Paved the Way, highlighting culinary luminaries and the books that influenced their careers.

Jon Rowley's humble and unassuming nature reveals little about the man who has dedicated himself to a life in food. Tirelessly working in the background, going wherever good flavor takes him, Jon's influence reverberates across the culinary landscape. From oysters to peaches, Jon's quest for flavor--and how it's achieved, has taken him around the world. Saveur Magazine named him "America's Disciple of Flavor" and if you ever heard of Copper River Salmon, Jon's the reason why.

This summer I received a lesson in umami...hovered over a strawberry patch. The mission? Shuksan strawberries. As Jon explained, the berries--ruby red through to the center, were too fragile for retail viability but yield the quintessential "strawberry" flavor. Used largely for commercial purposes, Shuksans represent the gold standard for strawberries. Haagen Daz corners a large share of the market, but if you're lucky....and you know where to find them, Shuksans are an incredible flavor experience. They're ripe just two weeks a year, so when Jon says, "Meet me in a strawberry field at 8:00 AM," I drop everything and go!

Books That Paved the Way:

1. Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji.
Fabulous introduction by MFK Fisher. Well organized by technique. Easy to follow. Results oriented. Each recipe imparts Japanese food aesthetics and culture in appealing, low-key manner.

2. Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher.
A recipe for life but many good and entertaining oyster recipes.

3. The Unprejudiced Palate by Angelo Pellegrini,with afterword by M.F. K. Fisher.
Most influential book for me. Recipe for life. Teaches how to approach cooking and eating rather than actual recipes.

4. Joy of Cooking (the original). by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. Indispensable, wide-ranging American classic. Well-researched, dependable. Been with me since I started cooking.

5. A Well-Seasoned Appetite: Recipes for the Eating with the Seasons, The Senses and the Soul by Molly O'Neil.
I like this book for the recipes and writing but especially for the title. Just having it prominently on my kitchen shelf inspires and reminds me what I am about.


Working with farmers and fishermen, restaurants and retailers, Jon Rowley’s career has been a life-long exploration and quest to improve the quality, flavor, and understanding of fish, shellfish, fruits and vegetables. He and David Lett have been the only Northwest inductees into the prestigious James Beard “Who’s Who of Cooking Professionals in America”. He was named on the 2008 SAVEUR Top 100 List, is a member of the Shaw’s Crab House Oyster Hall of Fame in Chicago, is the founding member of the Chicago Historical Society, recipient of the Seattle Weekly’s Angelo Pellegrini Award and served as Contributing Editor of Gourmet magazine. (

Catch Jon on Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth, Episode Two, airing next week.

Introducing: Books That Paved the Way

My journey through food has been inspired…and aided by the best in the business. While struggling to find my path, I received guidance and a bit of nurturing at every turn. Whether it was a heart-to-heart conversation by phone, or the invaluable legacies written on the page…the art of nourishing both mind and belly is not something these folks take lightly, and for that, I am grateful.

As Zora O’Neil’s mother says, “Mi corazon es gordo.”

My heart is fat.

On a whim, I sent note to friends and colleagues. “What are you five most influential books?” Inspired by numerous conversations, I was particularly interested in which books shaped their ideas about food, and what impact it had on them. Chefs, authors, publishers, and photographers from around the globe generously shared their thoughts. The result…is nothing short of astonishing.

And so, it is with a fat heart that today marks a new series here at Seattle Tall Poppy….Books that Paved the Way. Among these words of wisdom, I hope you find a bit of insight, a heafty dose of inspiration and above all, a fat heart.

Julia Usher's Cookie Swap

Once upon a time, I aspired to become a professional baker. I read stacks of books, took classes from the best in the biz, and staged at a well-known bakery. Before long, I realized baking for business and baking for pleasure are two very different things….

While that dream went on the back burner, it’s not entirely extinguished. How do I know? I cracked open Julia Usher’s Cookie Swap and whoosh! Before I knew it, my grocery cart was loaded with 10 pounds of butter. Preheat the oven….I’m ready!

Like me, Julia’s career has taken some twists and turns. While she holds a degree in mechanical engineering (Yale University) and an MBA (Stanford University), eventually, she ditched the corporate job and opened a successful bakery in St. Louis. Precision and an analytical mindset has served her well. Detailed, but delicious wedding cakes and fanciful desserts were at the heart of her business.

Her first book, Cookie Swap: Creative Treats to Share Throughout the Year, was released in August 2009. It’s already in its fifth printing…and for good reason.

Usher’s book is like no other.

In another life, I imagine she and Julia Child would have been good friends. Usher is obsessive about the details…and the benefit is all ours. Cookie Swap is jam-packed with tips. The opening pages include notes on working with the seven basic cookie types (bar, drop, hand-shaped, icebox, pressed or piped, rolled and sandwiched). And the spreadsheet-style resource guide is an invaluable resource.

The photos are shot in scene-scape sets that give the likes of Sandra Lee and Martha Stewart a bad name, but if you’re secretly a closet crafter, Cookie Swap offers inspiration galore! While I can honestly say, I’ve never had a desire to build a wreath out of sugar cookies, or make a gingerbread house (haunted or otherwise), step by step, Usher makes the fanciful…approachable. (Note: Beginning on page 152, Usher includes an insightful overview on eleven cutout cookie decorating techniques—marbling, flooding, beadwork, appliqué…it’s all there.)

Not the crafty type? Me either. Usher approaches her recipes with the same meticulous detail, offering a broad selection of cookies—including a few surprises. (I must confess…yes! I want to make those marshmallow Peeps.)

Flavor profiles range from kid-friendly to sophisticated (Lemon-Thyme Bon Bons.) Buttery with a hit of citrus, the Orange Shortbread, a component on the Tiers of Joy cookie-cum-wedding cake, was delicious on its own. And the Bourbon-infused Eggnog Cheesecake Streusel Bars are a holiday hit.

Beyond all the window dressing, Cookie Swap, offers solid recipes with insightful tips on technique. And if you’re up for luster dust and gilding shortbread lily? Julia Usher’s your guide.

Interview with Momofuku Chef David Chang

David Chang, pictured with Serious Eats writer, Leslie Kelly

The brainchild behind New York’s hottest restaurant group, Momofuku, was in town. On tour with his first book, David Chang fielded questions from a group of reporters at Mark Fuller’s restaurant, Spring Hill. (Props to Kim Rickett’s Cooks & Books for organizing the event.)

While David spoke, we were treated to dishes from the book. As the first course arrived, he noted “It’s surreal having someone else make your food.”

Prior to his visit, research on David ran the gamut from “One Who Drops F* Bombs” (as a cook, is that really surprising?) to a deep sense of humility. Among the reviews, the common thread was an uncanny reverence.

I posed the question on Twitter, “What’s the big deal about David Chang?” The response confirmed: chef worship.

Call me suspicious, but I didn’t see the point in worshiping a guy whose restaurant is 2,000 miles away. After our me a convert! I heart David Chang….here’s why:

Writing fast & furious, my notes from our group chat....

Why did you write the cookbook?

My first thought was, “We have to document this because I don’t think we’ll be around in a year!”

Tell me about how your develop recipes. I understand you have a group of cooks who e-mail each other recipe ideas.

We hit our sweet spot with that about a year ago.”

“Our cooks are constantly talking about food and ripping ideas apart. It’s not just criticism for the sake of criticism--you have to have logical approach to why a dish will or won’t work.”

As we’ve grown, the group [who weighs in on new recipes] has gotten larger. Everyone is contributing to the group and eventually, it splintered off into smaller groups.

“The creative process is a big struggle. It’s not just about new ideas, but improving existing ideas. It’s frustrating when people stop critiquing ideas that have already been accepted.”

As we’ve gotten bigger, it’s been difficult. We now have 300 employees and will be opening our 5th restaurant soon.

“We need to be our own harshest critic. There’s always a way to make it better.”

“If we just meet expectations, we’ve failed.”

When [New York Times Food Critic Frank] Bruni came in…I said, “Who cares?” We have a level of accountability on the team. I want our standards higher than a Michelin three-star restaurant. When Bruni leaves our restaurant, I want him to think, “Good Lord, what the fuck just happened?”

“Having high standards has always been synonymous with fine dining. Why? Why not us? Why not now?”

Ko is a 12-seat restaurant. We have a duck dish on the menu that’s dried for 24 days. We make forcemeat out of the legs and stuff it under the skin. The duck is then roasted and basted on a spit. As a diner, you see the meat roasting…and by the time the meat course is ready, the duck is done.

That dish is a good example of our collaboration process. I presented it as a challenge [to the cooks]. The staff came up with that technique and I thought, “Why didn’t I think of it?” It’s incredible!

Any foods you don’t like?

“I’ll try anything once, but I really don’t like farmed salmon.”

[In the book, he profiles meat/bacon purveyor Allan Benton.] How did you find him?

I was at an event and I tried his bacon. “Good Lord, what is that?! Who is this? Where did you get it? Oh my God!”

“I don’t even think I asked. I went into the walk-in and stole myself a slab of bacon!”

For all of our purveyors, if I can’t visit the farm, I want as much information as possible. When I asked Allan to send me some information, I got a ripped piece of butcher paper. It was an incredibly long letter—in pencil. I thought, “You’re the man!”

Allan became instrumental in our food. His bacon is deep and smoky…“Allan’s bacon is a real slap in the face. We use it as a flavoring agent—like a flavoring vehicle. It allowed us to open new doors in terms of what we were serving.”

His story should be told. He also makes country smoked ham. It’s a unique product and I’ve grown to appreciate it. It’s like jazz or baseball. It’s American & we need to support it. There’s nothing like country smoked ham.

Momofuku's signature dish: pork buns. What is it about them that resonates with people?

It was an 11th hour dish added to our first menu. I don’t know what the appeal is, but I do know…I’ve seen more vegetarians converted off that dish! It’s a riff on Peking duck. At the time, I had no idea that steamed red was so prevalent in China.

[That dish is] about creativity and working within the limitations of what you have. We had 600 square feet. The menu was limited to ramen, pork belly and pork shoulder. We had to outsource the buns. But in that limited space, we came up with different variations on the pork bun---deep fried, buns with eggs. We had all these mushrooms, so we created a mushroom bun. We had all these chicharrones…

At the restaurant, we have a bun station and they do nothing but make buns all night. I don’t care who it is—everyone starts out there. If they don’t work there, we weed them out. It’s one of the most important stations.

Cooks on TV. What’s your take on it?

“I didn’t start cooking to be on TV.”

I know why certain chefs do it—they do it to put asses in seats. Those shows (like Iron Chef) are so important to keep restaurants busy.

“Alex Lee is probably one of the greatest chefs in America, and he’s one of the most intimidating people. Alex lost to Cat Cora! That’s TV.”

“They should have a show on why [Alex Lee] is so important. But it’s TV and there’s not a vehicle for that right now. I understand it, but I also have the flexibility to say ‘no.’ If the right opportunity presented itself, sure, I’m interested.”

“I already feel like I’m becoming a caricature of myself. I want people to learn. I’m struggling [with TV] – I know it will open doorways for people. I’m just saying, if I do it, I hope it’s the right call.”

When Heston Blumenthal agreed to do TV, he said the only way he’d do it is if it would help finance research and development. [His show] helped pay the bills.

Thoughts on up and coming cooks?

I would question cooking as a career…it’s a very different thing these days. I tell my cooks, “Dude, if you go on Top Chef, I’m going to be so pissed off!”

The standard of cooking is softer these days. It’s become more of a white collar profession. As a chef, it’s become more difficult. You can’t yell at a cook anymore. Cooking is more civil now.

Jeremy Fox (Executive Chef/Partner in Ubuntu restaurant, Napa, CA) told me that one of his cooks has a journal of every hour she worked at the restaurant. Can you believe it?”

“If you’re in this business to make money, you’re the dumbest person alive!”

I never asked how much I got paid. I just thought, “Thank God I got a job working for the chef I wanted to.”

Young cooks say, “I want to learn how to butcher.”

I tell them, “Sure, come in on your day off.”

They say, “What? Then I have to work 7 days in a row!”

My thought is…“Yeah, and ?”

When I was a young cook, that’s just what you did. I’d work for weeks without a day off. I didn’t care if I got paid. I was there to learn.

What’s your hiring criteria?

Ko is like the Special Forces. New cooks make 3 dishes and family meal. Family meal is the most important meal in a restaurant.

I’ll ask about their knife skills. “If you tell me your knife skills are great and your knives aren’t even sharp? Their knives are so dull…I can scratch my back with them...Fuck you!”

“Knife skills in America can’t begin to compare to those in Japan.”

“The most dangerous person in the room is the one with nothing to lose. I want my staff to know everything is against us. I’m looking for drive and tenacity. Push, push, push.”

I can tell who is going to be a great cook but never a great chef. Great cooks don’t have to struggle. They’re just better at it. I ask them, “How the hell are you doing this?” There cooks who are so talented, they fall apart when they have to teach it. It’s frustrating when the person standing next to them doesn’t get it.

“I’ll take a team of scrappy cooks any day. They’re the ones who screw up and can’t sleep because they’re trying to figure out how to do it better.”

The best food comes from a team effort.

It used to be that cooks would stay 5 years at a restaurant. Now you’re lucky if they stay 1 ½ years. 2 ½ years is great.

Are you cooking on the line much?

I don’t cook in my restaurants anymore.

I have to learn how to dial it back. “I don’t know how to keep service from affecting my health and my mental space.”

“In the early years, I could work in a ‘focused rage’. I can’t do it now.”

“We built this open kitchen and I thought, ‘What am I doing? I hate talking with customers!’ I used to be rude.”

People would ask, “What’s this?”

“And I’d say, ‘Look buddy, I’ve got a full board [of orders]….’ I don’t want to talk to customers when I’m working.”

It’s difficult because “as a line cook—that’s how you measure a good day at work. You feel like you accomplish things: you do your mise en place, have a good service, go out for a couple beers, sleep, and go back and do it again. As a line cook, you know what a good day is.”

Now that my role has changed….”I don’t know how to quantify what a ‘good day’ is.”


By David Chang and Peter Mehan
Clarkson Potter, October 2009

Thanks...and giving

I found it! My favorite holiday-appropriate post:

How a Cook Spends Thanksgiving.

While you're on the TastingMenu website, I encourage you to scroll through the archives. Dana Cree, Pastry Chef at Seattle's Poppy restaurant, also happens to be one of my favorite writers.

Dana and I met several years ago. She was living in England, and worked as a stage at the Fat Duck, which then held the distinction as "the Best Restaurant in the World." After a move back to Seattle, I spotted her class at a local cooking school...and enrolled immediately.

With her thoughtful approach to cooking, and teaching that was steeped in science, I was hooked! I drew diagrams of molecules in my lecture notes, and purchased every book she referenced. For months, I took every class she taught.

I was an early fan of Dana's work and it's been an incredible journey watching her career blossom. (Catch Dana's interview on Star Chefs.) Her work has been a major influence on my perception of food...and its execution.

While I don't see Dana nearly as much these days, reading through the TastingMenu archives is the next best thing.

Got some time on your hands over the holidays? Here's a collection of my favorite posts from Dana:

The Flavor of Color

Taste vs. Flavor; Splitting Hairs

Controlling Water

Perfecting Panna Cotta

Changing Viewpoints

Twitter love: Drinking Lessons with Douglas Williams

24 hours in the Bay Area. The goal? Good eats. Great drinks. Meet my favorite Twitter peeps. (This is the second installment, part 1 is here).

Truth be known, I’ve been keeping a close eye on @LiquidDouglas. I was intrigued from the moment I heard “Molecular Mixology.” Using laboratory-style techniques, he whips up fabulous cocktails with a nod towards molecular gastronomy. (Using a sous vide, he can custom make a flash infusion before the end of the night.)

A tweet about trouble with humidity revealed his ‘lab’ is on a boat somewhere in the Bay Area. Humidity was affecting his caramel—slated to be turned into dust. Dust? Really? He explained, “As you sip a Reposada tequilla and take a bite of the dust, it gets turned back into a salted caramel, complimenting the vanilla and caramel flavor notes in the tequilla.” Brilliant, no?! The depth and breadth of his knowledge is astounding…and I was determined to meet him.

Our exchange went something like this:

Me: Coming to SF, wanna hook up?
Him: Sure.
Me: Any chance you’d want to lead a cocktail crawl?
Him: Absolutely!
[Insert happy dance!]

@Liquid Douglas, aka Douglas Williams was the perfect host, organizing well-thought out stops for our cocktail crawl. It’s the bartender who MAKES the bar, as is evident by his list:

7:30 PM

bartender: Reza Esmaili
current US bartenders guild for SF


bartender: Brooke Arthur


bartender: Marcovaldo Dionysus
opened legendary Absinthe Brasserie, opened Clock Bar, just recently started working at Rye.


bartender: Eric Castro and company
the new venture from the Bourbon & Branch guys

If people are motivated for another spot like Cantina (bartender: Duggan) or 15 Romolo (bartender: Scott Baird.)

First stop? Conduit with Reza Esmaili. Next stop? Well, uh….that was it! Reza had a captive audience. We sat, he poured. No questions, no decisions to make. We put ourselves in his hands and were not disappointed.

jumped in on the fun and Douglas invited a couple of his friends. Together, the five of us imbibed on a bevy of cocktails, many of them with intriguing wine bases. Douglas noted, “Reza has a great feeling for wine cocktails that pair well with food. You don’t see that much.”

On that cue, we ordered a handful of dishes and let Reza do the rest. While wine pairings are traditional, cocktails—specifically paired with food, was a first for me. Complex cocktails, artfully paired with food…was a revelation! Layers of flavor, intriguing combinations, crafted with house made infusions and extractions. From that point forward, there was a seismic shift in the way I look at cocktails.

Top 10 food experiences in 2009?

Add this one to the list.

If you’re in San Francisco, don’t miss Douglas Williams at Rye. While he was on my side of the bar for this venture, I’m blown away by what this guy is doing with molecular gastronomy and cocktails. Sous vide and liquid nitrogen are just a few of the tools in his arsenal.

Check Douglas’ website ( for his upcoming class at Bourbon & Branch. (They nailed down the class today...scoop should be on the website soon...)

Twitter Love: San Francisco

Destination: The Worlds of Flavor Conference [Napa Valley, CA]

But first, 24 glorious hours in San Francisco.

Despite the surprising new baggage fees…and the airline loosing that very same bag at my final destination, followed by a few harry moments trying to navigate the BART (light rail) system, I managed to make it to my rendezvous spot…only slightly frazzled.

Surfacing from the underground BART station, I was greeted by a handful of sidewalk hawkers and those quintessential San Francisco trolley bells. For a brief moment, I closed my eyes and took in the sounds. Giddy school kid chatter was punctuated by shoe shine barkers. Metal on metal, I listened as passenger-filled trollies heaved into motion. Each clang of the trolley bell recalled that pervasive advertising jingle: Rice-a-Roni…the San Francisco Treat! By the third refrain, the spell was broken and it was time to move on….

Through a series of e-mails and Twitter messages, I arranged to meet LouAnn just a block away. I was sporting a giant green backpack…while juggling a purse and laptop case in one hand, and cell phone in the other. I must have struck a curious picture…one foot in the corporate world, and a Birkenstock-clad toe firmly planted in the backpacker world. Having never met before, I waved to the ponytailed woman across the street, hoping that was my Twitter buddy @oysterculture. Thankfully, she gave a cheery wave back and made her way to my side of the street.

While others may say meeting friends on Twitter is like blind dating, I liken it to travel during the days of stage coaches and steam ships. Back then, a letter of introduction provided valuable connections—and often hospitality—in far-flung destinations. Today, in our techno-dependent First world, your presence on the web serves as both letter of introduction and calling card.

With some time on my hands and the hope of meeting new friends, I threw out an invitation on Twitter: Coming to San Francisco! Anyone want to meet up?

Within days, my dance card was completely booked!

The San Francisco leg of my adventure began with a trip to the Mission District. The goal? Humphry Slocombe ice cream! Their website boasts an impressive collection of flavors and as a bonafied ice cream geek, I had my spoon poised and ready for action. We arrived during off-peak hours and I warned the counter guy, “I want to try them all!” Migrating through the freezer case—sampling everything from “breakfast cereal” to “balsamic caramel”, eventually I settled on Jesus Juice (red wine & classic Coke) and Fudgescicle. (Lou Ann had the better 2-scoop pairing of Jesus Juice and Olive Oil).

Though we were meeting friends for dinner, LouAnn and I made time for a slight detour…indulging in hearty soft shell chorizo tacos at El Tonayense. They were dripping in grease and mind-bogglingly delicious!

Strolling through the Hispanic-centric Mission District, I marveled at the brightly colored murals, juxtaposed by tell-tale San Francisco-style “painted lady” architecture.

Next stop? A writer/blogger/food editor dinner at funky Ti Couz restaurant.

No, wait!

Scratch that.

Despite calling TWICE, we arrived at Ti Couz to discover…it was closed for a private party. Too late to reschedule now. We picked the closest restaurant nearby and taped our own sign on the Ti Couz door!

Holding camp at our new location, eagle-eye LouAnn spotted a happy hour sign from across the room: $10 Sangria carafes. “We’ll take two, please!” Before long, the wine was flowing and one by one we greeted a string of people I knew only by electronic means.

There’s nothing like eating, paired with animated conversations about food! Multiple plates of tapas danced around the table and large carafes of sangria stood within arm’s reach. I knew these folks through blogs, online articles and Twitter but when we finally met, the miles…and the fact that none of us had ever met before, suddenly slipped away…

I’ve been following Jennifer Jeffrey’s blog from the early days…cheering from my laptop when she found her lost dog, and traveling vicariously on her trips to Morocco and Portland. While her blog is currently on the back burner, the archives make great reading. As a writer and editor, she's got an impressive body of work. (@jenniferjeffrey)

Anita Chu is a dessert girl after my own heart. Her blog, Dessert First, lead to two books: Field Guide to Candy and Field Guide to Cookies. I've kept a close eye on her delicious creations for years. (@anitachu)

When Scott Hocker, the editor of San Francisco’s Tasting Table introduced himself, others chimed in, “Didn’t you used to be the editor at San Francisco magazine?” Yep. And now, following on the heels of the wildly successful LA, NYC and Chicago Tasting Tables, San Francisco has a newly launched site with a daily dose of deliciousness. (@nogracias)

Stephanie Stiavetti writes the award-winning blog Wasabimon. She was hot on the heels of a big weekend, having attended the FoodBuzz Food Blogger Festival, and working as Jaden’s escort during the SF leg of the Steamy Kitchen book tour. (@sstiavetti)

My ice cream and taco buddy, LouAnn Conner, writes a blog called Oyster Food and Culture and she just finished a terrific piece on breads around the world. Generous and in-the-know, with LouAnn as my guide, I was definitely in good hands! And check out this score. A jar of her sangria jelly is coming home with me! (Are we sensing a theme here????) (@oysterculture)

Surprise, surprise! Enroute to another event, my friend Andre--the wizard behind, stopped by to say hello. PSST: Andre’s also the man behind the Luxury Chocolate Salons (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York) and the upcoming Tasty Awards gala in San Francisco. (@tastetv)

Ah…there’s more to tell but I’ll save it for another post.