This week, Top Chef Just Desserts is a real treat because our own resident expert, Le Bernardin Executive Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis, acts as a guest judge.
ZOMG! There you are! You look very friendly and quite dashing in your suit, but…the competitors called you “VERY scary” and “intimidating.” What do you think of the cheftestants’ assessment of your reputation?
I’m kind of surprised, actually. I’m thinking it’s a compliment…? Now, I might expect that sort of rep from some of the people I work with, but it’s interesting coming from a bunch of chefs I’ve never met! I’m going to be wondering about this for a while.
You’ve been making savory desserts for years. I love me some savory meets sweet. Can you name a few of your fave savory desserts that you’ve served at Le Bernardin recently?
Fall is surely the time when a lot of those savory elements tend to appear. At the moment, we’re pairing figs with goat cheese and bacon ice cream, parsnip appears in the form of a crème brulée, and a sweet potato sorbet tops a dark Dominican chocolate crémeux. All of these deeper flavors work so well in a comforting way, especially as the air begins to chill.
New York: This Gramercy gem is a passageway to Italy. Enjoy sumptuous regional Roman dishes in an elegant yet cozy dining environment.
Philadelphia: This classic steakhouse is reminiscent of a 1940s supper club. Enjoy mouthwatering steaks and other classic steakhouse fare in an elegant, retro atmosphere.
San Francisco: Minutes away from San Francisco’s MoMA, Embarcadero, and Ballpark, this SOMA gem serves authentic Italian fare and features an excellent all-Italian wine list. With a focus on fresh, organic produce and natural and humanely raised meats and poultry, the rustic menu takes on a contemporary flair.
Washington, D.C.: This restaurant’s namesake and original location is nestled in a small, Tuscan town over four thousand miles from their Dupont Circle location. For the past 21 years, DC area diners have been savoring this traditional, rustic Italian dining experience.
Be sure to get your offers before the Spotlight goes out on Wednesday night!
Living to battle another week in Kitchen Stadium, chef Marc Forgione returns to dish on fish and fishing, hot cherry peppers, and resourcefulness, on season three of The Next Iron Chef.
You have your notebook with you all the time during the challenges. Can you talk about your planning process a little bit for these incredibly brief (in terms of time) challenges?
At least for me, my notebook was not recipes. It was more for ideas and ingredient lists, so that, in the chaos, I could look at my notes and remember, ‘I need carrots.’ Food Network actually has a great feature where you can view the notebook of the contestant that was voted off.
At your restaurant, you make your own pickles. What’s your favorite kind of pickled item?
Right now at my restaurant, we are doing pickled Red Jacket Orchard apples, with braised almonds and candied bacon, in a duck dish. Pickling fruits is a new thing for me — we started pickling peaches and watermelons over the summer. I am quickly falling in love with these new flavors.
Derived from more than 7 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners of more than 12,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, this list includes winners from sea to shining sea — and almost everywhere in between. From Acqua in Minnesota and Bottega in Birmingham to Vetri in Philadelphia and South Carolina’s Wild Olive, there’s an honoree in almost half of the states in the union, good news because, from pasta to pizza and classic to contemporary, there’s nary an Italian dish that doesn’t make diners’ stomachs swoon!
Everyone knows how cool Seattle is. But, as impossible as it might seem, the Emerald City is about to get even more so. And, no, it has nothing to do with Dorothy, her little dog, or even the Lollipop Guild. You see, dear diners, Sunday marks the kick off of Seattle Restaurant Week. Featuring three-course lunches for $15 and three-course dinners for $25, Seattle Restaurant Week includes more than 100 participating restaurants, such as Cafe Campagne, Dahlia Lounge, Spur Gastropub, and Tilth.
We’re counting down the days until Le Bernardin’s Michael Laiskonis gets his turn at the judges’ table on Top Chef Just Desserts (next week!), but for now, he’s in the hot seat, dishing it out about all the sweet and not-so-sweet goings on in this week’s episode.
So, we’re seeing some alliances have formed in the competition. Are there mini-kitchen cliques in general?
Sure, there are, but a smart cook realizes it’s important to make friends with everyone, because when it really hits the fan, it’s nice knowing that you don’t have to worry that someone’s got your back. At its worst, the atmosphere in the kitchen can be like trench warfare. Best not to play favorites.
How do you do soufflés for a QFC so that they don’t fall? Also, any good soufflé war stories?
While I do soufflés rarely now, in the past, I’d do dozens in a night. The key is simply controlling all the variables — the recipe, proper whipping of the egg whites, and filling of the ramekin, and of course, time and temperature. In a restaurant situation, worst case scenario, you make another one and wait it out. My worst case: A cook once forgot to add the cornstarch to a chocolate soufflé base; the guests eventually got their dessert, along a few extras while they waited!
If you don’t know what LudoBites is, well, you should. It’s a dining sensation that’s single-handedly sweeping the City of Angels. A pop-up restaurant executed in sheer guerilla style by renowned chef Ludo Lefebvre and his wife/partner in culinary crime Krissy (aka FrenchChefWife), LudoBites has become the hottest, tastiest ticket in Los Angeles.
As you may imagine, the Lefebvres experience enormous demand for the unique dining experiences that are the roving LudoBites events. OpenTable stepped up to help them answer that demand in a democratic and efficient manner (first come, first reserved, if you will). However, while using our system for their latest event, LudoBites 6.0, all did not go according to plan.
We apologize to the Lefebvres and all of the diners who experienced technical problems while trying to book reservations for LudoBites 6.0 last night. LudoBites is a phenomenon that concentrates unprecedented reservation demand for a single restaurant with a limited number of tables in a very short window of time. We had a plan for how to customize our service to accommodate the extraordinary search volume for LudoBites 6.0, but we didn’t implement that plan properly. The traffic overwhelmed our systems, and some hopeful diners experienced intermittent problems until the restaurant was fully booked after less than 90 minutes.
OpenTable was built with the idea that securing a dining reservation should be effortless. We didn’t live up to that promise under the unique conditions of LudoBites, and we’ll be taking a closer look at our processes to ensure we deliver a consistently high-quality experience in the future.
To learn more about the talented Chef Lefebvre and the one-of-a-kind LudoBites, please visit LudoLefebvre.com.