Valentine’s Day is almost here, so love is in the air. In the romantic spirit of the season, we asked a bunch of chefs what they were crushing on. They opened their hearts and shared their latest obsessions.
Bryan Voltaggio of VOLT, Frederick, Maryland
“I’m always looking at ways to develop flavors by using the entire ingredient and its traditional by-products. Right now I’m playing around with spent grains. At VOLT, we’re actually using spent grains from Maryland brewery Flying Dog. Something that’s left behind in their brewing process now serves as the base for one of the new dishes on our menu; we’re cooking winter wheat in a spent grain ‘stock’ with turbot and brown butter.” Make a reservation at VOLT.
Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter, New York, New York
“I am currently obsessed with making the perfect smoked egg that’s not too weak and not too strong with making a press pot of coffee that finds a perfect balance between the bitter notes of cocoa powder and the rich, creamy flavor of roasted hazelnuts.” Make a reservation at Butter.
Geoffrey Zakarian of Georgie, Beverly Hills, California
“I am really into sous vide cooking. It is such a healthy and easy way to cook. And I can’t live without Le Creuset pots and iPads with video recipes that live in the kitchen.” Make a reservation at Georgie.
Ford Fry of Marcel, Atlanta, Georgia
“Truth: I am addicted to Instagram! As a chef, it’s fascinating to engage with your customers on a personal level and learn what excites them. For example, I post a picture of a sloppy, yet juicy, cheeseburger and Instagram blows up. I am also able to see immediate results and it allows me to easily communicate with my followers. Instagram is also a great tool when I’m recruiting chefs. I study their page and learn a ton. It shows me exactly where their passions lie. Are they into themselves or their food and staff? Just a killer tool!” Make a reservation at Marcel.
Adam Hill of Manzo, New York, New York
“Cold brew coffee has been my go-to in the morning. Working long hours in the kitchen can be tiring, but this helps wake me up in the morning without the jitters of hot coffee.” Make a reservation at Manzo.
Brian Malarkey of Herringbone, Santa Monica, California
“Asian mash-up cuisine! Asian cuisine is one of the most flavorful out there. The flavors are aggressive – hot, bitter, sour, edgy. What I love most is how all of these bold flavors are packed into simple ingredients. Less is more – it’s not about cooking for looks; it’s about cooking for flavor.” Make a reservation at Herringbone.
Danny Ganem of LT Steak and Seafood, Miami Beach, Florida
“Funky flavors from colatura di alici (anchovy sauce), fish sauce, and dry-aged beef. They can help to make a dish whole and bring out an umami that would not be possible by using other ingredients.” Make a reservation at LT Steak and Seafood.
Ender Oktayuren of Steadfast, Chicago, Illinois
“Dark Matter Steadfast Blend coffee is so rich, smooth and packed with deep coffee flavor. I’m a Turkish coffee drinker and it satisfies my coffee tooth! A must-have in the kitchen is The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, which goes in depth into almost every plant-based produced you can think of. I can’t put this book down!” Make a reservation at Steadfast.
Josh Perez of Americano, San Francisco, California
“I’m still totally crushing over my combi oven. Even though I’ve had it for a few years now, I’m still learning how to use it to its full potential. I call it my ‘robot sous chef.’ On the other end of the technological spectrum, I really love cast iron. I use it for everything from eggs and searing meat to frying chicken and baking bread. If properly cared for, its surface is better than any non-stick pan and you don’t have to worry about flecks of Teflon chipping off into your food. Oh, and they’re practically indestructible.” Make a reservation at Americano.
Michael Schulson of Freds Downtown, New York, New York
“I’m addicted to the robata grill. The amazing smoked flavor from the coals and the wood chips make everything taste better. The preparation of items on the grill is key. They need to be sliced perfectly and grilled low and slow.” Make a reservation at Freds Downtown.
Travis Swikard of Boulud Sud, New York, New York
“This may sound old school, but right now I’m very excited about the incredible variety of citrus coming from California – yuzu, mandarin, Meyer lemons. Also, I love using different flours for experimenting with our pasta program, whether it’s an ancient grain Sicilian tumminia flour or a whole-wheat rye flour made with locally grown grain that’s freshly milled at Castle Valley Mill in Pennsylvania.” Make a reservation at Boulud Sud.
Joe Garcia of Beach, Tampa, Florida
“Jackfruit. For someone who has never been the biggest fan of vegan diets due to the need for that meat texture, this is a great substitute. It can be pulled and shredded like pork. Being a Texas native, this is quite appealing to me, as it’s against my nature not to eat meat. I expect to see more and more chefs and restaurants incorporating this as a substitute for the carnivores that are having a hard time eating healthier.” Make a reservation at Beach.
What are your culinary obsessions? Tell us about them here or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter. And, be sure to enter our #ValenDinesDay giveaway for a chance to win Valentine’s Day dinner for two.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Squire Fox (Alex Guarnaschelli); Tim King Photography (Brian Malarkey); Emily Schultz (Ford Fry); Aliza Eliazavarov (Travis Swikard).