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Molecular Gastronomy In San Diego

Molecular Gastronomy In San Diego

Heritage - Sn 1/Ep 6Heritage - Sn 1/Ep 6

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In this episode of HERITAGE, we meet Chef Richard Blais, winner of Bravo's "Top Chef All-Stars" and successful restauranteur. His newest concept, Juniper & Ivy, on the outskirts of San Diego's Little Italy offers diners refined contemporary American food with a whimsical twist.

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Transcript

- With every chef you're going to see their own personal story and the things that they ate or cooked when they were young. Which for me, my family, not great cooks. We opened up a lot of cans, we cooked in the microwave, we grabbed things out of the freezer. So if we could freeze things in liquid nitrogen, if we can make fresh food and put them back in cans, that's sort of paying respect to my personal story. I didn't grow up on an apple crate, making omelets when I was three years old. That's someone's story. I'm jealous of that story, but it's not my story. There's always a twist, or there's always a turn with my food. But the original idea, 90% of the time starts with something that's incredibly classic. You can't have a restaurant in southern California without paying homage to the classic southern California hamburger. So this is our in and oats burger. Three different types of dry aged beef, and then of course we have our animal styled fries. Secret menu item, kinda hard to resist. I sort of came up in these grand kitchens when all of these modern techniques were first coming to the surface. So this is, this is a smoker. A little tiny electric smoker. The key is that the science and technology has to make the food more delicious, and if it could make it more experiential, then that's the double win right there. We have mushroom flavored donuts, I'm a horrible dad! Most important part is taste. Science and technology to make your food better, we're gonna do it. It's not the microwave that's bad everyone. It's the food you put in the microwave. Boom. - Richard is one of the most inspiring chefs I've ever worked with. He's really the Willy Wonka of the culinary world. He'll go for a walk on a beach and he'll bring the idea of oysters and pearls. He's like, what do you see lying on the beach, you see seaweed, you see rocks, you see oysters, so why not? - I've found the pacific ocean incredibly inspiring. It's hard to come out here and be in a bad mood. And if you're happy when you're cooking, your food is gonna be happy. It's gonna be more delicious. So we don't like angry cooks in our kitchen, and when you live here it's kinda hard to be angry. It's about an experience, you know, it's about the energy of the food. People ask where do you come up with your ideas, it's pretty simple, I cook what I wanna eat. This is what I wanna eat today. And I think sometimes we get caught up in the science, or doing something that no one's done before. When you wake up and you say, what do I wanna eat, that's probably a good place to start for a chef. And I don't think a lot, a lot of chefs don't start from that place. One of the things that was very important for me and for Juniper and Ivy was to make the kitchen part of the dining room. Of course so that the dining room can see what's happening, ooh, theater. It's also so that the cooks can feel the energy of the dining room. The cooks see the people having a great time. It keeps them happy, instant gratification, and really that's why we all got into this business. We're very unloved, right, our parents didn't love us and we just want someone to love us and this is the way we do it as chefs. We feed people. I've always wanted to be Italian. I'm not afraid to admit that. I grew up in New York, so I feel like I'm kind of Italian. But I've always wanted to be Italian. I'm grateful to Little Italy because I have this restaurant here that's been arguably the most successful thing that I've ever done in my career. So we're coming up with a five course prefixed menu as a homage to Little Italy. Basically I'm gonna buy this because I love the tin. There's something that's just nostalgic about a big tin of sardines or anchovies. These are chillies from calabrese right? So these are Italian chilli. So they're authentic, like you can't find American chillies like this. Oh ho ho. Whole salt cod though? I just want the box. This is happening, dried porcinis. This is flavor of the Earth, right, good way to kick it off. I should treat myself, I'm hungry, I'm gonna get- Oh ho ho. Salted dried, almost rotten fish. Every chef's dream! Right? I mean this is an umami bomb right here. I think every chef has a nostalgia obsession. It's all about Grandma or some sort of story. That's next next next level stuff right there. Food can be delicious, anyone can do that. But can you tell a story through the food? - Welcome to Juniper and Ivy. - First dish to our tasting menu sort of homage to Little Italy is this idea of the zeppole. What would make a zeppole great? I'm thinking wild mushrooms, porcinis, the Lamborghini of mushrooms. What we're gonna do is take these mushrooms that have been dried and we wanna make them really extra crispy. So I'm gonna put these mushrooms into this container and then soak them in nitrogen. In other words we're gonna nitro-mill our porcinis. To make this dough for the zeppole we have to get the porcinis super super fine powder and use that as part of our dough. It's one of the techniques with nitrogen people don't think of. It's a pretty genius move. Now we're gonna fry our zeppoles. These are looking good. Hey listen, if this whole thing doesn't work out though, I think I have a job at the donut shop. Food 101, as soon as the food comes out of the fryer, we're gonna hit it with some of this porcini dust. They're delicious. Our lemon cured puree down here, that's gonna add a little sweetness to it. Let's garnish it with a little bit of francaise. I love starting my meal with something that traditionally is a dessert. Great way to really kind of mess with people's minds. Second course has to be antipasti. I think braciole, braciola! Usually it's a cured beef tenderloin. We have some amazing ahi tuna and albacore in the restaurant. So what we've done here is we've just taken this beautiful, sushi grade piece of ahi, and we've cured it like we would beef braciole. I love the idea of temperature contrast. Hot calamari straight out of the fryer. Ice cold raw fish, and then pepperoni, which we make here in the restaurant. Make a vinaigrette out of that. One of my other favorite ingredients we found it, Mona Lisa bottarga. Cured fish roe. We're gonna use this to give the dish a little umami. The nostalgia moment here is that we found this awesome tin of sardines. You open the lid, and inside it's not sardines. It's this magnificent piece of raw fish. It's really fun. It speaks for the spirit of this restaurant. We're very serious about our food. We're not so serious about ourselves and this really highlights that. We're continuing our menu that's an homage to Little Italy. We have to do a pasta course, so it's a riff off of carbonara. But we've done a couple of special things. We made the noodles with some San Diego uni. We combined the sea urchin into the dough itself. Instead of linguine it's actually linguni. To evoke the spirit of the Pacific ocean we're cooking this in sea water. I'm really excited about this minerality that we're gonna get by basically cooking in the Pacific ocean. We're always thinking about stacking flavors. We're gonna add puree-ted butter to make uni butter. It's garnished with a little bit of raw egg yolk that you're gonna just work into the dish and it also features some pancetta that we cure in-house. Enjoy. - Thank you so much. - If you were an Italian American you would say that this reminds you a little bit of the mother country. So this is literally the meat and potatoes dish of the night. Italian tradition or any great cultures cook re-celebrates the whole animal. So this dish we're calling tongue and cheek. Of course you have no idea that any of that exists because it's all under this dome. It's quite a surprise as you can see. - Wow. - Oh my gosh. - So it is raised veal tongue with beef cheek ravioli and a bacalao or a salt cod potato puree. So, don't be scared. It's delicious and the smoke will just sort of play off the oceanic flavor of the potato puree and the salty sweet flavor of the tongue. - That was good. - That was amazing. - Dessert, grand finale. I want this to end with the most iconic Italian American dessert there is, tiramisu. We're going to whip our ricotta in an ioside canister, basically inoculating it with nitrous oxide. You can see how foamy that is. That's gonna enable this cake to be super fluffy. We're gonna bake a cake in the microwave. Microwave one minute. So there we go, a minute later you can see how porous it is. And yeah, we're gonna take the buttermilk ice cream and we're gonna freeze it with liquid nitrogen. This moment is usually when I say I do weddings and bar mitzvahs. I think this is the perfect ending to our homage to Little Italy. We love these moments of experience in the dining room where people, they remember it, right, it's something that they're not gonna forget. And that's where it's not just food. Now it's more of a performance, now we're at a different level. It's really good. I'm gonna keep eating this.

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