how i steal all the best ideas from those savory kids

Thursday, Feb 4th, 2016

The first 2 years of my cooking career was spent as a savory cook. I really liked it. The day after I graduated from culinary school was my first day on Garde Manger at Patina Restaurant. It was in my opinion the best and most creative fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles. The chef had just returned from a season at el bulli. Mind you, this was in 2000, before everyone was staging everywhere. We were doing tomato water noodles and frozen snow in the Pacojet. Things that have either become common, dated, or simply overused. The thing is, we were super progressive and the menu was highly creative.
I was more than happy to be in that environment. And that is where my path into the pastry world began.

Still to this day, I feel a connection to the savory world. I love to see how their plates come together. How they treat ingredients. New techniques the savory team uses. It is always a source of inspiration.

One such technique is lacto-fermentation. A seemingly simple process of placing fruits or vegetables in a cryovac bag, along with 2% salt by weight, compressing them, and letting them rest in a warm place (between 62F-75F) for an average of 5 days. During this time the natural sugars are converted into alcohol and you get a very rich, umami-like product. Think miso, kimchee, or saurkraut. Currently at Aubergine we treat lettuce this way and serve it with abalone. The savory funk of lettuce cuts through the rich meatiness of abalone.
So as I see them doing this, I think, how can I get in on the action!

Still in winter tree fruit season I try it with pears. After 5 days the pears are fermented, slightly salty, and bathed in an alcoholic funk. Way too strong to put directly on the plate….so I poach them, and then puree them and add a little creme fraiche. That fatty, lactic tang just brings it all together.
It tastes great but I want more. Not just a drip on the plate.

Let’s make ice cream! Our restaurant is small, really small. We use a Pacojet. I have come to the conclusion that when I make ice cream I want an intense punch without much lingering fattiness. Mostly because the ice cream is just one component among many for the plated dessert. I like it lean and clean. Mostly milk, very little cream, low in sugar, no yolks. Ok, so that’s sherbet…or is it gelato?

Yes. So many technicalities….