Celebrity chefs are known for delighting fans with meals prepared at their celebrity restaurants and recipes shared throughout their many television appearances. But if a chef likes it Bizarre food host Andrew Zimmern or Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in the US to earn three Michelin stars, dining out with friends, what to do she order for dinner?
During Cayman Cookout, an annual bon vivant festival at The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, celebrity chefs rub elbows with ticket holders curious to learn more about their favorite culinary personalities. The intimacy of four days of beachside cooking demonstrations, barefoot barbecues and dancing in the lobby bar breaks down barriers and opens up candid conversations.
While attending Cayman Cookout, I chatted with celebrity chefs like Top chef icon Tom Colicchio and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, to ask which dish they wanted never order at a restaurant because they are so attached to the way they make it at home. Their simple answers show that anyone can prepare a delicious meal in their own kitchen, without fancy ingredients or labour-intensive recipes. And to make it even easier to cook dishes loved by celebrity chefs at home, the masters themselves were willing to share how they’ve perfected dishes like the perfect fried egg or delectable paella over the years.
Although Antonio Bachour is a famous pastry chef, his answer is not sweets. The Puerto Rican chef shares that he never orders eggs.
“I love making eggs,” says Bachour, whose favorite is a “very simple” scramble with clarified butter, ham, tomato, and onion, served with a piece of toast. Bachour says the trick is to beat the eggs in a separate dish and, contrary to what many hacks suggest, don’t add water or cream to make them fluffy.
“The problem with scrambled eggs is that they often burn,” he explains, “when I order them, they’re not yellow, they’re brown.” Bachour says this is typical because restaurants reuse pans and the eggs take on the blackened color of a previously burnt batch of eggs.
“You want them fresh, so they’re soft, not overcooked, because then you lose the flavor,” he says.
“Caesar salad is one of those combinations that is just insanely good,” says Andrew Zimmern. “But I’d like to tell a lot of young chefs that you can open a restaurant with no Caesar salad on the menu.”
The chef, restaurateur and television personality says it all comes down to freshness, starting with the dressing, which he says should be “made to order.”
“It should be not be made twice a week in a five-gallon batch with a commercial oil dip stick,” he says, adding that at home he uses a large wooden salad bowl that he doesn’t wash — just treats — and has had forever. He adds the egg yolks directly to the bowl, mash some anchovies with a fork, add lemon juice and olive oil.”You don’t emulsify those things together because the olive oil gets bitter,” he says.
Then he adds lettuce (he strays from the classic romaine and opts for baby lettuce heads for the better taste and texture), tosses the salad and adds cheese. Zimmern clarifies that he’s not against romaine and advises if you’re going to use it, opt for hearts of romaine and use the bigger crispy ribs from it.
“My mom roast chicken with roasted apple, so I’m always wary of that when I go to a restaurant,” says Dominique Crenn, the chef behind the three-Michelin-star restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, California. Crenn says roast chicken time, despite what some recipes suggest.
“I’m not just putting a chicken in my roasting pan and walking the dog,” she says. “It’s a process — you have to look at it, you have to love it, and it’s all about the timing of the flavor.”
Also co-founder and former chef of Gramercy Tavern in New York, Tom Colicchio opts for a dish based on nostalgia. “Sunday gravy is something I would never order,” he says of the traditional Italian-American recipe of meatballs in a hearty tomato sauce topped with pasta. “Growing up, it was meatballs and macaroni… every Sunday that’s what we ate.”
Colicchio says there’s nothing that makes his Sunday gravy really special, it’s just a simple dish his mom made and “something he only associates with eating at home”.
Even a versatile chef like José Andrés sometimes goes back to basics. “No one knows how to make fried eggs,” he says.
The founder of World Central Kitchen teases that the secret to a successful fried egg is “I make them,” but offers some tangible tips. “Talk to the oil,” he says, which means listening to it and making sure it’s heated before adding the egg. Then add salt around the edge of the egg white that comes in contact with the yolk. Coagulation is more difficult there and coagulation can take place quickly due to the salt.
“A house salad usually has the least amount of love than anything else on the menu,” says Adrienne Cheatham, Top chef runner-up and author of Sunday Best: Cook up the weekend spirit every day. That’s why she only makes a basic salad at home. For starters, Cheatham suggests coarsely chopping the lettuce and then seasoning it.
“Most people don’t season their salads, but every salad needs a pinch of salt before you add the dressing,” she emphasizes. Be sure to add the dressing just before serving and use veggies that are either partially cooked or deliciously raw. [are a] yes,” she explains, “but don’t give me chunky, raw carrots, it just ruins the dining experience.”
French chef and host of Cayman Cookout, Eric Ripert points to paella as a dish he loves to make at home. “At home in the summerhe adds, because the typical Valencian recipe of rice, saffron, chicken and mixed seafood cooked and served in a shallow pan is “something that seems simple, but that requires a lot of attention.”
Ripert also notes that you don’t make paella for just one… or even two people. “It really is a dish that brings people together,” he says. “It’s very interactive and there’s something festive about it.” Le Bernadin’s chef advises that in addition to ambiance, paella also requires quality ingredients, from the most basic ingredients, such as the olive oil, to the rice, proteins and vegetables. He notes that the quality of the pan and fire is also “essential”.
“Soup,” says French chef Daniel Boulud. “I love to make soup.”
The restaurateur says the best soups have a combination of vegetables and texture. He says one of his favorite things to do is grab a jar and walk around the kitchen adding “all sorts of things” to it. Boulud lists spinach, fresh herbs, grains, meat or seafood, crab, shrimp or lobster as examples of ingredients he will add. “I have no prescription, no idea where I’m going,” he says.
Boulud also shares his love of moqueca soup. The Brazilian fish stew – made with coconut milk, paprika, fish or shrimp and served with rice – combines all the ingredients he likes in a soup. He advises that “you should add the dendê oil (a bright red-orange oil made from the fruit of the dendezeiro tree)… je ne sais quoi to the soup.”
“I make it for my friend who is Brazilian,” adds Boulud, “and he says it’s better than what his wife makes.”
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