In this series, I'll have a chef come cook at my kitchen, compose a dish that means something to them & their career, and have a drink or two while we are at it. I'll be taking a few elements and ingredients from their dish to create my own bite sized spin as well. And in between, we will get to know just who it is making these epic dishes & what drives them to keep on cooking.
There is a certain level of expectation for the rising culinarians these days- mainly conceived from countless shows profiling the compelling stories of accomplished chefs and restauranteurs. Yes, there are plenty of guys and gals on these shows that still go grind it out in the kitchen, day after day. But so many of these chefs are on the celeb circuit, being flown from one food & wine fest to the next to throw out a composed but concise history of their careers in one single bite. They have earned that right, but who is left running the kitchen?
For every one influential and familiar name in the food biz there are thousands that are sweating over a six-top, yelling about mis-labeled pans in the walk in, and hoping that last two-top decides desserts would be better eaten else where. I wanted to spend time building those stories, starting with the guys in our own backyard. And I felt like this first guest chef was an excellent start, Jacob Mouser.
Jacob is currently the Sous Chef at Frank's Pizza Napolitano & brings more to the table than just grub. He has a hearty laugh & some smooth saxophone skills and a heart the entire size of his home state of Texas. Off the cuff answers to rapid fire questions gave me a laugh, including his first culinary job as a cashier at KFC, and his brush with his future destiny in the kitchen.
Now i could give you a bio or Q & A here but I felt particularly compelled to tell you a story of what really drove home my time in the kitchen with Jacob. "My father & I, in our good times, they looked at us like peas & carrots. Brothers." A strong sentiment of a man who recently lost someone dear. When I asked him about his dish, he gave me this, "the dish is green eggs & ham. Its a memorial dish to my father, he died October 23, 2017. And headed back home I started wrestling through all of the old family heirlooms, knick knacks & such, and you start thinking about your childhood. i don't know where it came from but green eggs & ham just stuck with me. With music and art and cooking, most of the time i source my inspiration from pain. so it came out & had to make it... this dish, its deconstructed and reconstructed. And i like that, because our family was so broken that it was a beauitful thing that we had become so deconstructed and I wanted to reconstruct us, bring us all together back again... Through all the aches and pains, it brought a scattered family back together."
There was a moment in there where you feel someone's words so much that you pause. You assess whats going on. And for a brief moment you see what's important beyond the daily grind. This is a man who uses his canvas, whether on the stage or on the plate, to be himself. At a point in our conversation we touched on where that line or art & money cross. I gave my own story of cooking for money versus the cooking for love, the difference in quality of those products. But Jacob struck something that I hold dear. Its not just for art, its for purpose. Not just telling a story for yourself, but telling it for others. For what good is art without explanation?
Green Eggs & Ham is about as iconic of an imaginary dish that i can, well, imagine. And this Seuss driven brinner dish is how I will always imagine the dish as I read that book to my child. There was a warmth that just screamed home for me. Perhaps having breakfast for dinner on a sunday (an old jackson fam classic) or maybe just knowing the heart that went in to the dish. I just felt in the cockles and subcockels of the heart and belly that this dish was a soul on a plate and you can’t replicate that anywhere.
Green Eggs: Sample Farms Green Eggs. the whites separated and beaten with pureed spinach, the yolks reintroduced and then poached. I for one can say i’ve never experienced the texture this made. the white (well, now the green) with so delicate and just pure velvet.
Ham: Star Anice & Szechuan Pepper Braised Pork Belly. in an unfiltered sake bath, removed, cut and seared. that crisp outside reminiscent of incredible char sui. salty and spicy and natural pork sweetness, it was everything i really want from a pork product.
Starch: Pommes Paillasson: fine shredded potato squares. imagine, if you will, jacques pepin took over McDonald’s breakfast menu for a day and this was his spin on the hash browns. pressed in duck fat, then refrigerated, then deep fried. crispy outside and creamy inside. bravo.
Sauces: Green Barbecue. let me ramble about this one, because i left in love and wanting to make this for every dish. intense dry heat from serranos immediately followed by a smoky punch, as both the chilis and garlic were all deeply smoked before being whipped in to a luscious housemate aioli. ugh, i could bathe in this stuff. Ginger Carrot Puree added sweetness and another asian touch, in addition to the sweetness of the Green Pea Puree.
all plated on dehydrated hot pepper sauce, which is just about as legit as you think it is. very.
The Scotch Egg has always eluded me throughout my culinary career. I’ve coached myself through it, step by step, and every time i have one little glitch that goes wrong. Overcooked egg. Undercooked Sausage. So I wanted to utilize Jacob’s ingredient list as a chance to go out there and try again. The final product was definitely a new spin and a good research project for me to develop more in the future!
Sample Farm’s Egg, Soft Boiled at 5 minutes cased in Rosé & White Miso Sausage, housemade, a Falafel Breading, all deep fried.
Served over Roasted Garlic & Lemon Crème Fraîche and a Sake Serrano Salsa Verde
The flavors were playful to say the leasts. The falafel was a little saltier than I had hoped so Ill be reworking the dish to make use something a little less strength to highlight that sausage. The sauces were tangy and had their own character and i’m excited to work that that combo again! And most importantly, I’m really sorry if the idea of falafel and pork offended anyone- i know that I would lose a hand over this dish in half of the world’s cultures. But I’ll be damned if thats not a great combo!
I want to be very clear that I am doing this series for extremely selfish reasons. I want to cook and break bread with my fellow chefs. I want to learn from them and push myself with them- and nothing brings out the best in us than a tiny bit of pressure of cooking alongside a passionate culinarian. But I do hope the side effects are useful. I hope this helps to build and empower our growing culinary scene. I hope it pushes other chefs to keep moving forward. And most importantly- I hope it inspires and motivates as it already has done for me.
If you have a chef you’d like to see profiled, or you are interested in having a seat at our chef’s table- please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are hoping to capture some of this on film and might sell a few seats to help pay for that (wink wink foodies who know video production!)
bon appetite amigos,