I really never thought I would be so inspired by vegan food, but working with my good friend Heather has really brought about such interesting challenges. As a chef, I have always worked in a certain way, much like most chefs do. No recipes, just instinct, a good palate and a lot of ‘a little of this and a little of that’. This is the ultimate chef way. I suppose it almost becomes difficult at times to actually sit down and write a recipe. You see, we don’t actually use them. We wing it! Chefs learn to understand food in a certain way, and over years of practice and many failures along with successes, we discover so much about the food we cook. The act of experimenting is really what good chefs try to master, I do believe. I think it’s this great concept of freedom, at the end of the day. We are free to try new combinations of foods, and free to dabble with flavors until we find new things that simply taste great.
So herein lies my challenge as a chef…..vegan food! It’s not simply a little of this and a little of that, but a serious effort to dissect food in a way that is not simple or basic, but quite the contrary. It requires the practice of a pastry chef often using exact amounts and a lot of consistency with each dish…something that can be foreign to most chefs. But I am learning and opening my eyes to a fascinating world that challenges me indeed.
Now, don’t get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows that I will absolutely never be a vegan or even a vegetarian, I simply love food way too much. But I do see the importance of expanding our definition of what good food is and can be. So I look forward to The 24 Carrot Dinner Club and our vegan endeavor and always welcome those with great vegan ideas along with us carnivores….I still always want to hear what people love to eat. After all, food is my love and always will be!
As Heather and I continue to plan out first ever vegan speakeasy tasting dinner, I find myself getting pretty excited at the idea of doing something different that is a challenge to my style of cooking. Not a meal goes by without either a piece of fish or meat in my diet and thus in my cooking, so this idea of having to eliminate those things that I love and are in my comfort zone really excites me. So I can’t wait to create this super fun dinner and show not so much the other people who will be dining, but show myself that cooking without the fun basic elements that I love about food, can be great as well.
After 13 years working my way up through the intense ranks of the restaurant world, I began to give some
serious thought as to where all these experiences have led me. From working salad stations, flipping
tenderloins on the grill, to learning the ins and outs of the pastry world, I truly feel my exploration of
all aspects of a kitchen has given me the knowledge I had been looking for. So when it was finally my time
to run the kitchen and make the decisions, I realized the true sense of responsibility that was necessary
to be a success. After a brief and incredibly intense experience on the tv show Top Chef, I came to
realize how important it is to express my own vision in my own way. With intermittent stints of travel and
work, work and travel, I discovered the massive and inspiring world of food that is not to be missed. So
as I roamed the world searching for new and fun ways to incorporate cuisines of the world into my daily
life, I began to realize the best way was for me to be able to explore the ideas in my head through my own
vision….not in a restaurant, but in a way that would create a very unique dining experience. Thus my
underground dinner club was born. I wanted to create an experience that combines my true passions in life,
food, travel, and bringing together people of all walks of life who enjoy these same things. So with the
true spirit of sharing theses things that I value most in life I believe Culinary Speakeasy is a true
expression of what I have spent 13 years building up to. This dinner club is very much a reflection of my
true spirit in that it is always nomadic and constantly changing and the collaborators are always people
that truly inspire me to enjoy life to its fullest. I welcome all who care to join in such a fun and
unique type of exploration of food, wine, and togetherness. To me, food is the most universal part of life
that brings together cultures and people all over the world, and this is my opportunity to truly take part
in that idea.
Recipe for Pulled Pork
5# pork butt or shoulder
3 cups hickory smoked chips, soaked in water
1 qt ketchup
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 TBS chili flakes or sambal paste
1 TBS worchestire sauce
2 TBS soy sauce
1/2 c. rice vinegar
1 c. water
1 tsp celery salt
2 TBS dijon mustard
1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all liquid ingredients together in a saucepot. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 35 minutes until all ingredients are combined and and flavors are released. You can adjust the thickness or thinness of the sauce by adding water if it’s too thick or adding more ketchup if it’s too thin.
Place a large skillet on the stove and turn heat on to high. Once the pan is hot, sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper on all sides. Add oil to the skillet and place the pork in the pan and let it sit until it’s golden brown. Then turn the meat to get it brown on each side (known as searing). Once the pork is seared, remove it from the pan. Place the hickory chips in the bottom of a roasting pan and place a metal rack on top. Cover with water and place the pork on top of the reach. Braise the meat covered in a 325 degree oven for about 4 hours. Check after about 2 hours to make sure the chips have not stuck to the pan, if so, add more water to the bottom. After about 4 hours, remove the rack and hickory chips and place the pork back into the pan, brush the meat with sauce and continue braising and basting the pork until the meat is thoroughly tender and will easily pull apart, approximately another hour or so. Once the pork is coked through, remove from the oven and pull it apart with your hands. Place into a pot and cover with bbq sauce and serve.
Well, I have to admit that I am truly inspired by my good friend Heather Crosby and her valient efforts to create delicious vegan recipes to feed the world. Vegan food has always been challenging and tasteless in the eyes of most chefs sadly. But it is fantastic to know a creative force who is truly changing even the skeptical of minds….mine! She is showing me another side of food that I can really embrace and open my eyes to a unique perspective indeed. However, I thought for this weeks entry I would go back to my roots. Feeling my meat lover’s side is neglected, I find it’s important to dig deep and always make my way back to one of my favorite dishes in the world….good old fashioned bbq pulled pork. Also inspired by a friend’s request for this recipe, I thought why share it with just one lucky person when I can share it with the world. So here is my recipe for one of my favorite foods for all you meat lovers who can’t seem to live life without a little Porky the Pig every now and again…..oink oink!!!!