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Frank Kwiatkowski

Gmarket Personal Chefs Get The Family Involved

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The Accessibility Of Being A Personal Chef

One of the privileges of being a personal chef is to be offered a window into the families of others. There are times when something clicks, and the fascination of cooking takes hold. Fine dining does not only satisfy those of us who have spent our entire lives in pursuit of wonderful food, exploring the worlds of cuisine (which are infinite). Food and cooking are accessible to everyone, no matter your age or level of interest. In fact, I’d say that this is one of the aspects of fine dining that is so convincing for me: accessibility. Whereas at one age I was creating worlds out of legos or in a sandbox, now I love making tiny worlds out of the delicate ingredients with which we populate our plates. Additionally, everyone loves eating fancy food, especially when it is facilitated by a private chef who makes everything very easy and tangible. The combination is just so inviting: not only is all of the heavy lifting done and over with, but the setting is a familiar one. A professional chef comes into your house, and in the space that everyone loves most, where everyone is the most comfortable – the kitchen – assembles these gorgeous worlds of delicious foods without the propriety of the restaurant acting as a cultural barrier. Every so often, this food magic enchants one of the onlookers and suddenly Gmarket Chef has another member of the team. And the very best team members we could ask for are children.

In the case of the night in question, our newest member was Margo. But before we get into our newest line cook, we over at Gmarket Chef would just like to thank Phil for this opportunity to be a part of the family for a night. It was clear that the celebration we were cooking for was a family tradition. There was a simple caveat: that grandma was not to set foot in the kitchen and “help” us as we prepared the gratuitous 4-course meal. I understand that I have prefaced this article by extolling the virtues of audience participation, but evidently this hard-working grandma needed a well-earned vacation from kitchen work. I mean, before we even had a chance to set up our gear this woman was practically forcing homemade cookies down our throats (they were delicious… all three different kinds). So we played along with this rule, but that didn’t mean that Margo – one of the youngest in the clan – had to sit by and watch as we prepared the meal. As soon as she saw that we were carefully leafing edible flowers for garnish she was both feet in, and the fun didn’t stop all the way through dessert.

Fine Dining “Highly Distilled Junk Food”

This menu is what chef Frank declared to be, “superfine dining.” But I’ve also heard Frank describe fine dining as “highly distilled junk food,” so when he aims at the highest level of food preparation, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t familiar notes of childhood-favorite-foods used. One of our go-to garnishes for steak is made with Fritos crushed up and sprinkled for a shot of texture, salt, and fat. How about a streusel topping for dessert made with cinnamon toast crunch? Or some Apples chopped fine julienne and macerated in mountain dew? Can you see how these elements might attract the attention of a child? We seek to not only elevate the food we eat to a level that can be appreciated in a refined way but to awaken the inner child in all of us that yearns for the comfort of eating the foods we have known and loved from the very beginning. And besides, we are American, are we not? This particular family celebration was the perfect night to pull the stops on some of these comfort foods: spending time with family is defined so broadly by the foods we eat together. Not just the foods which are painstakingly prepared for special meals, but the foods we eat late at night when we are spending time with loved ones we have missed for the entire year, watching movies and snuggling up on the coach escaping from the winter cold outside. We took this opportunity to draw on all of these elements for this meal.

Personal Chefs Treat Carrots Right!

Gmarket Chef is a huge proponent of Thomas Keller-inspired food, so there is a heavy French influence in the dishes prepared as well. We started with a layered carrot dish – a variety of rainbow carrots all roasted to perfection and dressed with three different types of vinegar: layering the flavor of the carrots over and over for the most extreme carrot experience. Sesame crusted dates, granola, and radishes provided more sweet notes and yet more texture. The garnish for this dish, of course, was an edible flower. This is where Margo caught the bug and she was helping us plate the entire meal from then on.

 

Pasta Time!

Next, a pasta dish: Parisienne gnocchi with creme fraiche, brie, macerated apples, pesto, and pork belly sous vide for about twelve hours. Not only was this dish simply luxuriant to the point of being an absolute sin, but Frank had the opportunity to sneak his favorite soda into the sweet element of the dish for balance (you guessed it… Mountain Dew). It may be true that this note was not prominent but it adds to the mythology behind the dish, like one of those magic bullet type kitchen secrets – we all have a few.

 

The Main!

The main course was filet mignon, which we started in the pan with butter and finished in the oven. Served on a smear of potatoes ecrase, accompanied by a compressed potato dish made of tater tots cut into perfect squares and subsequently fried to perfection (mind blown). The textural quality of the fried potatoes layered with the “puree” simply elevates the traditional side dish to a level that we don’t often get to experience. For dessert, we served a pound cake with a variety of creams, macerated berries and the cinnamon toast crunch streusel I referred to earlier.

 

 

Future Chef’s Watch Out!

So let’s talk about Margo just for a second. It was not long before this girl simply announced herself onto the scene in a very sassy way, claiming with absolute pride that she had invented the ritz cracker sandwich (with cheese if you haven’t guessed already). I replied to her that I actually invented that sandwich and insisted that she share the recipe with me. Soon after she was an anointed private chef, peeling the leaves of edible flowers at the orders of chef Frank. Not only did Margo provide us with help getting all of the hot plates on the table at the same time, but she provided a window for the other kids who were scampering about to take a peak in the kitchen and discover what was happening. Once that social barrier has been breached, it’s as if the honorary family inclusion statute is in place.

One cannot underestimate the power of a child. Because of the participation on the part of Margo, we were able to comfortably handle our business as private chefs. When it comes to catering (total disclosure here) stress plays a huge part in the execution of an event. Whatever is planned is pretty much guaranteed to turn out a bit different, and those slight diversions from the original plan are what has to be expected, if that paradox makes any sense at all. When setting up for an event we have to assess the resources of the space we enter: perhaps there is only three square feet of counter space. Perhaps items have to be finished in an electric oven. Perhaps there is very little space to navigate between the kitchen and the dining room… or there may be inadequate seating for the diners. All of these things have happened, and they will happen again in many forms. But when someone like Margo comes along and simply jumps us into the family, everyone is reminded that we are all present as a part of a whole. Working together, in order to be together and celebrate.

 

 

 

All said Margo made for a great assistant, Grandma didn’t do any of the dishes, and the dog didn’t eat everyone’s family dinner… but what is even more of a success to us is that I have the opportunity to write such a sentence. It means that through the lens of fine dining we were able to actually become a part of this family for one special night. We could not only just provide a couple bites of incredible notes to make up a delicious meal, but to carry on a family tradition. As personal chefs we are grateful to not only share in the appreciation of great food with others, but to temporarily be a part of the sacred family meals over which we endure generation after generation.

Personal Chef Cooking Secrets: Mouthwatering Steak

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Personal Chef Cooking Secrets: Mouthwatering Steak

Personal Chef Secrets: Mouthwatering Steak Set-Up

This is a technique I learned working for some of the best chefs in Chicago. As a personal chef, it’s important to be creative but even more important to remember that technique is king! This is perfect for small private events because it’s a slow forgiving cooking technique.

Gathering Ingredients & Supplies 

Choose that cut of beef

First things first, what do you need in order to be successful during our steak cookery? Well luckily for this adventure very few supplies are needed and what you will need to tap into is your inner Michelin Star chef. Okay, so let’s talk about ingredients. Let’s pick out the piece of meat we want to cook! Any piece of tender beef will do just fine for this technique. A few great options are tenderloin, t-bone, ribeye, skirt steak & my personal favorite is hanger steak. Some of these steaks will cook faster because of the thickness but I have always found the density, the versatility, and flavor of the hanger steak to be most excellent.

 

Choose your other ingredients

I keep it super simple when choosing ingredients for an already perfect cut of steak. Today we are going to be working with butter, salt, garlic, and herbs.

Butter

Starting with butter – there are plenty of types of butter at various prices, textures, and flavors. For this get some whole butter from your local grocer, keep it simple and call it a day. We are going to brown it and soak it in beefy deliciousness anyway so don’t spend a bunch of money playing around with some gourmet ish because we are going to party hard with it anyway. If I am being honest – I buy the one on sale – 2 for $5. You can bet on that.

 

FAQ Alert: Can you use another fat?

Absolutely. If you are going to use another fat remember temperature control is going to be a factor. When you use butter its easy to see it start to brown. So when its browning us know you need to regulate the temperature so you don’t burn the butter but also so you do not overcook parts of the steak.

 

Salt

Again, there are plenty of types of salts. Some are smoked, some have $3 million worth of truffles dried up in them, others come from the Himalayas where some poor SOB with a hammer had to forage a glacial rock for you. Luckily for you – all you have to do is reach into your cabinet and grab some table salt. If you want to be fancy get some Kosher Salt. I use kosher salt because I find it’s easiest to get a nice even “Salt Bae” effect when seasoning my meat. 😅

Seasoned Steak

FAQ Alert: Do you also use pepper or other seasonings on your steak?

Answer: I do not. Here’s why. Steak is delicious. The only thing steak needs to taste good is some salt & heat to bring out the flavors of beef and push the aromas to the surface. Now what I will do oftentimes is make a sauce for the steak. In that case, you should do everything in your power to make that sauce amazing. So that’s where you can get wild. But when it comes to an already perfect piece of meat I keep it simple and season it with salt.

 

Garlic & Herbs

So, here is the beauty of cooking. It is mostly technique and seasoning – the rest is wide open for interpretation. You can also look at the garlic & herbs as “blank & blank”. If you don’t like garlic use shallots, onion, or chives. Maybe you don’t like herbs – don’t use them.  I usually use garlic and fresh thyme. That’s traditional AF and if you are trying to be super trad stick with the winners.

 

FAQ Alert: Can I use dried herbs or powdered versions of these items?

Sure, but do you really want garlic powder or dried herbs stuck to your steak? The reason why we use fresh herbs is that it captures the essence and the flavor of the ingredients without physically putting them in your mouth. Our goal here is to extract the flavors from our ingredients and use them to enhance the characteristics of the steak.

 

Gathering Supplies

 

Choosing A Pan

Most personal chefs can spend hours and hours talking about their favorite type of pan, cookware, and which metal conducts the most heat. Well, I cant. So grab a pan that fits the amount of meat your cooking – don’t think too much about it otherwise you might starve trying to figure it out. Here’s a tip if it doesn’t have a hole in the bottom of it and at least a 1-inch lip – you win – use it.

 

FAQ Alert: Should I use a nonstick?

Yes – just remember nonstick pans are the pampered Pollyanna version of cookware so if you use a metal utensil such as a spoon or tong while cooking you might scrape the bottom of the pan and hurt its feelings. (😢 Sad times)

 

Moving on…

Sheet Trays, Cooling Racks, Parchment Paper & Tweezers

These culinary tools are extra. But we are going to go over it because it yields the best results. Can you cook a perfect steak without these components? Sure, but this is easiest.

Sheet trays – I love them. They are flat pieces of metal basically sturdy enough to hold food, they fit well into ovens and other spaces of the rectangular type. Get some parchment paper. The parchment paper keeps your flat pieces of metal clean and it looks nice. Of all the tools above, cooling racks are the most important for the cookery.

We use the cooling rack for seasoning which offers even distribution of salt. It allows for airflow for cooking the beef in the oven. IF we just cook the steak on a flat surface, chances are the part that’s touching the sheet tray will have an uneven overcooked mark. (Sorry Gordon Ramsey)

Lastly, we will use our tweezers to temp our meat. WTF does this mean? I was taught how to temp meat a ton of different ways. But nothing has been more effective than feeling the pain of the beef you are cooking. If you pop the tweezers into the center of the beef and put the tweezers up to your cheek the metal should be just hot enough that it is uncomfortable but should not burn you.

That uncomfortable feeling is about medium-rare. You use a thermometer for sure – 100%. This other method will impress your friends and it adds an element of magic to the cookery. Think of it as your magic wand. This really puts you in touch with the food you are cooking instead of relying on a thermometer or touching the meat constantly with your paws. (Which isn’t accurate) The tweezer method is good for business I promise

 

Let’s Get Cooking

 

Temper Yo Beef

I like to temper my beef. I pull it out about an hour before I am ready to cook it. I do this for two reasons beef tempered at room a comfortable room temperature helps with even cooking time as well as speedier cook time. So pull out your beef and place is it on your parchment covered sheet tray and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

 

Set Your Oven

In the meantime set your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, this is a low and slow technique so we want our oven relatively low. The results I promise you are that of a sous-vide piece of beef. You can use the convection oven setting although if you use convection I have seen that it almost works too well. Inn order to combat the overcooking, if you decided to use the convection oven try setting it at 250 degrees Fahrenheit – I’ve found this to work about the same as a regular oven set at about 300 with no fan. Let it be known, once you get good at this method you will learn how to adapt to almost any temperature setting and achieve the same results. However again I want to keep this process as forgiving as possible for the first time doing it so we must proceed with gentleness and 300 degrees is a decent starting point.

 

Now that we have our oven set and beef tempered let’s get that pan ripping!

 

Heating the pan and add your butter, garlic, and herbs!

 

For every ounce of steak, I use a tablespoon of butter, 6 clove of garlic, and 20 sprigs of thyme. Let’s be honest, when it comes to this make sure you have enough butter to cover the pan about ⅛” inch and use as much garlic and herbs you want.

 

FAQ Alert: How high should I keep my flame?

That really depends on how awesome or shotty your appliances are and how fast you want your butter to brown. Cooking is all about the regulation of heat. For this first time around take it slow but also have the confidence to turn it up and down depending on the sounds, sights, and smell of what’s happening in the pan.

 

Turn the heat on about half intensity and add the butter. Once the butter starts to melt we are going to let it do just that. While your butter is melting season the steak liberally from a distance of at least 8inches above the meat turning it slightly all the way around so that the surface of the meat is completely seasoned. Now that the butter has melted, wait for it to bubble slightly and add your garlic and herbs. Start to swirl it around until there is an aroma of butter, garlic, and thyme. Finally, add your steak.

 

This is a really important part because we want to baste the steak in the butter. We want to turn the steak frequently so that each and every nano-inch of the beef is kissed with our butter. It is important to move the beef around no less than every 30 seconds so that the inside doesn’t cook. What we are doing is creating a flavorful buttery garlic herb crust. Once the butter begins to brown we can pull our steak and put it on the cooling rack and toss it straight in the oven.

Every 5 minutes we are going to test our temperature of the beef as well as flipping the beef over so that the juices flow evenly through the meat ensuring even cooking. For the temping: we can use the thermometer first. If you decide to use the thermometer to test the beef also put it up to your cheek. Start to get the feeling of the desired temperature of the steak – that way, soon you will be a master at feeling the temperature without the thermometer. Here is a quick guide:

125 F – Rare

135 F – Medium Rare

145 F – Medium

150 F – Medium Well

160 F – Well Done

Once the desired temperature is reached pull the steak our, leave it on the rack and let it rest for 5 minutes turning it once to keep the juices moving evenly through the beef.

While your steak is resting we need to deal with the butter. What we are going to do is turn the heat on high and begin to brown the butter. Swirl the butter in the pan or use a whisk to keep the milk solids in the butter from sticking to the bottom and burning. To make brown butter you basically toast the milk solids. You will know once this happens because the sizzling in the pan will begin to subside. Once the butter is brown strain the butter and reserve for later.

Service Time

Cut the steak on a bias and against the grain. Fan the steak out and plate with the roasted garlic and herbs. Season the beef one last time with some finishing salt and gently spoon some warm brown butter over the steak.

So this is one secret to my success as a personal chef – cooking a perfect steak every time, your turn!

Enjoy!

Personal Chef Cooking Secrets: Mouthwatering Steak

Personal Chef Cooking Secrets