Sunday, September 30, 2007

Meet One of the "Next Iron Chef" Challengers

Introducing Executive Chef John Besh

John Besh grew up in Southern Louisiana. He loved to hunt and fish and soon found out about the culinary traditions of Louisiana. “With all the cultural influences in Louisiana,” he says, “it’s an exciting place to learn about food.” He has traveled and studied all over the world.
He has worked at prestigious establishments such as Maxim's in New York , The Windsor Court's Grill Room in New Orleans and the Cinnamon Tree in Baltimore. He travels to France every year as a chef consultant to train fellow chefs in the fine points of Louisiana cuisine.
His restaurant group owns and operates four restaurants. He also runs BRG Catering and a restaurant consulting firm named Olivet. In his spare time, he grows mico-vegetables and raises laying hens and Gulf Coast sheep. As if that was not enough to keep him busy, he is working on a line of artisanal butters and a cookbook featuring Louisiana, Ma Louisianne.
Food & Wine Magazine featured one of his recipes, which I am sure that you will enjoy.

Besh's Fried Goat Cheese and Frisée Salad
One 11- to 12-ounce log of goat cheese, chilled
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon minced rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon walnut oil
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 small plums, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1 small head frisée, large leaves torn into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons minced oil-cured black olives
6 thin slices country ham or prosciutto (about 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon minced chives
1. Cut the goat cheese into 6 equal rounds and gently shape each piece into a 2 1/2-inch medallion. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic with 1/2 teaspoon of the rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle both sides of the goat cheese with the garlic mixture.
2. Put the flour, egg and bread crumbs into 3 separate shallow bowls. Dredge the goat-cheese medallions in the flour, then dip in the egg and coat with the bread crumbs. Transfer the breaded medallions onto a platter lined with wax paper and refrigerate until chilled.
3. In a small bowl, whisk 2 teaspoons of the vinegar with the honey until dissolved. Whisk in the walnut oil and season with salt and pepper.
4. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic and 1/4 teaspoon rosemary. Add the sugar and stir over moderately high heat until it dissolves. Add the plums and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the plum mixture to a blender along with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the water and blend until smooth. Return the plum sauce to the saucepan and keep warm.
5. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Add the goat-cheese medallions and cook over moderately high heat until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.
6. In a large bowl, toss the frisee with the walnut vinaigrette and olives and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the plum sauce onto 6 plates. Set 1 goat-cheese medallion in the center of each plate and arrange a slice of the country ham alongside with a little of the frisee. Sprinkle with the chives and serve immediately.
MAKE AHEAD The goat-cheese medallions can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 days.

Recipe tip: Before dredging food in flour, let it firm up in the refrigerator for 15 minutes; this makes for easier handling and a more even coating.

In 1999, Food and Wine named him one of the “Top 10 Best New Chefs in America”. Gourmet Magazine named his Restaurant August as one of America’s Top Fifty Restaurants. In 2006, he won the Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southeast. Zagat Guide rates his Restaurant August as the #1 restaurant in New Orleans.
In 2006, he competed in an Iron Chef Competition against Mario Batali and won in an andouille sausage battle.
Besh received his formal training at the Culinary Institute of America. He also trained in Europe. In the Black Forest region of Germany, he experienced truly localized cuisine. This made such an impression on him that he has made it his own style of cooking. Besh also served in the Marines’ infantry during Operation Desert Storm.
A true test of his stamina came with Hurricane Katrina. Not only did he get his own restaurants (Restaurant August and Besh Steak) up and running, but he also helped rebuild other establishments; such as Willie Mae’s Scotch House, which is a culinary landmark in new Orleans. He also acquired La Provence in Lacombe, La. from his late mentor, Chef Chris Kerageorgiou and opened Luke, a brasserie in the grand New Orleans tradition.
In his spare time, he is a spokesman for the Louisiana Seafood Council and a board member of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. He also works on a state program promoting Louisiana Cuisine. Just in case, he had even more spare time, he grows organic produce for his restaurants and is raising his own livestock – Bershire Pigs, Gulf Coast Sheep & Charolais cattle.

This is one busy man.

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