03.31Inside the Kitchen Interview | Chef Pienaar, Singita Game Reserves

Chef Pienaar

Singita’s Executive Chef Loraine Pienaar at Singita Ebony Lodge is talented, creative and passionate about being an executive chef.

Chef Pienaar

Fortunately for us, Chef Pienaar has agreed to answer some questions about working in this exotic luxury safari lodge, among the African “Big Five,” rated one of the world’s best dream destinations. Hope you enjoy the interview.

Chef Pienaar

Courtesy Singita Game Reserve

 What is the best question you have ever had from guests?

 I had a guest once ask me, ”What kind of meat is oxtail?”

Who most influenced your love of cooking?

What inspired me was probably my grandma’s Sunday lunches. She went all out with 3 meats, 4 vegetables, 2 salads and 2 starches. The way it brought everyone (we are a lively bunch that loves and fights passionately) together; it was one place where all of us actually agreed. You can influence people with food.

Chef Pienaar

Where did you learn to cook?

I have to say Maze restaurant in London and the exeutive sous (later head chef of Maze Prague) took a lot of time teaching me. I learned about the science of cooking and that really really interests me.

Chef Pienaar

Courtesy Singita Game Reserves

What is the process you go through to get new recipes on the menu for the restaurant?

I do not go sit down and create a dish. If I have to define the creation of dishes I will say it is a combination of books, TV shows and dreams. I am Afrikaans, but I dream in English and I am running a kitchen in three quarters of my dreams (or so my family say that has seen me sleep). The other part of creation is chatting to my team. There are so many different personalities in the kitchen all from different cultures and backgrounds. Different personalities and combinations compliment each other and we learn together.

Chef Pienaar

Courtesy Singita Game Reserves

Do you do much cooking when you aren’t working?

I do believe not to take your work home (psychiatrists say it is unhealthy), but I do cook “homey” food at home. At home, friends and family all are chefs in the kitchen with me. Everyone adds their say ( not tolerated in the restaurant) with wine and laughter flowing.

Chef Pienaar

What is your favorite food you cook at home?

Shellfish – especially prawns or any tapas where it is very interactive and everyone is getting in there.

Chef Pienaar

Courtesy Singita Game Reserve

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Changing someone’s life for even twenty minutes, eating a dish that makes you feel good and warm inside. When you get higher up the ladder you get to teach and inspire other chefs and change their future and the way they see themselves and food.

Chef Pienaar

Courtesy Singita Game Reserves

Do you have some secret ingredient combinations that you use on a variety of  dishes that might be thought of as your signature spice?

Signature spice…really difficult when there are so many to use!!! I’ll take the easy way out and say salt. Salt makes everything taste better…even sweet cakes get salt. I also use a lot of fruit in my menus.

Chef Pienaar

Courtesy Singita Game Reserve

What is your personal favorite dish on the menu?

Foie gras on thinly sliced ripe nectarines, pear and saffron chutney and buttery brioche. (Just have it once in your life and a small portion, then always yearn for more…it will never be as good as the first time.)

Chef Pienaar

Where do get most of your ingredients?

We try to get most of our produce local. Just outside the reserve we have a small local community that we promote and support. They set up a local vegetable garden which we buy from.

Chef Pienaar

Courtesy Singita Game Reserves

What are some fun tips or shortcuts for inexperienced chefs that you could suggest?

Experiment and taste everything you cook.

What is the most interesting food that you have ever cooked?

I did an experiment on what effect food and the different cooking methods have on someone. Not only aphrodisiacs,but also stimulants and moods. I will never admit to the guinea pigs.

NOTE

Personally, if you love to cook, I can’t think of a more exotic and adventuresome setting that that of exquisite Singita Ebony Lodge in South Africa. Our family looks forward to returning to Kruger National Park for another wildlife safari and sumptuous meals prepared by Chef Loraine Pienaar!

– The Gourmet Review

 

03.16Wolfgang Puck 2011 Oscar Party | “Inside the Kitchen” Video

Wolfgang Puck is back for the 17th year catering the 2011 Oscar after party at the Governor’s Ball. It wouldn’t be the same without his smoked salmon with caviar and creme fraiche (this year on flatbread) and his signature chocolate oscars. The oscar award ceremony culminates weeks of anticipation, after oscar nominations are announced for the coveted oscar statute.

Whether its checking out 1600 Dover sole filets at 3:41 that just arrived Friday for the Pan Roasted Dover Sole with Fennel, Olives, Haricot Vert, Tomatoes, Lemon, Sherry, and Olive Oil (as a nod to The King’s Speech) or the butler served Vegetable Paella with Saffron, White Wine, Chili, Parsley, which was sure to please Natalie Portman, Wolfgang Puck never disappoints. Of course, every guest will take home a 24 karat edible Oscar for desert.

– The Gourmet Review

02.24Inside The Kitchen Interview | Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Courtesy Four Seasons Hualalai

Executive Chef Nick Mastrascusa is Chef de Cuisine at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s Beach Tree. This casual beach restaurant is a long way from the more urban Four Season’s 57 Restaurant in New York City, where Chef Nick worked before moving to Hawaii. His knack of knowing what people like for both casual and elegant dishes was honed while going out to dinner six nights a week in New York.

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Chef Nick is charismatic and absolutely passionate about his food. Of course, he has stellar culinary credentials, starting with a master’s degree from the prestigious CIA, otherwise known as the  Culinary Arts School at Greystone in California. What sets Chef Nick apart, however, is his uncanny ability to create fresh, creative, yet simple dishes that appeal to both guests and residents alike on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Ceviche Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Inspiration comes from all sources and oftentimes from family. The ceviche, for example, was inspired by Chef Nick’s wife, while fishing one summer in Uruguay. The original fish Chef Nick used in Uruguay was “Corvina,” but in Hawaii he uses Onaga (red snapper).

Another family inspiration is seen in Chef Nick’s popular mango gazpacho, where the addition of fresh mango and ripe,  yellow tomatoes is added to an otherwise traditional gazpacho. This dish reflects both Italian and Spanish influences on the menu. Not so surprising, since Chef Nick’s father is from Sicily and his mother from Spain. “This is where Spain meets Hawaii!,” says Chef Nick. One word describes both the ceviche and the gazpacho. Delicious!

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Whether it’s a fabulous salad, a simple wrap, a shared plate in the al fresco lounge or the fresh fish of the day grilled to order, you will find  both casual lunch and elegant dinner options. Every dish will reflect Chef Nick’s creative flair and is guaranteed to be home made using absolutely fresh ingredients. Whether it’s the  beef caprese salad, carpaccio with citrus and avocado, pan seared scallops with corn puree, fresh salads or even lobster ravioli, you will love the food.

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Tonight’s Specials!

The menu is changed three times a year and every night there are specials. The board for today’s specials feature opah, which is a deep red, orange bodied fish rich in flavor, due to its fat content, and  found in the Hawaiian Islands. Lucky diners!

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Fresh Produce Farm to Table

Only the best ingredients will do  for the Beach Tree. Chef Nick was proud to say that the Beach Tree Restaurant uses more than l60 ingredients from local farms. He opened a box and pealed back newspaper that was covering a freshly picked variety of young lettuce. The multi colored selection, shown in the photo above, was destined for that night’s salads. Talk about fresh!

 Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Imported From Italy

What can’t be grown or caught on the Hawaiian Islands is flown in from wherever the best can be found. That means if Chef Nick needs prosciutto, you can be sure it’s being flown in from Friuli, Italy. In fact, he confesses to eating about 10 slices of prosciutto a day to keep his energy up.

What about Parmesan cheese? That would be the 90 to 100 pounds of Parmigiano Reggiano flown in from Parma each week. Extra virgin olive oil? Aged balsamic vinegar? Of course, that would be flown in from Villa Manodori, next to Modena, Italy. Chef Nick calls the EVOO and balsamic vinegar “The boyfriend and the girlfriend.”

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

OO Flour is the secret!

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Even the flour used to make pizzas, pastas and breads is imported from Italy. It’s called “OO” because the flour is ground extra fine. It comes from the winter harvest, and this hearty wheat flour boasts more protein than normal flour. The OO flour for the  thin-crusted pizza better holds the sauce (and is healthier) than normal flour. I could honestly eat  the flat bread all day.

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

Courtesy Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

One guest shared with Chef Nick that the pasta dishes, from the lobster risotto, lasagna with veal osso bucco, rigatoni, fettuccine, linguini, gnocchi, or papardelle,  at Beach Tree rivaled those at restaurant Cipriani. Now that’s a compliment!

One of Chef Nick’s specialties is his paella. Before opening the Beach Tree restaurant, the owners of the Four Seasons were flying to the hotel to sample the proposed tasting menu. everyone had heard about Chef Nick’s paella, but the specific chorizo, saffron and rice had not yet arrived from Spain. So, the tasting had to be postponed. Chef Nick would not allow substitute ingredients, even if it meant delays for the tasting, much to the chagrin of hotel management.

Finally, several weeks later, all the ingredients from Spain were in the kitchen. For the official tasting, Chef had four enormous paella pans for serving, each one so large that it required four waiters to present to the diners. Today, guests can get their paella individually served, or if you are curious to see these enormous paella pans, you’ll have to bring a crowd and have a catered affair.

Chef Nick Mastrascusa

The People Who Make It Happen

Chef Nick starts our interview by saying that it is a team effort that makes any restaurant successful. During my tour of the kitchen, Chef Nick  introduced me to every member of his culinary team and wanted to make sure I had a photo of  each one. I wish I had room to share the faces that reflected the enthusiasm behind every dish that leaves the kitchen. Each one clearly loved working in what can best be described as a setting fit for Hawaiian royalty.

– The Gourmet Review

01.21Inside The Kitchen Interview | Chef David Walzog, SW

David Walzog interview

Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

Executive Chef David Walzog makes the art of overseeing the kitchen at SW Restaurant at Wynn Resort in Las Vegas look like child’s play. He exudes passion for his craft. You can feel it in the kitchen and see it on every plate before leaving the kitchen.

David Walzog

The Blue Baker’s Kitchen Tour

Chef David was kind enough to give my 10-year-old Blue Bakerand myself a tour of SW last spring. Afterwards, my Blue Baker said to me, “Chef David really loves everything about cooking, doesn’t he?”

It’s hard to get Chef David to take a compliment. Everything is a deflection to his “team” without whom, he says, the dining experience would never happen.

David Walzog

Love Peeled Asparagus 

David Walzog

Lamb Chops Ready For Grill

David Walzog

Potatoes for Chopped Salad

A commitment to excellent ingredients is first and foremost. SW is known for their steaks. Chef David holds a blind tasting once a year to make sure he is getting the very best. Each and every piece of meat is measured for fat content and grade before it arrives at the restaurant. It’s this attention to detail that makes the dining experience at SW truly exceptional. Oh, did I mention the purple broccoli? I saw this for the first time at SW. It’s fun seeing the trays of fresh ingredients already prepped and ready to cook.

David Walzog

The Gourmet Review

David Walzog

The Gourmet Review

Here’s a peek into the kitchen and the line of chefs processing orders. Each order is time stamped when it comes into the kitchen. Then every subsequent course is time stamped to ensure a good flow for the diner – not too rushed, not too slow.

David Walzog

Wagu Beef on Block of Himalayan Sea Salt

David Walzog

Scallops Ready to Serve

Just a few dishes leaving the kitchen  the night of our kitchen tour.

David Walzog

Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas

It makes no difference whether guests at SW are award winning food critics or your average Joe –  the food will always be exceptional.  We asked Chef David to remember the most interesting guests he ever served. He told about the night that Steve Wynn, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were dining at one table. We asked whether that made him nervous. “No,” he replied. For Chef David, it’s all about putting on a great dining experience no matter who the guest might be.

– The Gourmet Review

11.10Inside the Kitchen Interview | Chef Parolari

chef parolari

Chef Luciano Parolari, otherwise known as “The King of Risotto” throughout  Italy, is a master of risotto – seafood, shellfish, fresh vegetable, seasonal and even poultry and meat risottos. So much so that he has written a book, “Tales of Risotto,” that answers every question you might ever ask about risotto, from tips for the beginner, to the favorite risottos of many of the hotel’s celebrity guests, such as Madonna and Elton John. He has been at Villa d’Este since l967.

Chef Luciano has been kind enough to answer some questions for The Gourmet Review.

Q What is the most interesting meal you have ever cooked professionally and for whom?

I had the privilege of cooking for Pope John Paul II when he visited the city of Como and he specifically asked for a risotto.

(By the way, the risotto with spring vegetables is not only the favorite of Luciano himself, but was the risotto prepared for the Pope in 1996 when the Pope came to Como for three days. The Pope was the guest of the archbishop, who requested Chef Pavaroli prepare all of the Pope’s meals. The recipe will follow on the blog.)

(Read the rest of this entry…)

10.12Inside the Kitchen Interview | Chef Wolfgang Puck

wolfgang puck interview

Courtesy Google Images

An interview with Wolfgang Puck is always fascinating, simply because Puck is the quintessential chef, entrepreneur and culinary genius. Usually I like to conduct my own interviews, but I thought John Mitsewich captured some interesting facets of Puck’s personality for  American Food Guide. John’s interview is a fun read.

What is a typical workday like? How many hours a day do you work? Do you work from one location, or travel around to your various restaurants?

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world because my work is also my hobby. So whether I’m starting early in the morning, or finishing late at night, I love the restaurant business. I certainly have to travel a lot to our different locations from Maui to Atlantic City, and the only thing I don’t like is meetings with accountants, lawyers, or attending board meetings.”

Why do you think you’ve had such staying power in the Hollywood dining scene, when other chefs and trendy restaurants come and go so fast? 

“We are not a trendy restaurant or bar like so many of the others we see opening over the years. We are all about quality and in the end, quality will win out and stay around for a longer time.” 


You’ve recently expanded your prepared food offerings to include four new appetizers; pork spring rolls, arancini, shrimp cakes and chicken pot stickers. How did you decide on these items? How many recipes did you test before settling on these? Are these regular items from your catering business, or were they specifically designed for the retail market?

 “Most of the new offerings in our food line started in the restaurants like shrimp cakes, potstickers, spring rolls, etc. I only had to decide which ones would hold up the best when you freeze them and which ones were easy to serve. We always taste and test a lot of different appetizers in the restaurant or for our frozen food offerings. Most of the items we selected were already popular in our catering kitchens or we did them for parties at the restaurant, so I thought it would be nice that people can have a wonderful product handy at home.”


(Read the rest of this entry…)

09.18Inside the Kitchen Interview | CHEF BRIFFARD | Four Seasons Paris

Photograph By Shin Shin

The master of the kitchen at Georges V’s  Le Cinq since June 2008 is Executive Chef Eric Briffard, who oversees the largest kitchen team in Europe: 115cooks, 7 apprentices, 15 sous-chefs and 13 sommeliers. Chef Briffard is the first to arrive and the last to leave the kitchen, where 17 to 18 hour days six days a week are common.

Chef Briffard’s haute cuisine has been drawing raves in Paris and throughout Europe – perhaps surprising the diner with  a bit of Asian influence when one least expects it, even for such traditional gastronomique delights as truffles and lobster. Or, who would expect sushi grade abalone prepared several ways from tartare to meuniere style? It’s a fun twist on traditional French cuisine.

Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel

George V’s Chef Briffard’s superb credentials include an apprenticeship with Joel Robuchon.  With a focus on the freshest and best regional ingredients,  Chef Briffard  is known as a perfectionist when it comes to food and its presentation. Nothing but the best will suffice.

Chef Briffard has been kind enough to share some of his background with me.
 
 
 
Q  Who most influenced your love of cooking?

 My grandmother. (My research shows that Eric’s grandfather used to bake the family bread and even produced their own nut oil).

 
Q  What is your favorite food you cook at home?
 
I like all food, that’s why I became a chef!
 
 
Q  If you could share one secret for young chefs, what would it be?
 
To be passionate, enjoy yourself, and love to eat!
 
 
Q  What do you enjoy most about your job?
 
The gastronomical aspect as well as the sharing.
 
 
Q  What is the process for inspiring new recipes on the menu for Le Cinq?
 
I must be inspired when meeting the right product. I go meet growers, as it is the natural food that is essential to creating a great dish.
 
 
Q  What is your personal favorite dish on the menu?
 
That is a hard question, as it changes constantly and depends  on the season. However, my favorite dish will always be whatever my last creation is!
 
 

– The Gourmet Review

 

 

04.23LudoBites Hawaii | Celebrity Chef Ludo Lefebvre

Celebrity Chef Ludo Lefebvre is an award winning culinary artist and chef extraordinaire. Whether appearing on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters show or inside the kitchen for his “pop- up” restaurants in Los Angeles or  the Big Island of Hawaii, you will find magic.

Critics and loyal foodies alike go where Chef Ludo goes and guests are never disappointed. Inspiration comes from seasonal, market fresh, local ingredients.

Below is a sampling of dishes from an incredible meal I enjoyed last March at the fabulous Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Bet you wish you could savor theses dishes right now!

The Four Seasons | Top Food Blogs | Best Restaurant Blogs | Gourmet Food lLog

Courtesy The Gourmet Review

My husband and I started with an appetizer of Smoked Mahi-Mahi Rillette on toasted bread. I’m thinking I really need to ask for this recipe.

Best Recipe Blog | Celebrity Chef Recipes | Best Food Blogs

Courtesy The Gourmet Review

Next came the Hirame Ceviche. Just the list of ingredients is daunting. Aji Amarillo, strawberry papaya water, rainbow carrots and salmon roe. This chef is serious about his ingredients.

Best Restaurant Blog | Celebrity Chef Recipes | Famous Celebrity Chefs

Courtesy The Gourmet Review

I couldn’t resist the Crispy Chicken with chorizo, eggs and hamakua mushrooms. The skin of the chicken was crackling crispy and the meat tender.

Best Recipe Blog | Celebrity Chef Recipes | Best Food Blogs

Courtesy The Gourmet Review

Of course, no dinner is complete without a fish course and Chef Ludo presented a culinary masterpiece of Steamed Hapu’upu’u (Hawaiian sea bass) with crispy caramelized skin, miso cream, fennel, navel orange and tonka beans(Read the rest of this entry…)

01.23Thai Cooking Demonstration | Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Four Seasons at Hualalai | Luxury Travel Blog

Courtesy The Gourmet Review

Four Season’s Chef James “Jim” Babian never disappoints. He is Executive Chef at Four Season’s Resort Hualalai and has become something of an expert on Thai food. You’ll remember he cooked a fabulous Thai dinnerfor my husband and me earlier this year. He surprised us with  a Thai cooking demonstration when we brought our family to the resort for the first time a few months ago. Everyone got in the act and we ate like kings.

The Four Seasons | Hawaii Four Seasons | Four Seasons Resort

Courtesy The Gourmet Review

First course was Tom Yum Soup. Delicious shrimp, shitake mushrooms, lemon grass, Kaffir lime leaves and fresh lime juice were spotlighted in this appetizer. Most of the ingredients for the meal were grown in the hotel’s herb garden.

Four Seasons Hualalai | The Gourmet Review | Luxury Travel Blog

Courtesy The Gourmet Review

Next up was Chef Jim’s Thai Beef Salad. The combination of heirloom tomatoes, prime New York steak grilled to perfection, Thai chili peppers, fresh cilantro and lime juice, along with a few “secret” Thai ingredients was definitely a favorite and easy to prepare.

Inside The Kitchen | Four Seasons Hualalai Resort

Courtesy The Gourmet Review

OK. we were starting to get full now, but another course was being prepped. It just happened to be another of my husband’s favorites. We love Pad (Phad) Thai and it was fun to see how Chef Jim added his special flair to this colorful Thai dish.  Garden fresh seasonings combine with traditional thai condiments and you end up with one of Thailand’s most popular dishes.

FInally, we came to the end of the meal and Chef Sean made a fresh pineapple fruit sorbet in a matter of minutes. The taste was so concentrated we had a hard time believing there was no added sugar. Just lightly baked fresh pineapple slices to concentrate the sugar and add to a magic “$3,000 instant sorbet machine. It was a delicious way to end our meal.

The Four Seasons Hualalai | Four Seasons Resort Hualalai

Courtesy The Gourmet Review

Nothing more fun than watching great chefs at work, showing us the step by step recipes for great Thai food. My “Blue Baker” helped with preparation and everyone in the family had a great time watching and eating. Our family wants to  thank Chef Jim and Chef Shaun Acosta, Sous Chef,  for a great afternoon of cooking and, more importantly, a great meal. This is one we we will remember, as we try to recreate the great food we enjoyed this afternoon.

– The Gourmet Review

NOTES

All of Chef Jim’s recipes for our  Thai meal are included in links on today’s blog post. Give them a try!

08.19“Blue Baker” | My Inspiration and Blog Partner

The Blue Baker Halloween Cupcakes – 8 Years Old

My cooking companion since the age of two is my granddaughter . She was my inspiration for The Gourmet Review. We are having  an extraordinary culinary adventure all over the world together with great food, restaurants, and locations around the world. The nickname “Blue Baker” is hers alone.  After all, when you are ten, have baked for years with your “Gamma,” and just purchased a blue apron from Williams Sonoma, the name is a snap!

The “Blue Baker” is twelve now and we’ve had a busy year. She interviews chefs and does “behind the scenes” tours with me in great kitchens. Our first “Inside the Kitchen” tour was with at Daniel Buloud. She has since done kitchen tours, cooking demonstrations and interviews, with chefs from Spago, Wynn Resort Las Vegas and Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.

My “Blue Baker” also loves to interview cake artists, bread makers, pastry chefs and florists. She’s a pro now and thinks nothing of buttoning up her chef’s jacket and going to work, learning cooking techniques from some of the best chefs in the country. I might add that we have a lot of fun sampling food on the menu as well.  What started out as a fun culinary project with the “Blue Baker,” became The Gourmet Review in 2010. This is fun stuff for a foodie!

2017 UPDATE: My “Blue Baker” is now applying to college. It’s hard to imagine that she is all grown up. Through the years, she has become an accomplished chef. It’s been a remarkable journey for both of us. Lucky me!

-The Gourmet Review

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The Gourmet Review is a gourmet food blog featuring celebrity chef recipes, secret restaurant recipes, family favorite recipes and easy gourmet recipes, quickly becoming the best recipe blog for gourmet eating. TheGourmetReview.com also features the best luxury travel experiences, taking you "inside the kitchen" and "behind the scenes" through VIP Access at some of the top luxury travel hotels, be it the Wynn Resort Las Vegas, the Four Seasons hotels and Four Seasons Resorts or Singita's Private Game reserve in South Africa. If you are interested in a Wolfgang Puck chef interview, popular cocktail recipes with a gourmet twist, or a healthy recipes blog, we look forward to sharing a culinary journey with you from around the world.