Luxe Beat Magazine MAY 2015 - Page 66

Francisco, California. I was immersed in outstanding agriculture, the fine wines of the Napa Valley, heavenly cheeses, dairy, and poultry. Also, their was exotic fish from Hawaii, the dungeness crab, sourdough bread and the amazing chefs of the city! It was in this grand area that I fell in love with food and dining. Sign me up! I was ready to attack fulltime in restaurants at age fifteen. Maralyn: Did you do an apprenticeship or go to a culinary school? Chef Keller: I believe you can learn a great deal in both culinary schools and apprenticing, but I believe it’s of the utmost importance to find teachers and Chefs that drive your passion. Individuals who push themselves, continuing learning, inspire me to be great as well. As a chef, you need to enjoy the process, the challenges and the rewards, otherwise it’s the toughest job one can face. I have often said, the day I stop learning is the day I stop living, and that’s really the key, I believe. Always grow professionally and personally, they both go hand in hand. I had been working in restaurants for more than three years, when a sauté cook from a country club I was working at the time asked me if I would like to go to culinary school with him. I thought that sounded like a great idea. I had been pursuing fire technology courses and working on my bachelor’s degree at Sacramento City College, but was not too excited about it. Culinary school sounded like an exciting, fantastic idea, so I enrolled. While in school, we toured a local hotel and I quickly broke off from my group to fill out an application. I soon was working in one of the finest hotels in the San Francisco bay area. While working, I realized that I was learning more than in culinary school, but school was giving me contacts and credibility. I realized that I was now Sous Chef of a big hotel, but at culinary school, I was learning how to be clean shaven, punctual, observant, engaging and professional. my go-to snack. Pizza, I love pizza, any pizza. French Fries, croissants, baguette and I especially enjoy ice cream. Duck! I am duck crazy ! During this time, I came to a huge realization, the sooner I could learn everything, the sooner I could be an executive chef. I knew I was pushing myself to the brink, but I was learning a tremendous amount of skills in many areas of the kitchen and the hospitality industry. Then I realized, this is an ever-changing art form and while there are traditional methods of cooking (that should always be remembered), there is an endless supply of information; always growing and changing as with languages and art. This gave me an even brighter eyed approach! She looked up at me and said, “They’re tasty”. My last year of school, I went to work for Chef Albert Tordjman, a French Chef trained for many years by Chef Paul Bocuse. It was here that all my training (6 years) had come full circle. I was learning more in one day than I had learned in weeks at culinary school and other restaurants. Here is where I realized what true passion is. This restaurant, The Flying Saucer in San Francisco, is where I would find my inner passion! The schooling and years of working in the trade coincided beautifully, and I would now open my first restaurant, Firefly, in Oregon. Maralyn: Which is your favorite station in the kitchen, the hotline, pastry, etc.? Chef Keller: I enjoy preparing all foods, from the simplest to the sophisticated. A chef once told me “beauty in simplicity”. Being ingredient driven, I get excited around fantastic ingredients. I love dishes that require days of preparation and many layers of flavor. What really inspire me are new techniques. I love cooking sous-vide and have a blast working with liquid nitrogen. I like feeling as if I am a child in a laboratory of foods. Maralyn: What is your favorite comfort food and is there a particular reason? Chef Keller: I don’t really have a favorite traditional comfort food. I always love chips and salsa, that’s I remember walking my three year old daughter by the ducks at the park and pointing them out to her. That’s my girl! I love duck and have eaten my weight in confit easily. I enjoy all foods and really find the most comfort in those foods that conger up fond, warm and safe memories. That can simply include fantastic Champagne, fire and a view of a stormy ocean. I am really texture oriented. I love crunchy and I love smooth. I also love salty and bitter. Maralyn: How do you personally view presentation? Chef Keller: Presentation is very important to me; I want to reflect my creativity and personality throughout my dishes. Like an artist, I want you to be able to recognize Candied Cherry Blossoms my food. An art lover can recognize a Picasso or a Monet instantly, and I hope to convey the same visual message to my guests. I am not so worried if this should go here or there, I want the dish to be mine. I want each dish to be a reflection of me, my individuality and my spirit. I obviously trade ideas with other chefs, but I never want to copy. I might share a technique, but I want to make it visually mine. Like music or painting, there are only so many colors, so many notes, it is individuals sharing their emotions that touch us. Maralyn: What is your favorite cooking utensil? Chef Keller: My fingers! I also love tweezers, but just because they make me feel like a scientist. I always have a spoon in my pocket, large enough to scoop and small enough to taste. Spiders, Japanese mandolins, tongs, wooden spoons, they all are much appreciated. But when all else fails, the fingers. Maralyn: Anything else you would like to share about being a chef? Chef Keller: Stay focused. Eat right! Sleep and be tolerant and respectful of your staff. I have often regretted how I have treated my staff in the past. I always thought people should be as passionate as me, then I realized, most likely are. But they have other passions, mine are in the kitchen. 66