Posts Tagged ‘cafe boulud’
If you’ve tasted his house-made Pate de Campage or Carolina flounder with leek and root vegetable fondue, American caviar and pommes gaufrettes, then you don’t need to read a resume to know that Cafe Boulud Palm Beach Chef de Cuisine Zach Bell is one of the most passionate and dedicated chefs this side of Battery Park.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a brief dossier:
A Florida native, chef Zach Bell honed his culinary skills in the Manhattan kitchens of Marc Poidevin and Daniel Boulud before returning to open Cafe Boulud Palm Beach as chef de cuisine in 2003. Nominated as Rising Star Chef of the Year and Outstanding Chef of the South by the James Beard Foundation, Bell has received numerous accolades including Wine Spectator Magazine’s Best of Award of Excellence and four stars in the Mobil Travel Guide.
His obsession with quality means using only natural products from artisan farmers like Montana Legend for natural Angus beef, Giannone Poultry, La Quercia organic pork, and CleanFish Sustainable Seafood. But it is his commitment to the Slow Food farm-to-table movement that governs his support of local family farms like Deep Creek Ranch in DeLand, Swank Specialty Produce in Loxahatchee, Green Cay Produce in Boynton Beach and Mote Marine‘s sustainable aquaculture facility in Sarasota.
So how can we bring this kind of quality and care into our everyday lives? (Aside from moving into the Brazilian Court hotel and taking in three squares a day at Cafe Boulud, that is). Let’s ask Chef Zach:
What is the Slow Food movement?
“Slow Food is a worldwide movement determined to bring good, clean and fair food to every corner of the globe. Everyone has the right to wholesome food that is healthy and safe. However, that is far from the case in even the most prosperous countries, especially the United States. It is also about preserving the values of food and sharing of meals as a cornerstone to strong families and communities.”
Why is it important to you, and how do you support it?
“I am a passionate cook. I take pride in making everything from scratch and with deep respect to the time honored traditions handed down – learned by and from grandmothers and families everywhere. I eschew fancy gadgets in favor of manual cooking methods – mortar and pestle over spice grinder, box grater over Microplane, old-fashioned oven with no fan over fancy combitherm digital space ovens, cast iron and steel pans over Teflon… Using these ‘time-saving’ gadgets lessens the amount of attention, love and level of technique that is required to properly execute a skill, and with that inevitably comes the gradual loss of that skill until it is forgotten.
“At the same time, I search out the ingredients that match my style. We look for clean and natural meat, wild caught or sustainable seafood, fresh, seasonal local produce when available. We love to learn the stories behind the families that produce or grow our food. We love to learn about the techniques that a farmer is using for pest control. We love a cell phone call from a shrimper that is on his way in with true fresh out of the water product. You can taste the love in all these products as they are with minimal interference from me. My job is to let all their hard work show on the plate.”
How can we go Slow at home?
“For starters – go see Food, Inc. It is a good summary of the myriad of books and articles floating around. This is not fiction, people! This business of Food is TOO BIG for the government to turn around. The only way to make change is to affect the demand.
“Stop buying anything with High Fructose Corn Syrup, Genetically Modified Organisms, anything you cannot recognize – it is engineered. This is not hard – I did it at a restaurant! And no it is NOT elitist to want pure food in your body. Is it really stuck up to want a glass of juice over a glass of 95% corn syrup? Is this a snowball too big to stop – maybe! The food biz has the bulk of the country addicted to the cheap price of unhealthy food!
“Get a garbage can and throw away your fake salad dressings, your Miracle Whip, your Lunchables, fake juice, cheap cookies, cheap chicken breast. Buy a can of olive oil, a bottle of red wine vinegar and a jar of mustard and make your own vinaigrette. Buy real juice, buy organic or natural chicken, buy or better yet make fresh cookies! Get in the kitchen and cook people. I can open a can of muir glen organic tomatoes, a can of organic white beans, a box of whole wheat pasta, a clove of garlic and make a nice pasta fagioli in about 15 minutes. Throw some broccoli on a baking sheet with evoo in the oven then pop a couple pork chops on the grill – 20 minutes max! The more you get into the kitchen and start with super simple baby steps – you will be amazed how much better you feel about what you put in your body and your cooking skills. Eat your freshly made dinner at the table away from the tv – I know this is tough – start slow – 20 minutes, then 30 minutes. Talk about your day and your gameplan for the next days or even better – your plan for your next day off!”
What are a few great local or online resources?
www.localharvest.org, www.slowfoodusa.org, Nutrition S’mart in Palm Beach Gardens
When is your next Slow Foods event?
“We have Slow Food specials on the third Thursday of every month at Cafe Boulud Palm Beach, using all local producers and growers. The next one is on Oct. 15. Trish Strawn is sending me a half a side of beef from Deep Creek Ranch so I have my work cut out for me on what to do with that bad boy! She also hooked me up with some shrimpers in port canaveral. So should be good – it is three courses WITH wine for $60 (exclsuive of tax/grat). Of course we also sell them separately as apps, mains, etc. I have set aside December 2 as my Slow Food Gala – this year I got Tasis to come down from www.bellechevre.com to cook with us (and then I get to go make cheese in the spring!). That will be a tasting menu with donation – price tdb but last year was $125 all in – (tax,grat+$25 donation) so a really good deal also.”
For more information or Slow Food reservations, call 561.655.7070.
Those who’ve had the misfortune of encountering me before noon know that to say I am not a morning person is a gross understatement. Unless it’s a morning yoga day — 9 a.m. classes are killer, but at least they don’t cut into cocktail time! — I roll out of bed around 10 a.m. I’m not terribly useful or coherent until 1 p.m. or so. As a professional communicator, coherence is key, so I embrace my inner timetable. Mama lives in Florida — on Pacific time.
I share this information with you for two reasons: 1) For your own safety should we meet in daylight hours, and 2) to prove my dedication to this whole Real Life thing. Today I awoke at 8 a.m. not to head to the yoga studio, where I don’t have to make small talk except to bitch about the time, but instead to caravan an hour into the Everglades to stare at some mango trees.
This was actually my idea. I just don’t sound so enthused because I woke up at (my version of) the crack of dawn this morning. But really, it was pretty cool.
Organized by the Slow Food peeps, the field trip to Erickson Farm in Canal Point drew “hydronatural” purveyors Jodi and Darrin Swank of Swank Specialty Produce in Loxahatchee, Mango & Lime blogger “Paula” from Miami, a few of the crew from Cafe Boulud Palm Beach, and a handful of mango freaks. My husband, who to the bane of my existence is perfectly giddy at sunrise, was the captain of our carpool, which included Cafe Boulud Chef de Cuisine Zach Bell, a James Beard favorite (but not a morning person), and his wife, Sugar Monkey patissiere Jennifer Reed. That girl sang like a bird from Lake Worth to Canal Point, but thankfully, she understands that grunting is a perfectly acceptable response from me until I suck down enough java.
But back to the farm. Erickson Farm specializes in gourmet mangoes, avocados and other exotics like longan and curry. Their family has run the place since 1911, and you can taste the heritage in their brilliant fruit. Seriously, I am not a mango freak, but I would make the drive again for a load of those bad boys. Just pure, sweet nectar without the typical fibrous texture.
OK so the big question: Are they organic? No. Their take on being eco-friendly: “Unfortunately, some conditions that affect tropical plants cannot yet be controlled with organic products. We limit the use of pesticides and herbicides by using the effective organic solutions available and implementing cultivation techniques that aid in pest and weed control.”
Walking through the groves, with row upon row laced in the delicate webs of banana spiders the size of small birds, I would have been the first to jump in the pesticide bath! I mean these things rivaled the mangoes in size, and their webs could trap a small bear. I suppose it’s easy to poo poo pesticides and herbicides from afar, but try keeping a few hundred acres weed and pest free before you point the finger.
Are there cost-effective methods for producing organic produce as a small, family owned farm? Please comment! In the meantime, I’m making some avocado-mango salsa, recipe courtesy of Jodi Swank: Mix black beans, corn, diced mango and avocado, drizzle with fresh lime and olive oil and be glad you live in paradise. What? Corona? Don’t mind if I do…