In the fall of 1978, I moved to London, England to take a position as chef de partie at Le Gavroche. It was a long journey getting there as it took some nine months of waiting for visa clearance to work. While waiting for those visas, I went to France to hopefully get a summer position while waiting.
When I finally arrived in London, wife and 8 month old child in tow, we lodged at a bread and breakfast in a six floor walk-up. Toilet facilities down the hall, kitchen the size of a small closet and a single living, bedroom, storage room with a futon for a bed.
First reporting to Le Gavroche, I was a bit taken back by the basement kitchen. There was little space, some fourteen cooks and chef working like crazy and a somewhat tired array of cooking equipment, including an old wooden reach-in fridge. My first day on the job, I was given the task of cleaning a bag of the most encrusted mussels I had ever seen followed by a request to peel grapes. The work area per person was about 2 linear feet and inches away from the central stove. Honestly, I did not think I was going to stay.
So.....I decided to get as much as I could in the seemingly short time I was going to be there. I borrowed all the recipe binders in the kitchen and studiously copied, by hand, all the hundreds of recipes, which were in French.
Eventually, I decided to stay for the planned year and learn as much as possible. Chef-owner Albert Roux took the time to give a few on-on-one cooking lessons. I remember in particular a terrine of red mullet that we prepared. As with many things made there, it involved a fish mousseline.
After two months, Chef Roux invited myself and family to his home just outside of London. After dinner, the reason for the dinner came to light. Chef Albert expressed his appreciation for the job I was doing and made a proposition. He suggested that I spend three years in his kitchen with the object of doing a joint restaurant venture in America. It was my plan to open my own place one day so this was terrific. I was promoted to sous chef at the two Michel-starred Le Gavroche.
At the completion of my three years, Albert Roux sent me on a grand tour as a guest worker (stagier) at three top restaurants in France, Alain Chapel in Mionnay, Le Pres Catalan in Paris and the Troisgros in Roanne. It was a great experience and has served me well over the years.
Back to those recipe books I had hand copied. Just prior to my return to the States, I was presented with ring binders with all those recipes. I am happy to share them on this blog. Judging from the recipes, they are derived from classic sources such as Escoffier, Careme, Dubois, Villart and other masters of the classic French repertoire. Chef Albert had copies of those books from the 1800s.
Check back for future postings of those recipes...
Sea Bass Vicare's style
Bone the sea bass from the back, leaving the fish whole. Stuff with a fish mousse mixed with spinach cooked with stewed shallots. Close with string.
Braise the fish in fish stock and white wine, when done remove and place on a serving platter. Remove the skin, reduce the cooking liquid and add cream.
Serve with little tart shell filled with diced scallops cooked in reduced cream with fresh herbs and finished with meaux mustard. Do not boil the sauce after adding the mustard.
This is a chef's recipe in that you need to already have mastered the basics of french cuisine.
The Inn Crowd, hosted by Craig Case and Chef Michael Hutchings, is delighted to present an episode with the legendary composer Barry De Vorzon and his wife Jelinda in Santa Barbara, CA. The De Vorzons enjoy Mexican style cuisine so I delved into my south-of-the border repertoire. Come join us while we prepare Blue Corn Tortilla Soup, Chile Rellenos with Seafood and an unusual Pineapple tamale with Chocolate sauce. Join us for the first show of our new Inn Crowd cooking season.
Put on your apron, grab your whisk, fire up the oven and get on your apron. I'll provide the recipes, the rest is up to you. See you in the kitchen.
Chef Michael Hutchings
Barry De Vorzon(born July 31, 1934, New York City) is an American singer, songwriter, producer, and composer. His earliest hit compositions were "Just Married" (1958), written with Al Allen and recorded by Marty Robbins, which reached number twenty-six on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 chart and number one on the Country chart; and "Dreamin'" (1960), written with Ted Ellis, recorded by Johnny Burnette, and charting at number eleven on the Hot 100. Dorsey Burnette (whom he was managing) and De Vorzon co-wrote several of Dorsey's hits ("Hey, Little One"; "Big Rock Candy Mountain"; "Red Roses"; "Noah's Ark").
De Vorzon wrote "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight" for the Cascades, but the group did not record it. In 1963, De Vorzon recorded the song himself, with his group Barry and the Tamerlanes. Also in 1963 he co-wrote the ballad "Shy Girl" which was recorded by the Cascades.
The Santa Barbara Harbor is always a busy scene of locals, tourists, visiting cruise ships and happily fishermen. Yesterday I watched a catch being unloaded and one fish caught my eye, a yellowfin tuna. The fisherman had caught only one and it was already sold to the local fishmonger. There were also a few good sized local halibut.
In January of 1981 I did a month "stage" at a restaurant in the Burgundy region of France. The restaurant was call Alain Chapel after the chef-owner. The famed Chef Albert Roux of Le Gavroche, London, fame arranged the short term apprenticeship for me. Lodging was arranged by my friend Stephen Dougherty who was working there at the time. I was ensconced in a very old farmhouse, some 200 plus years old, privy outside and one bare bulb to light the room. The discomfort was well worth the experience at Chapel's.
Chapel's restaurant, three Michelin Stars at the time, was a very classical, regional restaurant. One dish in particular stands out in my mind. Chef Chapel braised a cow's ear until tender, stuffed it with a mixture of sweetbreads, foie gras, black truffles and velour, a rich cream sauce. After a standard breading, the stuffed ear was deep fried and served with a sauce perigourdine, black truffle demi glace.
Another standout dish was carp from a live tank and freshly butchered. A simple jus was the sauce, fish sautéed in butter and set on "herbes de jardin" which were wild gathered weeds.
I was also enlisted to help a pork butcher prepare charcuterie, the famous Lyonnaise sausages. I helped grind, by hand grinder, a whole hog, mix in the flavorings, stuff the casings with the mixture and hand it in an attic to cure. I have detailed notes on how to mix the ground to be evenly distribute the seasonings. Afterward, they were buried in ash to finish. More on this later...
My former sous chef, Alessandro Guerazzi, sent me an event notice recently. Has has a taken a new chef de cuisine position at an Italian restaurant called Noto's in Grand Rapids Michigan. Noto’s is a local family-owned business that began in 1982 and has been in the present location of Grand Rapids, MI since 1997. As a fine dining restaurant, we feature Old World Italian family recipes presented skillfully in casual elegance. If you are in the area, be sure and visit Noto's. We wish Alessandro all the best.
On a recent mushroom forage I picked a couple dozen helvella type mushrooms. I wanted to confirm the identification with Bob Cummings, our local mycological expert. I was correct except the name has changed slightly. They are edible when cooked well or dried. There is a compound in raw, fresh helvella lacunosa that is called hydrozene, also know as rocket fuel. Little wonder it is slightly toxic raw.
I am making an omelet with shallots, chives and those mushrooms, it's not rocket science.
This species is eaten and regarded highly by some after cooking, though the stems are not eaten. Several guidebooks list it as edible, yet this genus is now regarded with suspicion due to the presence of toxic compounds in several related species. It has been reported to cause gastrointestinal symptoms when eaten raw.
Recently I met an interesting couple at a local "salon" gathering, Bob and Susanne Evans. Bob has been in the dive, as in underwater ocean dive, business and involved with harvesting mussels off the oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel. He designed a kitchen tool for pounding food items like chicken cutlet and abalone steaks. He was kind enough to send me one to use on my tv show, The Inn Crowd. It is easily the best designed kitchen tool that I have. Bob has offered to arrange a dinner with his friend Jean-Michel Cousteau, another diver famed for his underwater films. What's for dinner? Abalone of course.
Bob gave one of these tools to Julia Child back in the 1970s. Julia was a large presence in Santa Barbara, filming two of her TV series here and founding the American institute of Wine and Food here as well. The thank you letter from the grand dame of the kitchen follows. I am delighted to have this new tool, Julia Child approved at that.
Come support Family Service Agency at the 3rd Cooking Up Dreams at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort March 31, 2017. Chef Michael Hutchings will be one of the many outstanding chefs from the local area participating in this culinary extravaganza. Attendees have the chance to vote for Michael's Catering for the People’s Choice Award. With exquisite food and wine this is sure to be a night you won’t want to miss! http://fsacares.org/cooking-up-dreams/
Last year, chef Michael was the recipient of the judge's as well as the people's choice. Come and taste what the chef is cooking up this year.
About FSA from their web page:
In July 1899, a group of concerned citizens gathered in the halls of Santa Barbara’s Chamber of Commerce in interest of organizing charity. Out of this meeting was formed Associated Charities, today known as Family Service Agency.
The history of FSA reflects both the changing philosophies of social service work over the past century and the changing needs of Santa Barbara County’s population. When the great depression of the 1930′s threw thousands out of work, the Agency responded with several employment programs. When the disastrous Painted Cave Fire destroyed over 500 homes in 1990, FSA was there to help find housing for the displaced and to counsel traumatized victims.
FSA has never been just about charity. Education has always been at the core of its myriad of programs. The agency is there to lend a helping hand when needed, but it is also there to teach people to help themselves. Santa Barbara has a proud history of aiding the less-fortunate members of the community and for over one hundred years, Family Service Agency has played a major role in that heritage.
To cure poverty is better than merely to relieve it and to prevent poverty is kinder still and saves more suffering.