Market Chef : Chris Carriker

September 21, 2011 |  by  |  Chef Demos

This week we’ve got Chef Chris Carriker of the Gilt Club up in the Chef Demo tent! I have to admit a little bias here. Gilt Club is a place special to my heart for all kinds of reasons, and no, not just because I enjoy a lovely cocktail in a nice cozy room, though that’s a pretty huge factor in my adoration equation. Anyway, I found a way to ensure that my bias won’t come into play too much in this week’s gripping edition of Market Chef. As it turns out Chef Carriker has a particularly engaging voice, and I thought that you fine people really ought to enjoy the raw, uncut, nearly un-Miranda-ized interview that we had earlier this summer! So here it is, straight up, hold the twist.

Where did you get the cooking bug - from your parents? What sort of stuff did you grow up eating?
My mother and father were not… gourmands, so a lot of it was what I grew up eating was fast to make. And as there were 7 of us - I’m the eldest - quantity cooking was in order, which meant a lot of soups and stews, so I actually kind of really hate soup now.

So how on earth did you end up a chef?
My chef “journey” started as a dishwasher when I was quite young- around 17 -  like most. I did not have an epiphany like so many other chefs describe. I worked my way through the ranks and I just found that I was a misfit in other professions. I tried so many other things - working at the humane society (NOT good with animals), carpenter’s assistant (horrible carpenter, horrible assistant), etc - and I just always came back to the kitchen.

The big decision came when I was going to college to get a “real” degree… I was trying to become either a history teacher or computer engineer. At the time a was working full time in a kitchen and a chef I worked for at the time called me into his office and told me to “Stop f***ing around with college, because I had too much of a temper for teaching and not enough patience for computers.” Maybe he was right, maybe he was wrong but I took his advice and went to culinary school.

How did you get where you are today, heading up the kitchen at The Gilt Club? Any chefs that you’ve worked with that have sort of been mentors in your life?


I went to Western Culinary for more formal training I guess. But I had more hands on training in the school of hard knocks - and that was MUCH more valuable. I had a lot of chefs influence me along the way for all sorts of reasons. Chef Ronnie Vance for a different take on food- he was willing to take chances a lot of chef are afraid to take. Chef Kenny Giambalvo for his even, steady way of handling the pressure cookers that are restaurant kitchens. Chef Chris Israel for his meticulous approach towards the restaurant as a whole (front and back of the house).

Talk about your process as a chef. How do you create your menu, what inspires you?
When I get started working on a new menu I try to take some classic food, and put a twist on it.  Whether it’s caramel corn bread pudding, or a play on strawberry shortcake but with foie gras.   When I do cook at home I try and find an ingredient at the farmers market and build on it. For example, I might to char the hell out of eggplant and puree it and go from there. That simple starting point eventually became braised short ribs with charred eggplant, black vinegar sauce, fried peanuts and summer squash.

I used to get inspiration from cookbooks or other chefs (Michel bras, Fergus Henderson, and Paul Bertolli),  but now I just get it from Oregon itself.  Not to be cheesy but from the farmers markets; wild, foraged products, and all the meat being locally raised here! How can you not be inspired by what goes on in this place? What I love about this job is the constant learning, and the look on guests faces when the food really clicks with them. The thing that drives me as a chef is the quest for the perfect dish of food. I had it once and then it was gone.

What was it?! I have to know.
Thomas Keller’s famous dish of  "oyster and pearls" at The French Laundry. It’s just perfect little oysters, with tapioca pearls, and caviar. A sensational texture and flavor.

What do you cook at home? What are your favorite dishes?
When I cook at home usually I am experimenting for a new menu… so my friends and wife are basically my guinea pigs. Mexican food is what I usually eat on my day off from my local food cart El Nutria Taco or I go to Lion’s Eye on 82nd for tasty beer.

Mmmmm beer! Thanks Chris! Here's a taste of what Chris will be cooking up for us this coming Sunday! It's ....ambitious to say the least!

Ricotta Gnocchi

With parsley pistou, fava beans, peas, calabrian chilies, and roasted cherry tomatoes
Serves 6

Ricotta:

  • 1 Gallon of Whole Milk
  • ½ Cup of Heavy Cream
  • 3 Tablespoons of salt
  • ¼ Cup of Lemon Juice
  • 3 Tablespoons of White vinegar

Gnocchi:

  • 1 pound of ricotta
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup + 3 tablespoons of “00” flour
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • salt and white pepper to taste

Parsley Pistou

  • 1 cup of picked Italian parsley
  • ¼ cup of shelled pistachios
  • 2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan
  • Salt to taste

Vegetables

  • ½ cup of shelled fava beans
  • 2 pints of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 sprigs of basil
  • ½ cup of sugar snap peas
  • Pinch of garlic
  • 6 calabrian chilies, chopped
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Torn basil and grated Parmesan for garnish

Ricotta:
Place milk, cream, and salt in a pot over medium high heat and stir occasionally. You want to reach 180 degrees… try not to scald the milk. Once it has reached the proper temperature pull the pot from the heat. Stir in lemon juice and vinegar for one minute.  Add a little more salt. You should see curds starting to form. Let the curds rest off head for one hour. When the ricotta has rested ladle out the curds on top into cheesecloth lined colander. Let the cheese drain for two hours to create a firm ricotta. Pull the cheesecloth up and squeeze out the excess moisture.

Can be refrigerated for up to one week.

Parsley Pistou:
Pick parsley leaves wash and dry parsley before you make the pesto. Add all the ingredients to your blender pulse until a chunky sauce not a smooth paste. Adjust with salt and lemon if needed.

Cherry tomatoes:
Toss the cherry tomatoes in olive oil to coat, Salt and pepper liberally. Place them on a half sheet pan lined with parchment and cook at 400 for ten minutes. They should look raisin like.

Fava Beans:

Shell favas then blanch the beans for forty seconds shock the vegetables in ice water and peel the outer skin off.

Gnocchi:
Take one pound of dry ricotta (no excess moisture) and whisk in Parmesan, eggs, and yolk. Nutmeg, salt and pepper until incorporated. Fold in 1 cup of sifted flour to the mix. Place on a flour dusted cutting board and let rest for twenty minutes. Take gnocchi dough and cut into one-inch dumplings with a flour-dusted knife.

Assembly:
Take the formed gnocchi and put into slowly simmering salted water. Once they raise let them cook for another 30 to 45 seconds. Start sauté pan on medium heat, once heated add olive oil. Add peas first slowly cook until half way done. Add a pinch of garlic, fava beans, and roasted cherry tomatoes until flavor incorporate together (about a minute). Add gnocchi to vegetables toss in parsley pistou stir in until thoroughly. Adjust with salt and pepper. After you placed the gnocchi in bowls add Parmesan, olive oil, calabrian chilies, and hand torn basil as garnish.


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