CHOW was the media partner for the New York Culinary Experience, a two-day cooking event held at the French Culinary Institute, where chefs like Jacques Torres, David Bouley, Masaharu Morimoto, Anita Lo, and Wylie Dufresne taught classes. Here are some bits of wisdom I learned from some of the chefs:
Jacques Torres, dean of pastry arts at the FCI, owner of Jacques Torres Chocolate:
Use a laser thermometer when working with chocolate to monitor its temperature mess-free.
When working with tempered chocolate, keep a container of fully melted (but not superhot) chocolate over a double boiler so you can easily add a little to the tempered stuff if it’s cooling down too fast.
You can make a really easy serving cup out of chocolate by using a balloon: Blow it up, dip the bottom portion into melted, tempered chocolate, then put it on a cookie sheet topped with parchment paper to cool. When it’s hard, just pop the balloon, pull it out, and you’ll have a fancy chocolate cup to fill with fruit, mousse, custard, etc.
Michael Psilakis, chef and co-owner of Anthos, Kefi, and Mia Dona:
Keep a bowl on your worktable to put all your peelings and trimmings in. Then you can make one (time-saving) trip to the trash or compost instead of many.
To really get to the soul of a chef, be sure to read all the little bits of a cookbook: the epilogue, sidebars, introduction, etc. He cited the example of learning to salt before, during, and after cooking by thoroughly reading one of Daniel Boulud’s cookbooks.
Resting is key when cooking proteins, so the juices redistribute evenly throughout the piece of meat. He recommends seven minutes.
Don’t forget to use the sides of your pan when searing things—you can lean a piece of meat (he was demoing with a lamb loin) up against them to keep it balanced so that you are truly able to brown it on all sides.
Anita Lo, chef-owner of Annisa and Bar Q (look for her tips in video form soon!):
If you need to add more oil to something while you’re sautéing, drizzle it around the sides of the pan so that it’s hot by the time it reaches the bottom.
Salt things from fairly high above, and sort of throw it on to get a better, more even dispersal. She likes kosher salt, rather than regular table salt, because it doesn’t have an iodine flavor.
For a versatile and flavorful marinade, use a few cloves of garlic, some lemongrass, and two parts brown sugar to one part fish sauce, and blend it until smooth in a food processor. She slathered it on St. Louis spareribs, but says it can work on just about anything. It cooks up salty, sweet, and tangy.