Cafe Society

Chef and Tell: Eric Stein from Johnson & Wales rips on former Westword restaurant critic Jason Sheehan

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Six words to describe your food: Multiple taste bud orgasm, global and functional.

Ten words to describe you: Inquisitive, ambitious, motivated, trustworthy, adventurous, witty, compassionate, stubborn, spiritual and blessed.

Culinary inspirations: As cliché as it sounds, I'm truly inspired by ingredients. Seasonal produce is huge for me. I don't think anything beats cooking with foods that've just been harvested, be it from a farm, the sea or the wild. I love going to the farmers' market for inspiration, talking to the farmers and other artisans and seeing the enthusiasm they have for their products. Vegetables in particular can be simple, yet so complex. Take a parsnip, for example, which you can juice, roast, braise, steam or fry, and depending upon which method you pick, it'll offer completely different flavors and texture. Entire tasting menus can be built around a single vegetable.

Favorite ingredient: I really love working with lamb for its versatility, distinct flavor and because it can be easily cross-utilized. Chefs all know the benefits of using all the parts of a pig from its head to its tail, but lamb has very similar characteristics, except on a richer, earthier level. I love braised meats, so lamb shanks and shoulder are my definite favorites, either served on their own or worked into other dishes such as pasta, stews or sandwiches. A new technique I've been using lately is to encase the loin of a lamb rack with mushroom duxelle, wrap the whole thing with the fat cap from the rack and roast it. If you've deboned the rack, then you have the Denver ribs left over, so you can serve a lamb duo, or save them for another use. I also highly recommend poaching lamb tongues in duck fat if you've never tried it.

Best food city in America: Boston has a lot of daring chefs, and I feel like it's sort of a breeding ground for chefs before they venture out into bigger cities. Some of my favorite places are Clio, No. 9 Park and Oleana. Seafood is a huge influence on the cuisine in Boston, since it comes right off the boat and goes straight into the hands of the chefs. The range of flavor profiles in Boston is also really broad; having grown up in Rhode Island, I'm kind of partial to the Chinatown in Boston over New York and San Francisco. Besides nothing beats a Fenway frank in October...

Favorite restaurant in America: Persimmon in Bristol, Rhode Island, which is a restaurant that's very similar to Fruition in cuisine, style and philosophy. The chef's name is Champe Speidel, and his food is considered some of the best in the state at the fine dining level. He was the chef at a restaurant named Gracie's, which he made famous with his decadent food and innovative presentations. He then opened up Persimmon on his own. As a culinary student, I tried to eat at his restaurants every season. I still use his menus in my new world cuisine class when explaining new American cuisine to the students.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson