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Lobster B&W

It all starts with Lobster

Don’t be fooled by imitations, there is only one Chef Jack Lee. Call him what you want, he answers to Captain Jack or even Kangaroo Jack. His name aside, one thing remains the same; Taste, consistency and innovation in the kitchen. We spent the day with Chef Jack where we experienced a taste of the finer things in life; traditional dishes with an Escoffier twist as interpreted thru the eyes of Mad Jack.

Chef Jack – steady as she goes.

We entered the inner sanctum of a beautiful Beverly Hills estate that is also the private art gallery called the DeVorzon Gallery. The walls were filled with beautiful works of art. As we went through the art filled rooms and corridors we finally set foot into the center of this home of creativity. There it was the hub, the hearth known as the kitchen. It was fitting that the Culinary artist Chef Jack Lee was in his art studio creating excerpts from some of his different culinary portfolios. Unlike many chefs, Jack Lee creates food as an artist creates a portfolio or body of work. He gets his inspiration from the world around him and then begins the process of creating a body of work around a specific theme much like many well known artists before him. The inspiration that created Monet’s Garden series or Picasso’s portraits of women. Weegee’s Naked City and Warhol’s Series of Marilyn Monroe and then there’s Jack Lee’s Portfolio of food inspired by life events. He calls his portfolios “Tasting Collections”.

Chef Jack Lee used food to tell a story, to represent how his clients feel and to personify who they are through his experience of

$100 egg roll in all it’s glory

them. He takes these experiences and translates them onto the plate. A few years ago he went through jaw surgery where he lost his sense of taste. It took him a year and a half to recover his sense of taste and retrain his palate. During his recovery he came up with the idea of his 6th tasting collection called “My True Colors” where he used food and colors to describe his thoughts and feelings through his toughest period after his surgery and his journey back to the culinary world.

A plate full of $100 eggrolls now that’s eating.

It was just such an inspiration that let him to create the $100 eggroll.  He was inspired by the opulence and abundance that surrounded him. It was an homage to the relaunch of his new concept after his jaw surgery. He debuted it at a celebrity fundraiser in Brentwood.

He wanted to add some “bling bling to this modern delicacy that is a staple at Chinese restaurants throughout America.” By using the most expensive seasonal ingredients available to he successfully made the ultimate eggroll. He sourced Maine lobster, seasonal French truffles, the best caviar and gold leaf. He uses taro root instead of napa cabbage to keep the roll fresh and crisp. He makes a raspberry sauce using lobster stock and then pairs it with a glass of Dom Perignon.

We were also lucky to have the opportunity to sample some of the creations from other Taste Collections such as –
Lobster martini that Jack calls it “happy juice”
Lobster broth, lemongrass, vodka with a  salmon scallop lollipop

Lobster Martini

Prime Rib Bahn Mi
Not your average Bahn Mi – prime rib, Huson Valley Foie Gras instead of aoli and a soy foie gras dipping sauce.

Prime Rib Bánh mì

Escargot
with a garlic pesto

Escargot with Pesto

and a Special surprise

Chilean Sea bass (signature dish)
-infused w sake, scallions and ginger – served w green tea soba noodles, scallions soy sauce and garnished with salmon roe.

Chilean Sea Bass with Soba Noodles

So it was a feast for the eyes, palate and all the other senses combined. Chef Jack Lee is a true artist who is among the ranks of the finest chefs around. He is one to watch in the coming years as he will certainly climb to ultimate notoriety.

Cheers, Amelia, Chef Jack and Adam

Chef Jack

We are looking forward to his upcoming Taste Collections inspired by Sake, Tequilla and his travels around the world. Cheers to Chef Jack Lee for taking the time out of his busy Chinoise Catering schedule to show us all a “Taste of the Good-Life.”

Article co-written by Adam Rubenstein & Rico Mandel for The Culinary Image and  VivaLAfoodies.com
Photography provided by Rico Mandel for Mizenplace & The Culinary Image
Video produced, edited and provided by Amelia Yokel

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Kaz, Pastry Chef Sequestered in the corner

I set my GPS with the address of the Test Kitchen and away I went. I came upon an old building with no name on it bathed in a red paint with black trim standing regally on Pico Bl. I parked in back and came through the back door and followed the signs downstairs into the kitchen. I walked in to see the crew from the  restaurant all lined up doing prep. The crew had been there since 10am busily getting ready for the evenings performance.  You see Test Kitchen brings in chefs from all over to test out new recipes and concepts for their restaurants or new establishments to be opened up. The prep was in the final stages when I got there. As always my first thing is to ask what else needs to be done.There were a few last minute things such as slicing some more cibatta.  I also had to use the slicer to cut buffalo tenderloin for Carpaccio. The Tenderloin had to be frozen to make cutting to the right thickness easy. The one thing that I don’t understand is why restaurant slicers are usually in less than optimal condition. Noisy seemingly on their last legs yet they do the job.

Christopher Barrigan getting ready for service.

Chef Adam Horton of Saddle Peak Lodge made sure that he had plenty of help in the kitchen, to keep things running smoothly making everything looking effortless. They put Kaz, the pastry chef, in the back corner of the kitchen like a sequestered mad scientist experimenting with all he could find.

I saw crisp chicken skin on his station and I was wondering what that was for. I soon found out, chicken skin nougatine. The  wonderful combination of flavors sweet  from the caramel, salty from the chicken skin and salt and and a bit of heat from green curry to finish it.

Chef Adam Horton getting ready for Service

Another item I saw on his station were apple slices that had been infused with hibiscus using the cryovac. The flavor combination of the hibiscus with the apple was addictive. This was part of their cheese course which included Parmegiano reggiano with white chocolate namelaka black olive nougatine and aviation cocktail sauce (gin, lemon juice sugar water Creme de violet) micro celery and a thin curved crostini. It is a very creative and tasty way to do a cheese course and tastes absolutely divine. The apple hibiscus combination is so refreshing and pairs perfectly with the intense flavor and saltiness of the  Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Chef Adam Horton, having servers taste the menu and answering quesitons

At this point the kitchen is shifting it’s energies to setting up for service. Meanwhile the front of house staff is busily readying the dining room for another big night. The next item on the list is to make on of each course for the wait staff to see and taste so they can accurately describe it to their customers. The chef gives the order to fire and the plates begin to materialize. One  by one they get put up on the pass and taken to the staff table so that Adam can

The open kitchen, a few hours before service

describe each and answer any questions that might come up. Wild Boar spread with grilled toast, Heirloom tomato buffalo and it’s cheese, Escolar with summac, edamame, horseradish uni, flavors of pho and puffed rice, Pork belly with vadouvan apple yogurt and cucumber, Elk with almond bacon brandied cherries and squash, Parmigiano Nero with apple hibiscus, white chocolate and olives, Dessert Thai green curry with chicken lemongrass cilantro and lime.

first 3 courses

First 3 courses - Wild Boar, Heirloom Tomato Buffalo, Escolar

The menu is heavenly and of course I had to taste each dish, for safety’s sake of course. They all passed with flying colors.

Last 4 courses

Pork Belly, Elk with squash scramble, Parmigiano Nero, Thai green curry

One of the new experiences for the Saddle Peak staff was the open kitchen which keeps everyone on their best behavior.

Joshua Pressman, checking tickets and plates as they go out

The Test Kitchen staff was very accommodating and everyone seemed to be working very well together. Service begins and there is a slow ramp up as the dishes are easily put together. One by one, Joshua Pressman, the expediter for the Test Kitchen, calls out the orders to the kitchen as Chef de Cuisine Chris Kufek confirms them and keeps the kitchen staff humming. The dining room begins to fill as sommelier and master mixologist

Christopher Barragan, working the drinks

Christopher Barragan is manning the bar pouring 5 drinks that he created just for the evening.  They are Tang’ent, My Darling Clementine, Q-Cumber, Pearl Jasmine, En Fleur, Testing Cocktail and Testing Mocktail, so ask for these when you see Chris at the Saddle Peak.


En Fleur - Gin, St Germaine, Sauvignon Blanc, fresh thyme and lime

Meanwhile Joshua Buckner, GM of the Saddle Peak  bridges the gap between kitchen and front of the house to make sure all is going well and of course it is.

Some of Adams friends and even current and former wait staff from the saddle peak come by to congratulate him and say hi.  The plates are going out at a steady pace one of the nice things about having only one set menu is it makes it easier for the kitchen staff while making the dining experience even more of a pleasure.


The board is filled with tickets

Service is at full swing now. The board is full with orders, “Carpaccio out, 53 four out, 4 elk grazing on judges table 44 out, a boat here for 31, 44 walking” are the call outs from Joshua to the kitchen as he inspects each plate for drips etc… before releasing them to the servers throughout all stages of service.

The focus and concentration of the expediter as he continuously scans the tickets is intense . Keeping the proper timing going is job “ad 2 more desserts, 5 all day” then he pulls the tickets down for those tables.

Ramon on Grill and Sean on squash scramble

The elk with beef sauce is so tender and sweet. The mesquite wood grill ads just the right amount of oakyness to the flavor captured with the sous vide process. The wild boar has a full flavor to it mixed with the reduced braising liquid with sherry wine. The flavor has that sweet fresh sense of the woods. The way it is raised,  there is a buttery quality to the meat that is not often found in boar.

The quenelle of lemongrass comes through beautifully. It’s like tasting lemon with the additional flavor of slight bitterness. It’s layered with candied carrot slices etc… A wonderful refreshing alternative dessert.


The line is filled and humming along

The call outs continue as the peak of the evening has passed. 9:04 and things are beginning to slow a bit. “27 pork is squeeling” as another order goes out. Ramon keeps the grill flowingChris Kufek works with Josh the expeditor to make sure that all flows smoothly. 9:09 a lull in the storm. Things are slowing. Then another wave comes in. There are 10 first courses being readied to go out. The dishwashers are humming along. Sean is busily making the butternut scramble for the elk as Ramon keeps the grill fired up and humming along with elk and the grilled cibatta slices to go with the boar. Pork bellies are frying and all cylinders are firing at the same time 9:19. Things can change at a moments notice during service. “25 & 54 elk grazing. 22 Abraham lincoln, Kufek you need boar for three Rick asks to get clarification, “pick up 3’pork 5 all day.” The board is full again and the orders are moving out.

Rick working the Wild boar

Josh comes back to tell us that the people are really happy with the food, “pick up 4 deserts goes the call as the plating continues.” Each facet of the meal is going out in perfect harmony with the next. The last table is in and now its just a matter  of working through each ticket and knocking them out one by one. One by one the dots go down on the plate then the cucumber balls and finally the pork belly, fried to crispy


Adam putting the finishing touches on Pork Belly

perfection with a soft center. One by one the tickets disappear and the last of each course gleaming. “33 fish are swimming” As the evening winds down the staff begins to clean up each station one by one as the last Wild boar Spread goes out, then the Buffalo carpaccio, then Escolar, the last of the pork belly and then Elk, and finally the Parmigianno Nero and last but not least the Thai green curry dessert.Meanwhile wellwishers come into the kitchen to congratulate Adam and staff on a spectacular meal. One person asks Adam how he would describe elk, “It’s like filet mignon on drugs”

It was a highly successful evening as Chef Adam Horton and the Saddle Peak team came together to do what they do best, create a great experience and make great food.

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This week was an amazing week. On Wednesday I worked at the Saddle Peak Lodge deboning rabbits, making stuffing and helping to make the roulades. I’ll be doing a post on that in more detail. On Thursday I held a cooking class for some of the people from my mastermind group. It was a great success. We made a variety of things that included Escargot, Salade Bergere, my take on Moroccan cornish hens with roasted pears, greens and sunchokes, handmade pappardelle pasta with wild mushrooms, chillies, capers, tomatoes garlic and basil and then for dessert we made Alton Brown’s cocoa brownies and I added the raspberry sauce, ice cream and cocoa nibs what a great feast we had. If you want a copy of the recipes then go to Click here http://bit.ly/85uHMC

One of the students made a video of the class here’s the link http://bit.ly/6EtrLP

It was a lot of fun cooking all that wonderful stuff.

In addition this week I was interviewed on LifeStyle Buzz and internet radio program hosted by Orlando Burgos. In it he interviews people from all walks of live who are doing unique and interesting things. I was on his show on Saturday January 23, 2010. We had a great time talking about photography, cooking and travel. To hear the show Click Here http://bit.ly/8CvP5F

More posts to come. I hope you have a fabulous week.

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Adam in 2004 working Garde Manger Station

I got to know, now Chef Adam Horton back in 2004 when I went to work on the line at the Saddle Peak Lodge.  He started there a few months before I did working for Chef Warren Schwartz who is now at the Westside Tavern.  Working under Warren, as he liked to be called, Adam learned a lot. He watched as Warren would bring cooks up in the kitchen and then help them find jobs elsewhere to learn new techniques.  Adam is a very personable guy and we found that we both had a passion for all things culinary.  He and I both graduated in 2004 from the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena.

Adam Just back from Europe

Adam feels that his real education came from the kitchens that he has worked in and I would agree. Although we worked different stations in the kitchen and he was always there to give me a hand if I needed it and I returned the favor whenever possible. The environment in the kitchen was like a family. The standards were always high and speed was something that just came from learning and repetitive motion day in and day out.

I remember many times where Adam and I would find ourselves out in the parking lot after service, talking about food and cooking until way after everyone had already left. The passion was there waiting to be given the opportunity.

Adam as Sous Chef 2007

As a young chef he was eager to go off and experience new kitchens and ways of doing things. He came to a point where he felt he wasn’t learning what he wanted to in the kitchen so it was time for him to move on.

I remember when he told me that he was planning his trip to Europe and lining up restaurants to try out in France and London.

He looked into Michelin 2 & 3 star restaurants in Europe to stretch the boundaries of what he knew. I was envious of his plan to go and explore the culinary world, pushing himself and his talents to see what was in store for him. He had nothing tying him down. His drive to experience what the world has to offer is something that he and I both share.

So off he went to Europe cooking in some of the finest restaurants there,  Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road in London,

then moving on to France to  Le Moulin de Mougins, La Palme d’Or, Taillevent and Troisgros. What an experience he had. The work ethic was far different to what we have here in the US. Longer hours, a bit

Adam plating tartar

slower pace in the kitchen with an emphasis on quality and perfection rather than speed and turning tables. It was great to hear some of his stories of working at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and in France. He had clearly learned a lot and came back a changed person.

Chef Adam Horton

After he got back he spent several months working at Mélisse in Santa Monica before returning in 2006 to the Saddle Peak Lodge. His passion ingredients and his learning abroad and in LA had transformed him into a fine chef.  Shortly after his return he was made Sous Chef working for Chef Steve Rojas. Adam says that working with very talented and passionate chefs gave him an understanding of what it took to be working in a world-class restaurant. In 2008, at the young age of 25 he was made chef at Saddle Peak Lodge. His passion for fish and game and his willingness to explore many sides of cooking make him a perfect fit for the Saddle Peak. Local, seasonal ingredients are what get him excited. For Adam it is about the quality of what he is putting on the plate. He takes pride in finding sources for the best local and artisanal product he can get. He is always trying new things and puts together, in my opinion, some of the finest food that I have eaten.

Chef Adam Horton and Me working

It is always a pleasure to work with him and a joy to eat his food.

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