Sunday, November 18, 2012
If you live in the Pacific Northwest then you have probably heard of the four diamond Tulalip Resort Casino. This year was the 4th year of the now regionally acclaimed Taste of Tulalip, a two day food and wine experience which surpasses many such events on the West Coast. Each year we try to do something just a little bit “bigger or better” than the year before. Friday November 9th featured the 7-course Celebration Dinner for 400 people (tickets sold out about 2 months before the event, so plan ahead for next year!). And Saturday November 10th was the Grand Taste event, featuring 135 wineries and a plethora of tasty bites, all prepared by the talented Tulalip chefs.
In addition to these two main events, there were numerous additional special features which made this year’s Taste of Tulalip one of the Pacific Northwest’s must attend events. Special features included:
- a cooking demo by celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson, 3-Time James Beard Award Winner & TV personality
- Craft Beer Garden in the Oasis Pool room
- “Thirsty Girl” Leslie Sbrocco was the celebrity emcee and conducted a wine seminar
- Private Magnum Party featuring some highly sought after & elite wines
- 135 wineries from the West Coast, France and Italy
- Rock-n-Roll Cooking Challenge Cook-off with Chefs Gerry Schultz, Brent Clarkson, Robin Leventhal from Top Chef season 6
- Guest judges for the Rock-n-Roll Cooking Challenge Cook-off included:
- Chef Marcus Samuelesson
- Chef Wayne Johnson
- “Thirsty Girl” Leslie Sbrocco
- Mauny Kaseburg
Taste of Tulalip Celebration Dinner – Go Big or Go Home!
The Celebration Dinner was a 7-course food & wine pairing with each of the seven Tulalip chefs (yes, Tulalip employs seven professional chefs, each to oversee a specific venue at Tulalip, with Executive Chef Perry Mascitti overseeing them all) preparing one of the courses and a team of about 45 kitchen staff helping to plate each course, and 30+ waitstaff to deliver plates.
As chefs we are by necessity creative thinkers. We are constantly in situations which require us to think outside of the box. For us there are no problems, there are only challenges for which we need to provide a solution. Every chef has victory stories which are the result of a night from hell. A very few of my challenges have included: “Two of the four ovens are down?! Run the menu with plan B.” “The power is out but the gas still works…we cook by candlelight tonight!” “13 banquet functions within 30 minutes… WTF!? OK, I’ll make it happen.” “Feed 30,000 people lunch? We’ll get the plan in place.”
Our job as chefs constantly has us overcoming obstacles in order to produce something incredible for our guests. To be honest, when other service providers (such as my cell phone company) tell me that they “can’t” help me, it pisses the hell out of me. It means that they are too stupid, or too lazy, to offer proper customer service. They don’t know customer service like we do.
Each of the Tulalip chefs had their own special problem to tackle this year. Chef JP (John Pontichelli) had the unfortunate task of pairing a salad course with a red wine! Good luck buddy! His solution was a wonderful pairing (see below).
Banquet Chef Gerry Schultz’s challenge was to produce fine dining quality plates throughout a seven course dinner for 400 expecting guests with only 15 minutes to plate each course. He did this by setting up five serving lines and having around 45 kitchen staff cooking and plating. He drew upon staff from his own crew, from the various resort restaurants, and from the stewarding department. Executive Chef Perry Mascitti also arranged for a number of volunteer culinary students from the Cordon Bleu culinary school to assist.
Chef Gerry was an organizational sage! He had to instruct 40 people how to plate 7 courses they had never seen before, and each course had to be precisely presented & completed in about 15 minutes! He had each chef photograph their dish a month earlier and provide a plating diagram so each of the five plating lines would know how to execute each dish. He had diagrams, photos, and great communication so that nothing was left to chance. All his preparation left minimal chance for that bastard “Murphy’s Law” to show up (I hate that guy!).
My challenge was to prepare 400 hundred portions of perfectly cooked king salmon using a new method in which the salmon is semi-poached from the bottom up leaving the top eighth of an inch raw. In the Pacific Northwest we like our salmon MR to M, and the idea behind this dish was to put the MR on top of the salmon rather than in the middle. The dish was called “naked salmon” and it appears like sushi on the top, but is cooked on the bottom three quarters. This method gives it a stunning presentation with the glistening red-orange raw flesh on top, and it retains the wonderful natural flavor of the salmon.
I mentally labored over the firing time as if it were my first soufflé. Fire it too late and the entire event goes on hold while everyone waits for my dish to be ready, making for an awkward stall in the flow of service. Fire it too early and the salmon dries out and turns to dog food, ruining the reputation of the entire event. (Damn it! We should have eaten at McDonald’s!).
To pull this off, I used multiple improvised poaching stations and had all my salmon staged in 2” perforated hotel pans. One Tilt Skillet held 4 pans, four 6” hotel pans set over a flat-top griddle was my second station. And finally, another 6” hotel set over a broiler created my last station. All were set at about 190°. This allowed me to cook 200 of the needed 400 portions, then quickly rotate and get the second batch of 200 fired, timing it so it was done as my course was being plated.
Of course, I had done a dry run with 8 portions… but not with 200 fired at a once! Cooking time would certainly take longer. In the end, I fired the first half of my salmon during the plating of the second course (I was the fourth course). I stored it in a hot box set at 135° for 20 minutes and pulled the second batch of salmon as we started the plate-up for my course. Whew!!! Even though I’m a heathen I thank God for help on this one! Perfectly cooked salmon is Awesome! Overcooked salmon is dog shit.
Another challenging course was the Wagu Filet Mignon Pair. Chef Perry wanted it served on a small metal plate so that it was still sizzling when it hit the table. These little plates were at 750°! As this course was served you could hear 400 sizzling steaks, and the aroma of the wagu coupled with the wine made your head spin with pleasure.
The evening involved hours of preparation followed by a 3 hour adrenaline rush during plating. At the end… a great sense of relief and satisfaction of not only completing the challenge, but having done so with excellence. Thank-you’s and pats on the back all around, then I slammed an Upside-down Old Fashioned (made w/ Knob Creek Bourbon) and a double Absolute Cran to start the wind-down.
Taste of Tulalip Celebration Dinner Menu 2012
Holiday Lobster Wedding – Chef Gerry Schultz
Lobster Terrine, Chanterelle Mushrooms Peppadew Peppers, Vanilla Shallot Foam, and Micro Greens
Pumpkin Lobster Bake, Pear Chestnut Relish
Italy, Vignalta Pinot Bianco ‘Agno Casto’
Asian Soup Duet – Chef Brent Clarkson
Lime, Galangal, Daikon, Coconut, Tarragon, Thai Basil, Dungeness Crab, Miso, and Gyoza Ravioli Stuffed with Maitake, Porcini & Shitake Medley
France, Famille Perrin Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape ‘Vielles Vin’ Blanc
Micro Green Salad With Duo Of Duck – Chef JP John Pontichelli
Smoked Duck Sausage- Stuffed Honey Crisp Apple Topped with Quail Egg
Pancetta-Wrapped Duck Sausage
Arugula Micro Beet Greens with Lavender-Balsamic Mist
Oregon, Penner-Ash Pinot Noir ‘Pas de Nom’, Willamette Valley
Salmon Two Ways – Chef David Buchanan
Orange-Tarragon Cured Sockeye with Lemon Oil
“Naked” King Salmon With Bellavitano Gold Pesto
Washington State, Woodinville Wine Cellars Cabernet Franc
Intermezzo – Chef John Jadamec
Hot and Cold Item, Fire and Ice if You Will, On One Plate
Grilled Fresh Pineapple with Touch of Chili Powder, Cayenne Pepper & Sugar
Green Apple Mint Swirl Sorbet
Snake River Farms Wagu Filet Mignon Pair – Chef Perry Mascitti
Cave Bleu Huckleberry Demi, Gremolata Gele’e, Chive-Red Peppercorn Aroma Drop
California, ZD Wines, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
The S’more – Chef Nikol Nakamura
Flourless Chocolate Cake, Honey-Vanilla Marshmallow and Graham Cracker Sticks
Parting Gift – Chef Nikol Nakamura
Milk Chocolate Covered Holmquist Hazelnuts
Washington State, Eroica Riesling Ice Wine ‘Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Ernst Loosen’, Columbia Valley
Sorry!! No picture.
Rock-n-Roll Challenge Cook-off
This is a fun mystery box style challenge which paired two teams of chefs against each other. When they opened the mystery box they found Live Maine Lobsters! They had 10 minutes to create a menu, then 30 minutes to compose a dish for the judges, followed by samples for the crowd.
Team Bun Jovi consisted of chefs Gerry Schultz (Tulalip’s reigning Rock-n-Roll Challenge champion), Robin Leventhal from Top Chef season 6, and Jeff Euteneier from Seattle’s Le Cordon Bleu Culinary College. Team Appetite for Destruction included chefs Brent Clarkson from Tulalip Resort’s Cedars Café,Brian McCracken and Dana Tough, both from the restaurant group of Sput, Tavern Law, and The Coterie Room.
Team Bun Jovi took the prize, giving Chef Gerry his third victory. Although, I heard that the judges were hard-pressed to choose a winner and that the count was close. The winning dish was a Saffron cous cous with lemongrass, herb and butter Main lobster Medallions, Micro green and Apple Salad, with Hazelnut vinaigrette & Holmquist Hazelnuts.
Other articles and blogs about the 2012 Taste of Tulalip:
Posts from Previous Years