Thanks to Rebecca Fondren for some great photos.
With the opening of our Houston location, I have been quite the slacker on blog posting. I am happy to report, however, that the opening went great and continues to push strong! We couldn’t be happier with our new digs in Houston and really feel like we are becoming a part of the very active food community in this area.
Some photos from our opening dessert menu, none of which would be possible with out Monica Glenn.
As the first day of fall passes, I find inspiration in my favorite season. Although the thermometers in Texas are still reading 90′s during the day, we catch quick glimpses of a cool breeze early morning, before the sun strikes down. Of course all of our leaves have recently changed as well, brown, along with the grass and shrubs. We have been suffering from one of the worst droughts and hottest summers on record, 70+ consecutive days of over 100 degree weather.
With our slow and still very warm arrival of the season, I am looking to my favorite colors, vegetables, and fruits of the year. Fall and winter squash, pears, fig, parsnip, sweet potato, persimmon, fennel, apples are choice for autumn flavor combinations.
There comes a point in your career when you just can’t do it all yourself. As my role with Uchi develops, my time in the kitchen is becoming limited. We have spent the last year opening Uchiko, and are currently in the long process of opening Uchi Houston. While I miss the hours in the kitchen, I am excited for the future as my roles and responsibilities grow.
The passing of the torch is a difficult, and in some ways, an emotional crossroad in one’s career. I have spent the past 6 years developing the pastry program with Uchi, it has been my baby and evolved into something I am very proud of. I have put in much sweat and many hours, with my name stamped on anything that travels from the heat of the kitchen to the realm of our guests. At many times, a humbling experience, tweaking and fine-tuning concepts and dishes to please the eye and palate, and at many times, failing. When I came on to Uchi, I was the sole pastry cook and chef, for the extremely busy little red house on South Lamar. I could not even believe the amount of food that was peddled here. I spent the first 3 months in the kitchen without a day off, until I felt comfortable with the pars and production of the final course of the meal. Fast forward 5 years to the opening of Uchiko and again to today, Uchi Restaurants now employs, Myself, 5 pastry cooks, as well as 6-8 pastry externs at any given time. After the opening of Uchi Houston, that number will grow.
Many chefs reap the rewards of an army’s work. A chef’s support is the single-handed most important move he can make. A great chef will tell you that he is only as strong as his right hand… And here are mine:
Monica Glenn, pastry chef sous chef of Uchi Austin, soon to be pastry chef of Uchi Houston.
Monica has been with me, and Uchi, for 3 years now. I rarely make a move these days without her involvement. I met Monica after she externed for my wife, who was then the pastry chef for one of Austin’s best, Parkside. When Monica finished her externship, Callie, ‘urged’ me (in only the way a wife can do) to hire Monica on as my assistant. Once again, the wife was right.
Andrew Lewis, pastry cook at Uchiko, soon to be named pastry chef of Uchiko.
Andrew has been with me for just several short months. He is the first assistant I have taken on that has had actual restaurant pastry experience. He has worked with some of Texas’ best chefs including David Bull and Stephen Pyles. I usually do not like to hire pastry assistants without; first, a long stage, and secondly, with previous restaurant experience. To be honest, I prefer them right out of school with some fundamental skill and a clean slate. I had reservations about hiring Andrew (due to his experience, not personality!) but, was quickly relieved by and very impressed with his performance, he will take over the Uchiko daily operations, and I couldn’t be more confident in his abilities..
I have been having a lot of fun lately, playing with this technique I have seen around for a while now, blowing bubbles! We all know that blowing milk bubbles is a terrific way to pass the time but, having a milk allergy as a child, I missed out on one of life’s most amusing and mysterious practices. This great feeling of depravity, must be explain my current fascination with the bubbles. I have satisfied this terrible void with the help of a $12.00 aquarium pump from my local pet store!
The aquarium pump allows air to continuously circulate in the liquid causing a blistering structure to foam. You can then scoop these bubbles from the top of the mixture and if done correctly, the formation will hold as the plate is scurried along to your guest. doing this with milk or cream was a pretty easy task but, I really wanted to try something with a different color than the larvae looking white.
I figured the viscosity of the mixture had to mimic that of milk and I would be on my way. I should have thought that through a bit more, I had many failed attempts using everything from trimoline to agar. What is it in milk that provides the structure, making these bubbles hold? Protein!
475g. mango puree
175 g. water
105g. egg white
I will try gelatin and soy for my protein next…
Sight is one of the first senses to be aroused when it comes to eating, often aroma will get your hypothalamus kicking, but food must be visually appealing to make most humans want to ingest. I have recently read several studies related to food and sight and most showed that food is much less appealing in the dark, when sight is removed from the equation, there is much less allure.
Blue foods are very rare in in natural foods, with the exception of blueberries, blue corn, a few potato varieties, bluefoot mushrooms(which aren’t really very blue), and some flowers, there is not much beyond that, and face it, many of us don’t munch on flowers for a typical meal. In fact, many blue plants and berries are poisonous.
The reality series on Bravo, Top Chef, is coming to Austin for a casting call, I have quite a few peers who are interested in trying out, and I have reviewed the 24 page application. Included in this ridiculous range of questions, composed of; mentors, work history, philosophy, criminal background, favorite kitchen tools, etc… I came across what I believe is the most difficult question in the Q and A formatted, short story of your life. Create a dish inspired by the color blue… hmmm… removing blue lobster (I have been known to make desserts out of atypical ingredients, lobster definitely not one of them), this leaves the applicant with little to work with. Borage blossoms, taste like fish. Blueberries, well, if you want to stand out, blueberry is probably not the best choice. Fresh juniper berry, Orchids? With the use of food coloring being taboo and well… gross, this is a really difficult challenge.
Creating a plate inspired by color can be a fun and educational experience, thinking of ingredients as a color first and taste second, provokes some major thought. At the restaurants, this is a challenge that Tyson loves to throw around, white, green, yellow, red. But never, never, blue. Good luck Top Chef applicants, I wish I could read some of your responses!
And yes, I will be working on a blue dish, I’m always up for a test.
A good morning… I am so proud and fortunate to be in the company of such distinction. This year’s James Beard Award Nominees have been announced, and I must say, Uchi and Uchiko made quite a mark this year. What a tremendous success for a restaurant in Austin, TX that has been slanging rice a mere 7 months, and for Uchi, our flagship, a small house scaling many fish for the past 8 years. Paul Qui, Executive Chef of Uchiko, receives his first James Beard nom (Best Rising Chef), as well as Uchiko for Best New Restaurant. Tyson Cole will be proud to be on the list, again, for Best Chef Southwest as well as his newest Ko baby… And… I am honored to state that I did make the long list this year (maybe last year wasn’t a fluke!!) for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
These kinds of accolades are only a reflection of the teamwork that goes on behind our kitchen doors. No recognition is earned without a rocking crew. All the staff of our restaurants should be proud of them selves! Congrats my brethren, gonna be busy this weekend!