5 Chefs, 4 Mystery Ingredients, 1 Kitchen: Here's what happened: by Beth Clifford - Photos by John Taylor
What's the most difficult aspect of cooking? Finding a perfect combination of herbs, spices and fresh ingredients, and having the guts to take risks. Five local chefs showcased their skills at City Weekly's cooking challenge "homage" to the Food Network show Chopped. Harmons offered its state-of-the-art cooking school kitchen and the Farmington Station Park store, and each chef was given four local ingredients - Pepperlane First & Last "Date" roasted garlic jalapeno preserves, Morgan Vally Lamb, peaches from C.K. Farms and Lehi Roller Mills Hotcake Mix - plus 45 minutes and whatever they could find in the Harmons pantry to make some magic.
Jerry Liedtke started his career at age 12 slinging gyros at his family's traditional Greek food booth at the Utah Arts Festival. After working his way into a kitchen, Liedtke, a punk rock kid, realized that food could be a medium for artistic expression. Later a program at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, a Parisian apartment turned culinary school and world travels all inspired Liedtke, his wife, Kestrel and their friend, Robin Fairchild to present fine cuisine in an approachable manner. Together, they opened Tin Angel Cafe five years ago.
"What did you make?"
I saw the lamb, and it was a tougher piece, and as a Grecian, I instantly thought of stews so I did a Tagine. I chopped up the lamb and stewed it with the peaches, tomatoes, peppers and a little bit of cinnamon- another Greek thing. I saw some couscous and I knew couscous is really quick, so I made a lobster and chanterelle mushroom couscous with the tagine over it. I stuffed and fried a pepper with blue cheese, trying to make somthing with the pancake batter after my idea to make a crepe didn't work out very well. The dessert plate was also a last thought. I thought of savory French toast when I saw the baguette to use with the sweet, deep flavor of the jam. I caramelized some peaches and used a little orange juice to make the syrup, drizzled with a nice extra-virgin olive oil. I seasoned it with fresh herbs, thyme and rosemary just to give it a bit of savory flavor, but still be dessert-y.
"What was going through your mind when your crepes didn't work out?"
When you're doing this type of stuff, it's improtant to know when an element in your dish is not working out and try not to force it. I like to try unique things because I want to have something exciting come from it. The Dalai Lama says" Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon," and that's what we do: start making stuff, bringing ingredients together and smelling things, and when it's working, it's working and when it's not, you should know it's not and bail out and try to do something you're more comfortable with, because you don't want to feed anyone crap. I want the cooks, not the chefs, to know that it's really up to them to deliver a great dish.
"What inspired your dish?"
I tend to mirror the restaurant. Our cuisine is different at Tin Angel because we travel around Europe and get to go places that keep us going. I love Spanish food and Mexican food, but what I know and what's comfortable for me is the Mediterranean food that we do. It was really nice that, in this cooking challenge, everyone did something a little different. And I like that: I like restaurants to have thir own style. You know, "save the good fish for the sushi restaurants" kind of thing.