Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Alma Master - Chef Michel Jacob and Le Crocodile Restaurant

Tomato and Gin soup  recipe from Le Crocodile Restaurant

A cook collects recipes that come from many sources and when we have the luck to work in one of the cities greatest restaurants and to work beside a Master like chef Michel Jacob we join in a long line of cooks and chefs who have made the recipe their own, connecting us to the past and the present.  These two recipes from Le Crocodile have been an important part of my repertoire both professionally and at home and have stood the test of time - after 26 years they are still on the menu. 

VanFoodBloggers is a Meetup group dedicated to sharing the cities vast restaurant scene.  The group started  meeting last fall with a hardy set of keen diners and bloggers who have been getting out and discovering some wonderful food.  I had the pleasure of attending a couple Meetups and liked the group for their knowledge and passion.  One fellow in particular - Simon - invited me to join him at my Alma Master - Le Crocodile Restaurant after I mentioned doing a stint in the kitchen.   Simon  - thanks for inspiring me to visit my culinary roots.

Le Crocodile Restaurant is a classic Alsatian restaurant first, with a modern Vancouver flair.  Chef Michel has been consistently excelling in his native dishes of Strasbourg in the Alsace region of France, but belonging to a city of modern tastes he has melded wonderfully the sumptuous foods of our city with his masterful touch making Le Crocodile into one of the greatest temples of fine dinning.

Le Crocodile recipe - Ziewelkuche - Alsatian onion tarte
One of my jobs at Le Crocodile was to prepare the onions for this tart and it was a tense part of my work - the onions had to be paper thin, evenly cut and then braised without coloring.  Such a simple task you think - no it is not - many, many things could go wrong and if the slightest variant appeared there would be hell from the sous-chef, and the waiters even.  This is serious business here - here I understood what consistent meant.  Exacting standards don't come easy.  This is the quintessential aspect of Chef Michel and his standards have earned him the respect of his peers and the highest accolades.

roasted tomato soup from my garden

VanFoodblogger are meeting up for lunch at Le Crocodile and it will be interesting for me to experience the present Le Crocodile while remembering what it was when I was there back in 1987.

My memory of standing next to Chef Michel during the lunch service each day  - where my responsibility was to make the plates ready for the food when the orders came in -  he'd say "two meat plates and three fish plates" - I would put the garnish on the plates and into a 500 F oven for mere seconds, timing it so everything went out sizzling hot, but not curdled -  is still a source of confidence for me.  It was dangerous work.  I had burn scars on my arms from my wrist up for years.

I am looking forward to trying the Kusshi Oyster grown by Keith Reid of Stellar Bay Shellfish in the Comox Valley, thought by any who have tasted these as the 'ultimate oyster'.  This article describes best the pleasures of the kusshi.

To my fellow VanFoodBloggers who will be joining me - see you there.

I know it will be delicious and we'll be sharing some of the best food in Vancouver and beyond.

for the tomato soup in all of us -  my back yard ruby jewel


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