Three Unlikely Chefs Take Over the Kitchen
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A fashion designer, skincare guru and realtor step out of their comfort zones and into the kitchens of some of LA's hottest restaurants and report on their experiences.
On the Menu: A market-driven feast made with local ingredients
I met chef Mark Gold at Eva, his lovely restaurant on Beverly, and knew instantly from his eccentric ensemble that he is a man with a point of view. First, chef Mark had me put on an apron. This amused me, as it is the one item of clothing I’ve never tried on. Though I don’t cook, the desire to create something wonderful from the best materials for the enjoyment of others is the guiding concept of my life and work, so when I learned Mark only uses the finest locally raised ingredients, I knew we were kindred spirits.
To awaken my inner cook, we started by preparing a simple lemon-vinaigrette dressing, which consists of a small amount of yuzu juice (a Japanese citrus), extra-virgin olive oil, and some salt whisked together. The result was tasty and uncomplicated.
From there, things got a bit more challenging, as I put together an emulsified mustard vinaigrette, which is a combination of egg yolk, French mustard, and virgin olive oil mixed in a blender. The key to this dressing is to blend it slowly while adding oil to the mixture so it thickens consistently. Blending the vinaigrette too quickly causes it to heat up and separate. This is known as “breaking” the dressing (and, yes, I did break the dressing), but unlike everything else in life, dressing can be unbroken. Mark showed me how to save it by adding one egg yolk and lemon juice, then adding the “broken” dressing to emulsify. Now we were warmed up and ready to put pan to stove.
The first components were our vegetables, braised daikon (a largish radish) and roasted carrots. We cut perfect cylinders of the daikon, placed them in a pan with a little soy, dashi, water, and a touch of butter, and then put them on the stove top to simmer. Next we placed whole carrots in a pot with olive oil and a pinch of Maldon salt, and put them on a low heat. The key to perfectly browned carrots is to keep moving them while they cook so they don’t burn. We finished them with a sprinkle of dill pollen.
Mark thought a duck breast would be the perfect compliment to the daikon. He took the lean meat of a drake’s (a male duck) breast and put it in a skillet. He placed another skillet bottom down on top of the breast to create even pressure and allow it to brown and crust evenly. The trick is to cook duck slowly so the underlying layer of fat renders off (suddenly I was fluent in cooking as a second language).
Next the chef showed me how to prepare his signature Arzak poached egg. He placed a piece of plastic wrap on the counter, spritzed it with vegetable spray, cracked an egg in the middle, and added a touch of butter and salt. The true artistry happened next as he picked up the plastic by the four corners and started twisting it up and around the egg, tying it off with string so it looked like a perfect golf ball. Mine did not go so well. The egg’s yolk broke, my plastic leaked, and the whole thing ended up looking like a blob. We then dropped the plasticwrapped eggs into boiling water for exactly five-and-a-half minutes. When we unwrapped them, they were perfectly firm on the outside with a rich, runny yolk inside. Mark placed one egg in a bowl and arranged the carrots on top while I garnished them with a sprig of flowering oregano.
Next he placed a slice of duck breast on a plate and set a piece of daikon—exactly the same size as the duck—on top. I embellished it with purple borage flowers, which are both beautiful and edible, and a sprinkling of smoked sesame seeds.
To complete this perfect picture, Mark prepared one of Eva’s signature drinks, the Murray, a mixture of vodka, ginger syrup, kaffir lime, and a shot of Becherovka. It was crisp, clean, and complemented the Arzak egg and the drake duck breast with braised daikon perfectly.
This was a rewarding learning experience for me. Chef Mark’s expertise, patience, and craftsmanship taught me that although the mediums we work in differ, the result is the same. That said, next time you see me at Eva, I will be apron-free and seated in the dining room.
Eva Restaurant, 7458 Beverly Blvd., LA, 323-634-0700
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.