Fresh Starts Chef Events demonstrate the diversity—and adventurousness—of Bay Area chefs and local palates, from vegan soul food in April to pork paradise in June.
At the June 25 event, an enthusiastic audience greeted Duskie Estes and John Stewart, co-owners of Zazu Restaurant and Farm in Sebastopol, with Dave the Butcher of Marina Meats in San Francisco, and his assistant, Darren King.
To “Celebrate the Pig,” as the event was titled, Dave and Darren began with half an animal provided by Biagio Artisan Meats and set to work. Their painstaking skill with an array of knives and tools produced the cuts of pork for each recipe, as well as loads of interesting tips and commentary.
“I was a vegetarian for 23 years,” Chef Duskie told the sold-out crowd. And then began an evolution that saw Duskie and John crowned the Queen and King of Porc at the 2011 Grand Cochon cooking contest. These days, they raise heritage pigs as co-owners of Black Pig Meat Co., which specializes in bacon.
Chef John explained that the Hot Smoked Bacon was a “creative accident,” the result of a smoker set at a temperature too high for bacon. But it turned out to have “wonderful characteristics,” and has become a hit at Zazu—as it was at this event.
Along with the chefs’ demonstrations, Fresh Starts Culinary Academy students served dishes to the guests that were prepared in advance from the same recipes. Chefs John and Duskie were making their third appearance with Fresh Starts Chef Events, while the butcher David Budworth was presenting his sixth evening. “It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done,” he added.
For the second course, Kimchi Jigae (Korean-Style Pork Stew with Kimchee), butchers Dave and Darren cut the pork shoulder for Chef Duskie to prepare the stew. She seared it, adding ginger, garlic, shaoxing wine, Korean chili paste, soy sauce, and the kimchee, to prepare the meat for three hours of slow cooking. Don’t forget the fresh crunchy garnishes (scallions, cilantro, radishes and sesame seeds) to “keep your mouth happy,” Chef Duskie says.
The chefs and butchers extolled the virtues of slow cooking “lesser” cuts such as shoulders, shanks, and legs; this method “tempers” the heat, making the meat tender and flavorful. They also stressed the importance of asking where food is from and how it is produced – it’s the way, Chef Duskie says, to encourage producers to keep providing local, healthy, sustainable food.
Though Chefs Duskie and John did have Chicharrone Peanut Butter Cups and Bacon Caramel Popcorn for sale, the dessert they prepared was pork-free. The S’more in a Jar with red wine and meringue, instead of a marshmallow, had a grown-up flavor profile.
Fresh Start Chef Events’ premier sponsor, The Republic of Tea, provided Sonoma Cabernet Iced Tea for guests. It was a refreshing foil for the hot evening, tangy salad and spicy stew. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.
Hot Smoked “BLT” Salad – Serves 4
4 heads Little Gem lettuce, washed, dried and cut in bite-sized pieces
4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/3-inch thick
2 ripe avocado, pitted and cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup sherry vinaigrette – buy bottled or substitute sherry vinegar in your own recipe
1 recipe hot smoked bacon (or 1 lb. smoked slab bacon), diced into bite size cubes
Warm the pork belly in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with additional brown sugar if you like.
Toss lettuces in sherry vinaigrette. Top with tomatoes, avocadoes, and warmed pork belly.