Gastronomy

Published on January 28th, 2018 | by Teresa Tolentino

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The cuisine of Hubert Keller for food fashionista!

Chef Hubert Keller.

French Quarter Magazine : What are your key ingredients, give us one of your little secrets?

Hubert Keller : It may sound strange but I would say vanilla because it has such a magic impact on several dishes. When you think about it, it’s not used that commonly, but I use vanilla in lobster, I use vanilla in a lamb dish. When you make a great sea scallops dish, vanilla works really well and as for the lamb, I make a deep red wine sauce. When talking about a Merlot, how many times do you hear that it has a hint of vanilla in it? This will be complementary to the red wine and to the reduction. So I like to use vanilla bean in many senses; in my savory cuisine and in my desserts, and I always kind of describe it as magical, like when a magician has his little wand and he taps it on something to transform it. That is my little secret.

French Quarter Magazine : What inspires you?

Hubert Keller : When a guest leaves the restaurant and shakes your hand and gives you a genuine thank you, when you can look him in his eyes and see that it’s a sincere thank you. You have touched this person who just perhaps ate the best burger ever, or sat down for a three or four hour multi-course meal. That is the real inspiration for the next day. Every night, we have an audience, and I think we are performing. It really is a performance. If it works well and you get a standing ovation, you get inspired.

French Quarter Magazine : What is the most exotic dish you have ever made?

Hubert Keller : I was lucky enough to serve the queen of Thailand when she was in San Francisco and she reserved a Thai restaurant for a private function. She basically said I want to taste your cuisine. That was actually really cool, but she said please include one Thai dish because, after all, we are celebrating with my entourage. So I made a lobster and coconut Thai soup. At that time, that was something special for me. The dish was so amazing that I added it to my restaurant menu and put it in my cookbook.

French Quarter Magazine : Who is your favorite chef?

Hubert Keller : Paul Bocuse.

French Quarter Magazine : What is your favorite cookbook?

Hubert Keller : «La Physionomie du Goût.» It’s not just recipes, it’s more about French cuisine, hospitality, and history. So I find it pretty amazing when I read it. This book traces back why cookbooks exist.

French Quarter Magazine : If there could be a chef equivalent to the Oscars, what awards would you want people to see?

Hubert Keller : It already exists. It’s called the Bocuse d’Or. It’s named after Paul Bocuse and takes place in Lyon, France. The award is a golden statue and it’s a worldwide competition that lasts several days. In our industry, it is the culinary academy awards.

Interior of the Fleur restaurant.

French Quarter Magazine : What is your favorite dish on the menu at Fleur? (Fleur is Hubert Keller’s fine dining restaurant in Mandalay Bay Casino, Las Vegas.)

Hubert Keller : The white onion soup veloute with truffles. It’s one of the dishes that has been on the menu the longest. It’s like the mousseline de grenouilles (frog legs) that we were trying to take off, the customers wouldn’t allow us to remove it from the menu. It is a great dish on the menu. The recipe is available on the PBS series «Secrets of A Chef,» which is filmed in Las Vegas.

French Quarter Magazine : What would you recommend for someone dining at Fleur for the first time?

Hubert Keller : What I would recommend is to be adventurous. The menu is designed to take you on a voyage. I take the guests on a journey. That’s why we always have five different countries represented on the menu: France and the United States are always on there, along with three other countries which can change: Mexico, Spain, Italy, Thailand and Japan. I suggest to be adventurous because it’s small plates. Just pick a couple dishes from different countries and enjoy all the flavors and spices. Be adventurous!

 

This article was translated in French by Anne-Cécile Baer Porter and revised in English by John Wilmot.


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