Sure, our local chefs wow us with their culinary prowess in their restaurants, but what happens when the aprons come off? What do these renowned chefs like to cook at home, away from the prying palates of their loyal customers? We decided to find out.
First, a visit to each chef's restaurant was in order. At Bari, I found authentic Italian fare -- the kind you'd find at a trattoria tucked away on some cobblestone street in Southern Italy: imported proscuitto, grilled radicchio and endive with gorgonzola cheese, and baked whole bronzino stuffed with fennel and orange. At Encore, I found a French menu infused with touches of Italian, Spanish, and Southern influences. My favorites? Lentil soup with homemade sausage and herb-crusted pork tenderloin with mascarpone polenta cakes. I feasted on haute Southern cuisine at Felicia Suzanne: fried oysters, shrimp and grits, and redfish. And at Erling Jensen's I had eclectic fare such as Maine lobster pancakes and Snake River Kobe beef flank with mascarpone bordelaise. I didn't get a chance to eat at Judd Grisanti's Spindini -- it hadn't opened yet -- but I did get a sneak peek at the South Main space, which has an impressive wood-burning fireplace as its centerpiece.
Next, it was time to pay a visit to the chefs' homes, where I found kitchens ranging from a 1950s style to a state-of-the-art. And I ate everything from eggs and grilled cheese to pan-seared duck and tuna tartare. I discovered that three of the five chefs have electric stoves, much to their chagrin, and that it's essential to have a good set of pots, pans, and knives. I also found that every chef has a few staple ingredients he or she can't do without.
My final undertaking was to test out the recipes -- any good chef can make even the most complicated dishes look easy. But can an average Joe replicate them? The answer, it turns out, is yes.
Erling Jensen of Erling Jensen: The Restaurant
Judd Grisanti of Spindini
Jason Severs of Bari Ristorante
Felicia Willett of Felicia Suzanne's
José Gutierrez of Encore