Here's a story book read with top shelf writing, but not for cooking.
Having your first introduction to commercial food by working at Wendy's can lead to great things. Rick Tramonto's first pay job was flipping those little four-ounce squares of fresh beef. Once stepping away from Wendy's grill he cooked in New York City and London restaurants. Returning to Chicago he rose to culinary fame at Trio in nearby Evanston, Illinois. By 1994 his first big publicity came when Food & Wine Magazine named him one of the nation's Top Ten Best New Chefs. By 1999 Tramonto was opening partner of Chicago's acclaimed Tru.
Let this be your introduction to the making of a star chef. Emphasis on star.
In Chicago it helps when you partner with Rich Melman, the nation's most successful creator of multiple restaurant themes. Melman brings money, management and marketing to any eatery with his name on a partnership agreement. By 2002 the Melman powerhouse brought about one of the decades cookbook heavies, 2.6 pounds of what was a tony coffee table book, not to be read but to Impress. Not the case. Amuse-Bouche has study value, mostly to be credited to food photographer Tim Turner and the real writer, Mary Goodbody. The Melman machine put together more than 100 recipes supported with 52 full pages of some of the finest full-color food images ever. Their production using slick and heavy ivory paper stock makes it a so-called coffee table book. The Goodbody style of telling a food story is the lesson for student writers.
The book becomes a food writing text by detailing meanings... amuse to entertain... bouche for the little bites of food described in tested recipes. There is the fantastic fine Goodbody writing for study purposes. As would any professional ghost writer, Goodbody is careful to
stick with first person writing in the name of the man with his name in the largest typeface. Example: "When I wanted to create a small, sophisticated club sandwich to serve as an amuse, I turned to foie gras and rich, buttery homemade brioche." (Page 146)
Tramonto's little bites of delight do just that. Each recipe seems to offer a challenge. That, at least in my visits to a thousand or so kitchens, both commercial and for Homemakers, has at least one called-for ingredient not readily available. It may not be handy when the inspirational moment to cook surfaces. (Page 89, 2.5 cups of grapeseed oil to go with the wasabi tobika (*) caviar in the smoked salmon parfait, serving six.)
Wasabi tobika caviar? Yes, the Tru kitchen would have a pantry with every known and in-season caviar. So, too, at the run for Tru, now closed and relegated to culinary memories, could fill a guest's order for chilled and grilled black mission figs with mascarpone foam and prosciutto di Parma. (Page 141) Again, that is for reading and to savor.
Tramonto departed Tru in 2010, but not before he became a famous culinary centerpiece in the growing debate between meat eaters and that other side. At Tru he became embroiled in a public debate because he refused to take foie gras off his menu. That pitted him against his cross town rival, Charlie Trotter, a peace advocate for oppressed ducks and other producers of marketable livers and sweetbreads. At one point in the tabloids anti-foie gras chef Trotter suggested eating Tramonto's liver.
Who won or lost depends. Chicago City Council did pass an ordinance banning foie gras. It lasted for two years, just long enough to educate the public on what is foie gras and a thymus gland.
Who won or lost in the foie gras fuss? For sure the fine dining chefs across the nation enjoyed the publicity. In Columbus two top chefs reaped menu rewards. One, Dale Gusset, then chef-owner of small and intimate L'Antibes with foie gras as a menu stable, doubled and tripled his nightly cover count. Charles Langstaff, executive chef for Bexley Monk, read the morning news and quickly added foie gras to his menu. Again, he served new guests and tipped his toque to Tramonto. While not confirmed, Langstaff's foie gras was thinly sliced and served on brioche with pesto aioli, somewhat similar to Tramonto. (Page 146)
Study advice: Buy this book for reference, that is, should you pass on a writing career and find a rewarding life with long hours in a restaurant kitchen. Small plates? Yes, but in those Tramonto recipes, there is guidance for enlarged portions... or offer a menu loaded only with
little bites of delight. What a concept.
Career lesson: Late in the last decade, Tramonto became spokesman for the U. S. Duck Council.
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