I'm not going to pretend I don't have a personal stake in writing about chef Ken Oringer's flagship restaurant Clio in Boston. It's not the first restaurant I worked in, but it was certainly the most influential.
It was the kitchen where I learned to think creatively and critically about food, where I learned that a strong work ethic and a passion for the food is more important than experience or education, and where I met many of the greatest cooks and chefs I've ever known, and as evidenced by the blowout 15th anniversary meal Clio hosted on Tuesday night, I'm not the only one who felt this way.
For the event, Ken invited back 15 former Clio cooks who have gone on to make big names for themselves in cities across the country. Each chef was asked to prepare one course for a four-hour, 15-course meal. You'd think with that many cooks (not to mention egos) in the kitchen, there'd be a few logistical hitches here and there getting the food out to the over 100 hungry guests (who included friends of Clio: Ming Tsai, Matthew Jennings, and Jamie Bissonette, among others), but I have never seen a kitchen run so smoothly and professionally. Every course went out without a hitch, and man, what a meal it was.
If food is really the new rock (as some claim it to be) and chefs the new rockstars, this was like the Bonnaroo of meals (which would make me the roadie of the meal, lending a hand here and there, mostly just honored to get to work with such talent). With only one course to focus on, each chef pulled out all the stops, making for a meal of one big hit after another.
There was no shortage of flavor (or sea urchin, for that matter) on the plates. Here's the course-by-course breakdown:
- Caviar "Bon Bons" with white orchid root, allium blossoms, and black cocoa, from Ken Oringer and Douglas Rodrigues of Clio in Boston, MA
- Sorrel Ice Cream with smoked wild char roe, kasu curd, and rhubarb glass, from Alex Talbot and Aki Kamozawa of Ideas in Food
- Chilled Yellow Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho with spicy peekytoe crab and avocado, from Todd MacDonald of Villa Pacri in New York, NY
- Plankton Conchiglie Pasta with sea urchin and guanciale, from Tony Maws of Cragie on Main in Cambridge, MA
- Ruby Red Shrimp with crispy masa, sea urchin mousse, and lettuces, from Alex Stupak of Empellón and Empellón Cocina in New York, NY
- "Ode To The Cassolette" with king crab, calamansi, and chili jam, from Sam Gelman of Momofuku, Toronto, CAN
- Hearts of Palm with artichokes, white anchovy, bottarga-preserved lemon and pecorino vinaigrette, and chickweed, from Phillip Kirshen Clark formerly of Vandaag and currently of Demi Monde in New York, NY
- Salsify and Laitue de Mer Porridge with chicken jus, brown butter, and crispy farro, from John Paul Carmona, formerly of Manresa, Los Gatos, CA
- Abalone Sunomono with hon shimeji, pickled ramps, freeze-dried shiitake, sukiyaki gelée, homemade tofu, and tosa bonito powder, from Chris Chung of AKA Bistro, Lincoln, MA
- Island Creek Oyster Stew with clack roux, coconut, and kumquat kosho, from John Critchley of Urbana, Washington, D.C.
- Hudson Valley Foie Grast Torchon "Sandwich" with strawberries, chartreuse, and wild herbs, from David Varley of the Mina Group, San Francisco, CA
- Black Sea Bass with crispy rice and nameko mushrooms, from Justin Hua of The Dutch, New York, NY
- Veal Breast and Sweetbread Parmentier with braised fava beans and nasturtium, from Andres Grundy, A. Juli & Ebru Restaurant Consultant, New York, NY
- Mango Sticky Rice 2.0, from Rick Billings, José Andrés Think Group and Chris Cordeiro, Clio
- Bomba Di Ciliegia with malt crema, poached cherries, birch, and amaro gelato, from Renae Herzog of Marea, New York, NY
For more on the event, read a great interview with Ken, Chef de Cuisine Douglas Rodrigues, Alex Stupak, and others over on Today.com from former Serious Eats intern-turned-superstar Katie Quinn.
Peep through the slideshow for a course-by-course behind-the-scenes breakdown.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.