Harvard SEAS lecture 10/15/12, José Andrés

The night started off with chocolate samples as we walked through the door!  They were spiced and crunchy, perhaps there was puffed rice in them?  I suspect that the chocolates were a gift from Taza chocolate, one of the SEAS cooking lecture sponsors.  Not a bad way to start, yeah?

The students in the class are busy with their mid-term (which is like a mini booklet – Professor Brenner even showed us the table of contents for the mid-term which is so crazy to me… none of my science mid-terms had a table of contents, back in the day).  So, tonight’s lecture didn’t exactly have a topic.  Basically, José Andrés was allowed to talk about whatever he wanted.  And for fun, Prof. Brenner tried to explain how difficult it is to cook the perfect steak with a super-simplistic video he made.

José patiently waited.  On the bright side, Prof. Brenner is usually short and to the point, so he was done in less than 15 minutes.

During the lecture, the videos José showed us were of:

  1. Spanish clementines with caramelized pumpkin seeds
  2. almond cups with blue cheese
  3. Chihuly garden salad
  4. and a video of the new Minibar that will be opening.

In the clementine video, clementines were cooked, sous vide, at 90C for 2.5 hours in syrup.  The meat was carefully removed from the skin and turned into a concentrated clementine juice.  Some of it became a sorbet, and some of it became a sauce.  The skins were re-filled with the sorbet.

In the almond cups video, almond was turned into a cold nut butter/ice cream with the help of an immersion blender and a Paco Jet.  A ladle, dipped in liquid nitrogen, was then dipped into the almond mixture to create the shape of a cup.  This was dipped back into the liquid nitrogen so that the almonds could freeze into shape.  Meanwhile a blue cheese espuma (culinary foam) was made through a whipped cream canister, and the espuma was used to fill the cups.

In the Chihuly garden salad, a salad of greens, vegetables, and flowers were carefully put into a bowl, and then decorated with caramelized olive oil.  The beads of olive oil is created with isomalt.  The isomalt is melted and a blob of it is placed on one end of a small tube, reminiscent of how glass blowing.  Then, a small amount of olive oil is placed on top.  The weight of the olive oil causes the isomalt to drip down into a tear shape, thereby encapsulating the olive oil.  As if falls, it also cools down until you have olive oil delicately trapped in a now-solid form of clear isomalt.

And as for the upcoming, second location of Minibar, José is very proud of the fact that it will have, not one, but two small bars for seating!  (^_~)

All in all, I didn’t learn anything new this year.  I just really enjoy listening and hearing José lecture.

He’s very animated and passionate about food.  He is also absolutely hilarious and good-natured.  In making fun of himself and other haute cuisine chefs, he joking exclaimed “No one can afford it but, wow!, it’s so cool!”  Or, in talking about the restaurant business, he said that he cooks food that he thinks are interesting, plates that make him happy.  He doesn’t create menus to make other people happy, because that would be like cooking for his daughters where “he’s unhappy to cook for them, and they’re unhappy with what he feeds them” because  “pancakes taste better at the diner!”  lol!

It’s such a pleasure to have a man like José come to talk to the public, to talk about the things that matter to him.  If you ever have the chance to hear him talk in person, you absolutely should!  You will not regret it.

Thank you, José Andrés, for speaking at Harvard.  I look forward to next time.  (^_^)

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