Saturday, March 1, 2008

What qualities make for becoming a good chef?

A special thank to Carol Georges Journalist & Writer


Since tasting some of Velia's latest vegetarian dishes, I have asked myself the question - what qualities make for becoming a good chef?

I have concluded that a fine chef needs a number of different talents and most of them involve the senses.

It is helpful to have the eye of a painter, the precision of sculpter, the sense of touch of a fine pianist, the sense of smell of a perfume creator, the palette of a wine taster, the curious mind of an inventor and the judgment of a wise person to know which flavors enhance one another.

Deep culinary roots in one country or region of a country give the strong foundation needed to begin the process. The best chefs are analagous to composers - they take a theme and develop it into their own variations. They create new music (dishes) - their cooking is evolutionary. This keeps a menu from remaining static. If a chef is too stuck in a routine, the dishes begin to lack a certain sparkle.

Velia created a new menu around the theme of printemps - spring. She seeks to use the ingredients of the season and integrate them in new ways. Early spring asparagus is infused into a pasta sauce, pale yellow zuccini flowers with their emerald leaves are stuffed with ricotta cheese and spring herbs, thin light as air slices of eggplant roasted to a golden hue are served as a carpaccio, small baby potatoes are roasted to perfection, drizzled in olive oil and infused into a light summer tinted vegetarian herbal soup, early garden lettuce varieties with their fresh earthy flavors are meshed with fennel and fresh herbs and when the season is right, summer fruits such as slivers of succulent strawberries. The dessert varieties for spring unfold like flowers as each month another colorful succulent fruit comes into season. Fruit tarts based on homemade yogurt with chocolate shavings give the palette another fresh taste.

The pleasure of the eye proceeds the pleasure on the palette - and Velia's surprising combinations are original, fun, light and delicious.

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