Do you ever wonder where the really innovative chefs go to get new ideas for their restaurant menus? In the case of Chef Marc Lepine, owner of Atelier, the answer is: Ideas in Food. About four years ago, Lepine stumbled upon a blog of that name created by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot, a pair of chefs based in Pennsylvania who delve deeply into how recipes work in order to be able to push the boundaries and make better food. Last year, they published their book, Ideas in Food, based on key findings gathered in the blog. It is divided into two sections: one for professionals and one for home cooks. The idea is to inspire everyone to be a little more daring in the kitchen.
It has sparked many new ideas for Lepine (reverse ice cream anyone? — it starts hot and then melts as it gets colder) who has quickly become known as one of the most daring and creative chefs in the city. He’s the guy that other chefs turn to when they begin to dabble in what’s been controversially labeled Molecular Gastronomy or Modernist Cuisine — terms that loosely refer to the application of scientific methods, materials, and equipment to cooking. Perhaps the most popular method these days is sous vide cooking and the use of a thermal emersion circulator, a contraption that heats and circulates water at a uniform temperature. “Not all chefs will advertise it, but many are using it,” says Lepine. “It [sous vide cooking] has spread like crazy.”
Last fall, Lepine learned that the authors of Ideas in Food were lining up a book tour and he emailed them and offered to host them if they came to Ottawa. To his surprise, they accepted. They will be cooking as guest chefs in the Atelier kitchen on March 28 (both seatings are already sold out). As well, the authors will teach two classes at the Urban Element on March 29: the first on sous-vide cooking and the second on Activa (meat glue). “I am super pumped to have them here,” he says.
Lepine says about half of the room at the Ideas in Food dinner will be chefs, and that people are coming in from Guelph, Toronto, and Montreal especially for it. After some frustrating attempts at using Activa, Lepine is looking forward to attending the second workshop at Urban Element to discover how to make things like chicken skin crusted sweetbreads. “I got frustrated with it and gave up,” says Lepine. He expects there to be yoghurt orbs and flourless ricotta gnocchi in his future.