In this month’s interview, we sit down with IFWTWA Board Member Marc d’Entremont, also a member of the American Culinary Federation, and ask him five questions about how he became a chef.
Was there a moment or event that inspired you to become a chef?
Yes. 1969 – I’m a college freshman home on break watching Galloping Gourmet host Graham Kerr on TV throw a dart blindly at a large wall map of the world. It lands in some forsaken middle of Central Asia. Yet Chef Kerr researches the foods available within a 50-mile radius of the dart’s coordinates (a day’s gathering by foot) and what’s known of the regional culture and cuisine. He then both replicated traditional dishes and created fusion variations – and pairs a wine.
Not only did he totally enjoy his work but equally the process combining culinary and cultural exploration – two factors that were already strong in my life.
In the 1990s when I was a working executive and teaching chef I had the fortune to relate that story to Graham Kerr at a press brunch in Philadelphia.
What is your strongest memory from your first job in a kitchen?
Catering (arrangements and chef) three events with no sleep within 36 hours. The third event rather late at night was at the home of a well-connected city socialite. After her staff took over from me in her kitchen she invited me to join the party. I promptly nodded off in a comfortable chair with a glass of wine and my hors d’ouvers. Although embarrassed, it meant nothing to my hostess. My catering business increased greatly after that day.
Please describe in three words your personal entertaining style.
Wow without fuss.
I want my guests to relax while I make sure each dish has a wow factor. At the same time, I want to enjoy that wow factor with them, so that means selecting imaginative dishes that can mostly be prepared at least six hours before guests arrive. But the food needs to impress in both taste and presentation without looking fussy or difficult.
What is your favorite meal to prepare for an intimate dinner with friends or family?
A selection of Eastern Mediterranean plates with emphasis on Greek and Lebanese dishes – anything encased in phyllo dough, fresh fish with olive oil, lemon and capers, salads with grains and dried fruits, fresh cheeses, olives and crusty breads, seafood or meat slow cooked stews with chick peas, dry Assyrtiko wine.
What advice would you give a culinary student today?
- Master professional techniques.
- Travel to other lands and eat everything.
- Study business!! The #1 reason for the high failure rate among food businesses is lack of expertise in running a business.
A recipe from Marc
Nova Scotia Fish Chowder – eight generous servings
• 4 oz. salt pork, diced
• 1 large or 2 medium sweet (Vidalia, Walla Walla) onion, chopped
• 3 tablespoons sweet butter
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 bunch scallions, chopped
• 1 sweet red or orange bell pepper seeded and chopped
• 2 large or 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
• the stems from one bunch of cilantro chopped (not the leaves – cut the stems just below the start of the leaves)
• 3 large or 4 medium stalks celery, chopped
• 3 to 4 large potatoes (approximately 1-1/2 pound) peeled & diced (place in a bowl of cold water until ready to use to prevent browning. Drain water before adding to chowder)
• 1/4 pound (4 ounces) raw shrimp in the shell
• 1-1/2 to 2 pounds (24 to 32 ounces) firm fresh boneless & skinless white fish fillet such as cod, haddock, halibut or a combination
• 1 quart fish or seafood stock
• 1 generous tablespoon dried shrimp (readily available in Asian food stores)
• 1 quart half & half
• 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
• 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
• 1/8 teaspoon ground mace
• salt & white pepper to taste (do not use black pepper).
1. Dice the salt pork and place in a skillet. Over low heat, fry the pork for 20 – 30 minutes until all the fat is rendered and the pork dice is dry and light brown. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon, discard but reserve the fat.
2. Prepare all the vegetables.
3. Peel the shrimp and reserve the shells. Slice each shrimp into 3 pieces.
4. Cut the fish fillets into cubes and refrigerate both the shrimp & fish until needed.
5. In a 2-quart saucepan, add the seafood or fish stock and the shells of the shrimp. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer gently until ready to use but at least 15 minutes.
6. Add the reserved pork fat to a large heavy pot (8-quart) and the butter. Melt over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and dried basil and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is turning translucent, 5 to 7 minutes – do not brown.
7. Add the scallions, bell pepper, garlic, cilantro stems and carrots. Stir and cook for 5 minutes more.
8. Drain the potatoes, add to the vegetables and stir to combine.
9. Strain the stock, discarding the shrimp shells, and add to the vegetables. Add the dried shrimp. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are just fork tender – approximately 8 – 10 minutes.
10. When the potatoes are cooked, add the cubed fish and the chopped shrimp. Bring back to a simmer, cover and gently cook for 5 – 8 minutes.
11. While the chowder is simmering, pour the half & half into the saucepan used to heat the stock. Over medium low heat, bring just to a simmer.
12. Add the hot half & half, paprika and mace. Stir and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
13. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of sweet paprika.