One of the great perks to being a working chef with a little reputation is the ability to consult with and for other restaurants. Usually this means taking on the role of the chef for a particular period of time or it could just be menu and recipe development, hiring a chef or any of a multitude of responsibilities where you’re experience is required. Generally the requirements of a consulting chef are to aid in areas of financial concern or in systems development and analysis, meaning, does the kitchen/restaurant really function as efficiently as possible.
Celebrity chefs lend their names and staff as consultants to establishments with deep pockets to help generate buzz. But the best and rarest of these jobs is on the creative side.
Recently, I was asked to provide menus, 22 in all, for a local Italian eatery that wanted to upgrade and contemporize (if that’s not a word, it is now) the food. They have been a red sauce and pasta house for years in north Denver. Over the last 5-6 years, that area has exploded with several chic, trendy and contemporary food spots. My client, being what it was, an old school American-Italian restaurant was having a difficult time pulling in a new younger, hipper clientele, thus the need to lighten the fare, provide value and be in a better place to compete.
We change the menu every week. I write it on Thursday, test it on Monday and go live on Tuesday. It is the perfect side job as it allows me to be creative, work with food and go home to leave the execution during the week to the staff that I have trained. That is where my responsibility ends.
The menus I have written for my client are simple. They focus on quality ingredients handled as gently and minimally as possible. The dishes themselves are light, refreshing, clean and simple to produce at home since that is what good Italian food is to me, uncomplicated and ingredient driven.
The following dish is just that. Utilizing a combination of flavors found throughout Greece and Turkey, I’ve applied them to a simple bruschetta.
Bruschetta, pronounced broo-SKE-tah, is one of those dishes in Italy, that exists in variations around the country. The common thread is the bread is rubbed with garlic and olive oil and grilled. It can be prepared with vegetables, legumes and cured meats and cheeses.
This recipe should make about 4 servings, depending upon you and your guests appetite.
- 1 cup small diced Roma tomato
- 1 cup small diced Spanish onion
- 1/2 cup minced kalamata olives
- 1 cup diced cucumber, peeled and deseeded
- 1 cup Greek feta Cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup olive oil, pure or extra virgin
- 1 oz vinegar, sherry or red wine
- 1/4 cup parsley, rough chopped
- fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 baguette, French or Italian
- olive oil
- minced garlic
- Slice the baguettes on a bias about half an inch thick.
- Rub one side generously with olive oil and minced garlic.
- Grill the bread being careful not to let it burn, should be very quick.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl.
- Lay the grilled bread on a plate and top with the ‘salsa’.
For the restaurant I topped three pieces of the grilled bread with 3 grilled shrimp marinated in olive oil, lemon and red chile flakes to add a greater perceived value. This step is optional but the shrimp go well with the dish, adding texture, temperature and a little briny spice.