Friday, June 6, 2008

Make it fresh

John Tesar will lead demo on sustainable food

Express Staff Writer

Corn and lobster go together like food and wine in Chef John Tesar's opinion. Tesar, who will be in Ketchum for the second annual Sun Valley Food & Wine Festival, has another corresponding idea.

"Food and wine— what makes food more enjoyable than good company and great wine," he said.

In support of both concepts, he will conduct a demonstration at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 7, at Ciro restaurant. His secret ingredient will be corn.

Tesar is executive chef at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. Known for his contemporary American cuisine prepared with European techniques, Chef Tesar has over 20 years' culinary experience. Trained in Paris, Tesar returned to his hometown of New York City and became the chef at, among other restaurants, The Inn at Quogue, 44 & X Hell's Kitchen, Vine, Dining Room on Columbus and 13 Barrow (which he also owned).

He also recently served as executive chef at RM restaurant at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. In addition to his restaurant experience, he has served as personal chef for high-profile clients, including Giorgio Armani and Mariah Carey.

Tesar, 50, said taking over the fabled Mansion has been, "So far, so good. We got the fifth star back, and there was a great article in Wine Spectator."

For two decades The Mansion was maintained by Texas mentor chef Dean Fearing. Two years ago when Fearing left Rosewood Hotels and Resorts (owners of The Mansion) to run the restaurant at the new Ritz-Carlton Tesar was brought in to reinvent its image. It was a daring move to attempt to replace one of the most beloved and respected chefs in Texas.

"It's been stressful but rewarding to replace Dean Fearing," Tesar said. "It's very special to eclipse someone's expectations."

Tesar's friendship with Ketchum residents Sandy and Jim Figge has brought him to Sun Valley several times. He recently was the chef for Kipp Nelson's Platinum dinner for donors during the 48 Straight ski event in March. He will also return as the chef for one of the vintners for the Sun Valley Wine Auction in July.

As well, he is "good friends with Judith McQueen," a well-known caterer and chef who is based in Hailey.

For the demo he is taking the green route that is a natural fit, especially when the demo will be based on a cob of corn.

"I'm a proponent of sustainable everything—sustainable local produce," he said. "People need to get away from processed foods and develop a relationship with their farmers' market and green grocers, stroll through the market and learn how to buy sustainable foods, then go home and see what you can make. The end result is astounding. The greatest chefs are the ones who make food in the simplest fashion. It's a way of enriching your life—think about what you want to eat that day."

Tesar will also discuss the kinds of foods people should be eating based on their environments.

From 12 stalks of corn, Tesar will make a pudding, a velouté sauce, stock and foam and serve it with buttered poached lobster.

"I start with the husk of corn, and utilize all of that, he said. "The elegant part is the lobster. You can do this with another fish or with chicken too. I try to be entertaining and charming. You need to connect with the audience. I don't dumb it down, and I answer all the questions.

"If I can help you be a better home chef, you'll want to come to my restaurant. You can trust me by the time we've spent together, and trust that I'll deliver for you. That's the secret—we're not performing rocket science here. Fear of the silliest things is what holds us back."

Recently Tesar was seen on the CBS Morning Show in a spot called "Chef on a Shoe String." He will be on the Today show in July before coming to Sun Valley for the Wine Auction. That evening he will be at the Figge's Pig Roast, he said.

He is also developing a cookbook and television show in Dallas and will do six shows with the Dallas Cowboys called, "Cooking with the Old Pros." After the Wine Auction he will head back to New York to cook at the Beard House.

Guest Chef Demonstration

What: "Farmer's Market Produce and Sustainable Seafood."

When: 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 7.

Where: Ciro restaurant & wine bar, Ketchum.

· Other demonstrations will be held at Memory Park, il Naso, Knob Hill Inn, Sun Valley Lodge Dining Room, and Baci Italian Café & Wine Bar.

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