Chef Chris New has the only gadget in Santa Clarita that was the winner of the Food Network’s Award for Tasty Technology: The “Anti-Griddle” quickly freezes sauces and purees into solid, unique forms — or freezes just the outer surfaces while maintaining a creamy center. It’s the perfect accompaniment for a modern chef that prides himself on “cooking out of the box.”
Chris, as I found myself calling this likeable young man with more cooking experience than anyone twice his age, was willing to take an hour out of his busy life catering for the motion picture industry, helping his wife Rebecca raise their two-year-old daughter and starting up his new catering venture, Elite Dining and Catering, to answer a few questions for his neighbors here in Santa Clarita:
1. How did you get started and why the interest in being a Chef?
“I grew up with a cooking family – both sides enjoy cooking and eating – with roots in Yugoslavia, Italy and Germany. Traditional old world dining. Then one day I was watching a new channel, the Food Network, and when I saw Tyler Florence making the Ultimate Chocolate Cake – I knew I wanted to try it. Of course my family would tell you: it was a disaster.
2. Where did you get your education, experience and training?
“I enrolled in Cordon Bleu school in Pasadena. After graduating I was accepted into the kitchens to do my hands-on ‘training’ (aka free) at the 5 star Ritz Carlton San Francisco. From there I transferred to the Ritz Carlton in Pasadena, then my wife Rebecca and I went to Rome for more cooking experience.
When we came back to the states I was accepted to stage at Chicago’s Alinea restaurant for the most amazing experience of my life as I was able to learn from Chef Grant Achatz (He was named best chef by the James Beard foundation for 2008). At Alinea I got a real taste for presentation and effect as well as respect for food and life.
I recently finished working under the world Famous Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc and Per Se Then I staged at 2 Star Michelin restaurant Alex in Las Vegas’s Wynn hotel under the tutelage of Alex Strada. I have recently been invited to do an internship at McCrady’s in Charleston, South Carolina to further my culinary training but I want to work here in Santa Clarita where I was raised.”
(Eve’s note: These names meant little to me so I looked them up for my 101ers too. Alinea restaurant: “combines food science and art.” I copied some of their photos for you here as they reminded me of Chris’s presentations.
To ‘stage’ means to train.
The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group: is made up of a family of restaurants.
Within each you’ll find a passion that binds them as one. That is – the common desire to provide memorable experiences for one another and every guest that visits.
Alex Strada: Possibly familiar to you from his stint on the American “Iron Chef”, he followed his once and present boss Steve Wynn from The Mirage, closing his Renoir venue to open Alex.
James Beard: The central figure in the story of the establishment of a “gourmet” American food identity. He was an eccentric personality who brought French cooking to the American middle and upper classes in the 1950s.)
3. What style do you consider yourself using?
“French techniques is the basis, but, with an emphasis on aromas, textures and presentation. I can make you lasagna and fried chicken but…I can also introduce your palate to new experiences…”
4. Tell me about your catering company.
I love the luxury side of food (foie gras, truffles, caviar, oysters). I like to create food and wine events for 10 guests once a month. I do the prep work at my kitchen and then bring to yours. This way your guests can see what has gone into their meal, not just the end result.”
5. Your wine education and experience?
As a Cordon Bleu graduate, a wine program is part of the curriculum. As well as the restaurants that I worked in I also worked at Justin Winery in Paso Robles for two years. I enjoyed, and still get called back to do, wine pairing dinners. Sitting down with winemakers, selecting the menu based on the wine, is a mutually gratifying experience.
6. Your own wine interests?
I’d like to attain entry level sommelier status someday. In the meantime I have memberships with Healdsburg’s Williams Selyem, Stag Leap’s Shafer and Sonoma’s Michel-Schlumberger.
7. Your mentors?
Besides Thomas Keller look up Grant Achatz. (And so I did: Achatz is an American chef and restaurateur who is considered to be on the cutting edge of the movement of menu item construction often referred to as molecular gastronomy or progressive cuisine.
Then I had to look up, you guessed it, molecular gastronomy: A classic example of molecular gastronomy is the investigation of the effect of specific temperatures on the yolk and white when cooking an egg. Many cookbooks provide the instructions of boiling eggs 3-6 minutes for soft yolks, 6-8 minutes for a medium yolk and so on. Molecular gastronomy reveals that the amount of time is less important to cooking the eggs than specific temperatures – which always yields the desired result.
8. Where do you see yourself getting the most enjoyment?
“Not being hired as a ‘caterer’ but as a ‘host’ to dinner parties and cooking classes. Pizza, wine and friends means a relaxing evening ‘rolling out the dough’. And on the opposite end I can create the ultimate experience in classic dining by providing everything from the starched linens to the elegant servers. And tomorrow I’ll enjoy myself – by giving a talk to new Culinary Arts students at College of the Canyons.”