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Edible Silicon Valley Winter 2014 : Page 20

EDIBLE INNOVATORS SEVEN CHEFS AND A STEER, FROM HEAD TO TAIL STORY BY KERRI STENSON • PHOTOS BY CHRIS CHOWANIEC atching the Epicurean Group team in action at the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau inaugural farm-to-table dinner last fall, it was easy to understand why the Los Altos–based food service management company has enjoyed 10 years of success. They’ve built the company on a fresh, honest and local approach with sustainable roots. I came into contact with the Epicurean Group shortly after learn-ing that the Farm Bureau was planning its first farm-to-table fundrais-ing dinner. Jennifer Scheer, executive director of the Farm Bureau, mentioned that while they had access to all the fresh produce they would need (being in the Santa Clara Valley)—including a 4-H-raised steer—they needed a chef. Epicurean Group fit the bill. W the providers and producers to the policymakers and supporters of local agriculture. And the extraordinary dishes on the menus told the story—the story of what was in season, how sustainable we are in Silicon Valley and how many people care about our food and where it comes from. As I congratulated Hernandez and Epicurean Group for pulling off such a momentous event, he declared it “probably one of my greatest food memories of my life.” Epicurean Group is enhancing the food memories of many people’s lives. A Teachable Moment Run by three founding partners who all “make an effort to visit ev-eryone in the company,” Epicurean Group is “like a family,” says Lori Coronado, director of standards and merchandizing, as she walks me around the café at Maxim Integrated, which has a bright, cheerful and food-loving feel. Fresh, colorful, organic foods are lined up in the “made to order” salad and deli stations. And then there’s the grill, where homemade panini and pizzas and warm, slow-cooked meals are lined up behind the glass, waiting to be served. “We batch cook”—cook one batch of something and then, if it’s running out, cook more—“to reduce waste,” says Lori. Recently awarded the Antonin Carême Medal for making “ex-traordinary contributions to the culinary profession, to education, or the advancement of gastronomy and to the culinary arts,” Epicurean CEO Mary Clark Bartlett told me that her “aha!” moment came 10 edible silicon valley Farm (and People) to Table Chef Rey Hernandez, Epicurean’s senior vice president, admits that he was “stymied” at first by the challenge of cooking for 250 people with just one steer. But then, as he was driving away from the first planning meeting, Hernandez remembers being excited about an ambitious so-lution: “taking the beef—from head to tail—grabbing seven Epicure-an chefs and then tasking each chef with a menu for about 35 people.” This led to seven unique menus, all centered around different cuts of beef and all adorned with fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from Santa Clara County. What resulted was an incredible evening—a dinner that truly brought the farm and the people to the table. Everyone who plays a role in bringing the food to our tables was represented there, from 20 Winter 2014

Seven Chefs And A Steer, From Head To Tail

Kerri Stenson

Photos By Chris Chowaniec

Watching the Epicurean Group team in action at the Santa Clara County Farm Bureau inaugural farm-to-table dinner last fall, it was easy to understand why the Los Altos–based food service management company has enjoyed 10 years of success. They've built the company on a fresh, honest and local approach with sustainable roots.

I came into contact with the Epicurean Group shortly after learning that the Farm Bureau was planning its first farm-to-table fundraising dinner. Jennifer Scheer, executive director of the Farm Bureau, mentioned that while they had access to all the fresh produce they would need (being in the Santa Clara Valley) – including a 4-H-raised steer – they needed a chef.

Epicurean Group fit the bill.

Farm (and People) to Table

Chef Rey Hernandez, Epicurean's senior vice president, admits that he was "stymied" at first by the challenge of cooking for 250 people with just one steer. But then, as he was driving away from the first planning meeting, Hernandez remembers being excited about an ambitious solution: "taking the beef – from head to tail – grabbing seven Epicurean chefs and then tasking each chef with a menu for about 35 people."

This led to seven unique menus, all centered around different cuts of beef and all adorned with fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from Santa Clara County.

What resulted was an incredible evening – a dinner that truly brought the farm and the people to the table. Everyone who plays a role in bringing the food to our tables was represented there, from the providers and producers to the policymakers and supporters of local agriculture. And the extraordinary dishes on the menus told the story – the story of what was in season, how sustainable we are in Silicon Valley and how many people care about our food and where it comes from.

As I congratulated Hernandez and Epicurean Group for pulling off such a momentous event, he declared it "probably one of my greatest food memories of my life." Epicurean Group is enhancing the food memories of many people's lives.

A Teachable Moment

Run by three founding partners who all "make an effort to visit everyone in the company," Epicurean Group is "like a family," says Lori Coronado, director of standards and merchandizing, as she walks me around the café at Maxim Integrated, which has a bright, cheerful and food-loving feel.

Fresh, colorful, organic foods are lined up in the "made to order" salad and deli stations. And then there's the grill, where homemade panini and pizzas and warm, slow-cooked meals are lined up behind the glass, waiting to be served. "We batch cook" – cook one batch of something and then, if it's running out, cook more – "to reduce waste," says Lori.

Recently awarded the Antonin Carême Medal for making "extraordinary contributions to the culinary profession, to education, or the advancement of gastronomy and to the culinary arts," Epicurean CEO Mary Clark Bartlett told me that her "aha!" moment came 10 years ago, at a time when restaurants, corporations and universities were serving processed foods and foods that had traveled many miles. So Bartlett and her partners, Hernandez and CFO Marvin Rodriguez, seized the opportunity to bring people back to the table with locally sourced (within 150 miles) organic foods, in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

"It was a teachable moment," says Bartlett. "Food should not be a fast thing, it should be celebrated. Here [in Silicon Valley] we live in this great mecca of food. With all the farms here, why would you go anywhere else? People who are educated understand what has happened to our food."

And this spirit of celebrating the right kinds of foods, sustainably, is the common denominator across all Epicurean Group clients' cafés.

There are differences, though. Epicurean Group realizes that their clients have different needs and requirements. So they base their business model on working with each "one environment at a time."

According to Hernandez, "Epicurean Group submits a proposal and then customizes for each client based on feedback from the community." Whether an Epicurean café is in a school community or a corporation with a diverse population, Epicurean Group has found a way to cater to those specific community needs, without sacrificing the integrity of their mission.

Going Beyond

A certified Bay Area Green Business, Epicurean Group is also in the business of giving back, because "it's the right thing to do," says Bartlett.

In support of state and local efforts to achieve zero waste, Epicurean uses compostable containers and utensils. "The only thing prohibitive about compostables can be price. Since we were buying in bulk, it brought the price down. So we created a GreenTown Co-op, which supplies compostables to Bay Area restaurants at a 25% discount," says Bartlett. In addition to helping local businesses achieve their goals of sustainability, the co-op supports the GreenTown Los Altos nonprofit and supplements its other programs promoting the reduction of food waste.

Epicurean Group also sponsors food education and outreach programs. One example is the "Celebrity Chef " events where a chef from one café will make a guest appearance at another.

Last October, Chef Michael Schley and Manager Yu Kei Fan of Sacred Heart School in Atherton made such a "guest appearance" at Maxim Integrated.

Schley designed a delicious cold-apple-wood-smoked tuna Salade Niçoise (recipe at right) – the albacore tuna of course rated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program as a "best choice," and the other ingredients were organic and sourced locally. Schley and Fan engaged with diners and answered questions about the sustainable dish they were serving.

From the food they serve and their waste reduction and sustainability efforts to community outreach, support and education, Epicurean Group is "changing one environment at a time," for the better.

Cold-Smoked Albacore Tuna Niçoise Salad

By Chef Michael Schley

Serves 4

1 pound albacore tuna, cold-smoked
2 bunches baby golden beets
1/4 pound green beans
3 eggs
1 red bell pepper
4 ounces mixed baby greens
12 fingerling potatoes
4 sprigs thyme, leaves removed, stem discarded
1 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Vinaigrette
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoons anchovy
2 sprigs oregano, leaves removed, stem discarded
2 sprigs thyme, leaves removed, stem discarded
1/4 cup Kalamata olives with brine
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil

Chef Schley's Step-by-Step Directions for Cold-Smoking

I cold-smoked the tuna – smoked it with ice to keep the internal temperature of the smoker lower around the fish. It stayed in the smoker for about 1 hour. I like to use applewood, because it has a great flavor. Here's how you can create a home version of a cold smoker:

30-ounce can, lid and label removed, thoroughly washed 4 charcoal briquettes 2 cups of applewood chips, soaked in water for several hours

Put the can with the 4 briquettes on one side of the bottom of the grill and light them. Once the coals have achieved a grey color, add the wood chips on top of the coals.

Next, put a metal baking pan full of ice on the opposite side of the bottom of the grill. To smoke, replace the screen on top of the grill and place the tuna over the side of the grill with the ice. Cover the grill. Smoke until the coals have burned and the can is empty. Then, remove the tuna and cut it into 4 (4-ounce) steaks.

Have more charcoal ready to grill the tuna until the desired temperature. I prefer my tuna on the rare to medium-rare side; to achieve this, cook for about 1 to 2 minutes per side, uncovered.

Alternately, you may simply pan-sear the tuna. When you are ready to serve, heat the pan to high heat, season the 4 (4-ounce) portions with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the heated pan and place all 4 pieces of tuna into the pan. Sear until desired rareness.

Fire-roast the Peppers

While the coals are heating up, and before I smoke the fish, I like to fire-roast my red bell peppers. Once blackened, place them in airtight container until cool, and then peel.

Blanch the Beans

Blanch the green beans in boiling salted water for about 30–45 seconds. Remove and place in an ice water bath to cool them quickly and stop the cooking process.

Steam the Eggs

Steam the eggs for 12 minutes, and then ice, peel and quarter Or, you can use the traditional method of cooking them in a pot covered in water: Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and ice to chill, then peel and quarter.

Roast the Vegetables

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place cleaned beets into a baking dish with water and add vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. Roast for about 45 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick can easily go through the beet. Peel and quarter.

Cut potato in half lengthwise and toss with a touch of olive oil, kosher salt, pepper and fresh chopped thyme, about 2 sprigs' worth. In the same 400° oven, place the potatoes on lined baking sheet and roast for 10–15 minutes, until golden.

Make the Vinaigrette

Place all ingredients, except the olive oil, into a blender. Blend to combine, slowly adding 1 cup olive oil.

To Serve

Lightly dress the vegetables and greens with the vinaigrette and divide onto 4 plates. Arrange a piece of tuna and 3 egg quarters on top of the vegetables. Serve immediately.

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.sheridan.com/article/Seven+Chefs+And+A+Steer%2C+From+Head+To+Tail/1589611/189197/article.html.

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