Watch Chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry as he shares one of his favorite home cooked meals: pan roasted salmon with wilted arrowhead spinach and K+M Extravirgin Pots de Crème.
In honor of this cooking demo, both First Republic and Chef Keller will be making donations to The Independent Restaurant Coalition, Ment’or, and the Keller Restaurant Relief Fund.
Please note: this recording will only be available until September 26, 2020.
Read below for a full transcript of the conversation.
Shannon Houston - All right, good afternoon, good evening. My name is Shannon Houston. I'm the chief marketing and communications officer for First Republic Bank. And we are thrilled to have you join us here this evening for our Taste of Summer series. I'm just going to do a very quick housekeeping to get us started. Chef Keller will be taking questions on the cooking demonstration. If you'd like to submit a question, please utilize the Q&A button that you see on your screen. And with that, we're thrilled to also be joined by our Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer Jim Herbert, Jim.
Jim Herbert - Thank you, Shannon, very much. And good afternoon, good evening everybody. We're really delighted to have Chef Thomas Keller with us today. We've had the privilege of working with Thomas for over a decade and a half. And we're thrilled, but he's also a client testimonial in this year's annual report to the bank. Well, Chef Keller needs no introduction, really. Let me just share a few highlights briefly of his amazing career. 26 years ago, Chef Keller took ownership of the French Laundry in Yountville, California, and quickly garnered worldwide acclaim for his results there. Over the past decades his restaurant footprint has expanded. It includes Bouchon Bistro, La Calenda, Ad Hoc & Addendum, also in Yountville, Per Se in New York City, The Surf Club Restaurant in Surfside, Florida, Bouchon Bakeries which are found in cities around the world. And most recently the TAK Room in New York's Hudson Yards. He has received countless accolades including the Culinary Institute of America Chef of the Year Award, James Beard Foundations Outstanding Chef, and Outstanding Restaurateur awards. Thomas also was the first and only American chef to hold multiple three star ratings from the prestigious Michelin Guide. As well the first American male chef to be designated Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor. Thomas is also the author of five cookbooks with more than a million and a half copies in circulation. In honor of today's cooking demonstration First Republic and Chef Keller are making donations to the Independent Restaurant Coalition, Mentor, and the Keller Restaurant Relief Fund. It's really a great honor and privilege to have Chef Thomas Keller with us today, thank you.
Chef Thomas Keller - Okay, it's my turn now, thank you, Jim. It's been great. We were just reminiscing about the first day we met. It seems like yesterday. But thank you for all your support, and the support of the bank. You've been a partner, as we know for the past 17 years. So thank you, I want to thank Suzie who's moderating today. And of course Matt Glino who's our IT technical expert, so thank you for getting us all squared away as we started this process. And then a woman and her husband who have been very close to me for, I hate to say but probably 27 years, maybe 28 years, Valerie Ulrich and of course her husband, Volker. So thank you, Valerie, I know you've helped make this happen today. I also want to thank you First Republic for being part of this sponsorship and donating funds to the Independent Restaurant Coalition. So all of you who need to know about the IRC, please go out on our website there. You'll find out how we're trying to save the over 500,000 independent restaurants across the country. You know in this time it's a very challenging for restaurants around our country, and around the world. Mentor, which is the foundation that I helped found in 2008 supporting culinary education. Supporting grant programs for young culinarians to continue their education. As well as supporting the US Culinary Team in the biannual competition in Léon, France called the Bocuse d'Or, which I'm happy to say we won gold in 2017 for the first time ever. Then of course, the Keller Restaurant Relief Fund was a fund that we started immediately after March 18th to support the over 1,100 staff members across the country who we had to furlough at that time. We're happy to say that we've raised over $600,000, and distributed over $400,000 to over 350 of our employees who need help in rent, utilities, food, and things like that. We want to say thank you, First Republic, and thank everybody who’s been a part of those three things. We know there are so many people who need help today, so please continue to support whoever you can support. And I just want to, I just want to shout out a real opportunity to not only support restaurants, but also those farmers, those fishermen, those foragers, those gardeners, who continue to bring us food that nurtures us and nourishes us every day. They have also, because restaurants closures, they have also lost their lifeline to sustainability with their products. Whether it be our lamber in Pennsylvania, or our mushroom lady here in Napa Valley, our butter lady in Vermont. But there are literally tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands farmer around this country who are also struggling, because restaurants aren't open today. And so we're going to do, we'll get right back into our demo now. We're going to do what is my favorite dish, or a dish that go-to more often than not for a couple of different reasons. One, it's really simple, two, it only requires one piece of cookware, which I love, because it's easy to clean up from. The ingredients are readily available year round, so you don't have to worry about seasonality of them. And as I said, it's very simple to make, it takes a very short period of time. And that is going to be our pan-seared king salmon with sautéed arrow leaf spinach, and that's basically the dish. We're also going to go in to a dessert, which is a pot de crème, a chocolate pot de crème using a very specific chocolate, which a partner and I developed over eight years ago called K+M Chocolate. First, we want to start with brining technique. So some of you are familiar with brining if you've ever read my cookbook, or seem some of my Instagram’s on chicken. We always brine the chicken before we roast it. And what brining does is it helps to do three things for the salmon specifically. It helps season it, of course, so we have our salt here. And it's always 10% salt by volume. So we have that here, we have 150 grams of salt. You have all the recipe, so I won't really go over them. And then a liter and a half of water. Its cold water, I have a little bit of ice in there to maintain the temperature. We're actually putting salmon in there. Before we get started I wanted to introduce Devon Nell, who's our executive sous-chef. Devin has been with us for close to 20, tell me.
Devon Nell - 21.
Chef Keller - 21 years, and I've been blessed to have his support through those 21 years. He's a brilliant chef, and I believe the best cook that we have in our restaurant group. And believe we have great, great, great, great cooks. So we're just agitating that to help dissolve the salt. Very, very simple. I want to show you two pieces of salmon that I've had butchered for us. You can see it's much thicker. So this is the top of the loin of the salmon. Each one weighs around 150 to 160 grams. This is the top loin, you can see the thickness of it. And it's pretty uniform in that thickness. It starts to thin out towards the end, which would have been towards the dorsal fin portion of it. And you can see the fat content. You can see that beautiful white stripes, lines which go through there, which is the fat. Which is beautiful, we want to have a fatty fish, it has beautiful omega-3 acids in it. And it also tastes better, fat is flavor. This portion here, of course, being the same, the same weight as this portion, you can see the difference in size. And you can see this is much thinner, and the fat is much thicker. This comes from the belly. Any of you who've have enjoyed sushi you know on a tuna fish, on a tuna, we're always looking for that toro, or that fatty belly portion. In all fish their bellies are much, much fatter. And of course, it's much thinner, as well. So when we talk about brining, we're talking about brining for specific amounts of time. Or I shouldn't say specific amounts of time, relative amounts of time. We don't ever want to go over 1/2 hour with these fish. Probably this one only maybe 15 minutes. So the three reasons that we're brining are going to be a seasoning, to allow the salt to penetrate into the flesh. So it gives it a uniform seasoning. It reduces the amount of albumin that would could out of the salmon. Some of you that have cooked salmon you see the white albumin start to seep out. Well, by brining it, it's actually sealing the exterior. So that albumin has to stay within the salmon, so you don't get that problem. And then, after it's brined and you bring it out, and you let it dry, it forms a little pellicle, or a little skin. And that's really good, because it helps the sautéing of it to be more even. And you can see, so this fish is not sticky at all, these are not brined yet. Where this one it starts to feel a little sticky. We want to make sure the brining goes in, we've got our salt, and we’ve got our water. And we just put it in there, it's that simple. In 15 minutes I would take out the smaller one, and 20 to 30 minutes take out the larger one. And then we're going to pat those dry and let them sit in the refrigerator maybe for a day if you want to, it's fine. Let me give these to Devon. Thank you, sir. So there you can see it's also a little darker than the salmon that wasn't brined. It starts to concentrate the coloration of it, so that it gives it that opportunity, you can see the difference and gives it the opportunity to form that pellicle. And that's what it's forming on there, that little bit of skin. So now I'm going to go ahead and heat up my sauté pan. Some of you may call this a fry pan. In the commercial kitchen we're always calling it a sauté pan. And while we're doing that I just want to talk a little bit about something that's very critical, for all chefs, home chefs, amateur chefs and professional chefs. And we call that mise en place. Making sure that we have all of our ingredients ready to go when we begin the process of cooking. So mise en place, everything in its place. We don't want to be searching for our salt, our oil, anything that we're going to be using. During the preparation of any dish we don't want to be searching for that after we begin the process of cooking. So I've got some grapeseed oil here. Just to talk about oil, and I hope you understand this, a couple different things. We don't use olive oil, we don't use extra virgin olive oil to cook with. Extra virgin olive oil for us is a condiment. We all use extra virgin olive oil for the quality of the flavor, the fragrance, and the nutritional value of it. The extra virgin oil loses its flavor and aroma as you heat it up. It also loses the polyphenols, which are the antioxidants, they're destroyed. So always save your extra virgin olive oil for a condiment for finishing a dish as we will with this. And the other thing is extra virgin olive oil doesn't have a high smoke point. And therefore it's hard to sauté in it. Extra virgin olive oil is a 250, 270 in terms of the smoke point. And the smoke point is when something catches fire, or starts smoking just before it catches fire. Grapeseed oil is over 450 degrees, I think avocado oil is even higher. Any vegetable oils going to be much higher as a smoke point and therefore, better suited for sautéing, then olive oil. Remember, the Italians only had olives in their country, and so therefore they press their olives for the oil. They would use their extra virgin as a condiment, as I just explained. Then they would use their second and third press to cook with. So if you need to cook with olive oil, if you feel obligated to cook with olive oil, because you have some connectivity with Italy, then use a Pomache, or a second press or third press, okay? So now we're watching the oil. And a couple things, I want you to make sure that you pay attention to things. And the aromas are very important, sound is very important in the kitchen, as well as the way things look. So I put quite a bit of oil in there, knowing that the only thing that I'm using the oil for is to conduct heat, to transfer the heat, from the piece of cookware, from the fire to the piece of cookware, to the protein that I'm cooking in this case. So it doesn't really matter how much oil I use. In other words, I want to use more oil than I think I need, because it's not going to necessarily make the fish, or the protein oily. We don't like to use the word grease, because we don't use grease in our kitchen. So try to avoid using that word. But we're not worried about how much oil we have in our pan. In fact, we want to have more than we think we need. Remember, oil is going to expand as it heats, as well. So you got to watch out for that, and realize that the oil will expand. We're looking for a couple things. We're looking for it to start to shimmer, right it'll start to move a little bit. We may see little puffs of smoke. And we can also smell it, the way oil smells before it gets hot, and of course the way oil smells as it's getting hot. So those are really three things that we're looking for, and they're very, very important to realize these things. My salmon has been out of the refrigerator for 45 minutes, an hour? So we've tempered it, and tempering is a really important process in cooking anything, any protein especially. Because it allows for even cooking. We want the temperature of the salmon to be equal throughout. In other words we don't want it colder inside than the outside. It'll take longer to cook, and it won't cook evenly. So tempering is important. It's a small piece of fish, an hour, an hour and 15 minutes is not a problem. Chicken, we may leave out for an hour and half or two hours. Turkey may be out for four hours. But tempering is really important. So I'm just adjusting my heat, I see the oil shimmering. So I'm going to put-
Suzie Shqair - Chef Keller?
Chef Keller - This is the skin side, which is the smoothest after taking the skin off of it this becomes the smoother side. You can see this is the bone side, which is a little less uniform than the skin side. So we want to cook it on the most beautiful side to get a beautiful finish on it, okay? All right, so I'm going to go back here I can see my oil. Now I want you to listen to when I put this in the sauté pan, and you should hear the violent reaction between some of the moisture that is in the salmon, and of course the oil. Oil and water don't mix, we all know that. So you're going to hear that. As it starts to cook and the liquid, or the moisture evaporates, the noise will subside. So again, listening to our food is important as looking at our food. And you can see it's shimmering now.
Suzie - Chef Keller?
Chef Keller - Yes, Suzie.
Suzie - I have one quick question about do you brine most of your fish, or just the salmon?
Chef Keller - We brine almost all of our proteins. And of course the thinner the fish the less brining. For example, if we were brining a piece of Petrale sole it may only go in for two or three minutes. Maybe dipped in and stay there for two or three minutes, and come right out. So again, remember the thickness of the protein that you're brining, or the mass in case of a chicken is going to dictate how long it needs to be brined. Okay, so I'm feeling really good about this. I'm going to go ahead, and I'm not afraid, I'm going to set that in there. And I'm not afraid to burn myself. You see how close I am. But I dropped it in, it may splatter. So try to be courageous at least in your first couple attempts to just lay that fish in there. You heard it right away, you heard the reaction of the moisture that's in the salmon, and of course the oil. Another thing is to let it cook, let it do its thing. The oil is there, the fish is there. I'm going to turn it down a little bit now that we have this started. And I may take it... Devon, do we have any butter? Maybe we should do a little butter on this, just for some fun. I may just tilt this back a little bit, and just start to cook the other side, by basting it. Occasional we're cooking our meats, we're cooking a piece of lamb, or even a steak we would put, at some point we would add some fresh butter, and maybe some thyme and some garlic to help give it a little bit of flavor. And this called arroser, which is just basting it with the fat in this case. Devon's going to get me a little butter, so I can show you how that works. You can see that just nice and even. We're going to cook this 75% to 80% on one side. And that's why I turned down, I turned down the heat. So you could see the back to the bottom of it and I'll try to show you this, so you can see where we are. See there, it'll get nice and golden. So I turned down the heat so it doesn't get much more color than that, but it's going to continue to cook.
Suzie - Chef, you're using grapeseed oil. Is it because it's healthier than sunflower or canola?
Chef Keller - No, again the oil that we're using it's not necessary about the nutritional benefits. If it's a high quality oil then of course it has nutritional benefits. We want an oil that has a high smoke point, but also one that we can afford. Not everybody can afford grapeseed oil. Not everybody can afford an avocado oil. Most people could afford a really good vegetable oil, a good corn oil, which are fine. So it's really about the one that you choose to use.
Suzie - And what brand of pan are you using currently?
Chef Keller - This is our, our wonderful Hestan sauté pan. And it has great conductivity. It's a multi-ply, in other words, there are several different layers of metal that are bonded together to give it the conductivity, and to be able to recapture heat as you start to cook, and cook evenly. So I'm going to go ahead and flip this over now. Again, not really being afraid of it. See how beautiful that is? I'm going to go ahead, Devon's giving me some butter here, some fresh butter. And again, the butter is just really optional. I just wanted to give you an idea. You could put a piece of thyme in here if you wanted to. And we're just basting it. And I can smell that beautiful sweet butter. You see the way it's foaming there? That's what you want to keep. You want to keep that foam going, okay? It's an emulsification. It's really a very light emulsification of the butter, and the butter fat and the butter solids that we're trying to keep going there. As long as you keep agitating it's going to stay there. And there we go, that's our salmon. Hopefully that's something all of you feel that you can accomplish at home, it's beautiful. It's got a little crispy skin there. It's probably medium rare, medium. I'm going to go ahead and take that out of the sauté pan. I'm going to drain it. We want to let it rest, as well. So all proteins rest. The exterior right now is extremely hot. And we want to have that become uniform in heat, so allowing that exterior temperature continue to penetrate into the interior, so that the entire piece of meat, or in this case this piece of protein you're going to have evenly cooked. I'm going to go ahead and drain off my oil and butter right now. The other thing I love about these sauté pans it has a rolled edge, and a sealed edge. So they've actually sealed the edges. So you don't really see the bonding of the different metals. And they've actually rolled it, so when you're actually dumping liquids out it forms in a very smooth a very smooth stream. If your pan was a straight-sided pan if any of you have tried to strain something out of a straight-sided pan, it doesn't form a beautiful stream. It becomes much more difficult. So there's a little bit of residual oil and butter left in there. I'm going to go ahead and turn my heat back up. We've going to cook our spinach. Again, this is, I think most of you will think this is child's play. But this is, for me, one of the most nutritious ways for me to have a meal, but also the quickest way for me to have a meal. I'm going to take my spinach, I have my salt. I just want to talk about salt and vinegar for a moment. Let me set that on the side there just quickly. Talk about salt and vinegar for a moment, because enhancement of flavor in food is done by adding two ingredients, only two ingredients. The enhancement of flavor, not changing flavor or adding flavor, but the enhancement. And we enhance the flavor of food by using either sodium nitrate, or salt, and/or an acid, a vinegar or citrus. They both will do the same thing. If you taste too much salt, obviously you've added too much salt. If taste the vinegar, or the acid then you've added too much unless you were actually trying to accomplish something that has an acidic taste to it. They will both enhance the flavor of food. When would you use one or the other? You may use the salt where you're dealing with as we're going to deal with spinach right now, where we wouldn't use vinegar. You would use vinegar if we were making a sauce, because it's liquid, we're going to add vinegar and salt. So you can use them side-by-side to elevate the flavor of food. And obviously, in a way, reduce the amount of salt we're using.
Questioner - Chef?
Chef Keller - Heat on high, I'm going to start to sauté my spinach. I'm just going to take a little-
Questioner - Chef, do you have a favorite wine that you would pair with this meal?
Chef Keller - Yeah, I do. You want to know? I think this would go really well with a Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon Blanc has got that good acid to it. It's got that notes of herbs. So really quickly here, as we add layers of spinach, I'm also going to season it. Because what's going to happen with the spinach is it's going to start to compress as it cooks. So we want to be seasoning as we add. And we're adding a little bit at a time. Then add the next layer. Season. Turn down my heat just a little bit. You can hear, again, you can hear, right, the water coming out of the spinach and reacting with the heat. I'll go ahead and add some more spinach. And final spinach, and final layer of salt. So we need to season our spinach, we need to season our spinach with salt as we add it to our sauté pan.
Questioner - Do you have a preferred type of salt?
Chef Keller - We do, in term of our workhorse salts, we're going to use a kosher salt. And the kosher salt that we like and it doesn't mean anything other than the way that it is ground. We like the Diamond Crystal which is in the red box. Morton's the blue box, also does a kosher salt. The difference between the two, and this is strictly has to do with experience, nothing else. The quality of the salts are the same. The Morton's is a little finer than the Diamond Crystal. And we are very, very used to and experienced in picking up a certain amount of salt between our fingers. And so the Diamond Crystal would be less salt picking up between our fingers, whether it's two fingers, or three fingers, or four fingers, than the Morton's. The Morton's is ground much finer. So you'd actually be adding more salt than we would normally with the Diamond Crystal. And again, it's just a form of experience, we've been using Diamond Crystal for a long time. So there we go, so our spinach you can hear it. I removed it from the heat. You can see how much it's wilted down. Now you could do this in a number of different ways, just wilt it, or actually go ahead and cook it entirely as I'm going to do.
Questioner - And just to clarify, you're using the same oil that you cooked the salmon in, correct?
Chef Keller - I'm using the same sauté pan. I removed 98% of the oil from that sauté pan. And you can see the moisture on the bottom of the sauté pan, the spinach, the amount of water that's in the spinach. Now you see how much that is reduced in volume. It's the same weight, it's just reduced in volume, because we have cooked it and we're removing most of the water. Now the aromas, again, the aroma of cooked spinach is something that I love. I love the aroma of most foods, or actually say all foods. And so these things are really important to pay attention to, because they're part of the process. And for me, the process is the most enjoyable part of cooking. So we got that. I'm going to go ahead
Suzie - Chef Thomas?
Chef Keller - And turn off my fire now. And what I'm going to do here, is I just want to make sure I get as much water out of my spinach, you can see how much water is there. Let's go ahead and squeeze it. And why am I doing that? Because when I present my fish I don't want to have the bottom of my bowl or plate, start to have an abundance of water that's pooling in the bowl, or the plate. So this is about presentation. So we're going to go ahead, Devon, if you could fire that cream and milk for me. And you can see how much water there is there. And still coming out as I press even harder. For those of you wondering what this is, this is a palette knife. This is what I use instead of a spatula. It's actually what our pastry chef uses as a cake knife. So there we go. Why'd I do that? Why did I do that?
Suzie - Chef?
Chef Keller - Yes, ma'am.
Suzie – Do flavored vinegar enhance as well as somewhat changes the flavor of the food. So you recommend any other vinegar to use?
Chef Keller - Well you can use any, you know, again, so this is something that's really important to realize. You're cooking food to the flavor profiles that you enjoy. So I have no problem with using any kind of vinegar you like, or any kind of flavoring agents you want in your food. If that's what you enjoy, if those are the flavor profiles that you enjoy, then by all means, go ahead and add them. There was a real moment in American history where I remember everything had raspberry vinegar on it. And it's interesting that we've lost that raspberry vinegar. It was a little sweet. As things become popular in our country, we tend to start to modify how they're made and they lose their integrity. And just become some form of raspberry, I'm not sure where the raspberry flavor comes from. And they put it in a bottle of acidic liquid and they call it raspberry vinegar. So you have to be careful, again, making sure that you always buy quality ingredients. You are giving these to your family, to your loved ones, to your friends, you're ingesting them yourself. You should never even think about buying something that doesn't have a true nutritional value to it. Unless you're really hungry for a Snicker bar and you're craving that, I can get behind that. So we have, we're going to start our pot de crème which is our dessert. I'm going to let my salmon and spinach just rest here for a little while. Okay. We have our milk and our cream in there. Should I take this cutting board away? No, I'll just leave it there, anyway, real quickly. When you're using a cutting board on any surface, I recommend that you put a damp towel underneath it. I don't know if you all can see that, if we can go back to the other camera view, can we? Can you see that? You see there's a damp towel underneath it? Always put a damp towel, even if they are paper towels, because it prevents it from sliding. So as we're working on our cutting boards, the last thing we want them to do is moving around on the surface that we're working on. I've been to many people's homes where they're chasing their cutting board around the table as they're trying to cut a piece of fish, or a piece of meat. So always put something damp under your cutting board. You can see here we're getting to a boiling point. Okay, fairly quickly. Okay. I'm going to bring over my ingredients for my pot de crème. Mm-hm. We're using K+M Chocolate here, which is an extra virgin chocolate. In other words, it has no additional coco butter added to it. We removed as much coco butter as we possibly can by not adding any extra coco butter to it. There's coco butter in the chocolate through the beans that we grind. But most chocolate has an additional coco butter element added to it. We've replaced our coco butter with a little bit of, with a different kind of fat. And that fat is our K+M extra virgin olive oil.
Suzie - Chef Keller?
Chef Keller - So we have eggs here. Sorry?
Suzie - What kind of milk and cream did you use?
Devon - Clover.
Chef Keller - Clover, whatever's local to our, whatever local diary we buy from, which is Clover Stornetta here in Napa Valley. Berkley Farms if you're in San Francisco I think you all know. Every community has their local dairies that supply their butter, their cream, their milks and things like that. So whatever's local to you is fine. So I've got egg yolks here, I've got my sugar. Again, it's a small amount of sugar, it's about a tablespoon of sugar. A little bit of salt, remember salt is fine in everything, let's just say in most things, because we want to enhance the flavor, and salt enhances the flavor. We don't want it to be salty of course, we want to enhance the flavor. We have our chocolate morsel, or our broken up pieces here if you're using a whole block, you can just cut it up. Again, this is the chocolate we're using, but there's a lot of good chocolates out there that you may like, and I'm not suggesting you use ours. But there are some wonderful chocolates out there. So just make sure it's of a quality chocolate that you enjoy, okay? Can you make it with milk chocolate? Certainly you can. So our milk and cream is hot. I'm just going to go ahead and temper, again, using that word temper. These are egg yolks, so we don't want to cook them too quickly, we don't want to add to them too much volume of hot milk, because it's going to scald them and actually curdle them. So we're just going to add a little bit to temper it. And again, you see that nice steady stream? This again is a Hestan, a piece of Hestan cookware that has a rolled edge, you can see that rolled edge. It allows that milk and cream just to stream in there. If this was a straight-sided piece of cookware, you'd be challenged by getting that nice, smooth stream. I'm just going to wipe off my edge, because I don't want it to burn. I'm going to turn down my heat, to a moderate temperature. I'm going to go ahead and add my yolks, sugar and salt, to my piece of cookware my pot right now. Okay and mix that as we go. Give that to Devon. And now I'm going to go ahead and cook that cream, and milk, egg, sugar and salt mixture to 85 degrees Celsius.
Suzie - Chef Keller?
Chef Keller - Yup.
Suzie - Is the chocolate 100% dark, or you have a mix of dark and milk chocolate?
Chef Keller - No, that's 100% dark chocolate there. So I got a little thermometer here that I'm just making sure that I'm cooking, I've got a spatula here. You can do this without a thermometer if you like. In other words, the old fashioned way was to have a wooden spoon. And when the cream, the custard started to cook, you could rub it across the back of the wooden spoon, and you would see it stay, and see the line you created by dragging your finger through the custard. You would see that it would maintain a solid line there. Be precise, you want to have it to be 185 degrees Fahrenheit, 85 degrees Celsius. So depending on what kind of thermometer you have go ahead and use those numbers for your-
Suzie - Can you use another non-dairy milk, like coconut, or almond in place of the milk?
Chef Keller - You know, that's a good question. That's something we'd have to look into. I mean you could certainly try it, I'm not against trying anything. I'm not sure that it's going to result in the same viscosity that we would have in this one. Okay. We can start to see, equally can start to see the thickness of the custard as it starts to cook, as well. You can see it, you can hear it, the way it's kind of slapping up against the sides. You can see how it hangs out on the side a little bit. It kind of has those legs like you would, on a wine, so I'm good there. I'm keeping it moving around that's the most important thing, so it doesn't have an opportunity to anyway to get trapped in a corner and become curdled. All right, so there we have that.
Suzie - What type of thermometer are you using?
Chef Keller - This is a digital thermometer. I'm not sure who makes it, but it's a digital thermometer that does both Fahrenheit and Celsius. It's called a Thermopen. Thank you, Devon, for that information. So now I'm going to go ahead and add my chocolate right to our milk cream mixture that's cooked into a custard. Okay, boom. And I'm going to start to have that melt. The heat, there's no heat under it right now. The temperature is 185 degrees obviously is hot enough to actually melt the chocolate. I don't want to scald it. I don't want to run the risk of scalding it in any way. You can see how thick it's starting to get the chocolate in there. And so we're making a classic pot de crème. You can see how thick that is. Devon, you want to set up? We'll show them how to do that, that pastry bag trick that we talked about earlier. So it looks a little grainy right now, so what I'm going to do is take an immersion blender. I always like to clean as I go, so always remember to be cleaning up as you're working. So I'm going to take an immersion blender here. You've all seen these, this is quite large. Hopefully it's not going to spit up. Devon, are we going to be okay here? Okay, there we go. We've emulsified that even more. Now Devon is setting me up a little pastry bag here. So that we can start to fill our pot de crème molds here. We have a scale, which he has set up for me, as well. Here's one way to do it. I'm going to, now you know. Sometimes you may want to strain this, and sometimes you may not. I think that in this case I don't think I need to strain it. I think it's nice and smooth right now. It seems to be melted and emulsified. Devon, you want to come take a look at it for me? Because I know you want me to strain it, don't you? He's like, "Strain it, chef, strain it." I don't think I have to.
Devon - I don't think it needs to.
Chef Keller -I don't think it needs to, either. I'm going to go ahead, I have a pastry bag. That we've actually put in a. You can put it in anything, it's just a place to hold it and give it some rigidity, so that when I pour my chocolate pot de crème in there, I don't have to use two hands. I can use the two hands to actually go ahead and do that part, okay? Then what's the amount we're putting in 115 grams?
Devon - Yeah, four ounces.
Chef Keller - Four ounces.
Devon - Half a cup.
Chef Keller - Good stuff. So just to be precise with this, sorry if I have chocolate on my lips, mm, so good.
Suzie – Chef Keller? Can you-
Chef Keller - The one thing I love about our chocolate, is it doesn't have a lot of sugar in it. So it doesn't overwhelm you with sweetness. It allows the flavor of the chocolate to be present. And that's one thing that interesting, because I've worked with both English pastry chefs, and French pastry chefs. At French Laundry we've had two French pastry chefs, and two English pastry chefs. And the difference between the two is the English pastry chef used much less sugar. Which for me allows the flavor of the ingredients, the primary ingredients to show more vividly. The sugar tends to mask the flavor. So I very much appreciate what our English counterparts do in terms of pastry, they use less sugar. And that was something we achieved in our chocolate by adding less sugar to it, as well. And just to show you how easy this is. I think I'm going to show you how easy it is. Thank you, he's given me a little paper clip there. I'm going to go ahead and hold it up. And a beautiful pair of scissors, brand new pair of scissors right here.
Questioner - Chef, is there a specific type of pastry brand you prefer? And if someone doesn't have one what would be an alternative?
Chef Keller - I'm sorry, I was concentrating on this. Pastry?
Questioner - Is there a brand of pastry bag-
Chef Keller - Pastry bag?
Questioner - Yes.
Chef Keller - Ah, so we use one called Ateco. We get it on Amazon, if you can see that everybody. These are our 21 inch pastry bag, they sell different lengths. This is a 21 inch one. So then we have, and just tap it down a little bit. Remove any of the air bubbles. I should have a towel there actually, so I don't get that annoying sound. Now you could just, we weigh it to make sure that each one is exact. You could just look at it and say, "Okay, how much do I want to put in here?" And fill each one up to that level. So that's the technique. You have a little bit here you can just brush it down, be finished with it. Okay, any questions on this? You think you can make this at home? Anybody have a problem?
Suzie - Can we add nuts to your dessert, or it's just chocolate custard?
Chef Keller - Just to reiterate, you could add any flavor that you like. If you want almonds in here, hazelnuts, filberts. If you want to put pieces of marshmallow in there. Any kind of ingredients that you like that goes with your chocolate, is 100% fine. This is more or less a chocolate pudding, in France they call it a pot de crème, because it's in a little pot, a little pot, and made with cream.
Questioner - What would be a common problem that you might have in making a pot de crème that someone would have to correct? And how would you go about fixing it?
Chef Keller - So the critical points here, is going to be tempering your eggs, making sure that you temper your eggs. You're not adding too much of the hot milk, cream mixture to those eggs to where they actually start to cook and look like they're curdling. And then the second part is cooking that cream and egg mixture over the fire, making sure that it doesn't get over that 85 degrees Celsius, or that 185 Fahrenheit. What do you do if that happens? Start over.
Questioner - And is chocolate one of your favorite desserts to you cook with, or do you have another that you prefer?
Chef Keller - Okay so, I'm not a pastry chef. Chocolate is my favorite dessert. I always have to have chocolate at the end of a meal. But it doesn't mean that it would be my only dessert either. I may have, if I'm a Bouchon I might have a lemon tart and a piece of chocolate. To me a meal doesn't end without having at least a little cube of chocolate in some way.
Questioner - And just circling back on the mistakes on the pot de crème. Are there mistakes that you've made in the kitchen, something that we could potentially learn in a general sense?
Chef Keller - I can't tell you how many mistakes I've made in the kitchen over the past 40 some years I've been cooking. But I can tell you this. Cooking is fairly simple if you follow specific rules, if you follow technique. There's nothing in what I've done today that I would think anybody would struggle with in any way. The difficultly about cooking for me, is making sure that you coordinate everything to be done at the specific time that you want it done. In a restaurant kitchen that's our biggest challenge. When we have six or seven different stations or different chefs in our kitchen that are working, we want to make sure that the food is coming up, at the proper moment to service our guests. And that's the most challenging part, to make sure everything comes up at the proper cooking temperature and being served together for our guest to receive in the way that we want them to receive it. The idea of each element in the process of the cooking, they're very simple. So if anybody's telling you cooking is difficult, I guarantee you it is not. So I'm just going to plate this, our spinach. It's still warm. Of course, we would have plated the salmon before and served it right out of the pan, but I wanted to show you how to make the pot de crème, too, so that's it. We've got our salmon, our spinach. Now you can see that there's no seeping of water out of the spinach. Because we pressed all of that out of there. I'm going to go ahead and finish it here, get my finishing stuff here. So I love Dijon mustard with many of my proteins, whether it's chicken, steak, salmon. I think the acid, the mustard flavor really goes well with so many different proteins. It serves as a base for vinaigrettes, and things like that, it's a very useful tool. And we want to make sure that you have a really good one. This one's called Edmond Fallot, it's a mustard from Dijon. There are several, there's another one called Maile, M-a-i-l-e. Those would be the two that I recommend. They are the most... They are the most, I guess, exemplary of the flavor of a Dijon mustard. So we have olive oil, we have lemon. And then we talked about salt. So we have here, as we used for seasoning, for seasoning throughout our cooking was our kosher salt. And you can see that. If you can get a picture of the salt. Let me see if I can get it on the table here so you can kind of see it. So this is our kosher salt, which is kind of our workhorse salt, if you can see that. Let me get rid of this one here. And then is a finishing salt. Okay, this Maldon salt. Which is actually like a shaved salt, we love finishing salts, as well. So it's a little more course. And then you can get a lot of different finishing salts. Whether it's Sel Gris from France. It has a little bit of minerality to it, because they don't process it and remove all the minerals, so it's gray. These are from the same region which is pure white, and they do remove all of that minerality from it. So I'm just going to squeeze a little bit of lemon on my fish. Oh, got a seed there, I thought I got them all out. And a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. And then just a little bit of our finishing salt. I have a high tolerance to salt, so I use a lot of salt. When I'm cooking in the restaurant I'm typically having somebody taste the food that I am cooking, because I want to make sure that there's not too much salt in it. My tolerance is very high. So in our restaurant kitchen that happens many times, is we're all tasting the food that we're making. There's more than one person tasting that so that we can have that objective viewpoint of how much salt we're adding. There's our salmon. You got a pot de crème for me, chef? Just going to cover up our salt mess there. We've got our salmon there. And then a little pot de crème, and we're going to garnish that with a little bit of Chantilly.
Questioner - Chef, could you reiterate the brand of mustards that you were using?
Chef Keller - Edmond Fallot, so it's, I'm sorry Edmond, E-d-m-o-n-d, Fallot, F-a-l-l-o-t. And then we have our pot de crème here. We're just going to but a little Chantilly cream on top of that to finish that.
Questioner - And did you refrigerate the pot de crème for a certain amount of time?
Chef Keller - We did, we refrigerate it 'til probably about 1/2 hour, just 'til it got cold. I don't mind eating them warm. In fact I love the idea of warm chocolate pudding, so it's really a great thing. I don't mind eating them just like that. Would I put crème Chantilly on it, no because then it would melt and just mix into it and get thinner. But I would crumble some of our shortbread cookies on top. Somebody asked me what to put in there. I always like a crumble of short bread. Or you could put it in between, before, well where's another one, chef? There we go.
Questioner - And would you typically serve the salmon and spinach dish sooner than we did here on the demo? Or would it require any reheating?
Chef Keller - No, as I said I would have served the salmon just after I cooked it, just after the spinach was done, I would have served it immediately. But because I was making a dessert, I wanted to set it aside. But no, cook the salmon and serve it. It's another version of that, you have the shortbread on the bottom there. Or, just eat the shortbread separately, or eat the shortbread with the pot de crème and more shortbread, that's not a bad thing.
Questioner - And chef, we've heard you say cooking is about nurturing. Can you elaborate maybe with a backstory on that for everyone?
Chef Keller - Yes, sure thank you, for asking that. I started cooking at a young age. And it was something that I enjoyed the physicality of it. In other words, being in a kitchen, high energy, doing a specific task, in much way that a baseball team functions. And I knew that I was not going to be, or had the skill, or talent to be a major league baseball player. So I found that same type of energy in a kitchen, a lot of people doing different things for one purpose, and that was feeding our guests. Each of us had our own skills, our own disciplines. It really felt like I was part of a team. And I love that being part of a team. It's something we talk about always today is the teamwork that it takes both in our kitchens, and in our dining rooms in our entire restaurants. It was 1977, July 1977, it was probably about three or four years after I started to cook that I was in Newport, Rhode Island, it was actually Narragansett, Rhode Island, working for a French chef who asked me a question one day. Chef Roland Hennan, he asked me why cooks cook? And of course I was a little bit intimidated by it, I fumbled with some stupid answer. And he said, "No, Thomas, cooks cook to nurture people." And at that moment it kind of resonated with me very deeply. And that was the day I decided to become a chef. I like the idea of giving people something that is nourishing, something that is memorable, and something that nurtures them. Something that gives people an opportunity to gather around a table with their loved ones, with their friends and their colleagues and experience that moment of food. And that is the most important thing for me is that moment of sharing around a table with good food that's nutritious and nourishing in so many different ways.
Questioner - Thank you, Chef. We had a question regarding farm-raised salmon versus wild salmon, and if you had a preference.
Chef Keller - Yes, we all love wild salmon. It has a very specific seasonality to it. So the king salmon that we're using has been some wild ones. The salmon that we're using here today is called Ōra King, which comes from Ōra King Farm in New Zealand. It is a sustainable farm. They have the largest percentage of water to a single fish than any other farm in the world. It's farmed in the high mountains of New Zealand. And they've done a terrific job at maintaining the quality of their fish consistently with the amount of fat that we like. Which is that omega-3, adds that omega-3 oils to us, which is really good for us. And also taking care of their community and their environment in New Zealand. As you know New Zealand is one of the countries that has the most discipline in how things are raised, whether it's their lamb, or their fish.
Questioner - And when you're cooking salmon, how do you determine it's done?
Chef Keller - Well, again that's experience. So the more experience you have in cooking the fish. I can time it, and understand the temperature. See this one has been sitting around, so this is just medium well. You can still see the moisture in it, or that fat that's there. But because it rested for such a long period of time, it probably became a little more cooked than I would eat it myself. Nonetheless, it's a beautiful piece of salmon. You can see the little, it's probably more medium than medium well, which is almost just there. Mm, very good, it's going to be my dinner.
Questioner - And in fact-
Suzie - Lucky you, Chef.
Questioner - Oh, go ahead, Suzie.
Suzie - I was going to ask also, is there a type a sauce that you recommend to add to the salmon, or just with the spinach?
Chef Keller - Well for me, you know, I just want to eat something that's very simple, and I'm not going to try to mask any of the flavors with a sauce. I mean it could go with a number of different sauces. In fact, we could make a Dijonaisse sauce, using our mustard, Dijon mustard here, and emulsify it with a little bit of butter. And have a beautiful Dijon mustard sauce that would go over the salmon. Typically what I do is I would just put a piece, a little dab of mustard right next to my salmon. And that's how I would eat it just by incorporating the mustard as I went along eating the salmon. Just dipping the salmon or the spinach in a little bit of mustard and enjoying that flavor profile together.
Questioner - And regarding when we're talking about milks, and dairy and your purveyors, why is that relationship important to you? I've heard you mention the equation of ingredients and technique. Can you elaborate on that?
Chef Keller - Sure, thank you. Cooking is a very, as I mentioned earlier, it's very simple. It requires, it's an equation. Two parts of the equation is our ingredients, and how important our ingredients are to the success of our flavors, to the success of the experience for us and for our guests, and the nutritional quality of it. So making sure that we have our suppliers, which we like to call partners, who have spent their lives fostering whether it's the animals, or the earth, or their team in harvesting out of the ocean and things like that. So we want to make sure that those relationships are very, very strong. We are looking for the highest quality ingredients that we can possibly find. And in that sense, I'm just use our lamber for example, Keith Martin in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Keith has a holistic way of raising his lamb. In other words, he worries, he takes great care of the animal while it's alive. And by doing that he is assuring us who are eating his lamb that we have a high quality product to eat. Something that's very nutritious, something that's been maintained, something that's had a wonderful life. And through that process, he gives us a great product. Now we use his entire lamb, over our different restaurants. So for example, at the French Laundry we would use, we would use those most sought after cuts, which is the rack right, the lamb rack and the lamb loin. Where at Bouchan we would use the leg. At Ad Hoc we may use the shoulder or the shank, but it's still the same quality of ingredient regardless of the cut that we're using, or the cost. And the cost varies depending on that cut. So we want to be holistic about the way we use our suppliers, or our partners, and supporting them in a holistic way, so we're using everything that they're producing. They're really, really important to us, and we want to make sure that we take care of them. And so what we don't really talk about is how much something costs. We want to make sure that our partnership works for both of us. And we are willing to make sure that we are supporting them in their livelihood with paying the appropriate amount of money for their product. We can always negotiate to get something less expensive, we all know that. But getting something less expensive doesn't mean it's going to be the quality that you want. Anybody can sell us something that's less expensive. But if we're feeding ourselves, or feeding others, we want to make sure that the quality of our products are exceptional. And that comes with a cost. My mother told me a long time ago, you get what you pay for. And it's absolutely true. I'll tell you about Diane St. Claire, a quick story if I can. Diane St. Claire produces our butter, or some of our butter, and she is in Orwell, Vermont. And has a farm, no surprise, called the Animal Farm. And I met Diane over 20 years ago, and she sent me a pound of her butter, to ask me what I thought about it. And it was exceptional. I called her right away and I said, "Who are you, where are you, and how much butter do you produce?" She said, "I have four cows, and I produce about 20 pounds a butter a week." We never had a conversation about how much her butter costs, never. About 10 years later we opened Per Se, and I called her and I said, "Diane, we're opening our second restaurant, our fine dining restaurant Per Se in New York City, so you better get some more cows. Because we're going to need to have the quantity of butter to supply now both French Laundry and Per Se. A couple years after that she called me and she said, "Thomas, I need to raise the price of my butter." And I said, "Diane, honestly I don't really know how much your butter costs, but I appreciate it." And she says, "No, I want to tell you why I need to raise the price of my butter." And I said, "Fine, what's the reason, Diane?" She said, "My son was accepted at NYU, and I need to be able to pay for his tuition." That's what happens in restaurants. That's what all of our guests contribute to. 95 to 96 cents of every dollar that comes into our restaurant goes out into the community in one way or another. And how do you argue with somebody who told you they need to raise the price of their butter, so they can send their son to get an education. And that's what we all do when we visit restaurants. So I encourage you, certainly at a time like today, try to support those restaurants that are in your community. Try to give them an opportunity to continue business after COVID ends. Try to support those farmers, those fishermen, those foragers, those gardeners by going to, if you have a community farmer's market, try to go and visit those as much as possible. We need the support. Restaurants are second responders. And what I say by that, whenever there's a disaster, catastrophe, whether it was 9/11 whether it was Katrina, you see what the world central kitchens doing around the world. Anytime there's a disaster of course we have our first responders there immediately. Chefs always follow in to make sure those first responders have something to eat. And now is the time when we need some help. So I encourage all of you out there to support any restaurant anywhere in the country, any farm anywhere in the country, by giving them the opportunity to continue what they do into the future. I just want to say thank you, it's been great. I hope I've answered everybody's questions. I'm very grateful to be here today. Again, I want to thank Jim, and certainly Valerie, the entire team at First Republic. We have been partners for a long, long time. So thank you very much. And I think I pass it back to Valerie. So I'm handing it off to you, Valerie.
Valerie Ulrich - Thank you, Chef for your wonderful cooking demonstration today, it was so inspiring. And I loved all the techniques, I'm sure everybody did. I loved the weight, that we have to weigh everything, it think that's great. So we have perfection in your tools, and your pens, just all the techniques that you shared with us about the olive oils. I think you saved people a lot of money. But anyway, thank you for your nice comments about Volker and me. And thank you so much for all the many years that we've been friends and partner together to create so many unique events and experiences that have generated so many special memories for our clients. And I want to send my very best wishes and thanks to all of your staff in every city, who've been a part of all these memories for so many years. And I know that everybody knows you're a famous chef, but what they might not know is how much you do as a mentor for so many young professionals, to help them realize their dreams and goals. You talked today about supporting farmers, and so many other people in the community, but you didn't mention how much money you've raised for student scholarships to help young professionals elevate their culinary skills. And besides the non-profits that you've mentioned that you support, the fundraisers that you do for all the students. I know that so many of us missed the golf tournament this year, that raised over 1/2 million dollars last year. And I'm sure you missed, because you love golf so much. So we're all looking forward to returning to one of your restaurants, and we wish you all the best, and again thank you. I want to thank our attendees for joining us today. And to let everybody know that you're automatically entered into a random drawing for six, $500 gift certificates to a select list of Chef Keller's restaurants. And in addition, 10 winners are going to get a personalized copy of Chef Keller's cookbook "French Laundry." The winners will be contacted by our team by email in the next couple of days. And as an added bonus, everybody who attended today will receive a follow-up email that's going to include the recipes, I know many of you today asked for the recipes. And there will also be a link to receive a generous 20% discount on Chef Keller's chocolates that so many of you were inquiring about, the K+M. So there you go. And you can buy the bars, or you can buy the chunks to make the pot de crème. And we thank you again, please visit our website at firstrepublic.com for a schedule of our upcoming webinars. And thank you Mack (questioner) and Suzie, and Jim and Shannon. And Chef Devon, thank you also. And goodbye, everybody.
Questioner - Thank you, Chef.
Chef Keller - Thank you.