THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES TAKE -2–AMERICAN CHEF: CRAIG THORNTON
The Électrons Libres, is a group of chefs that are as individual or a leaders of a group have taken a unique route that goes beyond the learning
process. Their philosophy transforms the cuisine of the present time as well as the cuisine of the future in a specific area (place) or country. Sometimes they are the leaders of a culinary movement but often, they are alone in their search.
Wolvesden, the concept of Craig Thornton, goes beyond the mode of Pop-up restaurants, as he says, it is rather a micro-restaurant that has installed in his loft in Los Angeles.
Craig Thornton is a young chef, creative, original and determined that is very Thomas Keller representative of the energy inherent in Los Angeles. In the early thirties, he worked for and as private chef of Nicolas Cage before opening Wolvesden. Twice a week, it hosts a dozen people to discover the tasting menu and share a unique experience. Particular fact, people give / pay the price they believe is right! Needless to say, the wait is already long especially after his participation at the Carson Daily Show.
Thornton’s style is unique. Inspired by nature, farm products, music and more, her cuisine is raw, organic, instinctive and exudes a
I do it my way!
Q+A WITH CRAIG THORNTON (www.wolvesmouth.com ):
1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your concept and your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?
CThornton- The philosophy of Wolvesden/Wolvesmouth is a bit all over the place. The main focus is being able to excite people
through the food and experience. I am very thorough with choosing ingredients but it’s not something I advertise it should just be expected rather than hoisting a flag of local farm driven produce etc… As far as my cuisine, I call it reflective… Meaning my food is based off of my own thoughts inspirations and experiences, so I won’t even know what I am going to do for certain dishes until the last few minutes before a dinner… As far as dinners go I try to do them whenever possible which is about 2 per week which ends up being about 6 days of prepping and sourcing.
2-(Scoffier) Your concept works by donations, do you fix a minimum price?
-(You always reach the break even point?)
CThornton- I do two types of dinners. Private dinners and dinners that are called Wolvesmouth dinners which is from the mailing list. The private has set prices whereas the others are donation based and there is no suggested donation as that is basically setting a price which defeats the purpose of not setting a price.
3-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?
CThornton- There are a lot of flavors that are memorable from my childhood some good and some bad… I am a big fan of white beans cooked w smoked ham hock. I grew up w a mix of southern food and also German style from sauerkraut to sausages pretty basic but that fat and acid taste stuck with me.
4-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?
CThornton- I tend to use vinegars quite a bit. Mostly, my food is focused around what’s in season at the moment but if there’s a flavor I really use consistently per dinner it would probably be crème fraîche and vanilla. I grew up w sour cream and when I was about 19, I tasted crème fraîche for the first time and my obsession started hahaha. I don’t use a ton of I just use it where it can lift a flavor or mimic the taste sour cream and onion potato chips.
5-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?
CThornton- I really shut myself off to the food world for a few years and just focused on what I liked to eat and what flavors and textures were I wanted to put out. Now that I am more open to what goes on I really seem to be drawn to people who really focus on a certain style and are intense. I look at someone like Chris Cosentino from Incanto in S.F. and am blown away, his stuff looks amazing, tastes amazing. If only everyone was able to go eat there and taste these pieces (that everyone is afraid to eat) they would realize not only is it better tasting than anyone would imagine, but in the long run if we changed our diets this is far more sustainable and we wouldnt pour through as much animals as we do. He thinks ahead about where this whole train is going and he embeds that in his cooking without shoving it in your face. I really like what Alain Passard, David Kinch and Daniel Patterson do as well and I feel like my outlook on what I use and why I use it is tied closely to this style. It tends to really focus on very simple things and doing as little as possible, taking away instead of adding. This is the way I cook, I like to try and strip down as far as possible. When you cook that way you have to use great ingredients if you don’t the dish will fall apart.
There are so many great chefs right now who are expressing their own personalities through their cuisine it’s wild to be living in these times and seeing what’s happening with food.
6-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu?
CThornton- My menu is more of an improvisation until just before service then slightly changes during. It’s based off what’s the best thin I can get then ‘’ok now, I have this what’s the best way to prep and be able to hold this for this particular dinner and how much help or storage space do I have for this dinner“, from there it’s all organization which helps lead to improvisation.
7-(Scoffier) Compare at others countries, in California, you have the chance to cook with the best products (fresh & local) all the year. You have a specific market or producers with whom your work frequently?
CThornton- I work with so many producers that I don’t even know where to start. The product is amazing definitely no complaints
here! It really helps drive my cuisine and creativity into new areas I never realized I could go.
8-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Craig Thornton?
CThornton- Recipe: Black Sesame and Uni Profiterole with Rice and Dashi Soup, Clam, and Uni
9-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show,
CThornton- The next thing for me is to really expand on what I am doing now. Push myself creatively and figure out what opportunities tie in with what I am doing rather than trying to make something fit. When I am creatively satiated, I am way more happy than when I feel I am not pushing myself. Who knows where it will lead, thats the fun part.
RECIPE: Black Sesame & Uni Profiterole with Rice & Dashi Soup, Clam, & Uni
INGREDIENTS & PROGRESSION RECIPE (SERVES 6-8)
Black sesame profiterole filled with uni:
-4 oz milk
-4 oz water
-4 oz good, unsalted butter
-4 oz all-purpose flour
-8 oz egg (if you want to have better results with any recipe involving
baking/pastry use weight measurements!)
-Salt to taste
-1 oz black sesame paste (available in most Japanese markets — just make sure
to stir well)
-1 tray of uni
-2 oz of cream, lightly whipped
1. Pre-heat oven to 425°F
2. Take your 8oz of liquid and your
4oz of butter, and melt in a medium pan. Add a good pinch of salt.
3. Once your butter is melted into
the milk, give a quick stir then dump in your flour while whisking together.
Once your mixture comes together, change from your whisk to a wooden spoon and
stir until it pulls away from the sides.
4. Cook about 2-3 more minutes to
cook out some of the liquid which will evaporate. Once your mixture is
homogeneous, remove from heat and let cool in the pan for a few minutes. The
mixture must be cool for the next step.
5. Add the egg a little at a time
(about 2 oz, or 1 egg) and work it into your dough. Once worked in, add more
egg, and so on, until done.
6. Add the 1 oz of black sesame paste
and stir throughout. Check your seasoning, then place mixture into a piping
7. Take out a sheet pan and line it
with parchment paper. Pipe small domes of the mixture a little larger than a
quarter in diameter, about 1/2-3/4″ tall (doesn’t have to be exact), and
place in the oven at 425°F for 10-12 minutes. Then turn oven down to 320°F and
finish baking another 20-25 min, or until done. They should be hollow in the
middle, and ready to fill just before you plan on serving.
8. Count out your uni, leaving each
person with one nice piece. Take the rest, put it into a bowl, then lightly
crush and whip with a whisk.
9. Fold it into the whipped cream,
then taste and adjust seasoning (tasting for both salt and sugar).
10. Transfer to a squeeze bottle or, “ghetto-style” into a sandwich bag with the corner cut off. Just
before serving, poke a hole in the bottom of the profiterole and fill with the uni filling.
-1.5 lbs small clams, in shell
(rinse in cold water, let sit, allowing sediment to fall to the bottom, then
take the clams out by hand)
-1 small shallot minced
-Salt to taste
-1 tbs unsalted butter
-1 cup white wine
1. Melt the butter in the pan, add shallot, and let sweat. Once
translucent, add clams and a small pinch of salt (clam will have salinity as
well, and will add that to the sauce). Add white wine and cover with lid.
2. Once the clams open, pour out
along with sauce into a strainer, over a bowl.
3. Save liquid, return it to the pan, and reduce by half (or taste as it reduces and stop before it becomes too
4. Let the liquid cool slightly. Remove clams from the shell and put into a small bowl. Pour the reduced liquid
over them, let cool fully to room temp, and reserve for finishing (or put in fridge to finish at a later time).
Rice and dashi soup:
-1 cup short grain sushi rice
-2.5 cups water (for rice)
-7 inch piece of kombu kelp
-3 cups filtered water (for kombu) good sized handful of shaved katsuoboshi (or pre-shaved bonito if you don’t
-White soy sauce to taste (or regular dark soy sauce if u can’t find white)
1. Cook the hell out of the rice. Cook until very soft, as you will be
pureeing this rice.
2. Take the water and heat up to just
about boiling, then turn off the heat, add in the kombu, and let sit for 5
minutes. Add bonito shavings, let sit for 1-2 minutes, then strain, reserving
the liquid. This will be your liquid to thin out the soup while giving it
3. Take rice base and broth, and thin
out in a blender til the soup consistency is reached. If you run out of liquid,
add some water.
Final plate up:
1. Take your clams and heat them up gently in a small pot, reserving the
liquid they soaked in for the soup.
2. Heat up your soup mixture. Once hot, fill your profiteroles with the uni filling.
3. Take your clam liquid (reserving clams for bowls) and pour into soup, adjust seasoning, and ladle into bowls.
4. Set the clams in the bowl giving, 3-4 clams per person. Lay your profiterole in the soup, or on the side, and
finish with your cold uni.
5. Once you get the idea down, take this dish and make it your own, adding different flavors to the profiterole, or
adding herbs or other garnishes to the soup. You can prep everything ahead, so do it early in the day and serve at night by reheating.
-Wolvesden/Chef Craig Thornton
Los Angeles (USA)
1. Craig Thornton: Charlie Parker with Kaffir Lime, LA Weekly, May 23 2011
2. Craig Thornton Profile, FRESPERSPECTIVES PROJECT (2011) (3 VIDEOS)
3. Last Call with Carson Daly, Sept. 21 2010
4. Toques From Underground by D. Goodyear, The New Yorker, Dec 3, 2012
Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier ©2008-2011