THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES TAKE -2–AMERICAN CHEFS: JUSTIN HILBERT
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.
Justin Hilbert was born in Pennsylvania. He began his career at The George Hotel on the Isle of Wight (England). But it was during a trip in 2006, where he worked at Mugaritz (Andoni Aduriz), he had a real revelation. Upon his return to New York, he had the opportunity to work with pastry chef Alex Stupak (WD-50) before flying out on his own and open Gwynnett St. in October 2011.
Like many emerging chefs, Justin Hilbert focus on the best local produce, and trying to find himself around New York or elsewhere in the United States. But unlike some, Chef Hilbert has a mastery of techniques and technologies enabling it to play on textures to magnify the flavors. Perhaps the result of his knowledge of pastry or a true “team effort” with his sous chef and friend Owen Clark … Who knows!
Seeing his “cuisine” for the first time, we are struck by its beauty, by an unique image that hides a great complexity.
Q+A WITH JUSTIN HILBERT (www.gwynnettst.com ):
1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?
JHilbert- We try and use whatever is in season and products we can find locally. For the most part we focus on a key ingredient and highlight it in several cooking methods or textures adding complementing notes, the main focus is balance and harmony.
2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?
JHilbert- I love the flavors of birch and spruce. When I was a child I loved birch beer. There is this brand of soda from Pennsylvania my father would always buy when I was a kid that I loved. So, whenever my parents come to dinner at the restaurant they always bring me some. It reminds me of my youth.
3-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?
JHilbert- My sous chef Owen Clark. He’s been a dear friend for quite sometime. Also, the team of chefs here at the restaurant. Sometimes during service I stop and think to myself how grateful I to have such a quality group of inspired individuals working with me. I feel very blessed to have them here and keeping them excited is what inspires me most.
4-(Scoffier) You worked in pastry at WD-50 with Alex Stupak. Do you have two roles at Gwynnetts St.: Executive chef and pastry chef?
JHilbert- Yes, I suppose I’m the pastry chef as well. I have always wanted to be part of everything in the kitchen, pastry always interested me just as much as savory. When I got to WD-50, Wylie didn’t have any positions available. I mentioned that I knew a bit about pastry and Alex was looking for someone in that department. After a few days he offered me the position. I was out of my league at the time but I learned so much from him it was an amazing experience. Working with him and Rosio Sanchez was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in cooking professionally.
5-(Scoffier) How do you develop your recipes at Gwynnetts St.? What are your source(s) of inspiration ?
JHilbert- We draw inspiration from everything a lot of it has to do with what is at that market. My mind gets stuck on an ingredient and then the focus becomes composing a dish based around it.
6-(Scoffier) The aesthetics of your “cuisine” is superb, are you thinking about this in the preparation of the menu?
JHilbert- Sometimes I envision a dish in my head before it even goes on the plate. Aesthetics have always been important for me however, everything that goes on the plate is there for a reason every component needs to compliment the other. The idea is to create something that looks as good as it tastes the perception of value is just as important to me as the quality of ingredients.
7-(Scoffier) I know your sous chef (Owen Clark) is important to you and has a good knowledge of foraging. Is it hard for you to buy (and find) locally?
JHilbert- The most frustrating thing is that we get some really cool things in from different people that are short lived. We get really excited when we find new things and work them into a dish and then before we know it they’re out of season.
8-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Justin Hilbert at Gwynnetts St.?
JHilbert- Recipe: Milk, Mint and Green Strawberry
9-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?
JHilbert- I’d like to make this restaurant the best I possibly can. My goal is to keep creating new and interesting food that people enjoy, tell their friends about and come back again. Whatever comes with that will be greatly appreciated. I’ve been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to do so and for now my focus is set on cooking.
RECIPE: Milk, Mint and Green Strawberry
INGREDIENTS & PROGRESSION RECIPE
For the mint cake:
-30g mint leaves
-300g whole eggs
-110g almond flour
-125g caster sugar
-40g cake flour
1. In a blender combine the mint leaves with the eggs and blend on high until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend on high until smooth.
2. Strain the mixture and place into an isi canister. Charge twice and refrigerate for a few hours.
For the mint gel:
-200g liquid glucose
-9g agar agar
-100g mint leaves
1. Place the water in the blender and add the agar agar. Blend for one minute to ensure hydration. Place in a pot along with the glucose and sugar. Bring to a boil.
2. Place the mint leaves in a blend and add the boiling liquid. Blend until smooth. Quickly strain the mixture into an ice bath add whisk until set. Allow the agar to set and return to the blender and blend until smooth, strain and refrigerate.
For the milk streusel:
-200g dry nonfat milk solids
-250g caster sugar
-200g butter cubed very cold
1. Place all the dry ingredients in a food processor and blend. Add the butter in slowly until incorporated. 2. Place on a try lined with bakers paper and chill. Bake at 275F for 40-45 minutes until firm but not colored. Cool and store in an airtight container.
For the milk sorbet:
-600g full fat high quality farmers milk
-200g dry non fat milk solids
-100g corn maltodextrin
-200g sorbet base
-2 sheets gelatin
-2g sorbet stabilizer
For the sorbet base:
-800g caster suagr
-200g atomized glucose
( place in a pot bring to a boil and chill)
1. Place the milk, maltodextrin and milk powder in a blender and blend until smooth. Bloom the gelatin sheets in ice water for 10 minutes. Bring the sorbet base to a boil add the gelatin. 2. Blend the milk and slowly add in the sorbet base. Turn the blend to high and add in the sorbet stabilizer. Strain and chill in an ice bath. 3. Once cold place the mixture in a Pace Jet beaker and freeze over night.
For the green strawberry leather:
-300g green strawberries
-30g atomized glucose
-30g green strawberry pickling liquid
1. Place the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. 2. Spread the mixture onto acetate and dehydrate for two hours. Remove and store in an airtight container.
For the sweet pickled green strawberriess:
-200g green strawberries
-50g white wine vinegar
-100g caster sugar
-2 sprigs of mint
1. Place the sugar, water, vinegar and mint in a pot and bring to a boil. Once boiled strain the liquid into an ice bath. 2. Place the strawberries in vacuum bags 50g per bag adding 20g of liquid per bag. Seal on the highest setting ,refrigerate and reserve.
1. Make five slits in a paper cup around the bottom. Fill the cup 1/3 of the way up with the cake batter and microwave for thirty seconds. 2. Spin the sorbet in the Paco Jet one full cycle and return to the freezer. 3. Place the cake on a place and garnish with remaining ingredients finish with the sorbet.
GWYNNETT ST./Chef Justin Hilbert
312 Graham Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11211
NOTE: Copyright for the photos: Gwynnett St. Restaurant
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