THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES TAKE -2–AMERICAN CHEF: JASON FOX
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.
In the USA, San Francisco occupies a unique place in the world of gastronomy. Aside from being the birthplace of different culinary movements and the place of the ‘’locavores’’, San Francisco has seen very talented chefs emerge.
One of those chefs is Jason Fox. Not long ago Jason Fox was a executive-chef at Bar-Tartine; but, in 2010, with his partners (Xelina Leyba, Anthony Myint), he opened his own restaurant Commonwealth. Commonwealth offers a cuisine de haut niveau in a chic and relaxed environment and with a social conscience. Like Mission Street Food, the concept of the co-founder Anthony Myint, Commonwealth gives a part of his profit to a specific cause.
Jason Fox’s technique is modern and progressive. It’s a progressive American cuisine in perfect harmony with the seasons (product’s season & Market). Under its simplicity, lies a complex and researched cuisine with a strong Asian influence.
Great cuisine that reflects a great city, humble, open minded, but always searching for the best. A chef to follow for a long time!
Q+A WITH JASON FOX (www.commonwealthsf.com ):
1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine at Commonwealth and what is its main characteristics?
JFox- I think the main philosophy of my cuisine is the melding of classical and modern cuisine. I try to make it approachable and have some familiarity to it, while injecting some surprise elements, whether they are unfamiliar ingredients or techniques. Texture is very important, as well as exploring temperature contrast in the same dishes. I like to layer many pure and straightforward flavors on top of one another, so the
outcome feels deceptively simple, but still contains a great deal of complexity. I strive to make people simultaneously enjoy the simplicity of the
dish, and then scratch their heads about how certain things were put together, or how a technique was used.
2-(Scoffier) Commonwealth gives a portion of his profits to charity. Is it for a specific cause?
JFox- No, we change charities every month. We try to focus on local, food based beneficiaries, but we do not have any hard set rules. Sometimes their, are causes that are important to one of our partners, which may not necessarily be about food, or local, and we choose to donate to them.
3-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is memorable?
JFox- I grew up on the east coast by the ocean, so I love very clean, fresh fish preparations. We barbecued quite a lot as well, so I find myself drawn to smoke, and even charred flavors.
4-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?
JFox- I think we use more sea urchin than most Japanese restaurants. It is definitely one of my favourite, and here in California, we get such great uni from either Santa Barbara or Fort Bragg. When available, one preparation or another is always on our menu, and we are always trying to come up with new ways to use it.
5-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?
JFox-They are many, many people locally, and around the world inspire me. I love when people have a vision, and executed it. To me, one of the highest compliments I can receive is when people tell me the cuisine feels personal and focused. Locally, I think Mourad Lahlou, Dominique Crenn and James Syhabout are killing it. Around the world, I love what the Spanish chefs and Scandinavian chefs are doing.
6-(Scoffier) There are a San Francisco (and now Oakland) high-level gastronomy. Do you think that there is a Bay Area Cuisine signature?
JFox- It seems like in the last few years, many Bay Area chefs have been taking our cuisine a little further. I go to the market,
everybody is getting the same ingredients, and I think people realize it is more important, and satisfying, to simply roast a turnip, or put some cherries on a plate. Things had gotten so simple here for a while, I think many chefs are pushing the envelope more, injecting their own creativity, while still using the best ingredients and allowing the cuisine to seem organic and natural on the plate.
7-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu at Commonwealth?
JFox- I work pretty closely with Ian Muntzert, the Chef de Cuisine, and we are batting ideas off of each other all day long. What is
important is the flow of the entire menu, whether it is our À la carte menu or a Tasting menu. We like our À la carte menu to read like a Tasting menu, so you can go down the length of it, and experience different tastes. Sometimes inspiration happens quickly, and sometimes we are tweaking and working on a dish for weeks.
8-(Scoffier) I see that you often use Asian products in your recipes, is an important part of your cuisine?
JFox- I am a big fan of Asian cuisine, so we are always searching for ways to inject umami. I love the clean, balanced flavors of Japanese food, as well as Southeast Asian cuisines. Also, we are lucky, in the Bay Area to have so many Asian ingredients grown locally, like citruses, herbs, and other aromatic produce which originally originated in Asia, and was not grown or available here, even a few years ago.
9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that characterized the cuisine of Jason Fox at Commonwealth?
JFox- I love our Shaved carrot and radish, walnut, quinoa and ash coated goat cheese dish. It incorporates the best of local ingredients, and showcases classic and modern techniques and ingredient pairings.
Recipe: Shaved Carrot and Radish, Walnut, Quinoa and Ash coated Goat cheese
10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant? Would you like to write a book, do a television show, have other restaurants etc.?
JFox- My goals as chef and a restaurant owner are to continue to learn, grow and improve. What’s most exciting about this occupation is that their is no ceiling for knowledge, and until the day I die, their will always be something new for me learn about food, and as a chef. I would like to open other restaurants, because it is refreshing to change focus, and have different creative outlets for different cuisines. Whether they are high end or casual, focus on a specific cuisine or a combination of different inspirations.
RECIPE: Shaved Carrot and Radish, Walnut, Quinoa and Ash Coated Goat Cheese
INGREDIENTS & PROGRESSION RECIPE (Serves 4)
-1 cup peeled and diced carrot
-1 and 1/2 cup fresh carrot juice
-1 tbl evoo (Olives oil)
-Salt to taste
-1/4 cup red quinoa
-1/2 cup water
-Salt to taste
-1 tbl evoo
-1 oz walnut oil
-1 oz tapioca maltodextrin
-Sugar to taste
-8 oz goat cheese
-1 bunch mixed baby carrots( thinly shaved and soaked in ice water for 10 minutes)
-1 bunch mixed radish( thinly shaved and soaked in ice water for 10 minutes)
-4 oz mixed spicy greens (cresses, arugula, mizuna, etc.)
-1 tbl picked dill
-1tbl red wine vinegar
-3 tbl evoo
-Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook carrots in carrot juice until almost all of the liquid is reduced and carrots are tender, puree with olive oil, strain through chinois and cool.
2. Cover quinoa with water and salt, bring to boil, cover, reduce to low simmer, and cook for approximately 20 minutes until quinoa is fully cooked, toss with oil and cool.
3. In processor, mix walnut oil with maltodextrin until a powder is formed, season with salt.
4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Cook shavings until blackened, charred and completely dry. Allow to cool, and puree until is a fine powder and season with salt and sugar. Temper goat cheese and roll into a log, approximately one inch in diameter. Cool to reharden, and then roll in ash powder. Slice 12 coins and set aside.
5. On 4 plates, smear some of the carrot puree. Toss carrots and radishes with quinoa, greens and vinegar and oil. Divide and place around carrot puree, sprinkle walnut powder on, top with goat cheese coins, dill, and assorted flowers.
Commonwealth/Executive Chef Jason Fox
2224 Mission Street,
San Francisco (USA)
2. Review by Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle, November 28th 2010
3. Watermelon Gazpacho Recipe, Tasting Table, July 2010
4. How to clean squid by Jason Fox (video), CHOW, March 2011
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