Monday, March 22, 2010

Star Chef's Rising Stars: Kuniko Yagi

Star Chefs is an industry magazine for chefs. They hold The Rising Stars events in major cities, like this event for LA/San Diego, though it was pretty LA-focused. The chefs are chosen by their peers, last year's winners and even the local press. First, each chef prepares small plates for the appreciative crowd, followed by the awards presentation.

Naturally I ran around like a maniac taking a million pictures, hence the multiple blog entries. I later realized that I had missed a few dishes. Providence's sweet Asian-inspired soup, Addison's canard roti, and salmon.

It was a pretty meat-heavy menu, which was perfect. I was feeling pretty carnivorous that evening. I was extremely excited to see that Kuniko Yagi of Sona was serving up foie gras. Swoon.

The foie gras was perfect - caramelized on the outside with a custardy interior. I had to walk around and compliment the man cooking the foie gras. I said, "It's pretty amazing that you are able to turn out perfect foie gras on a BBQ in near-darkness."

He replied, "Especially since I'm a pastry chef."

I always thought foie gras needed a heavy fruit sauce to balance out the occasional intense liver flavor, but this is the second time I've had foie with Japanese flavors, and I have to admit to being totally won over. Kuniko's sauce was made with black sugar. It was accompanied by teensy mochi that were adorable, but I didn't eat them as one bite with the foie gras, more like as a chaser.

They were garnished with adorable miniature strawberries.

I have to admit to shamelessly returning to Koniko's station three times. People kept asking me what dish I liked and I would lead them over to her table, then, well, as long as I was there...

According to the booklet, Kuniko Yagi grew tired of banking in her native Japan and moved to America where she discovered her love for cooking while working in a noodle house. A lucky conversation with one patron, David Meyers, landed her a position in the kitchen at Sona where she quickly worked her way up to chef de cuisine. Here, Meyers applauds her.

Kuniko's proud mom

A private joke with Bouchon's Rory Hermann

1 comment:

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