Monday, February 22, 2010

ph: Thinking Oysters

This shell is on fire.

Last Friday I conducted a workshop on signature drinks and their development. One thing that I noted to the class is that there truly are no "original" ideas. Everything comes from inspiration or evolution. Without a base of knowledge to work from, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to springboard something different.

And while a number of the signature drinks I have done for competitions has garnered attention and a "wow" factor, none of them are truly original. All of them were springboarded off the work of someone else, then forged with the collaboration of friends and experts.

Take the Coffee and a Cigarette drink I used for the 2006 United States Barista Championship. Lots of people were "wowed" by that one, but it's nothing original. In fact, it's something that I derived after reading about lots of Thomas Keller and using one of his recipes as a jumping off point.

Even last years "Lobspro" was inspired and derived from elsewhere: Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. Without seeing his "Lobster Cappuccino" it wouldn't have occurred to me to pair coffee with lobster (even though his execution did not actually incorporate coffee into the dish).

A mold prototype.

Back in September, I attended a demonstration by Spanish wizard Paco Torreblanca and was absolutely blown away by his method of making chocolate oysters. Simply create a mold from a real oyster shell, mold chocolate and then you're done. Amazing.

Since that time, I've been nurturing the oysters in the back of my mind and collecting nice shell examples that might work for what I have in mind. Today I started to figure out how to mold those shells for chocolate work.

It's not too difficult but I immediately see the need for welding gloves to protect my soft, supple hands. After a couple of tries, I think we're getting closer to the right technique.

And while you won't be able to check this "signature" drink out at the USBC (since I'm not planning on competing), you will be able to visit us at the new Spro Hampden and order it off of our menu in the spring.