Rise No. 1's co-owner Hedda Gioia Dowd says she isn't worried customers will stop flocking to her restaurant after reading the secrets of soufflé-making in her new cookbook.
"We have people who are pregnant, delivering babies the next day, come here for their last meal," Dowd says. "We have people celebrating their 102nd birthdays, 103rd birthdays."
Dowd surmises her guests come not just for the sweet and savory soufflés her co-author and co-owner chef Cherif Brahmi creates, but also for the sense of conviviality she prides herself on fostering. Rise to the Occasion: A French Food Experience tries to capture the restaurant's spirit through color photographs of Dowd's dog, Brahmi's mother and restaurant friend Barbara Bush the Younger relaxing on Dowd's farm.
"It's about community and conversation," Dowd says. "We have wireless here, and I've never seen more than two laptops."
But it's also about the airy soufflés, which Dowd touts as heart-healthy and diet-friendly. And while Dowd doesn't claim soufflés can cure cancer, her book quotes a registered dietitian who told her soufflés are the perfect post-chemo meal since eggs stave off nausea.
"Just last week, a woman came in and said 'This restaurant saved my life,'" Dowd says. "After every chemotherapy treatment, she came here and ate. Now she's cancer-free. That really moved me."
Dowd concedes many home cooks never fuss with soufflés, believing them to be too difficult. But she claims she's fielded multiple calls from customers who say they've mastered the art with the help of her book, which advocates fresh eggs, baking stones and vigilance about over-beating.
"To be afraid of something, what does that accomplish?," Dowd asks.
A book launch party's planned for January 27, but Dowd is already looking ahead to Valentine's Day. The holiday menu's likely to include a strawberry soufflé and violet soufflé, because "it's on the cover of the book," Dowd explains. "So many people are talking about it."
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