Young chefs may have mastered foams and liquid nitrogen, but many of them are stumped by the classical dishes that once formed the core of kitchen repertoires -- or so claim The Pyramid's back-of-the-house veterans.
"I have chefs who've been here 32 years," executive chef Andre Natera explains. "And there's always been a bit of a rivalry between them and the young chefs."
Natera recently decided to tap into the skill set that lay behind the taunts, assembling a special menu of dishes that evoked the restaurant's heyday. The food proved so popular that The Pyramid's planning to keep the menu on offer for a month.
The $75 menu includes lobster bisque, escargot bourguignonne, steak au poivre and a choice of dessert soufflés.
"It might not be the prettiest-looking food, but it tastes really good," says Natera. "It's exciting to see these skills you don't see as often."
Natera says his older chefs were thrilled to resurrect their expertise, even teaching Natera a few things he didn't know.
"It was interesting to see some of the old methods," says Natera, who'd always thickened his lobster bisque with lobster shells. "They thicken bisque with shells and rice; they said it makes it shiny."
But none of the older chefs' culinary secrets involved speed or shortcuts. French technique doesn't allow for cheating, Natera adds.
"With the younger cooks, they come out of school wanting to cook like Grant Achatz," Natera says. "Now, you can hide bad cooking with presentation."
There's no hiding a failed soufflé, Natera says. The Pyramid -- which always serves Grand Marnier and chocolate soufflés, even if they're not listed on the menu -- entrusts its soufflé-making to a longtime chef.
"He's been making it over 30 years," Natera says. "He worked at The Pyramid during its days of grandeur."
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