Chef Irene Li
We recently spoke with Irene to find out more about the world of mobile foodservice and its differing processes from work-life in a brick-and-mortar restaurant kitchen.Read Bio
Introducing Casual Fine Dining
You’ve coined your restaurant “Cork & Craft” as refined comfort food – offering classic favorites and fine dining inspired dishes. Explain the inspiration behind this style of food program.
I like to have approachable flavors that everyone can relate to with a style of plating and presentation that allows me to be an artist as a chef while surprising guests with a "wow" factor when they eat with us.
When creating your menus, how do you find a balance between the classic and fine dining dishes. Explain the impact this has on your flavor process.
A lot of the time, I'll try to take the classic flavors and add a little twist. That way, it's something diners know but altered in a way that makes it different than any way they've experienced before.
For example, in the last Chefs Roll competition, I took common parmesan crisps and integrated spices into them, totally changing the flavor. The food was familiar but with regards to the flavor, it allowed them to taste something they haven’t had.
Are there any challenges involved in fusing these two very distinct cooking styles together to create your menus, specifically in terms of flavors and ingredients?
I wouldn’t say that I face many challenges in creating refined comfort food because of its approachable factor. Guests know it, they’re not scared of it and helps to eliminate the difficulty factor.
Are there any distinct cooking styles or techniques you tend to use when creating your dishes? Which flavor ingredients will you always use regardless of whether you’re creating a casual or fine dining dish?
The style of cooking I use is known as California cuisine. It's a combination of techniques whether they're Japanese, French, American; I use a little bit of everything to create my menus.
For example, last fall I made this Hamachi crudo dish that has a Japanese, French, American style with its brown butter powder, shisito relish, celery puree and a soy Yuzu marinade.
In terms of ingredients, I don’t really have a certain one that I typically use; however, I do tend to use as much fresh, in-season products as I can whether it’s for a fine dining dish or a casual bar item.
Can we expect to see a fine-dining inspired dish with a classic comfort food twist make its way to the center-of-the-plate?
Right now, we're getting amazing sun fruit that we’re playing up on our menu. With fall on its way, we are also planning our new menu which will feature root vegetables, apples and pomegranates.
Define Scott Cannon’s signature flavor and dish.
One item that has been kept on the menu since I started is my signature Jidori chicken breast. This chicken is pounded out, stuffed with couscous and a brown butter carrot puree. The brown butter is something that I’m drawn to and it has received the best feedback and response from our patrons. It’s artistically plateable but it’s also approachable in flavor and comforting.