Ah, the art of the meal… the farm-fresh tastes, textures and aromas. Most of us have savored extraordinary meals. But it’s not often we get a glimpse inside the mind of the creator of outstanding cuisine.
I had the privilege of spending a week with Spago Executive Chef Eric Klein. We were aboard Holland America’s m/s Maasdam, en route from Boston to Montreal. Through a series of lectures, tastings and food demonstrations, I gleaned a bit about the methods behind his madness (translate, wild success). Though there are many contributing factors to Chef’s culinary stardom, it seems to boil down to one essential ingredient. Passion.
“You put soul on the plate, people will understand,” Chef Klein shares.
His decadently rich Truffle Seminola with Confit Egg Yolk was a deliciously prime example. As he patiently married the flavors of the Truffle ingredients – using an intriguing looking device called an Immersion Circulator – he explained, “Truffle is like a woman. The more you give, the happier she is… Happy wife, happy life.”
He subscribes to a holistic approach, from soup to nuts, so to speak. From using only quality organic ingredients to engaging a thoughtfully chosen staff, it’s all part of the mix. “When you are the chef of a restaurant, you are mayor of a small village. Your people are what you are. Hang out with the staff, inspire them. It is no longer work; it is home. “
Chef Klein’s youthful, boyish good looks defy his vast experience and world-recognized expertise. Born and raised in Alsace, he began his culinary career in France where he received his diploma in 1991 from Lycee Professional. Since then, he has gone on to take the helm of Spago Las Vegas as executive chef and partner under the tutelage of Wolfgang Puck, but not before garnering multiple accolades, including being named one of the Top 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine magazine, among many other distinctive awards.
“When you walk into the restaurant (Spago), you are not walking into a restaurant; you are walking into a place that makes you feel whole.”
Indeed. It’s all about soul on a plate.