Posted by: Jacques | January 31, 2009

The Market Driven Cooking Class

I stopped by the Natural Gourmet this past Monday. They want me to teach a class. It really feels like a huge honor. I graduated from there ten and a half years ago. I guess some how I always imagined myself returning to teach and the time has come. Almost… The class won’t be held until the middle of November, but the content of it needs to be planned by the end of February -a bit ironic considering that the class will give students a first hand look at the workings of a market driven kitchen. My cooking is always spontaneous. I never know whats going to be on my menu the next day. I go to the market -well, not every day- some days the market comes to me in the form of a delivery truck. Sometimes the farmer is driving. Hey man, sometimes I just pull shit out of the freezer! (which is right now full of sweetbreads, wild boar fore-shanks, shrimp and banana leaves. What’s in your freezer?) At any rate, my point is that I don’t write my menus until I feel the imminence of diners ready to order. Really, some days the menus are not printed until the first customer has ordered a bottle of wine.

Why do I work this way? I usually start my day around noon. I strain whatever stock was in the oven over night, eat something while that day’s caldo de hueso comes up to a boil. (yeah, a rolling boil. I’m not making consume.) Braises like, sancocho, mole, oxtail, and shanks need to be in the oven by two pm. I do my knife-work… Little by little my movements get faster. My station gets packed and tightened. And I’m ready. So far sounds like a typical day for any glorified line cook.

What’s different? The lack of a set menu and subsequently the lack of a prep list or recipes. I cook what I’m inspired to on any given day. When the time comes I consolidate the Palo Santo nightly offerings into somewhere between 12 and 20 dishes and type a menu. It’s really the only way for me to do things if I’m going to stay interested in what I do.

Why would I treat my first cooking class differently? I plan to meet the students at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, shop, and then take them back to the restaurant and cook with them in the Palo Santo kitchen.

Chef Jacques Gautier gives a cooking demo at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket

Chef Jacques Gautier gives a cooking demo at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket



  1. What’s in your freezer?

    Homemade stocks: chicken, beef, mushroom, lamb, duck. Rendered duck fat. Pig skin. Bones for future stock-making: chicken, duck, quail. Home-cured pancetta (LOTS). Home-cured and smoked bacon skins from last winter. Home-made (and stuffed) green peppercorn pork sausages. Clementine sassafras ice cream. Ground beef heart for burgers (75% beef heart, 25% pork fat). Duck confit. Some boring stuff, storebought ice creams and such.

    Your freezer sounds way more interesting, though! Wild boar fore-shanks, yum.

    I would love to take classes taught by you, actually.

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