Art Ishman, chef manager, Bon Appetit Management Company at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, has a catering background, so he knows how important preparation can be for an action station or “chef’s table” as Ishman calls it.
“I worked in hotels and in catering for years,” Ishman says. “I’ve learned an action station should be really well thought-out, with as much prep work as possible done beforehand. Once you get going, you don’t want to run out of anything. In a two-hour span, I might feed 100 people.”
Prep work begins downstairs in the central kitchen for an action station at the BRB Café (named for the Biomedical Research Building, and a popular breakfast and lunch stop for medical and nursing students, administrators and also visitors to the hospital across the street).
Along with dishes like this Asian pork, Ishman creates other items that lend themselves to precision prep work: crab cake sliders with remoulade and vinegar slaw, curry chicken pasta and sweet-and-sour meatballs over egg noodles.
Once it’s time for action, Ishman pays careful attention to portion size and ratios on each dish.
“I want to make sure, if I have a 4 oz. portion of protein, I give that 2 oz. of sauce,” he says. “Finishing touches are critical to me. A finished plate is colorful and neat—wiped clean on the edges, with a nice garnish.” And that’s the end result of a successful action station.
. Trim the fat from the pork tenderloin. “Go against the grain,” Ishman advises, to make it a quick and easy process. Then, slice the pork into medallions. (Steps 1 through 4 take place in the downstairs central production kitchen, down one floor from where the display cooking will take place.)
. Combine herbs, soy sauce and olive oil in a bowl and coat pork (optional). This will start building the flavor in the pork when it first hits the pan in the preparation phase.
. Together with garlic and onion, sear the pork in a very hot pan. “You want to sear each side for about two minutes,” Ishman says. “This saves time when we bring the pork upstairs and finish it off.”
. Move the seared pork to a plate and set aside so it’s ready to bring to the action station.
. And...action! Upstairs in the BRB Cafe, as customers line up, Ishman adds bok choy, carrots and red cabbage (which have been chopped ahead of time) and makes the hoisin glaze in another pan (not pictured).
. The medallions go back into the pan to warm up. The aroma is amazing!
. Ishman combines all the components, heating everything through and letting the flavors combine. Each serving would be about 4 oz. of pork (one or two medallions.)
RECIPE: Pan-seared Pork Medallions with Hoisin Soy Sauce