The culinary traditions of France are the foundation of education for many, many professional American chefs. As a result, French food developed a bit of an “old school,” somewhat stodgy reputation over the years. But now, it’s got a whole new level of excitement, thanks to updated, more informal presentations that bring that certain je ne sais quoi to dining in a whole new way.
Rice University’s architecture school has a French connection: Rice Architecture Paris, where students can study a semester abroad. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the architecture school, Rice’s dining team, several of whom are affiliated with the ACF (American Culinary Federation), dusted off their classical French cooking skills and added some new twists as well.
“Someone from the architecture school was asking, ‘Who knows of a private chef who could do a French dinner?’” recalls Susann Glenn, director of communications. “And I said, ‘Our chefs! They’re classically trained.’ They ended up putting together the most incredible meal. It was supposed to be a farm table of 50 people but turned into 100 people.”
French dishes by Rice’s dining team. (Photos: Meagan Dwyer)
Johnny Curet, executive chef and director of dining, created a five-course menu of French fabulousness that included roast quail farci of chicken (farci means stuffed) with cranberry and pistachio mousseline and a black cherry port wine gastric; gratin Dauphinois de pommes (potatoes au gratin); haricots verts (green beans), celery root puree with garlic crème, frisee lettuce with a trio of French cheeses (Brillat-Savarin, blue and chevre) and desserts were the iconic macarons.
And Rice’s French connection goes beyond special events: One dining-hall unit turns into a crepe station every Tuesday.
While the crepe is intimidating to home cooks (what if it sticks?!), professional culinarians can produce perfect crepe after perfect crepe with the right setup, as shown here at the University of Iowa, where the new Flavors Abroad concept features dishes from dozens of culinary hot spots around the globe.
Around the World of Macarons
The foundation is French, but macaron flavors can go all around the world. Flavors clockwise from top: Crème brulee, golfeado, guava pastelito, coconut beijinho, baklava, spicy mango, lulo, spicy chocolate, white chocolate curry, matcha and black sesame, tiramisu and candied bacon (Photo: dbakers Sweet Studio). Bonus: This special-edition collection of macarons gives back to the Special Olympics.