Shefzilla: Conquering Haute Cuisine at Home
After a fire gutted Chef Stewart Woodman’s restaurant, Heidi’s in Minneapolis–a bistro that had inspired a passionate following among neighbors and travelers alike–the chef turned his time and energy to cooking on a smaller scale, at home, for family and friends. He learned to adjust his tools and ingredients but not his style, and the result is chef-quality fare suitable for the home kitchen. Known to local food enthusiasts as Shefzilla for his blog of the same name, Woodman offers his ingredients-forward philosophy in 150 recipes that will allow home cooks to create fabulous yet unpretentious dishes such as Roasted Beet Salad with Soy Sauce and Napa Cabbage, Wild Rice and Cremini Mushroom Hot Dish, and Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream.
Woodman’s food and life lessons came under the tutelage of Alain Ducasse, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Eric Ripert, Gray Kunz, and Michael Romano and in restaurant kitchens in Montreal, Vancouver, New York City, and Minneapolis. In 2006, Food&Wine named him one of America’s Best New Chefs, cheering his flawless modern-American food. In Shefzilla, he presents decades of cooking knowledge in meal-sized bites that will inspire home cooks to expand their repertoire. Through tips and stories and carefully developed recipes accompanied by lush full-color photos, Shefzilla entertains and educates as Chef Woodman helps you conquer haute cuisine at home.
And the good news today? Heidi’s in Minneapolis reopened just this week: on January 11, 2011.
C&B&R Featured Cook Renee, Flamingo Musings:
You may be familiar with Stewart Woodman’s story: on the same day in February 2010 that he was named a semifinalist as Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation, his popular restaurant, Heidi’s in Minneapolis, was destroyed by a fire. In the aftermath, Woodman turned his attention to his own home kitchen, relearning to cook for his family of four rather than for a restaurant that seated fifty.
The result was Shefzilla: Conquering Haute Cuisine At Home. But this isn’t just a collection of Heidi’s recipes scaled down for the home cook; the cookbook also offers glimpses of the inner-Woodman: hilarious anecdotes of the worst meal his mother ever cooked and how he met his wife, Heidi (herself a CIA graduate and kitchen professional); his experiences in other famous chefs kitchens over the years; and his feelings about losing the restaurant and what he’s learned from and since the experience. Many of these vignettes are written with surprising candor. Even the recipes (and recipe introductions) are written as if Woodman were speaking to you, personally. All of this is sprinkled among the 150 recipes for everything from Buffalo Shrimp Skewers to Beurre Fondue, making this a cookbook that you read, not just leaf through looking for something interesting to do with chicken.
One of the things I really like about Shefzilla is that although there is a separate chapter titled “Side Dishes,” just about every Main Dish recipe also includes a side dish recommendation. So though you may not feel like making Chicken Confit, those Cool Yukon Whipped Cream Potatoes sound mighty good and would go well with some other more basic baked, roasted, or fried chicken you might be preparing for your family. And even though there are a number of more complicated dishes in the book, it is filled with many others that are actually quite simple to prepare. You probably already have many of the ingredients in your pantry, and if you don’t, you should.
Ready to try conquering haute cuisine at home? We recommend starting with this recipe for Brown Butter Gnocchi