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Think Like a Chef - Announcing Stella's Four Course Lunch-Lecture Series This Summer!

Hello Stella Culinary Fans!

I'm excited to announce that this Summer I'll be conducting in person lunch-lectures at Stella Restaurant that will include a four course tasting menu, optional wine pairing, and a talk that will teach you how to "think like a chef." If you're passionate about great food and cooking but struggle with creating your own dishes, dissecting and troubleshooting recipes, or lack the confidence to cook a large meal for your family and friends, then this class is for you!

In this four course lunch lecture, I will walk you through my unique, systematic approach to understanding why recipes work and how to unleash your inner creative cook. You will be given an in depth look into the proprietary F-STEP curriculum (an acronym that stands for Flavor, Sauce, Technique, Execution & Preparation), that is used in Stella's intensive culinary boot camp, created specifically to teach passionate cooks how to think and create like a professional chef.

Using the major F-STEP building blocks of Flavor Structure, Technique, and Execution, (something I like to call the "Trifecta of Great Cooking"), this four course lunch-lecture will cover topics including:

  • Approaching food through the F-STEP "lens."

  • Choosing seasonal and high quality ingredients.

  • Understanding flavor structure, including complimentary & contrasting flavors, textures, and taste sensations.

  • How to choose the appropriate cooking technique for various meats, produce, and fish.

  • Best practices for preparing produce like a chef.

  • The science behind seasoning and great tasting food.

  • My simple and modern approach to sauce making, including my "Three Modern Mother Sauces."

You will also receive class lecture notes, including recipes and additional information, provided in both printed and PDF format.

Dates: (All classes will be held on Saturdays and run from 12pm - 2pm)

  • June 8th

  • July 27th

  • August 17th: This date has been changed to August 24th.

  • September 7th

Pricing Per Person

  • $65 General Admission.

  • $40 for guests of The Cedar House Sport Hotel.

  • $25 optional, four course wine pairing.

  • Complimentary, non-alcoholic beverages will be made available.

Class size will be limited to only 30 people per class. Please notify us of any dietary restrictions or allergies when making your reservation.

Reserve your seat now by calling the Cedar House Sport Hotel & Stella Restaurant at: 866-582-5655.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to shoot me an e-mail,, or leave them in the comments section below.

Hope to see you this Summer!



The Whirlwind of "The Vote"

As most of you already know, I've been nominated by Food And Wine Magazine for "People's Choice Best New Chef." As a small town chef in Truckee, the nomination came as a surprise, especially when I saw who else was listed in the California Region, including Thomas McNaughton of Flour + Water and Matthew Accarrino of SPQR; two very talented chefs in San Francisco who have achieved much acclaim.

When I made the decision to leave San Francisco early on in my career, I knew full well that I was sacrificing all the tools, experience, and connections that working in the city would offer, but the trade-off was more than fair. Being able to call the Tahoe/Truckee area my home for the last six years has been a reward in itself. Yet the fact that a national publication like Food and Wine has the town of Truckee on its map is what makes this nomination both exhilarating and humbling. I, like many other ex-city-dwellers who now call Truckee their home, have always believed in this region as a world class end destination. We live where people spend all year planning to vacation, and if you're in the service industry like me, you have the extra reward of creating memories that in some cases will literally last a lifetime.

It would be a bit insincere to say I wasn't slightly caught off guard by the whirl-wind of attention that this nomination has stirred up. The highlight so far was being interviewed by Beth Ruyak of Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, especially since I've always been a bit of an "NPR Nerd" and had an interest in radio broadcasting growing up; an interest which led me to share my passion for cooking through an audio podcast of my own. As you can imagine, doing a podcast is one thing, but being on live radio, where any verbal mistake will be instantly broadcasted to a countless number of nameless, faceless listeners was absolutely nerve racking. Listening back to the interview was a cringe fest; I was way too close to the mic (but couldn't tell because I had no head phones) and was talking a mile a minute, all the while trying to drown out the voice in my head saying, "Jacob, you do realize that you're totally bombing on live radio, right?" As a guy who's fairly good at operating under pressure (at least in a restaurant environment) being live on the air with a personality I remember watching on TV when I was a little kid was the closest thing I've had to a panic attack since my wife went into labor.

Yet despite my nerves and the desperate desire for a "mulligan," being on live radio was one of the highlights of this nomination; that, and the "beehive" that is San Francisco dining getting kicked around for the first half day of voting when they saw some no-name chef tucked away in the hills of Lake Tahoe leading the polls. We even got a nod from The San Francisco Chronicle's Inside Scoop Columnist Paolo Lucchesi saying "In a huge upset over the city folk so far, the guy from Truckee is winning the vote in the earlygoing." I guess that's the power of the Stella Culinary, Cedar House and Truckee/Tahoe community, who charged hot out of the gates Monday morning when the nomination was first announced.

After rallying the troops to insure "the guy from Truckee" wouldn't walk away with the top prize, Chef Thomas from Flour + Water and Chef Matthew from SPQR are currently leading the polls, with yours truly in third place. Yet considering the reach and resources of all the accomplished chefs nominated in the California region, just being in the top three, and at one point leading the polls, is a huge win for Stella, The Cedar House, and most importantly, the Truckee/Tahoe Community.

If you haven't voted yet, you can do so by following this link here: Voting will close this Monday at 2pm PST. Please note that you can only vote once, and multiple votes from the same IP address will be deleted per Food and Wine Magazine's rules.

Also, because I've been so busy the last few days, I know that some questions and various forum topics have fallen through the cracks. I'm going to do my best to go back and answer all the cooking questions that you've sent in. If you don't see an answer in the next day or two, please remind me via e-mail:

One of the things that I have been neglecting is publishing a fascinating guest post on Teas, Tea Pots and Brewing Methods written by Stella Culinary Community Member Marco099. The post keeps flipping a weird security glitch in my Apache servers because it contains keywords that are misinterpreted as malicious commands. Anyways, while I try and work this glitch out with my hosting company, I thought I’d post a PDF download link here for your reading pleasure. A special thank you to Marcos099 for all the hard work he put into writing this great post, for nothing more than the ability to share his passion with our small community. And that, in the end, is what Stella Culinary is all about.

Thank you to everyone that's voted so far, the loyal and passionate people who make up the Stella Culinary Community, and of course the staff at The Cedar House Sport Hotel and Stella Restaurant, who are the ones that make a nomination like this possible through their hard work and dedication.

Cook With Passion!



Stella's Culinary Boot Camp Wrap Up

Stella's Culinary Boot Camp - November 2012

Stella's first culinary boot camp was an amazing time, bringing people from across the United States and Canada together with one singular goal; to become better cooks. This intensive five day course was constructed to challenge and push the students to their limits, debuting our new core curriculum, the F-STEP cooking process.

The F-STEP curriculum was designed to train the students how to think like a professional chef, not just blindly follow recipes. In fact, most of the recipes in the boot camp curriculum were changed daily and "on the fly," forcing the students to utilize their newfound understanding of flavor structure and technique.

On the last day of class, our twelve student boot camp was split up into six teams of two, with each team being responsible for creating their own unique dish as part of a six course tasting menu. This final exam required the students to go through the F-STEP thought process, thinking about Flavor, Sauce, Technique, Execution, and Preparation. Each student had to time the execution of their dish to fit perfectly within the structure of our six course tasting menu.

What the students ended up producing was nothing short of impressive, as you'll see in the photos below. All dishes and their corresponding recipes were designed, prepared and executed by the students on their final day of class, with each team being responsible for completing a composed tasting portion and a family style plate.

Carrot Puree

Cynthia and Marty kicked off our six course tasting menu with a chilled carrot-ginger puree as their amuse bouche (above). Their first course was an "ahi tartar napoleon with avocado, sesame, crispy wontons, and spicy-asian aioli" (below).

Composed Ahi

For their family style plate up, Marty and Cynthia painstakingly wrapped the wonton skins around a wooden rolling pin and deep fried them in the shape of a shot glass, which they then filled with the tartar mixture (below).

Ahi Family Style

Next, Jack and Sue offered up a delicious bacon-wonton intermezzo (below).

Bacon Wontons

Jack and Sue's appetizer course was wood fire roasted prawns with charred frisse and sumac (below). The bitterness of the frisee balanced nicely with the sweetness of the shrimp and was tied together by the lemon tang of the sumac, a spice indigenousness to Africa.

Fire Roasted Shrimp

Darcy and Keith created a Vietnamese style chicken satay. The chicken was first brined and then sous vide, skewered with sticks of lemon grass, served with two separate dipping sauces and a refreshing rice noodle and pickled vegetable salad. The combination of the crispy, rice coating exterior with the tender, juicy interior, made this chicken absolutely delicious. Add in some fresh, South East Asian inspired ingredients and you have yourself a light and enjoyable dish.

Chicken Satay

Chris and Roger served a sous vide pork tenderloin roulade, filled with provolone cheese (first photo below). Calling it the "Cuban Ruben," this dish was a fun and unique play on a traditional flavor structure with a few twists, including home made pickles, Russian dressing and a garnish of preserved lemon rind.

Sticking with their inspired theme, Chris and Roger also offered up an "mint-mojito" intermezzo in the form of a refreshing sorbet (middle photo below).

Pork Tenderloin

Fred and Douglas created an intermezzo of "house made potato crisps with cucumber creme fraiche dip" (pictured bottom right, below). This cooling bite was followed by their "mexican-spiced duck sausage 'on fire,' seasonal vegetables with chipotle aioli and lime-pineapple-habanero sauce." The sausage was made with ground duck breast, formed into a cylinder using plastic wrap, and cooked sous vide. The combination of the rustic-roasted vegetables and the spiced sausage was outstanding.

Duck Sausage

The final dish was served by Eva and Mike. For their intermezzo, they offered up a "cucumber-cumin shooter with lemon and fresh mint." This was followed by a perfectly "sous vide fillet of beef with chickpea puree, sauted spinach, cucumber salsa and thyme-wine demi glace." The chickpea puree is really what made this dish. It had a smooth texture and subtle flavor that paired nicely with the full reduction demi and the perfectly cooked fillet of beef. 

Beef Tenderloin

Thanks again to everyone who participated in this November's boot camp.

Stella's Culinary Boot Camp - Class Photo - November, 2012

If you weren't able to make it to this boot camp, don't sweat it. We plan on doing another this spring, although we have yet to set dates. If you want to be on our early notification list, please enter your name and e-mail address in the form below.


Announcing Stella's Five Day Culinary Boot Camp This November, 5-9th.



If you would like to be notified when out next boot camp dates are released, please enter your name and e-mail in the sign-up box below.

You might also find this boot camp wrap up post interesting, where we go over all the dishes the boot camp students created for their final exam.

Get Notified When Our Next Boot Camp Is Announced


Announcing The Stella Culinary Super Feed

Stella Culinary Super Feed

Get Free Automatic Updates!
iTunes RSS


Based on multiple requests, I'm happy to announce the Stella Culinary Super Feed. This feed will allow you to subscribe to free automatic updates either through iTunes or traditional RSS (using the "aggregator" of your choice). This means that every video and audio podcast released will be available through this one, simple to subscribe to, "Super Feed."

If you're already familiar with how to subscribe to podcasts via iTunes or RSS, simply click on the corresponding links above and you'll be set. If you're unsure how this free subscription process works, then read on.

How to Subscribe Via iTunes

How to Subscribe to a Podcast Feed Using iTunes

  • To subscribe to the Stella Culinary Super Feed using iTunes, simply click the iTunes link at the top of this post. A new window in your browser will open, revealing the feed in iTunes format.

  • Click the "View in iTunes" button found on the left hand side of the new browser window. A dialog box will pop up, asking if you want to launch iTunes (if it's not already open). Click "OK".

  • When iTunes launches, you will be taken directly to the Stella Culinary Super Feed Page.

  • Click on the "Subscribe Free" button found right underneath the Super Feed logo. When the dialog box pops up and asks if you're sure, click the "Subscribe" button.

  • You're all set. Now you can stream all of our videos and podcasts to your Apple TV or load them on your iPhone, iPad or iPod so you can study on the go.

  • Please take a second to leave Stella Culinary a review on the Super Feed iTunes Page.

Subscribing With Traditional RSS

RSS stands for "Really Simple Syndication" and is a convenient way to stay up to date on your favorite blogs and podcasts. Before RSS, you would have to go to each individual content producer and see if they had posted anything new. With RSS, you can "Subscribe" to your favorite content producers' digital feed using a "News Reader." This way, all you have to do it check your news reader to see if any new content has been published.

My personal favorite RSS Aggregator is Google Reader. It's easy to use, and since I already have a Google Account, it's extremely convenient.

How to Subscribe Using Traditional RSS

  • To subscribe to the Stella Culinary Super Feed through traditional RSS, click on the "RSS" icon located at the top of this page.

  • A new browser window will open and in the top right hand corner of the window, you'll have multiple options on what feed aggregator you want to use. Since I have a Google Account, I'll click on the "+ Google" button.

  • The next window will ask if you want to add this feed to your Google Home Page or your Google Reader. Since I use Google Reader to keep track of all my favorite websites, that's the option I'll choose.

  • If using a different RSS Reader that isn't listed, simply copy the RSS feed ( and paste it into the URL field under "Add New Feed."


The Changing of the Guard: Tradition - Evolution - Innovation

by Zalbar

Apprentice. Journeyman. Master. Not only are they a measure of a craftsman’s skill, they are also an institutionalized methods of learning.  The apprentice learns first through observation, then by mimicking and practice, and finally having mastered one thing, moves on to the next. This method of teaching our craft has existed for hundreds of years and continues to this day. Even the greats of my generation learnt how to cook this way. These traditions are a way of life. A means of passing on the accumulated knowledge of the ages to the next generation so that they can take up their banner and replace them. Much as a proud father and mother pass the torch to their sons and daughters. The problem with this type of learning is that due to the very rigid and structured nature, questioning and innovation are not encouraged. Why do we do something in a particular way? Because it has always been done this way, and always will be. Through repetition and rote. Do not question, do not deviate. One omelette, two omelettes, three hundred omelettes.

Traditionalists abound, and even the younger ones will defend the old guard to their dying breath. This is very european. Their veneration for tradition is ingrained into their very bones. It’s one of the things that I think is a marked difference between european and american cooks. American cooks are more willing to experiment, to try new things. They have not been indoctrinated into the same culinary traditions. When european cooks come across the pond to america, they form their own culinary and cultural enclaves. Their bastions of tradition standing against the tides of change. Many american chefs send their cooks off to europe. They are told, go travel, go eat, go cook. I have not once met a cook that has come back that has not been changed by their journey. They spend time over there, and their experiences transform their food. However their cooking is influenced and inspired by, instead of taken over.

I’m not going to claim that one way is better than the other, I don’t believe that. I’m not going to say we should stereotype american and european cooks either. El Bulli in spain was probably the pinnacle of culinary innovation and I suspect they will continue to be so once they reopen in 2014. Personally, I’m more of a traditionalist and don’t really enjoy a lot of the culinary experiments that are taking place, but I respect them. Everything has it’s place, and the next whacked out sous-vide-liquid nitrogen-xanthan gum-spherical-tomato water-ice cream-wafer sprinkle flake may become as common as chopped basil in the future. Who knows.

What brought this all up was when I observed some rather heated discussions going on about poaching steak  (for the hell of it apparently), using sous-vide, and new versus traditional methods. One chef even tossing out “So one steak is cooked three times and chilled twice in zip lock bags before you put it on my plate? What has happened to real cooking?”  It was quite the discussion. Both sides had their points, but some of the closed mindedness was unsettling in the least. Funnily enough it wasn’t the old guard that were being so closed minded, they just stated their opinion and left it at that. It was their younger proteges that seemed to be the most vehemently vocal, railing against the fuzzy wrong headedness of their colleagues deigning to experiment with callous aloofness to tradition. I’ve seen this same attitude with bakers and no-knead bread. It is not bread they claim. There is no depth of flavor. No kneading? No art. Ridiculous. Never. You. Are. Wrong.

Following this, I could not stop thinking about how we grow and learn in this craft, this passion of ours. How we pass on our knowledge. Which I believe is a responsability and a duty for anyone with an interest in cooking. How things change over time. How very wrong it is to dismiss anything as it is stifling progress. It is limiting innovation. If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. While some may decry the innovators of the time, eventually some of those practices become a part of our culinary heritage.


So I was shooting a video on how to make sourodugh waffles today and I think things may have gotten a little out of hand...


Sourdough Boule - Tease

Been shooting lots of video this past week for our Stella Bread Series that will supplement some of our upcoming audio lectures. This is a 70% hydration boule with about 10% whole wheat and leavened with a sourdough starter. The video turned out great, the bread was AWESOME, but first, we need to get through two more audio lectures to lay a nice foundation. Sorry to be such a tease!


Lost In Translation


by Zalbar


When I was asked to explain the whole saute pan versus frying pan issue it seemed at first to be a rather simple thing. However, the topic itself raised a whole other series of questions for me. Why are there so many french terms used in english speaking kitchens? Why do we even use them instead of our own unique words? What led to french labels and techniques dominating the globe and spreading as far and as wide as it does today? Subsequent Lost In Translation articles will explore the culinary history and evolution of french cooking as well as it’s impact on cuisines around the world. However, let’s first look at the subject that kicked off this series of articles. The saute, sauteuse and sautoir.


~ Saute, Sauteuse, Sautoir ~

The kitchen, both domestic and commercial, is littered with french terminology and for good reason. It is the french that set out in print the what, when, where and how of modern culinary practices and techniques in use today. It was the french chefs who were hired by other countries royalty and upper class houses to prepare lavish banquets and feasts. Their methods and terminology have stood the test of time and endured throughout the ages. History as well as several major societal and cultural upheavals are what has birthed one of the dominating and most influential cuisines to leave it’s imprint upon the globe.This is not to say that there are not also a goodly number of culinary texts and traditions from other countries that have endured as well, however, french cuisine stands apart as being recognized at either extreme of the dining experience. On the one hand it is almost art with it’s small complicated towering mounds of delicately sauced and perfectly cooked morsels of food. They flood the palate with undulating waves and layers of flavour and texture, each more exquisitely satisfying than the next. On the other hand it is also renowned for being a culinary pioneer of down to earth, rustic and heart warming comfort food using every scrap of an animal or vegetable. While most of us would snap our asparagus in half, blanch and eat the top part, the french would calmly retrieve the discarded stems, peel them, and show you the wonderfully tender shoots hidden beneath. To use a euphemism of my own making, the french dive deep in both ends of the culinary pool.

The english saute pan is derived from the french pan called a sautoir. A noun, a thing. The word saute can also be used as a verb, an action. Our problem is that we tend to borrow some terms and ignore others as well as the meaning behind the word and thus lose the comprehension of everything else similar that surrounds it.

In french, to saute something merely means to fry ingredients with a little fat over high heat. That is the complete definition right there, nothing more, nothing less. The word saute itself literally means jump. I’m sure this is not new to anyone, and everyone has read this explanation or heard it somewhere. What most of us fail to grasp is the actual meaning behind the word. The jumping is in reference to the action of ingredients in hot oil but can also refer to the sauteing technique of tossing food rapidly into the air. What type of pan you use determines the method of sauteing that is most applicable.

The sautoir is a wide shallow pan with straight sides, what is also termed a saute pan in english. Sauteing in this is what we would normally call pan frying. As water escapes the ingredients, due to heating, it jumps and bounces in the pan. It sautes. Think of how you cook a steak on the stove-top. High heat and a bit of oil in the pan and away we go. A few minutes on either side and then off to rest before plating and eating. There is no tossing of the food in the air. We are not swinging the pan around like we’re sifting for gold. Yes, this is still sauteing food to the french. Remember, high heat and a small amount of fat. That is the only qualification to be considered for sauteing an ingredient.

The sauteuse is a long handled bowl shaped pan. If you took a big cereal bowl and put a long handle on it you wouldn’t be all that far off. We would use small pieces of meat or vegetable, often times both at once, with the saute method of rapidly tossing the items in the air to achieve browning on all sides. This is what we are most familiar with when we use the term saute.

Another similarly misunderstood word is deglaze or deglacer. Glace. Demi-Glace. Glace de viande. These are all terms we have heard before. Most people know that glace is the french word for ice. If we deglaze the pan and make a pan sauce we call this in french, saute-deglace. But to understand it in culinary terms as the french use it we have to look at it’s meaning. For example glace de viande, which is really concentrated and reduced brown stock or sauce, would translate literally as meat ice. I know, it doesn’t sound very appetizing, but there it is. It also doesn’t really make much sense in english. Glace, where we get our word glaze from, doesn’t only mean ice, as in frozen water. It is referring to the whole process of cooling or heating something so that it thickens. If anyone has ever seen the rubber hockey pucks that are glace de viande, you are probably now getting an inkling of the true meaning of the word glace. Deglace where instead of glacing or glazing something till it thickens to the proper consistency such as in barbecue ribs, we are doing the reverse. The fond or solids, this glace, left in the pan becomes liquid. We deglace or deice them. Another way to say it it is that we un-ice it, we melt it.

All this rambling is to point out what I meant by understanding the cultural and contextual meaning behind a word or phrase. Especially a foreign phrase, and to not use it rote or off the cuff. Why the words mean what they do is very important. If you asked someone how their boyfriend or girlfriend was and got the response “They rock my world.” You would understand. Trying to explain that to someone in a literate sense that only speaks italian, for example, would be almost impossible. Literal translations simply do not work. You have to get at the significance of the phrase to truly relay it’s meaning. This is the most important lesson to take away from this whole article and not just the meaning behind the saute pan and the saute method.

The weird dichotomy of the whole saute, sauteuse, and sautoir thing though is that, if you step into any non-traditionally french kitchen and ask for a saute pan what you’ll most likely be handed is a sauteuse, and if you buy a saute pan what you’ll get is a sautoir. Most pans you see stacked up and used in kitchens and on the burners are simply frying pans or poeles which we define as a flat shallow curved sided pan. We most often use the saute method with them, but they are neither a sauteuse or a sautoir.  Ironically, one cannot saute food, in an english kitchen, in a saute pan.