Chef on the Run: Leonard Hollander, Stagiare

Oak Park Chef picks up new ideas and techniques in Ireland

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By David Hammond

In case you were wondering what Chef Leonard Hollander is doing touring Europe, he's participating in a series of "stages" (pronounced "stahzjes"), which are basically unpaid apprenticeships in kitchens. The idea is that a chef stages (the word is a noun and a verb) at various kitchens to learn the techniques – and absorb the hands-on wisdom – of other professional chefs.

Before there was a Cordon Bleu or a Kendall College, chefs learned their craft by watching others and, when they'd gained the basic skills, jumping in under a professional eye and taking guidance as they work their kitchen magic.

Hollander has had a varied career, and cooking was not actually his first profession (he used to be into computers and programming), so this European tour is an excellent opportunity to see how chefs in that part of the world work.  The idea, of course, is that Hollander will return to Marion Street Cheese Market Café with renewed understanding of his craft, some new menu ideas, and increased mastery of some kitchen techniques (every chef will tell you that their jobs involve lifelong learning and that no one can ever learn all there is to know about sourcing, preparing and serving food).

Of course, a big part of the stage experience is eating the food prepared by other chefs.  Hollander recounts several memorable dishes from his stage in Dublin, and I was intrigued by the pig's tail. I've had pig's tail at Chicago's Purple Pig (500 N. Michigan), and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. It's basically a bone surrounded by fatty meat, quite delicious.  It was served with citrus mustard and some greens, which sound like they'd play off well against the richness of tail meat.

Of most interest to me was that with turbot, Hollander was served "monk's beard." I checked this out and, damn, this is the agretti that I posted about last week! Like the Marche region where I first saw agretti, Ireland has a lot of boggy marshland where such grass can grow, and this is certainly the time of year to find it in Europe. Hollander detected "minerality" in his Monk's Beard, and although I didn't pick that up in the agretti I purchased in Florence, it's likely that because it grows in local water, the flavor of agretti varies from region to region.

If you'd like more detail, Hollander records his experiences in Dublin here.

Reader Comments

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Emily from River Forest  

Posted: April 24th, 2013 9:59 AM

You have to try the pig's tail at Yusho! It's amazing. I'm loving following Chef's experiences in Europe. Can't wait to try his new dishes on his return. Lunch?

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