Monday, March 20, 2006
With Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Frederic Castan, Executive Chef
Sofitel Chicago Dîner Printanier with Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Frederic Castan
In 1951 the French government founded an Association called the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, aimed to recognize the most important French chefs in the nation, elected by their contemporary peers. There are currently only 53 of these chefs in the United States and Vice-Conseiller Culinaire Frederic Castan, Sofitel Chicago Water Tower Executive Chef, is one of them. This illustrious organization demands that its members unfailingly raise professional technique to the level of art. This is what happened on 20th March, 2006. From the very first asparagus soup with white truffle foam hors d’oeuvre to the very last lacey chocolate tuile, each culinary item possessed technical exactitude and a delicacy of style. Style, you say. What is Chef Castan’s style that attracted the acclaim and respect of those who wanted him as a fellow Master Chef? There are good descriptive words such as neo-classic, contemporary rooted in classic French, fusion influenced, nuanced and so on. The brilliance of Chicago’s Vice-Conseiller Culinaire is that it is he that has morphed, adjusted and evolved according to the demands of the consumer and the competitive circles in which he moves, without becoming a slave to gimmick, fad, or ephemeral trends. His sense of security and solidity keeps him engrossed and focused upon perfection, when distractions from other sources spread and swirl in a city such as Chicago.
So what did we have that had the Paris Ballroom buzzing with conversation about every course, each with its remarkable pairing? We had a balanced series of dishes designed with verve, comprising freshest ingredients of the highest quality and prepared to perfection. We were welcomed as friends of the Chef, friends of Maître Hôtelier Patrick Filatre, General Manager of the property and his dedicated team of professionals. Tables were squares of eight in three regimented rows of three, a trellis of orchids and flickering candles suspended overhead evocative of a shady Sylvan glade and alfresco dining. We had unselfish wines that allowed the dishes to blossom on our palates; wines that showed personality permitting us to also evaluate their own properties and characteristics. A Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1985 provided history in a bottle – a time capsule that harked back 21 years. Food and wine commentaries were deftly prepared and shared, giving an insight into the history of the vineyards and the methods of food preparation that went into each crafted plate set before us.
A standing ovation welcomed a smiling Chef Castan - this heir to a great past who served the art of cooking well, ensuring its future and doing so with morality and honor. This night was truly the epitome of the term “Now, that was a Chaîne Dinner!”