Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chef Imbibes Regis Jesuit Values

If anyone has imbibed the Regis mission to serve others through “distinguished professional work,” it is Chef Joseph Wrede. Wrede graduated cum laude in Sociology from Regis College in 1990 and continued his studies at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School in Manhattan.
He is the culinary genius behind Joseph’s Table in Taos, the Old Blinking Light in Highlands Ranch and Taos, Lamberts of Taos, Brett House Catering in Taos, and the 2000 Food & Wine “Best New Chef.” Chef Wrede is now offering his services as a consultant to the Edelweiss Lodge at the Taos Ski Valley.  Specifically, he is helping The Blond Bear Tavern and Café Naranja to “find their identity and to function with good, healthy food” by using his skills to write menus, to hire capable, hard-working chefs, and to provide the owners information through his network of contacts. 
Besides consulting, Chef Wrede also enjoys mentoring. He is proud of his protégée at the Old Blinking Light in Highlands Ranch, Joey Meyers.  Chef Wrede recollects when “Joey’s mom dropped him at the door saying that he wanted to be a chef.”  He tutored the young man, whom he feared was too quiet to be a good chef, but who had a good palate and was a good technician, to succeed.  At first a dishwasher, Meyers is now executive chef.
Chef Wrede’s business acumen and world views stem from his liberal arts degree, which he says gave him the math and business skills necessary to run multiple restaurants and “an appreciation for things other than his own discipline, an understanding for other people’s art and lives, and the ability to see the beauty of the world.”  Chef Wrede comments:  “It is necessary to see the world as a bigger place.  That is what literature and religion do for students.” He also credits the Sociology Department for giving him a humanistic view of the world, and the English Department for teaching him not to be afraid of opposing views, which he believes we need. 
Chef Wrede admits he would have liked to write poetry, but while working his way through college, he found that cooking offered him the means to artistic expression with “no resistance.”  He loves the “multi-tasking of moving pans and sequencing” which give him a “creative rhythm.”
Ironically, Regis also influenced Chef Wrede’s decision to locate restaurants in Taos.  He remembers a class field trip to Taos with Dr. Victoria McCabe where the “mythology connected with the Santos planted a romantic seed” in him.  When he got the opportunity to open a restaurant in Taos, he did so because he “wanted the art, beauty, and simplicity of the Santos.”
On the back burner for Chef Wrede is a move to Santa Fe.   He would like to live in city with the beauty of Taos that also has a robust dining scene.  Wrede confesses he would also like the opportunity to “swing pans” with other talented chefs.
Chef Joseph Wrede’s Charred Kale, Shallots, and Leeks in Oven-Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

Serves two

Kale, Chard, Shallots, and Leeks
            1 tablespoon olive oil
            1/2 cup shallots, thinly sliced
            1/2 cup leeks, thinly sliced
            6 cups tightly packed kale and Swiss chard*
            2 tablespoons oven-roasted tomato vinaigrette (see recipe below)
            pinch of salt and black pepper
            extra virgin olive oil (optional)

1)      Warm a large sauté pan over high heat and allow the pan to heat to a translucent smoke. Put olive oil in hot pan, and add shallots and leeks, stirring until the leeks are golden and the shallots are almost translucent, then add the chard and kale.
2)      Fold the greens into the pan, bringing up the shallots and leeks from bottom. Continue folding in the greens until they begin to have a sheen on them.
3)      Add the oven-roasted tomato vinaigrette and cook for another minute before adding a small pinch of both salt and pepper.
4)      When serving the greens, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

*After thoroughly washing the kale and chard, remove the stem at the point where it meets the leaf.

oven-roasted tomato vinagairette
            2 cups oven-roasted tomatoes (see recipe)
            1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
            1 clove garlic thinly sliced
            2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
            1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
            1/2 cup olive oil
            1/2 teaspoon salt
            1/2 teaspoon pepper

To roast tomatoes: After using the oven for at least 1 hour to make another dish, raise the temperature to 500° for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off. Cut plum tomatoes in half and place skin-side down on a sheet tray. Lightly coat the tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the tomatoes in the oven overnight (8 to 10 hours). Remove from the oven and if you are not using the tomatoes right away, store in a jar, covered with olive oil, and refrigerate until ready to use. (NOTE: Oven roasting brings out the natural sugar and sweetness of tomatoes. It is also a good way to use less than fresh tomatoes.)

1)      Put tomatoes, shallot, garlic, and both vinegars in food processor and pulse.
2)      Add olive oil in steady slow stream the size of a number-two pencil as pureeing.
3)      Add salt and pepper, continue pureeing for 10 seconds.
4)      Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
5)      Puree the mixture for a couple of minutes until it is the consistency of a smooth paste.
6)      Store in a glass jar (will keep for up to five days). The vinegar will dull after 48 hours, but can be refreshed by stirring in a teaspoon of vinegar just before using.