Dessert Tasting with Thomas Raquel

It’s no secret that we are big fans of Chicago-based pastry chef extraordinaire Thomas Raquel. Truth be told, calling ourselves “fans” feels like the understatement of the year – especially when reminiscing about our extravagant, multi-course dessert experience with Thomas at Acadia last fall. Some would call it a tasting – which was the term used on the menu – but, again, “tasting” is beyond an understatement. This was an evening of pure pampering through pastry.


Inspired by fall, Thomas’ menu showcased the warm, bright colors and flavors of the season.  The progression of each dessert presentation referenced the evolution of fall leaves – from vibrant red to earthy yellow to rich brown.  The menu touted three fantastic courses, each more impressive than the last.  Thomas even snuck in a few surprises (like the stunning Tête de Moine presentation pictured below).


We left Thomas’ table in awe – and feeling spoiled! We don’t want to brag (well, maybe a little…), but we captured a few photos of the fantastic desserts. Here’s a little taste of the experience.

IMG_0544Course 1: “Fragrant pear” Compressed pear; muscat ribbons; distilled spiced pear jus; Earl Grey ice cream; autumn olive ice; honey croquant; Earl Grey infused oil; borage flowers; bronze fennel

IMG_0560Course 2: “French Apple” Calvados roasted apple; caramelized arlette – spiced puff pastry; caramelized maple ceylon cinnamon custard; pecan powder

IMG_0562Course 3: “Fall Chocolate” Squash cremuex – roasted kuri squash with caramelized white chocolate; chocolate sorbet; flourless chocolate cake; cashew croquant; figs roasted with burnt honey, sherry and black pepper; huckleberry confit; Cocoa nib powder

Thank you for taking such great care of us, Thomas! It was truly unforgettable.

Koto: Collaborating with Master Chef David Kinch









Ancient Inspirations: Exploring Japanese Expressions
with a Plating Artist

Take one look at the eclectic décor of famed Bay Area restaurant, Manresa, and it’s easy to see that Chef David Kinch has an eye for design. A long-time friendship with Steelite International America President John Miles has helped broaden his horizons when it comes to serviceware (a drool-worthy international travel schedule also provides a wealth of inspiration), so a recent collaboration on the new Koto line between the chef and manufacturer was a natural fit.

Asian Inspired, Kinch Created

Kinch started the creative process for his the collection by scouring artisanal catalogues and studying design elements he had seen on frequent travel in Japan. But he didn’t want to create a wholly Asian plateware line: “It was important that it wasn’t overtly Japanese or Asian but that it kind of played homage or hinted at a Japanese context,” says Kinch. Instead, he explored the Japanese concept of matching specific vessels to specific dishes.

“I tried to do a versatile collection. We wanted a soup bowl, flat bowl, and also a rice bowl, which you don’t always see in Western cuisine, but is easily utilized in Western cuisine,” he says.

Achieving a Natural Look

Kinch was also excited by the possibility of importing the European sensibility of off-white, organic shapes, and a potter’s feel. “I’ve always liked the hand-crafted experience—the imperfections, the beautiful imperfections, of each plate being slightly different,” he says. Working with Steelite’s Head of Design Andrew Kilmecki, Kinch created a manufactured line that included variations in each piece. “If you look at the texture, the pattern, you will see indentations, as if each one is hand-made, even though they are made in a factory,” he explains.

Breaking Color Boundaries

A versatile, organic collection was important, but Kinch also wanted to focus on the interaction between color and presentation. “I also wanted to try and work to take presentation to another level, as opposed to plain white plates,” he says. For Koto, he chose a palate of chocolate brown, cream, and copper, alternating the colors between the inner and outer panels of the plates to create a complementary and versatile set.

“There is an incredible warmth to the glaze. You could mistake it for ceramic with the different textures and the iron ore accent rim,” he says. “People are starting to realize it’s not only the food or the service, but also the plateware the food is served on that is important.”

2012 International & National Pinchos y Tapas Competition

Every autumn, the city of Valladolid in Castile and León becomes the world capital of tapas. During the 7th, 8th and 9th of November, over 60 chefs competed for the coveted award at the fourth international and eighth national event of this famous competition.

Steelite sponsors the International Competition, which is open to culinary students from around the world. Judging for the International Competition takes place first day. Day two and three focus on the National Competition, which features professional chefs representing almost every region in Spain.

Guest judges for the International Competition were John Miles, president of Steelite; Fernando Salazar, Advisory Board for EIC and VP of Wyndham Hotels; Farmer Lee Jones of Chefs Garden; Patrick Fahy, Executive Pastry Chef of Trump International in Chicago; and Jody Eddy, food writer and blogger.

The competition has several goals for the students – promote the knowledge of food and wine heritage and the culture of Valladolid, give participating students an international platform to show their creativity and discover the next superstar chef of the world.

Oliver Infante Lara from Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico won the International Tapas Competition with his Suspiro Atrapado tapa. Congratulations, Oliver!

Visit our Flickr for more photos of the International & National Pinchos y Tapas Competition!