Not even 25 years old, Carter Holton has been a pastry chef in Kansas City for nearly a decade. He's excited to continue learning, but he's also busy sharing what he has learned as a teacher for the Art Institutes International--Kansas City.
Yesterday, he talked about teaching and why he once had to make 24 quarts of creme brulee. Today, he praises Missouri persimmons; tomorrow, he's sharing his idea of the perfect dessert.
What are your culinary inspirations? It's funny. My perspective has
slightly changed since I started teaching. I really focus on an old-school technique or dessert. I look at a classic recipe and try to make it a little more modern. Everything has truly been done. You look at the aspects of peach melba. It's vanilla ice cream, poached peach, raspberry sauce, sometimes toasted almonds and whipped cream. It's almost like ice-cream soup. You take aspects of that and rework them into a new component. You have to keep some classic aspect like poached peaches; those have a great texture. The vanilla ice cream can be turned into a lemon-verbena ice cream. Add in almond shortbread for texture and raspberry pate de fruit. Then you use quenelled whipped cream instead of piped whipped cream. You change the presentation -- that's a lot of what food is. Everybody serves soft shell crab fried, but each restaurant plates it in a different way.
You just use fundamental techniques because those let you be versatile. Then you can work different flavors into your cakes and desserts. You have to understand the science behind baking and cooking so you can know what's going wrong and fix it.
What's your favorite ingredient? Hazelnuts. The versatility. I can use whole hazelnuts, hazelnut flour, praline paste -- sugar and toasted hazelnuts in paste form. They taste so delicious and go great with chocolate or fruit. They're really good with tropical flavors like mango. It also goes great with gin. There's a great hazelnut cocktail called Space. It's gin, Frangelico, and lemon juice. I like it in winter; it's a warmer.
What was your best recent food find? Valrhona chocolate. It's single origin, a really great cocoa flavor. It's great to eat on its own/ I just eat half a pestle. It makes delicious sorbet, too.
What's your favorite local ingredient? I love wild Missouri persimmons. They come in season in September. They're great fillings for macaroons. They are super-sweet, not like a normal persimmon. They can be used raw, like a date jam. I just press them through a sieve. They're spicy, just slightly spicy and warm. They have the perfect consistency, and it's just pure unadulterated product.
What's one food you hate? White truffle oil. Hate everything -- smell, tatse. I think it's disgusting, so far from what a white truffle
tastes like. Use way too much or any of it -- overused. People think that it's
fancy. Tastes like crap. Hate white truffle french fries. Black truffle salt on
fries. White truffle oil is so overpowering. Can't get the taste away.
What's one food you love? Greek food. I love lamb, gyro lamb in tzatziki sauce. I could eat it every day. It's one of those things that I've never had a really bad one. It's always good. It's just sitting there for hours on that spit thing, and it just keeps getting better. It's salty, slightly spicy and refreshing.
What's always in your kitchen? Booze. Seriously, our last count of bottles was, like, 340 or something. I have 80 bottles of champagne in my closet. I joke that I can make whatever cocktail I want. The only problem is that I usually don't have any mixers. I don't ever keep milk in the house, but I always have eggs and butter. I have tons of hot sauce and five quarts of duck fat in my fridge -- it just doesn't go bad. I have a loaf of foie gras in my freezer and a rabbit and foie gras rillette.
Where do you like to eat out? We go to Lulu's a lot. I'll get the drunken noodles, and it's right across the street. Princess Gardens is delicious. It's the best Chinese food, hands down. I get either the crispy beef or garlic chicken. So many times, you get Chinese food and you have to add soy sauce, but not there. I'm a salt-o-holic. I have four different boxes of salt at home.
If you could steal one recipe in town off any menu, which would you steal? The pie crust from Starker's. [Chef] John McClure's pecan pie crust. I know he got it from Brigtsen's in New Orleans. It is spot-on delicious. A crackery, crispy crust that is not too flaky and has a crispiness in common with phyllo dough. And then you have the soft texture of pecans. It's perfect.
Do you think television has changed the perception of pastry chefs? It's kind of like ice skating. People think it's easy. They see an ice skater going along the ice, and it's so graceful. Then they get in the kitchen. And it's hard, and it's actually work. Some of my culinary students think it's going to be easy. But it's like your first time on skates. You're going to have some fall-downs, and it takes practice.
I think television has also turned people who don't necessarily know a lot about food into "foodies." But it's a one-sided education. In general I think it's created more awareness that makes people more adventurous because they've been exposed to different ingredients they won't normally try. It's a double-edged sword. People can expect perfection and become overly critical. Or they can pull out a picture from a magazine or talk about something they saw on television and say, 'I want that.'
Would you be open to more television appearances? It was fun. I think you learn something every single time you go on. I like competition -- it pushes you as a pastry chef or cake designer. It would be fun. I would do it again.
What's one book that every chef should read? Le Repertoire de la Cuisine. It's basic recipes, the one I've used the most. You have to know something about cooking, but it has all the sauces and garnishes. It's not about technique; it's just a list of ingredients.
Who's got the best barbecue in town, and what are you
ordering? Oklahoma Joe's. I'm getting the Carolina with slaw on it, fries and baked beans. It's delicious. Although the best slaw in town is Jack Stack; that's the slaw I was raised on.
A chef is only as good as ... his technique.