Executive Chef Chad Myers goes out of his way to prove that vegetarian items can be as exciting—and as stunning—as anything else on the menu.
In creating the menu for this upcoming season, I was looking to craft some vegetarian dishes that would give our members and guests a feeling of importance. I wanted these dishes to be so beautiful and so delicious that members would order them whether or not they were vegetarian. I did this because I don’t want a vegetarian to feel as though they’re being served something inferior, something thrown-together such as pasta primavera.
At C&RB’s 2017 Chef to Chef Conference in San Diego, Farmington Country Club’s Executive Chef, Michael Matarazzo, stressed the importance of giving the member what they ask for without judging them. So what if they don’t want a medium-rare steak? We cook for our members and guests, not for ourselves. I like to take it a step further and try to create a work of art on the plate for my members with special dietary needs or desires. I want them to not only enjoy their meal, but to also have a sense of pride that they chose that specific dish.
In recent years, I’ve noticed that more and more members are shying away from the large portions of meat, potato, and vegetable. They want lighter dishes, bigger flavors and smaller plates. When I started at Dubuque G&CC, I began to introduce purees and micro-greens and I immediately got pushback that “something was missing.” But as I kept rolling these types of modern techniques and applications onto our menus, more and more members were ordering them. And slowly things began to change.
I think a big part of that shift is that our dishes are both pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. They’re flavorful without being heavy. And in our club, as much as I want to baste everything in bacon fat, we do have a few members that don’t share my love of the pig. So, taking a few cues from Chef Matarazzo, I’ve begun incorporating upscale, high-quality vegetarian options as a standard I must meet on every menu.
When I got out of culinary school my bible for putting dishes together was Culinary Artistry, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. I give this book to cooks who show passion for the field. For 2 years, I used this book to learn more about flavor combinations and over the years some have stuck.
For this particular dish I wanted to create a flavorful, colorful plate. I wanted to incorporated some of my favorite combinations with some bold Mediterranean flavors that would keep my members’ taste buds dancing for hours.
The dish consists of butternut squash, carrots, celery root, and Cipollini onions that have been oven-roasted in Ras al Hanout, a Moroccan spice blend. I put them on a bed of cauliflower puree. Pickled fennel and green apple are draped on top to give some acidic crunch. I candied pistachios and crushed them on top. I topped the dish with a cinnamon and sage beurre blanc for a rich acidic blast, and I then garnish with radish and some beautiful Chef’s Garden micro-greens.
To some it may feel like there is a lot going on, but I feel like it’s a dish that takes you on an adventure of sweet, salty, acidic, crunchy, spicy, soft, bitter and savory. With every bite there is a balance of texture and taste, and when you pair that with an artistic presentation, it’s a win win for both sides of the equation.