Few people in the food world generate as much buzz and genuine excitement as Chef Thomas Keller. This past Tuesday, Nashville’s food industry and its fans were downright giddy as the superstar chef, joined by Bouchon Bakery pastry chef Sebastien Rouxel, made an appearance at the Hutton Hotel for a book signing of their new book (Bouchon Bakery) and a Q&A with The Tennessean food writer Jennifer Justus. A host of the city’s most talented up-and-coming chefs were on hand to cook for the event, including the Capitol Grille’s Tyler Brown, the Catbird Seat’s Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger, Chef Lisa Donovan of the Buttermilk Road Sunday Suppers (who recaps the excitement perfectly on her own blog), and Porter Road Butchers, Chris Carter and James Peisker.
There was an outstanding array of dishes, to start, including these preciously trimmed egg cups filled with a silky, complex maple and pine custard (Catbird Seat).
We got their early and ate our fill including three (yes, three) of the PRB’s “beeves in a blanket,” which were actually insanely good all-beef hot dogs made from 14-day, dry-aged beef short ribs wrapped in bone marrow biscuit dough. Later, we had a visit with the folks from the Nashville Food Project (the beneficiaries of the night) who told us all about their two urban farms and the meals they cook and deliver to low income residents—it’s a program I’m hoping to get to know better soon.
And then, came the meat of the meal: Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel took the stage for a casual conversation with Jennifer Justus. Keller came across as very funny, intelligent, and kind; clearly he and Rouxel have a deep admiration for one another’s work. Rouxel, one of the country’s most revered pastry chefs, was soft spoken and humble but managed one or two impeccably timed jokes. The gentlemen took their time with their answers in a way that felt both personal and genuine.
When the conversation ended almost an hour later, we applauded the guests and the crew of chefs who had cooked that evening, and sauntered back out to the dining room to find a sugar-trimmed feast of desserts prepared straight from the cookbook. The “better nutters,” prepared by Etch pastry chef Megan Williams went down especially well with a sidecar of Cruze Dairy Farm milk, served just like the book cover, with red-and-white striped straws.
If you missed Tuesday’s event, the book captures many of the stories and philosophies shared by the two chefs—and if you’re willing to share, might just make the perfect holiday gift.
—Erin Byers Murray, Managing Editor