Perfection Trifecta

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Sometimes the stars align and shine their radiant light down on the world for all to bask in their celestial light.
Friends, one of these glorious moments is in fact upon us. For one delightfully elegant evening we will have six of the most celebrated chefs in the Pacific Northwest under one tent. Culinary icons Tom Douglas, Holly Smith, Ethan Stowell, John Sundstrom, and Sabrina Tinsley join our very own circus chef, Erik Carlson to present a sumptuous fall menu. Each of these masterfully crafted courses are to be expertly paired with delicious wine selections.

And it doesn’t stop there!

Special performances are to be peppered throughout the evening from:
Ann Wilson
Ariana Lallone
Frank Ferrante
Les Petits Freres
Martha Davis
Norman Durkee
Rachel DeShon
and the Circus Stars of Tomorrow (now featured in our family production Tambourine Submarine)
All emceed by Kevin Joyce!

Get Your Tickets Now!

Circus Chef Mentors

Executive Chef Erik Carlson sat us down to answer a few questions about his new protege he has been mentoring:  Samantha Hoehne, Senior at Monroe High School and a culinary student at Sno-Isle Tech. Here’s the scoop (or spatula):

1) What do you enjoy most about being an executive chef?

I love the food service industry. I love the duality, that it can be a mainstream art form AND our jobs to feed others. I love the intimacy of feeding people (which is such a personal thing). That being said, my all-time favorite reason  for being a chef is creating new and exciting menu items with such great local resources. We (chefs) are the new rock stars!!

2) What are some key steps to make a menu?

The first step is to know your guests. Second, here at ZinZanni, I do a lot of research. I investigate the era or the main characteristics of the upcoming show and develop the menu to run parallel. Next I  brainstorm, writing what sounds great with no rules. Then I develop the recipes for my menu. This leads up to the big one: tastings and re-writes. Finally, complete the recipes, price them out, and train the staff.

3) What were the steps you had to take to become an executive chef?

In the beginning it was just lots of hard work. After that I chose to go to culinary school. Right out of school I found a chef I really wanted to apprentice with and bugged him until he took me. After five years of working under him and learning tons, I went out and started working with other chefs and developed my style through observation.

4) What do you feel is the most important part of your job?

Each job is so different for each chef. Here at ZinZanni I believe the most important role I play is to design and deliver a menu worthy of a world-class theatre/circus show. On a personal note, I aim to create a unique kitchen experience that is very positive and fosters a high level of creativity and energy for all my team members.

5) What kind of education did you go through?

A lot of my training was from my grandmother actually. She taught me what it meant to really love feeding people. After that I worked through all the positions I could then went to culinary school. Upon graduation I apprenticed under Chef Brian Poor for five years. However, I firmly believe that in our industry a chef’s real education comes from trial and error.

6) What is some advice you would give to younger people who want to become an executive chef?

Understand the service industry first. We work when others play. Being a chef requires a lot of sacrifice and a mountain of hard work. Don’t be afraid of hard work. Pay attention to everyone cooking around as almost every one of them will have some knowledge you do not. Embrace your failures and learn from them. Develop a ‘taste library’. This is the area in a chef’s brain where through time spent they can ‘taste’ a menu by just reading it

7) What do you feel are some of your greatest accomplishments in the culinary world?

Well, I am very proud of what we put out nightly. I think we truly have forged new ground in ‘dinner theatre’. I am extremely proud of my FareStart Dinner, it was a culinary dream of mine to do an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ dinner, and it was amazing! I have had several recipes published that I am proud of too.

8) How does Teatro ZinZanni differ from other restaurants you have worked in?

Well, it is actually closer to a banquet kitchen than a restaurant. Our shows and menus are themed  and have unique design challenges:  a 12-foot slide we send our desserts down or we have to make sure is or plates are ‘danceable’ (each course has a choreographed dance routine with full plates in the server’s hands). We have a 4-month menu rotation that requires a complete re-write with supportive recipe pieces each time.

9) What is the most difficult part of your job?

I am lucky in that I really love what I do. So, I guess the difficult parts are the same as always, lots of personal time sacrificed. I work some very long weeks when the shows ‘changeover’.

10) How do you feel becoming a mentor?

At first, I was very nervous, as this was my real teaching chance. I have always been nervous about being a mentor.  I’ve always felt like the guy who’s cooking. What do I have to impart on others? Upon reflection I realize the 25+ years of experiences have given me some insights, things that are second nature to me, things I thought everyone knew. After meeting Sam,  I felt more at ease. Her disposition seemed great for my first shot at mentoring and I get to help her design menu items, my real joy. Now, I can’t wait to get started because  this will be fun and beneficial to us both.

Attention All Mortals – the Nordic Gods are Upon Us!

Dinner at Wotan’s opens tonight!   We have been squee-ing all day  long in between feverish preparation for the grand opening.  This show is co-directed by our fearless founder Norm Langill and Swedish triplePhoto credit: Korum BischoffDinner at Wotan's threat  Tobias Larsson (actor, director, choreographer), who will also choreograph and star in this production. Get ready for an electric mix of fresh performances from the likes of Swedish superstar Anki Albertsson, sprinkled with impeccable returning acts such as  Vertical Tango (back by popular demand).

We’re also delighted to welcome back the incredible Los Excéntricos, a troupe who performed in our opening show waaaay back in 1998.  It has been far too long!

An ode to the Northwest’s Nordic community, Dinner At Wotan’s will musically rock the tent, presenting a hybrid of the classical sounds of Wagner’s The Ring and big, epic rock sounds, like Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.  “A lot of rock tunes live very close to classical pieces, so we’re trying to mix that classical world with the rock, and course, with our own Durkee-ZinZanni style,” co-director Tobias Larsson commented. The music from Dinner at Wotan’s will be composed by harmonious superman Norman Durkee with lyrics by Martha Davis, long-time front-woman for the new wave band The Motels, best known for such hits as “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer”.

And we are oh-so ecstatic to announce that Christopher Phi will be returning to the tent as one of Wotan’s progeny.  In fact the whole cast just gives us jitters!

Let’s list them out again:

Geoff Hoyle/Jarion Monroe (Wotan, Ruler of Asgard)
Anki Albertsson (Frigg, Madame of Valhalla, wife of Wotan)
Tobias Larsson (Thor, Son of Wotan and Frigg, Heir apparent to Asgard)
Terry Crane
(Loki, Son of Wotan & Frigg)
Sam Payne of Vertical Tango
(Balder, Son of Wotan & Frigg)
Sandra Feusiof Vertical Tango
(Helga, Valkyrie, Guardian of the Underworld)
Kristin Clayton
(Brunhilde, Warrior)
Ariana Lallone
(Freya, Valkyrie, Goddess of Love)
Marceline, Sylvestre and Zaza of Los Excéntricos
(Kimir, Hardon, and Snotra, The Troubadour Dwarves)
Christopher Phi (Jorgemon, Son of Wotan)

Chef Erik Carlson has pulled out all the stops.  But what will we dine upon?

Appetizer: Hard Cider Slow Braised Duroc Pork Belly (there’s a herbivore-friendly variation of this dish upon request)
Soup: Smoked Gouda and White Cheddar
Salad: Shaved Fennel, Watercress, Dried Cherries 
Your Choice of Entree:
Hales Red Menace Ale Braised Beef Short Rib
Crab-Stuffed Wild Salmon Roulade
Puff Pastry Cornucopia
Dessert: Golden Apple Tart

See the full menu here.

Get Your Tickets!

Cook Like A Chef: Root Vegetable Smash

Have you ever cooked a meal for 285 of your closest friends?  285 of your closest enemies (mmm spite)?  285 people, period?

This is a feat our Executive Chef, Erik Carlson, and his crew of crackerjack culinary wizards achieve every evening (and sometimes during the afternoon for matinees) we have a show in the spiegeltent.  He also hand-picks which tasty morsels star on each of our menus.  Chef Erik took some time out of his impossible schedule to make an at home version (meaning portioned for not 285 people) of the Root Vegetable Smash, a Return to Paradise guest favorite.

Enjoy!

Root Vegetable Smash

by Chef Eric Carlson
Yield approx. 3 lb

3 gallons water
2 lb Yukon Potatoes, washed and diced 1”x1”x1”
1/3 lb peeled and diced parsnip and diced ¼”x ¼ “ x ¼”
1/3 lb peeled and diced rutabaga and diced ¼”x ¼”x ¼”

4 oz butter, unsalted
1 ¼ cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
4 teas Garlic puree (roasted garlic cloves in oil, golden brown, then puree up just
the garlic, saving the oil for some other yummy usage)
2 teas sea salt or kosher salt

Directions:

Bring water to a boil and add in the potatoes, parsnips, and rutabaga. Boil until all
pieces are fully softened. Pour through a colander and strain thoroughly. Meanwhile,
in a small saucepan melt butter in the cream and whisk in the garlic puree. Once
the butter has melted and the cream mixture is hot (do not boil, it will scald your
milk) mash together with the root vegetables using a mixer or hand masher. Add in
salt and adjust to taste. Enjoy this on a cool fall night or surprise your guests with
something a bit more interesting than your usual mashed potatoes!

Eat Well.

And the Winner Is…

Do you know this man?

This dashing gent in a chef coat is Erik Carlson, the culinary wizard here at the tent. This is also his game face.  He has been masterfully crafting our menus, ensuring that our fantastic feasts are a feat of the imagination for over a year.

Last weekend at The Bite of Seattle, Chef Erik participated in a battle of whisks, a.k. the Bite Cook Off!   He went head-to-head (spatula-to-spatula?) against Stumbling Goat Bistro’s chef Joshua Theilen.

This was the first ever Bite Cook Off!, an event which tests a chef’s quick wit and culinary prowess.  This year also featured guest host Thierry Rautureau from Chef In The Hat (we are in love with him).  Contestants are competing for a $200 donation to the charity of their choice and the coveted title of “Bite Cooks Master!”.  During this challenge the chefs are given a box filled with three mystery ingredients to merge into a delicious dish.  Simple right?

Wrong.  Chefs have just 30 minutes to prepare this epic feast.  30 minutes!!!   From learning the ingredients to hands-up you’re finished meal just 30 minutes!  This is just like the series Chopped!  So stressful.

The competition was fierce, friendly, and a heapin’ helpin’ of fun.  The judges, selected from the audience, had a big decision on their plates.  After some intense deliberation, the judges crowned Chef Erik “Bite Cooks Master!” for his delectable dish.  Huzzah!

If you happen to visit Stumbling Goat Bistro (which is simply scrumptious with delightful cocktails to boot) or see Chef Erik under the big top (where the cuisine is always fabulous, thanks to Chef Erik and his stellar team), congratulate them both on a job well done!

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