Getting to Know John Kleifgen, Sous Chef at Sel de la Terre Long Wharf!

John Kleifgen takes some time outside of the kitchen to tell us about his life as a chef and to share how he got to where he is now!
Chef John Kleifgen relaxin at Sel de la Terre's Back Bay Bar

Chef John Kleifgen relaxin at Sel de la Terre Back Bay's Bar

1. What drove you to pursue your career as a chef?
My dad used to run a chili parlor in downtown Dallas.  He’s a legendarily terrible cook, but I grew up with great memories of the times we had there.  I always had a Dr. Pepper and donkey tails, and a farkleberry sundae for dessert.

2. Where did you study to become a chef?
I graduated from CIA in ’06, but really learned to cook at L’Espalier.

3. Is there a particular part of cooking that you most enjoy?
I love the process, whether that comes from the actual cooking or in training staff.  Even cleaning.

4. The menus change very often at the restaurants. Where do you find inspiration for new recipes?
The best advice I’ve gotten is to get the best products in that we can, then try not to screw them up.  “Inspiration” is an overused term for this.  Last week at Apple Street Farm I picked some beautiful delicata squash, summer squash, eggplants, peppers, and the few tomatoes Chef had left.  If anybody gets those ingredients together and doesn’t make ratatouille then they’re over-thinking their job.

5. What cuisines have inspired the food you create as a chef?
I think that most people really cling to the food they grew up with.  I’m lucky that my Mom was a pretty eclectic cook, so I got a good amount of exposure.  She was never afraid to try out new ingredients or techniques, but my favorites were always (and still are) the Tex-Mex and southern influences that I grew up around.

6. As a chef, what challenges do you most commonly face?
It definitely different for the sous chef than for the big boss.  The biggest challenge, and most rewarding experience, is working with the staff.  We are always pushing ourselves and each other to be constantly improving.

7. When you go out to eat, what do you enjoy ordering the most?
Whopper.  Fries.  Dr Pepper.  I’m trying to cut back.

8. Can you name a few favorite restaurants in Boston you visit on your nights off?
Sunset Grill in Allston is one, but I rarely eat there.  Hungry Mother and Franklin Café are a couple that I don’t visit nearly as much as I’d like to.  Lately my favorites have been the Allston Farmer’s Market and Apple Street Farm, especially when Chef provides the lunch.

9. Do you have any favorite TV chefs or food shows?
The only one I really watch is Good Eats with Alton Brown, but that’s pretty rare.

10. Are there any Chefs you look up too or that have challenged you?
This could be a long list.  The first chef that really inspired me to make a career in the kitchen was Stephanie Maldonado in Lubbock.  She made cooking fun, and not just a job.  Chef Eisenhauer at CIA had a big impact on how I think of what our job is.  But the biggest influences were easily Frank McClelland, James Hackney, and Alex Crabb.  Not only that they’re so fanatical about perfection, but that they are that way every day.  Just being around them – their attitude is infectious.

11. Is there a favorite cookbook in your collection that you refer to often?
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.

12. If you had one piece of advice to give to cooking novices, what would it be?
That this job isn’t for everyone.  The people who make it in the kitchen are the ones that really love it, but if you just want to make some money there are better options.  Go to school.  Get a real job and make some money.  If you’re still not happy with that, try crime.  If that doesn’t work out, you might have a place in the kitchen.

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Charcuterie Bar Tuesday and Wednesday Nights!

Overall Charcuterie Shot

The Charcuterie Bar at our downstairs bar!

One thing you might quickly notice at Sel de la Terre is how much we love charcuterie.  The chefs here go wild for pork, creating endless sausages, pates, and other tasty meats from their most beloved animal – the pig.

Expanding upon this enthusiasm in the kitchen, Sel de la Terre Back Bay now features a house-made Charcuterie Bar. We invite you, our fellow pork devotees, to take part in a weekly pork feast created by our chefs!

Beginning  September 15th, Every Tuesday and Wednesday night between the hours of 10pm to midnight, step inside our downstairs bar area and find yourself consumed by a vast assortment of fancy meats with traditional accompaniments – all for just $10 per person!

pig book

"The Whole Beast", a highly acclaimed foodie book

Sides

mustard, cornichons, olives, and diced red onions

Sides and book

"Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing" displayed on the Charcuterie Bar

Prudential Farmer’s Market Still Going Strong!

The Prudential Farmer’s Market is one of the many farmers’ markets in the city of Boston this summer! It has been a wonderful opportunity for the restaurant to showcase its specialties outside of the boulangerie or our three Sel de la Terre restaurants.  Chef Frank’s Apple Street Farm (www.applestreetfarm.com) has supplied us with a wide variety of produce, which Chef Louis utilizes in his homemade sandwiches and salads, all available for sale.

SDLT poster at FM market

Seasonal produce available this week:

  • Field greens
  • Garden herbs
  • Haricot verts
  • Heirloom squashes
  • Braising greens
  • Cucumbers

The farmer’s market specialty sandwiches:

  • Ham and Cheese: black forest ham, gruyère, mustard aioli and pickled red onion: sourdough bread
  • Za’atar Spiced Chicken Salad: grilled zucchini, sautéed shallots, field greens, goat cheese, cucumber and aioli; pita
  • Provencal Vegetable Wrap: Heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, olives, feta, mint and basil; Old Chatham Farms sheep’s milk yogurt
Herb Lyceum at Gilson's Farm
Herb Lyceum at Gilson’s Farm

Sel de la Terre stand at the farmer's market!

Sel de la Terre stand at the farmer's market!

After we’ve closed up shop, Chef Louis will prepare a weekly Farmer’s Dinner utilizing fresh ingredients from the day’s market. Savor a 3-course pre-fixe dinner for $35 per person every Thursday night beginning September 3 (courses can be ordered a la carte).

Sneak Preview: On September 3, the dessert course will feature pure New Hampshire maple sugar cotton candy, made from a huge cotton candy machine that will be spinning maple cotton candy at Sel de la Terre all evening!

maple-sugar-cotton-candy

The Prudential Farmer’s Market continues all the way through October.  Keep an eye out for pumpkins, winter squash, potatoes, and root vegetables in the months to come!

Restaurant Week Lasts All Month at SDLT!

Sel de la Terre continues to treat guests to their Restaurant Week menu throughout all of August.  The courses are prepared with the freshest seafood and local ingredients from New England! Below are pictures of our Restaurant courses. The first two pictures are 1st  course choices and the 3rd picture is one menu choice for the 2nd course! The meal is completed by your choice of dessert!

ham salad
House-smoked ham, stone fruits and fennel; local lemon verbena honey

The local stone fruits in the salad featuring apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, and pickled cherries were purchased today from the Copley Farmer’s Market.  The honey drizzled on the salad comes from Gilson’s Herb Lyceum, they also have a stand at the Prudential Farmer’s Market on Thursdays from 11am-6pm.

DSC00284
Vichyssoise with chives; truffle oil

The perfect summertime soup, cold potato leek soup garnished with white truffle oil and fresh cut chives.

Skillet roasted Chatham bluefish with tomato-saffron broth and mussels
Skillet roasted Chatham bluefish with tomato-saffron broth and mussels

The dish combines Chatham bluefish with ropecaught mussels from Maine.  Native corn succotash accompanies the seafood and everything is beautifully served in a tomato-saffron broth.  Chef Louis commented on how he chooses seafood for the dishes based on the freshest catches in August, “This is the perfect time of year to showcase bluefish, it is line caught locally from Cape Cod and delivered fresh daily.”

Come by any of our three restaurants and try dishes from our diverse Restaurant Month Menus!

Welcome Back Knack: Sel de la Terre Long Wharf has a NEW Chef de Cuisine!

with his adorable daughter

Chef Ben with his adorable daughter

It is our pleasure to welcome Ben Knack as he takes the helm as Chef de Cuisine at Sel de la Terre Long Wharf as of August 3rd.  Knack is familiar with the New France family from his stint working alongside Chef/Owner Frank McClelland in the L’Espalier kitchen earlier in his career.  He now returns to us with a variety of new experiences under his belt, including Executive Chef at Beacon Hill Bistro and his most recent position as manager and instructor at the esteemed New England Culinary Institute where he taught customer service and kitchen management skills.

“We place a strong commitment on training and promoting from within so we know Ben will hit the ground running and make immediate culinary and mentoring contributions,” said Sel de la Terre’s Executive Chef/Co-owner Geoff Gardner. “Ben returns to us in time for Restaurant Week, so he’ll have a busy start.”

Ben has been working in the restaurant industry since the young age of 15, and has had experience across several dimensions of the industry from savory to pastry throughout his thriving career.  Ben has held positions at many establishments beginning at Fusion Grille in Long Island, New York; followed by engagements at Christopher’s in Phoenix, Arizona; Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek, Colorado and the Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort and Spa, Hawaii.

We are excited to let Ben stretch his culinary legs in the kitchen of Sel de la Terre as he continues to develop his impeccable tastes and skills.  We can’t wait to see how he interprets our longstanding tradition of Provencal inspired cuisine and fresh New England ingredients.

Sel de la Terre Celebrates Restaurant Month!

The month of August in Boston is the perfect time to savor the excellent cuisines at different restaurants around the city. For Restaurant Week, restaurants have put together unique prix fixe menus at affordable prices that give eager foodies an extra incentive to dine out!

At Sel de la Terre, we decided that two weeks was not long enough and will offer our prix fixe offerings throughout the whole month of August!  From August 1-August 31 come dine at any Sel de la Terre location and enjoy a 3 course lunch for $20.09 or a 3 course dinner for $33.09!

Each location has a different menu, so try one or try them all!

 BACK BAY

Sel de la Terre Back Bay

 774 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02199
617-266-8800
http://www.seldelaterre.com

FIRST COURSE

Native corn soup with crispy pancetta and lavender
Or
Field greens with blueberries, raspberries and fennel; local honey
Or
Vichyssoise

MAIN COURSE

 Provencal braised beef with spring dug parsnip purée, local greens and radishes
or
Skillet roasted bluefish with tomato-saffron broth and mussels or Risotto of lemon, pine nuts, basil and pecorino

DESSERT

 Buttermilk panna cotta, strawberries and coconut tuille
Or
Chocolate decadence with toasted marshmallow and graham cracker ice cream

CHEESE COURSE (ADD $12)

 STATE ST

SEL DE LA TERRE LONG WHARF

255 State Street
Boston, MA 02109
617-720-1300
http://www.seldelaterre.com

FIRST COURSE

Country pork pâté with peach compote
or
Vichyssoise

MAIN COURSE

 Crisp confit duck leg with mushroom and tomato risotto
or
Grilled trout with sautéed potato and onion hash and charred lemon

DESSERT

Chocolate pot de crème with hazelnut biscotti
or
Stone fruit cobbler with vanilla ice cream

CHEESE COURSE (ADD $12)

 NATICK

Sel De la Terre Natick Collection

1245 Worcester Street (facing Speen Street, between Neiman Marcus & Nordstrom)
Natick, MA 01760
508-650-1800
http://www.seldelaterre.com

FIRST COURSE

Apple Street Farm mixed greens salad with fresh strawberries and toasted almonds; Champagne vanilla vinaigrette
 Or
Native corn soup with crispy pancetta and lavender
Or
Vichyssoise

MAIN COURSE

Provencal braised beef with spring dug parsnip purée, local greens and radishes
Or
Risotto of lemon, pine nuts, basil and pecorino

DESSERT

Warm chocolate fondant cake with orange marmalade and Kahlua ice cream
Or
Selection of sorbets with seasonal fruit

CHEESE COURSE (ADD $12)

*Menu is subject to change.
*Menu items are cooked to order or may contain undercooked meat or fish, which may increase your risk of food-borne illness.

Sous Chef Smackdown Cassie Piuma vs. John daSilva

Sel de la Terre on Boylston Street warmly welcomed two outside faces in the kitchen on Tuesday, July 28th for another exciting round of the Sous Chef Smackdown.  John daSilva of No. 9 Park and Cassie Piuma of Oleana went head to head in a four course battle judged by hungry foodies in the pleasantly crowded Sel de la Terre dining room.

After a brief introduction and welcome from Chef Louis, our guest chefs plated their dishes.  Each prepared two courses for the meal that were rated by the crowd based on creativity, presentation, and flavor, which were all totaled to determine each competitor’s final score and the winner of the smack down.  We were most excited to see the comradery of the two chefs and their assistants who, along with the Sel kitchen team, helped each other plate dishes flawlessly every round.

We have had some close competitions in past Sous Chef Smackdowns, but the parity in score this time around was shocking.  Both John and Cassie put out delicious and creative dishes, but Cassie pulled ahead with her corn and saffron chowder in the third round and won the battle by a mere 15 points!

We can’t wait to continue to invite chefs from the many esteemed restaurants in Boston into our kitchen to showcase their skills throughout the year as we continue this ongoing event.  Join us at one of our next Sous Chef Smackdowns, and stay tuned for upcoming dates and competitors!

View the Chefs Inside the Kitchen:

Cassie Piuma prepares her chorizo croquettes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEIh0SqfUhI
The chefs assemble the corn chowder: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P64QBZw4_yo

The Chefs

cassie pouring

A Massachusetts native, Cassie Piuma attended Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI graduating with honors and a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts. She finished her last semester abroad traveling thru Asia, ending at the Sun-rise culinary school in Singapore.
While attaining her Culinary degree, Cassie worked under George Germon and Johanne Killeen at the highly acclaimed Al Forno restaurant in Providence, RI for four years before moving back to Boston where she worked in several notable kitchens including Sel de la Terre, Gourmet Caterer’s and The Butcher Shop.
She most recently has spent the last six and a half years climbing the ranks to her current position as Chef de Cuisine and working with James Beard Award-winning chef Ana Sortun at Oleana in Cambridge.

John deSilva cooking

John Paul daSilva was born in Gloucester, MA on March 22 1984.  At the young age of thirteen, he began working alongside his mother and father at several different family style restaurants on Cape Ann.
John graduated from Gloucester High School in 2002 and went on to receive his Associates Degree in Culinary Arts from New England Culinary Institute in 2004. Soon after, he began working on Nantucket Island at the Boarding House where he was quickly promoted to sous chef.  John would spend the next four years at the Boarding House honing his culinary skills under the tutelage of Chef Erin Zircher.  He spent his winters working at local favorites, Rialto and the Butcher Shop, which eventually led him to No. 9 Park in January 2008. ChefJohn daSilva climbed the ranks from line cook to rounds cook, and eventually sous chef in the winter of 2008.

Sous Chef Smackdown Menu

First Course Cooked by Cassie Piuma of Oleana

Tuna tartare
Morrocan spiced tuna & tomato tartare, harissa creme fraiche,
 brik; ginger granite

Second Course Cooked by John daSilva of No. 9

DSC04087

Smoked Pekin duck breast, hazelnuts, pickled red onion, frisee

Third Course Cooked By Cassie Piuma

DSC04107

Corn and saffron chowder, Maine crab, chorizo croquettes, padron peppers

Fourth Course Cooked by John daSilva

4th course scallops
Seared Island Creek scallop, lobster mayonnaise, preserved lemon, summer
bean ragout