Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2011 Celebrity Chef Challenger: Hail to the Chef, Chef Mark Liberman!!

The 9th Annual Celebrity Chef Challenge is coming soon!! Are you ready to find out "Who's Cuisine Reigns Supreme???"

The battle is on at the California Automobile Museum on April 29th, and I've got another Hail to the Chef interview for you... this time I'd like you to meat, um, I mean meet Chef Mark Liberman. ;)

Surely you've read about Chef Liberman in this month's issue of Sacramento Magazine. ;) Ok, well if not then I will fill you in a little before we dive into the Q and A...

Mark was raised in Sonoma County and began apprenticing in kitchens at a very young age. He launched his career once he arrived in Las Vegas, where he opened DB Brasserie at Wynn Resort with Daniel Boulud as Chef de Partie.

He then went on to open L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon at the MGM Grand as Sous Chef. Mark was also the Chef d’Cuisine of Piero Salvaggio’s Valentino at the Venetian before he left for San Francisco. While in San Francisco, Mark held the position of Chef d’Cuisine at the renowned four-star La Folie under Chef Roland Passot. Then he left to take the helm in the kitchen at Forté.

After that, he competed in the Bocuse d’Or last year and then relocated back to Northern California. Soon, Chef Liberman's highly anticipated Black Sheep Butchery will open here in Sacramento, specializing in whole animal butchery and offering dinner one night a week. 

So let's get to know Chef Mark a little better, shall we? Oh yes we shall... ;)
Cakegrrl: What made you want to become a chef?
Chef Liberman: My initial draw into the restaurant/hospitality industry began when I was relatively young; growing up with both of my parents cooking at home and watching lots of PBS cooking shows is what drew me in. But when I got my first job as an apprentice at 15, I was hooked even before I ever worked on a line. Everyday is something new, everyday you start from scratch. It is an incredibly tough, long hours and constant pressure but I never even fathomed doing something else.  There is something special about doing 250 covers on a busy night, it isn’t for everyone but if you are into it, it can be a beautiful thing.

CG: Where did you receive your training?
Chef Liberman: I received my training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, as well as performed stages/apprenticeships in Napa, New York City and Paris, France.
CG: What is a typical day like for you at the restaurant or your place of work?
Chef Liberman: My days are slightly different right now as I am operating a pop up restaurant meaning I will set up a temporary restaurant in various locations for limited time. Prior to the launch, I write the menu, rent any equipment or tableware I will need, hire staff and begin prepping as the date gets closer. They are generally long days, my last event was a collaboration dinner for Valentines with one of my friends, the day of the event I started at 8am and didn’t get home till 2:30am. (I will point out that we technically finished at 12:30am and went out for cocktails and food after, but still)

CG: What are/who are your primary cooking influences?
Chef Liberman: Seasonality is the primary influence in my cooking, but also looking outside of the box of what to do with them as well as other unsual seasonal ingredients, everyone is going to have english pea soup but I think to be a good chef is to not look at what others are doing. There are several chefs that have influenced my cooking styles, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Pierre Gagnaire, Roland Passot and Luciano Pellegrini.

CG: What are your favorite and least favorite foods to prepare?
Photo by Debbie Cunningham
 Obviously NOT chicken breast!! :)
Chef Liberman: Over the years, I have always worked on meat stations and this is probably why I really do love cooking and preparing meat and poultry. But anyone that has worked with me in the kitchen knows that come spring I truly love artichokes, methodically turning them and cooking them so many different ways, confit, braising, frying, raw, etc.

My least favorite food to prepare has to be hands down boneless chicken breast, while I admit to having some in my freezer out of pure convenience sake, I would never offer it to my guests at my restaurant.
CG: Please tell me about your most overwhelming moment in the kitchen.
Chef Liberman: My most overwhelming day up to this point has to be Valentines day 2004. I was the chef of a small team of really bad ass cooks and I was a bit cocky, decided to run full a la carte as well as several difficult specials. We were completely overbooked and the by 2nd seating, there were so many tickets coming out of the machine that they were draping on the floor. We couldn’t keep up or get out of the weeds, the borage of curse words that came out of my mouth to this day is still brought up by the cooks that were by my side that night. I have learned a lot since then, but I am still cocky.

Marbled Foie Gras! Read more about it here.

CG: What is your "can't live without" kitchen tool and why?
Chef Liberman: Sauce Spoons, because you can use it for everything and it’s essential for basting fish and meats as they cook as well as plating.  I have “collected” saucing spoons from almost every restaurant I have worked in; actually I guess I stole them.

Photo by Debbie Cunningham
CG: If you had a different career choice, what would it be?
Chef Liberman: I absolutely love film so I could see myself being involved in some facet in the movie industry, hopefully assisting in putting out better movies than most studios put out these days.
CG: Best meal ever?
Chef Liberman: Initially what stands out is my 1st meal I had at the French Laundry back in the day, but most recently was my meal I had with my brother at Alinea. My brother, who is a sommelier, brought  two amazing wines and in all honesty, we had a 5 ½-6 hour meal, 31 courses and it was f-ing brilliant. We were the last ones in the restaurant and we had a chance to talk with Grant and the sommeliers.

CG: Tell me why are you going to win the Celebrity Chef Event 2011?!?!? :)
Chef Liberman: I am going to win because I can cook anything that they put in front of me. My style of cooking is always walking on the edge and anyone that has cooked with me, knows that I love spontaneity. I am very fast with precise technique at the same time, not to mention I have an encyclopedia of flavors in my brain at all times. I am comfortable doing 300 covers a night of simple food or 70 covers of highly intricate dishes. But in all honesty, I am just really happy and honored to be a part of this event and I am looking forward to it.

OK, so I might be
rooting for team Liberman...
For more information on today's featured chef, click here.

The 9th Annual Celebrity Chef Challenge is at California Automobile Museum from 5:30-9:30pm. You can purchase tickets with your credit card by clicking here (FYI, there is a $2 convenience fee). To avoid that fee, you have plenty of time to pay by check by sending your money here: 

InAlliance, Attention: Celebrity Chef Challenge, 6950 21st Ave., Sacramento, CA 95820. For more information on tickets or ways to pay, click here.

The Celebrity Chef Challenge is the annual benefit for INALLIANCE, a nonprofit organization that provides support programs for people with developmental disabilities in the greater Sacramento area. 

All proceeds from the Celebrity Chef Challenge go towards enhancing the vital programs INALLIANCE provides the community. 

If you simply can't wait to see Chef Mark battle it out, you can watch him make Chestnut Tortellini Fontina Fondue right here:

No comments: