Tim Ferriss Recipe Contest: We Have a Winner!

Abishai Powers makes slider buns for baby meatloaf burgers.

Abishai Powers makes slider buns for his baby meatloaf burgers.

Greetings, ChefSteppers. In May, we invited cooks to participate in a recipe contest, a partnership with The 4-Hour Workweek author Tim Ferriss in support of his TV show launching on iTunes. And we got some seriously impressive entries.

About the contest

We asked home cooks to create a dish based on a concept, technique, or recipe they learned from a ChefSteps class or video—free or paid—and then post the results on the forum. Next, our in-house contest committee (with Tim Ferriss also weighing in, of course!) reviewed the awesome entries, selecting a winner based on the creativity of the dish, the description of said dish, and the social media strategy used to promote it.

The prize: The winner will attend a special dinner cooked by our chefs in the ChefSteps kitchen. Joining this ambitious someone: Ferriss himself, plus CS founders Chris Young and Grant Crilly!

Meet the winners

The Powers family made the ChefSteps Slider Buns, adding taco seasoning for "pizazz."

The Powers made the ChefSteps Slider Buns, adding taco seasoning for “pizazz.”

Welp, we have a winner. Actually, we have more than one! First, there’s Dr. David Powers (who representes his 10-year-old son Abishai Powers), and some mouthwatering Mexican Meatloaf Sliders. At the tender age of 10, David’s son is already a budding chef and MasterChef Junior devotee. And David, as it turns out, is a hardcore Tim Ferriss fan. Abishai said he’d love to travel with his dad to the dinner if he won, despite the fact that “he’ll act like a little fangirl when he meets Tim.”

The Powers explained that ChefSteps inspired them to start measuring ingredients by weight instead of volume for better accuracy as well as less mess. And the family used our Slider Buns recipe, adding a Southwestern twist by sprinkling some taco seasoning into the mix. The delicious-looking recipe is on the forum and on Abishai’s blog. In addition to promoting the creation there, the family posted a video on YouTube along with a bunch of other social channels. All in all, pretty great.

And there’s another winner, too!

Sebastian's gorgeous dish, featuring beef chuck transformed via sous vide cooking.

Sebastian’s gorgeous dish, featuring beef chuck transformed via sous vide cooking.

We were also super-taken with the entry submitted by Sebastian Nava. “I was captivated by the idea of transforming a tough cut into a tender steak through cooking sous vide,” wrote Sebastian in his entry. (To learn all about that—and get a bunch of great meaty recipes—sign up for our Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics class.) He settled on beef chuck, cooking it at 136 degrees farenheit for 24 hours to yield a texture that rivaled premium steaks at a fancy chophouse. He served this meat with fresh chimichurri plus roasted red bell pepper spheres, buttermilk mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, and crispy garlic chips. Dang, right? Sounds (and looks) delicious. He promoted this masterpiece on a bunch of social media channels, making use of new tool Periscope, and doing lots of smart tagging and hashtagging. All in all a very impressive show from Sebastian. So impressive, we named him a co-winner and invited him to attend dinner with Tim and the Powers men, too. We can’t wait to meet the whole crew.

Stay tuned!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest—it was so fun checking out what you made—and stay tuned for the next ChefSteps competition. Meanwhile, we’ll update here with pictures and details of the yet-to-be-scheduled dinner once it happens. Keep cooking, and keep sharing your pics with us on the forum, Facebook, instagram, and Twitter. We can’t wait to see what you come up with next.

Make a Three-, Five-, or Seven-Course Version of our Tasting Menu!

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Want to cook a tasting dinner, but not so much into menu-planning? Want to impress your friends with some ambitious, chef-level dishes from our Tasting Menu: Spring feature, but aren’t ready to commit to the full 14-course odyssey? Maybe you just want to host a warm-weather wine pairing party, and need some suggestions for what to serve.

In any case, we totally get it—and we’ve got you covered. Here are three shorter versions of our spring tasting dinner that are big on flavor and fanciness, but way easier to pull off than the whole shebang. Click on the recipes for wine pairings and suggestions on serving dishes, along with notes and everything else you need to try something new and novel.

Once you’ve selected a menu and served it, please share some photos on the ChefSteps forum. As always, we can’t wait to see what you make.

Three-Course Menu

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1. Water and Oil (Nick’s Nasti Salad Soup)
2. Boeuf Bourguignon
3. Henna Egg

Chef’s notes: Jump-start your guests’ palates with the intense Water and Oil—right out of the gate they’ll get a dish that’s acidic, earthy, and packed with distinct textures. You can follow that labor of love with a dressed-up version of Boeuf Bourguignon—a meaty main course with an umami-packed demi-glace. The silky, sous vide–cooked beef offers a texture you won’t find in the previous dish, giving guests something new to chew on. End with the dramatic henna egg, a light-and-lovely conclusion to a short meal with Indian-inflected spices and rich, tongue-coating textures.

Five-Course Menu

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1. The Field
2. Farm and Garden (Savory Ice Cream Salad)
3. Chicken and Dumplings
4. Boeuf Bourguignon
5. Matcha Rice Pudding

Chef’s notes: This menu starts out with the Field—a homemade oat cracker that offers guests a fun, crunchy bite. From there we transition into a creamy, lightly sweet ice cream that melts away in your mouth and is accompanied by tender fresh herbs—the perfect thing after the briney, nutty cracker. From there, we go straight to the savory safari that is this globe-trotting Chicken and Dumplings riff, featuring fun textures and a broth with enough kick to jump-start guests’ palates. Ah and there she is, that Bouef Bourguignon—sexy and substantial with the hearty savory notes we’ve been building up to. To end the festival of flavors: Matcha Rice Pudding, which is complex in flavor and showcases some fun new techniques you’ll learn while making it.

Seven-Course Menu

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1. The Bay
2. Water and Oil (Nick’s Nasti Salad Soup)
3. Northwest Pozole
4. Boeuf Bourguignon
6. Black Forest Glen
7. Garden Tea

Chef’s notes: Set the tone for a fun evening with The Bay, a faux-risotto featuring cucumber and caviar that just pops and melts in your mouth. Next up, the Water and Oil salad-soup offers a hit of acid along with a playground of textures. Then comes our take on pozole, transitioning your palate into more savory flavors with chewy geoduck hidden below a bed of fried tortillas. Your guests will need a little refreshment after all that, so here comes The Park, an aerated sorbet. Ratchet up the intensity once more with Black Forest Glen, a party of chocolate and cherry, followed by refreshing Garden Tea—fresh greens steeped in honeyed water.

Head to ChefSteps for hundreds of recipes, techniques, and tips designed to get you cooking.

Transformation Contest: We Have a Winner!

Tough choices! The team was totally charmed by all the Transformation contest entries.

Tough choices! The team was totally charmed by all the Transformation contest entries.

Last month we launched a contest all about transformation: taking cheap, overripe, or leftover ingredients and turning them into something delicious. We asked you to send us pictures or videos that demonstrated your favorite transformative techniques—those game-changing ideas that take something sleazy and turn it into something sexy. And oh boy, did you show up. We got over a hundred submissions, each completely unique, covering topics from butchery to baking, sous vide to food sculpture. You showed us how leftover carrot tops could become bright, beautiful pesto; how a freshly-hunted wild boar could become honey-baked ham; how some foraged clams could transform into a fragrant chowder. And that’s just the beginning. We spent days reviewing gorgeous modern plates, mouth-watering braises, and homemade charcuterie. Needless to say, we were amazed by the creativity, skill, and enthusiasm with which you attacked this project.

After much deliberation, we came up with a list of five runners-up and one winner. Given all the amazing entries, it was truly difficult to narrow it down. To thank you all for your amazing efforts, we’re offering each participant a free ChefSteps class. (We’ll be in touch about that soon.) Already purchased them all? Have we mentioned we love you? You can give the free class away as a gift.

Without further ado, let’s get to the results.

The Runners-Up

These five entries were all in the running for the big win.

Bjorn Storm, San Diego, CA
Transforming a storebought rotisserie chicken

 

Dayna Palmer, Hyde, MD
Gold chocolate bars

“I tempered dark chocolate via the seeding method,” writes cocoa whisperer Dayna Palmer, “melting the bloomed chocolate to approximately 38 degrees C, then adding tempered chocolate ‘seeds’—for nucleation sites—and stirring until the chocolate reached about 30 to 32 C. Once it reached this temperature, I cast a shell of this dark chocolate using a polycarbonate mold that I had painted with gold cocoa butter! I deposited the tempered dark chocolate into the mold, tapped out air bubbles, then emptied the excess chocolate so that just a shell was left to be filled.”

The results speak for themselves. You can see more of Dayna’s work at her Etsy shop, called Chocolate Theory.

Writes Palmer: "The before photo is untempered dark chocolate that has set with noticeable fat bloom!" The after images shows the spectacular gold candy bars she made from it. Photo courtesy of Dayna Palmer

Writes Palmer: “The before photo is untempered dark chocolate that has set with noticeable fat bloom!” The after images shows the spectacular gold candy bars she made from it. Photo courtesy of Dayna Palmer.

 

David Statman, Elmont, NY
Transforming mandarin and tangerine soy dipping sauce into soy candy

“What to do with leftover mandarin and tangerine soy dipping sauce?” asks transformer David Statman. “I first thought I would use it as a marinade to grill vegetables, but then inspiration struck and I knew what to do: Turn it into candy! I reduced the sauce on the stovetop and poured it onto a wannabe Silpat to cool and harden. These sweet and savory shards are quite potent, especially as the soy and ginger get more concentrated.”

So crafty! If we could reach into that picture and grab one of those treats, we’d be a happy crew.

Statman started with leftover mandarin-and-tangerine-soy dipping sauce. He transformed that sauce into shiny candies! Photo courtesy of David Statman.

Statman started with leftover mandarin-and-tangerine-soy dipping sauce. He transformed that sauce into shiny candies! Photo courtesy of David Statman.

 

Linas Zymantas, Chicago, IL
From oxtail to pho

Writes Zymantas: “I seared the oxtails and then added them to a stock pot with onion, carrot, daikon, ginger, and spices. I simmered the broth for about 12 hours until the oxtails were falling apart tender. The broth was seasoned appropriately, and the shredded oxtails went back into the super silky broth to make a delicious pho!”

Okay we’ll just admit it. The way to our hearts is oxtail pho. Forever. Every time.

Zymantas started with oxtail, an inexpensive tough cut, and transformed into gorgeous pho. Photo courtesy of Linas Zymantas.

Zymantas started with oxtail, an inexpensive tough cut, and transformed into gorgeous pho. Photo courtesy of Linas Zymantas.

 

Ryne Orechia, Kirkland, WA
Lamb shoulder dish

This Rainier Club cook gave his boss a shoutout, letting us know the chef there encourages creativity in the kitchen. And Orechia clearly takes advantage of the opportunity: he transformed tough lamb shoulder into a remarkable dish via the magic of sous vide. Watch him tell you how he did it in the video below, then check out his remarkable before and after.

Awesome, right? Now check out the pics.

Orechia took on one of our favorite tough cuts: flavor-packed lamb shoulder. He gently cooked the shoulder sous vide to create this lovely dish. Photo courtesy of Ryne Orechia.

Orechia took on one of our favorite tough cuts: flavor-packed lamb shoulder. He gently cooked the shoulder sous vide to create this lovely dish. Photo courtesy of Ryne Orechia.

And the winner is…

Teodosiy Teodosiev, Walnut Creek, CA
Amazing escargots

ChefSteps user Teodosiy Teodosiev stole the show with this incredible transformation featuring the slimy little fellas that populate gardens and sea rocks all over the world. Check out his stop motion video for the full contest-winning story.

Congratulations, Teo! We hope you enjoy that $500 worth of goodies that Grant plucked from the DeLaurenti shelves.

Ready to create your own amazing transformations? Sign up for Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics and discover incredible, easy techniques for making custards, carnitas for a crowd, Kung Pao ribs, and so much more.

ChefSteps Invades NYC

Picture or it didn’t happen, right? The ChefSteps team snapped plenty of images during our invasion of New York City for the James Beard Awards last week. Were we nervous about the awards ceremony? Hell yeah we were. Still, what were we going to do, let a few butterflies prevent us from making the most of one of the world’s greatest food-and-drink cities? Not this crew.

So, from an epic dinner at Wylie Dufresne’s Alder to a morning-after-the-awards recovery session at the amazing Joe Pro Shop in Chelsea—and taking down no small quantity of cocktails in between—we made the most of our few days in the incredible city. And amazingly, we ended up winning in both award categories in which we were nominated, a major honor and an achievement that would have been impossible without you, our fantastic community.

Anyway, here are some of our favorite photos of the trip, along with commentary by the team members who represented us at the awards: Grant Crilly (co-founder), Chris Young (co-founder), Reva Keller (photographer/videographer), Hans Twite (audio engineer), and Rick Wallace (art director).

Drinks at Balthazar

Grant: Balthazar was one of the team’s pregame stops before the happy hour we hosted. I love this place. I stop here every time I am in New York for at least one glass of wine. This time we had a Picpoul from their cellar that was just insane.

Reva: I ate a salad here. It was the first of many beet-based food and drinks of the weekend—guess beets are trending in New York right now.

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Pregame Picpoul at Balthazar Left to right: Reva Keller, Rick Wallace, honorary Chefstepper Jen Utley, and Grant Crilly.

Feeding another obsession

Hans: Whenever I go to New York, I make it my mission to see as many musical instrument shops and historic musical spots around the city as I can. My “touristy” activities include walking to Greenwich village to go by Cafe Wha?, and staring longingly at the front of the minimally ornamented Electric Lady Studios. By far my favorite places in the city to see instruments of unique and historic quality are Rudy’s Music SOHO and 30th Street Guitars.

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The incredible lineup at Rudy’s Music

ChefSteps community happy hour at Booker and Dax

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Community member Odette Plavinskas bonds with Rick and his iPhone.

Chris: I’ve been friends with [Booker and Dax owner] Dave Arnold ever since he and I were the warm-up act for various Food Network stars at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival many years ago. Dave’s a genius—his incredible book, Liquid Intelligence, garnered a Beard this year—and Booker and Dax was really the perfect place to invite our community, since there’s a lot of overlap between its fans and ours. Above all, what made this great was how excited our community members are about what we’re doing at ChefSteps and it gave us an opportunity to talk with them in person. At the end of the day, even as a digital content and technology company, we’re still in the hospitality business. It’s great to hear we’re making people happy.

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Booker and Dax owner Dave Arnold plus Chris and Rick.

Grant: The Eater editors were great; it was so nice to meet some of our media partners in person. Many relationships that we have at ChefSteps are digital, so I just love actually talking with people face to face. It was also amazing to watch the Eater team take home three(!) Beard awards this year. What an accomplishment. We are huge fans!

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Eater editors Sonia Chopra and Amanda Kludt check out the cocktail menu. Their team took home an amazing three James Beard awards this year.

 

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One of the incredible cocktails at Booker and Dax.

Reva: I was super-impressed to hear about the recipes from the site that our community members had made—ambitious things like Kouign-Amann and Wine Gums. Quite a few people mentioned liking the One Reuben to Rule Them All video, and wanted to know more about Camp. Mostly I took pictures.

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Cheers, Grant.

Dinner at Alder

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Reva and her camera go behind the scenes at Alder.

Reva: Halfway through dinner, Grant did a very Grant thing and asked Wylie if I could go to into the back and take photos in the kitchen. Unexpected, but super fun! Wylie was very nice and let me hang around while they plated a couple of things. He insisted that I take a picture of their dishwasher and said he was the only one doing any real work. Later: pickled beets and a beet cocktail. (See what I mean about the beets?) Oh, and then there was “leech guy” Mark Siddall—a curator at the American Museum of Natural History—telling Rick and me about something called pu-erh tea that we should try.

Grant: The food was as interesting as Wylie’s food always is, but even more delicious than usual. I kept drinking these amazing dirty martinis that tasted like there was coconut water in them—the bartender thought I was crazy! I had Wylie try, and he said: “Oh yeah, we don’t wash the bar glasses” in the flatest Wylie tone.

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There is no coconut water in this drink, Grant.

Rick: Course after course of tiny, amazing bites of food—I remember lots of beet flavor. We talked about a variety of things here, but what sticks in my mind is the series of stories about people driving into swarms of gigantic insects. But that’s what happens when you eat dinner with interesting weirdos.

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A standout among an amazing set of dishes at Alder: Chicken Liver Mousse, Almond, Verjus, and Asian Pear.

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Seriously, Grant. No coconut water.

Dry-ice ice-cream demo at Saveur

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Dry–ice ice cream: breakfast of champions

Chris: I’m a huge fan of Saveur magazine, and although 7 AM came pretty early the day after the happy hour at Booker and Dax and then Alder, I managed to pull myself together and then make a big mess with the dry ice–churned ice cream. Pretty much guaranteed to happen when you get impatient and want your soft-serve ice cream immediately! Think of what happens when you stick a straw into milk and blow bubbles—yeah, that. Except the soft serve–mix is thicker, and sticky. Of course the Saveur folks asked about the safety of dry ice, and I explained it’s really safe as long as you don’t end up trapped in a closed environment with it—since we can’t breath CO2—and as long as there is a way for the gas to escape. What happens if it can’t escape? Let me demonstrate….

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That time Chris terrified the entire staff of Saveur.

Grant: I was super-hungover, but still beat Chris to the Saveur offices that morning. It was totally empty when I arrived; folks only started showing up once Chris was done with his ice cream demo—around 10 AM. So then of course he had to make a dry ice bomb. (The last time we did this, mind you, our office went dark from all the dust falling from our 100-year-old ceilings.) He tried three times! The first time he was too conservative with the amount of dry ice, so everyone waited for 15 minutes while nothing happened. Then we tried again and the same thing happened…but this time it was a shorter wait because Chris was now so impatient he approached the growing bomb and opened it slowly with towels. He loaded it with ice and water. A couple minutes later: MASSIVE EXPLOSION. Very, very loud. People in the office were so freaked out. The staff was hiding behind a wall, full of dread.

Dinner at Buvette

Rick: The food was great, but the decor was amazing. I asked Grant if he’d brought this place back from France, (he lived in Paris for a while), but he didn’t seem to think that was as hilarious as I did.

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The beautiful food at majorly French-ified Buvette

Two wins!

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Pre-ceremony jitters. Everyone has their own way of coping.

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Winning for our documentary and labor of love “Wall of Fire” was an unbelievable thrill.

Chris: These were the third and forth Beard awards for a project I’ve played a role in making happen, and I still felt totally elated when we won. When I started cooking over a decade ago, I don’t think I would ever have imagined winning a Beard award. To get two for ChefSteps this year, I feel deeply gratified and thrilled for our team and so appreciative of our community.

Grant: I cried when we won.

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Wait, where did that third one come from?

Hans: Shock and disbelief was the general tone of the night following the announcement of the second Beard award. The award photographer was visibly confused as we waltzed out a second time during the ceremony. We cushioned our transition from disbelief into the realization that we won with a steady stream of complimentary champagne.

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All smiles in the official James Beard Foundation shot

The morning after

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Man at his best?: Hans, Rick, and Chris in recovery mode at Joe Coffee

Hans: I look more horrible then I felt. Sleep deprivation + añejo tequila = saggy old man face.

Chris: That’s Hans realizing that ordering coffee in a paper cup is a faux pas.

What are your favorite places to eat and drink in New York? Tell us in the comments below!

Midnight Snack Video: New Chefs Rising – Jake Eberle of Le Fond


From Food Republic: In this episode of New Chefs Rising, chef and co-owner Jake Eberle of Le Fond in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, prepares a classic but hard-to-make dish, poule au pot, and talks about his goal of turning out rustic, satisfying food for diners.

Many thanks and credit to Food Republic, Jake Eberle, and everyone else involved in the making of this video. Please share the Midnight Snack with your friends and start cooking!

The ChefSteps Transformation Contest: Show us yours.

 

This contest has closed! Big thanks to all who submitted photos, we’ll be announcing a winner soon. If you missed the deadline but still want to show off your stuff, please share it on the forum. We can’t wait to see what you’ve created.

Calling all cooks! We want to see how you get from sleazy to sexy—in the kitchen, that is.

This week, we’re releasing a meaty update to our comprehensive class Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics. It’s all about teaching you to transform cheap, tough cuts of meat—think chuck, shoulder, tongue—into amazing, flavor-packed steaks, braises, and deep-fried delicacies. To do this, we harness the power of sous vide cooking, selecting the perfect time-and-temperature settings to achieve the exact texture of our choice. It all adds up to game-changing recipes like Carnitas Tacos with Mole, Boeuf Bourguignon with Scallion Ash, and savory Beef Tongue Fritters.

But transformation is nothing new, right? When you take squishy, overripe berries and make a jewel-toned jam, you’re transforming compost fodder into a smooth, decadent spread. Same goes for aging tomatoes—the basis of so many amazing pasta sauces. Sushi chefs transform leftover tuna bits into maki-roll magic, while nose-to-tail types relish the challenge of turning stinky offal into melt-in-your-mouth delicacies.

But enough about those guys. This contest is about you.

In this class, we share our favorite transformation techniques, but now, we want to know yours. What’s your favorite way to take something inexpensive, overripe, leftover—whatever—and turn it into a killer dish, condiment, beverage, or ingredient?

What will you win?

We’ll select the idea that inspires us the most, and our team of chefs will send the winner a big basket that’s full of hand-selected amazing goodies for your kitchen (a $500 value), sourced from our favorite Pike Place Market shops.

How do you enter?

There are two easy ways:

1. Send us a short video of yourself explaining your favorite transformative technique or recipe. You can demo it, draw it, or just talk about it—no real rules, just be you.

2. Send us two photos—a “before” shot of the sleazy ingredient in question, and a second “after” image that shows how you transformed it. Include a brief description of what you did.

CONTEST JUST EXTENDED! Send video or images to info@chefsteps.com with subject line Transformation by 11:59 PST on Tuesday, May 5. We’ll announce a winner as soon as we get through them all.

So go on, show us yours. We can’t wait to see it.

Official contest rules:
Void where prohibited. No purchase required. You must be over 18.

Best of The Forum: Banana Bread and a Most Violent Steak

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Welcome to Best of the Forum (BotF), a series in which we highlight fascinating bits from the ongoing conversations happening among our awesome community of cooks. Let’s get to it.

Bloody brilliant

Is it just us, or does the photo above both make you want to up your cooking game and remind you of the opening theme from Dexter? This is the work of community member Lennard Yeong, whose culinary skills and plating prowess just keep getting more impressive by the day. Want to design and plate your own killer dishes? Check out this comprehensive guide from our on-staff food artist Nicholas Gavin.

Speaking of sexy plates

Forum member Rob has been killing it in the plating department as well. Forget Triscuits and cheddar cheese. When this guy gets a mid-morning hankering for a snack, he combines smoked salmon, capers, cream cheese, shallots, toast and pink Himalayan salt for a dish that would fit right in at a fancy restaurant. We like your style, Rob.

Go bananas

There’s banana bread, and then there’s the fruit-forward wonder developed by Nick Gavin. (He’s coming up a lot today, isn’t he?) It’s one of our all-time favorites, so it makes us very happy to see forum member Ethan give it the royal treatment—topping it with toasted brown butter oats, whipped mascarpone, blueberries, AND EVEN MORE BANANAS. Ready to make your own version of our Banana Bread? Be sure to stop by the forum and post a pic. We can’t wait to see what you do with the stuff.

Join ChefSteps today for amazing recipes, tons of techniques, and access to our lively forum of enthusiastic cooks.

ChefSteps Family Meal: “Vietnamese Subway” Edition

We like to eat. And even more than we like to eat, we like to cook. And even more than we like to cook, we like to cook together. That’s why we drop our TPS reports every Friday afternoon and gather in the kitchen for family meal. At restaurants, “family meal” is a venerated tradition where staffers gather together before service and eat a hearty meal, usually prepared by the kitchen staff and served buffet-style to the rest of the employees. At ChefSteps, we turn that tradition on its side: one or more of our chefs pairs up with a non-kitchen employee (a writer, perhaps, or a videographer, or a software developer) to make something amazing for the rest of us. Why do we do it? Because we believe that cooking and eating together makes us better at our jobs, and better at life. And we’re holding tight to that belief. (I mean really, can you blame us?)

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Last week, development chef Nick Gavin paired up with software developer (and home cook extraordinaire) Huy Nguyen to serve choose-your-own-adventure Vietnamese spring rolls (aka “Vietnamese Subway”). Huy’s been making spring rolls since birth, so he knows a thing or two about how to do it right. Read on for his tips on how to roll your own.

Quick Dip

Start with a rice-paper wrapper dipped quickly in warm water. It’s tempting to soak it for a few minutes, but trust us—just a quick dip will do. After you dip, lay it flat on your plate.

Lettuce First

Add green lettuce first, for structure and color, then vermicelli noodles, green onions, basil, mint, cucumbers, and whatever other fresh ingredients you want.

Level Up

Next, poach raw beef or bacon in one of two simmering mixtures: one made of beer, vinegar, and fish sauce; and one made of butter, lemongrass, and onions. (Dipping the beef in beer and vinegar is a Vietnamese tradition called bò nhúng dấm, by the way, and it literally means “beef dipped in vinegar” in Vietnamese.) If you’re feeling ambitious, as we were on this occasion, set up a binchotan (a Japanese charcoal-grill) and add charred shrimp and squid to your spring rolls. (We used octopus instead of squid because it looked nice and fresh.) If you’re not feeling ambitious, make sous vide chicken or pork belly and use that instead.

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Roll On

Once your wrappers are filled with delicious treasures, roll those babies up tight. They key is to work quickly and confidently: pull the edge closest to you over the top of your fillings, then fold in the sides, and roll tightly until you have a nice little burrito. And hey, if you end up with a spring-roll massacre, just grab a fork. It’ll still be yummy. Make a simple dipping sauce out of lemon juice, fish sauce, sugar, and water for dipping, and voilà! You, sir or madam, are the Vietnamese spring roll master.

What should we prepare next Friday? Add your suggestions in the comments below!

Best of the Forum: Honoring Boulud, Nailing Nopal, and an Exciting Announcement

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Welcome to Best of the Forum (BotF), a series in which we highlight fascinating bits from the ongoing conversations happening among our awesome community of cooks. Let’s get to it.

Daniel Boulud and You

Designing a dish from scratch is super-satisfying and empowering, but sometimes the inspiration fairy disappears on an all-inclusive trip to Cabo (You know—strawberry daiquiris, a Jennifer Weiner novel, perhaps some light flirtation with that one beardy bartender from the poolside tiki hut.), leaving you SOL for dinner ideas.

Woah, woah, woah there, buddy. No need to fire up a frozen pizza just yet. Instead, turn to a favorite chef for inspiration. That’s what always-on-point community member Lennard did to create the whimsical homage to Chef Boulud you see above.

Nopal? No problem.

ChefSteps member Marc took to the forum this week to ask for advice on working with fresh nopal—aka prickly pear cactus. “Duh,” says the inspiration fairy, freshly tanned and noticeably tipsy from the complementary cocktails aboard her return flight (middle seat, US Weekly, a Caesar salad topped with jiggly chicken strips bearing faux grill marks) . “Put that cactus in your cocktail!” She has a point—prickly pear margaritas are rarely a bad idea, to be sure. But nopal can also be tossed in a salad with shrimp, mixed into salsa, grilled whole, and so much more.

Whatever you do with those spikey paddles, take advantage of forum friend Joyce’s easy prep method, beautifully photographed here.

Get embed with us!

Exciting announcement from our dev team: You can now embed ChefSteps recipes directly to your blog or website, and they’ll look all pretty too. Go! Play! Inspire yourself! Judging by the look of things, that fairy’s going to need a few days to recover.

You love to cook, they love to cook—y’all should really get together and talk about it. Join ChefSteps today to get in on the conversation. 

Best of the Forum: Dumplings, Kid Food, and One Rich Dish

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Hmmm. What to do with all that leftover duck liver?

Duck liver—everyone’s got some lying around in the fridge, right? Okay no. But if you’ve always wanted to cook with the stuff, take inspiration from community member Manfred, who rolled some up into great-looking dumplings for the gorgeous soup you see above.

Oh, and speaking of liver…

Apparently forum friend Rob ain’t afraid to combine some rich flavors. Check out this decadent-yet-easy dinner: English Muffin, Chicken Liver Pâté, and a perfect sous vide egg. Bonus: This would also make the sickest breakfast in bed ever.

You’ll eat it and you’ll like it.

Brendan Lee shared a thought-provoking article on kids’ menus, and the dangers of raising a generation who dine only on chicken fingers, mac-and-cheese, and hot dogs. This fires up several of his forum-mates, who weigh in on the prickly subject of picky eaters.

Our forum’s the best, man. Join ChefSteps today to get in on the conversation.