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Chef Profile: Kaya DeFehr

In the kitchen with the pastry chef at Barbacoa

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Age: 23

Restaurant: Barbacoa

Number of years in the restaurant business: Five

Past Experience:

Restaurants in Portland, Ore., Boston, Boise, Oxford. Also, I'm Le Cordon Bleu alumni.

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Bagel with cream cheese, chai latte and honey greek yogurt.

What do you look to as inspiration for new recipes?

Inspiration comes from a lot of places for me. My parents are a huge role in my cooking. My mom is a great cook. She had the staples down to a science. She makes the best pie crust I've ever had, so a lot of my core ideas would be great foundations from her, whereas my dad is very much a part of the chemistry of the food, which is extremely interesting, as far as gastronomy. Also my food mentor, chef Sadie Damon, is a great source for me to bounce ideas off of. Always be interesting but not too "out there." The idea of savory vs. sweet is also one of the most interesting factors in dessert creation.

How do you innovate without excluding diners?

It's really important to create desserts that people will want to try. Maybe start with something they're comfortable with: chocolate cake. Then go from there with innovation. Add some beet chips, rosemary, cardamom anglais and a Cointreau truffle. Suddenly it's not an ordinary chocolate cake. And you have introduced diners to a few things they've never tried or maybe didn't consider the combination. It's all about trying new things. Hopefully your clientele is up for it.

What dish would you like to include on your menu, but worry that it might be too forward-thinking for this market?

Molecular gastronomy is something I've been really wanting to get into. As far as the Boise market goes, I'm not entirely sure it's comfortable or ready for it. Smoked bacon and eggs ice cream? Hell yes.

What won't you eat?

I don't eat beef. I can't stand the texture of celery. Anything with shortening or margarine. Cool Whip is pretty bad.

What's the one ingredient you can't live without in your kitchen?

Butter. The French have a proverb, "Nothing replaces butter," and it is entirely true. Browned butter is also one of my favorite ingredients.

What's the strangest ingredient you've ever put in a dish?

Hungarian sheep cheese. It was used in an ice cream along with caramelized apples and chardonnay.

Who is the most famous person you've cooked for?

Ben Affleck. In Boston I worked at The Buttery, and we made and delivered cupcakes to Mr. Affleck and his film crew in South Boston.

Where do you like to eat in town?

Pollo Rey--best burritos. Goldy's is always great. La Vie en Rose has the single greatest banana french toast ever made. Le Cafe de Paris has an amazingly beautiful dessert case that tastes even better than it looks. Pho Nouveau has the best comfort food in town.

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only eat three things the rest of your life, what would they be?

Fresh mozzarella, grilled cheese sandwiches, root beer floats.

Describe the restaurant you would create if cost and demographic were not an issue.

Extremely modern, mid-century furniture, low-lit, incredibly simple menu. Not a huge staff. Probably a small area, really intimate and all about the food. •

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