Wayzata, Minnesota. July, 1992- David Wetzel, the young pup chef navigating his way around the kitchen of the recently opened faux French Bistro Chez Foley surprised Wayzata blue bloods last evening by presenting Chilled Poached Salmon with a Raspberry Coulis. It appeared some guests had problems pronouncing the word, coulis. Many just said ” Raspberry cool is.”
That’s how the notice might have read after Wetzel, a contemporary chef who had just returned from San Francisco and a wine country trip, decided that a 90 degree July day was the perfect time to introduce the pureed fruit sauce to the populous of Minneapolis’ western suburbs. Chilled sauces, coulis, chilled soup and composition salads were as new to Minnesota back then as golf match in February.
But it didn’t take long for Wetzel to hone his kitchen skills and develop more chilled sauces for the hot, humid summer months of Minnetonka, attracting enough customers to fill the 50 seat restaurant nightly.
Menu creativity can do that. And if your chef has the talent to develop a creative flare that will make the difference not only in your dining room, but in your kitchen. Young culinarians will want to work with him and display their desire to learn and work professionally.
And that’s where something as simple as designing a menu for the season steps in. Any chef can walk into a position where the menu is developed and cook it. But it is the talent that designs and creates and develops new items and attempts new combinations on the plate that succeed.
Over a decade ago when Raspberry Coulis was introduced at Chez Foley few had explored salmon and fruit on the same fork. And, I am sure that in many parts of the country, this is still thought of as an obscure combination.
But aren’t we in the business of adventure? Aren’t we tour guides for the palate? Don’t we get great pleasure in watching eyes light up, widen, and sparkle with the first bite of something never tasted before? Of course we take pleasure in that.
And the coulis expedition is one way to develop a following of adventurers that will continue to follow you on your trek.
When googled, coulis pops up with a delightful listing of raspberry, (the granddad of all coulis), mango and other fruit recipes. The pureed, strained sauce had early beginnings in France, hence the abundance of raspberry coulis recipes, I would imagine.
I have a weakness, however, for cucumber coulis with just a hint of mint. It is a delightful accompaniment to poached Halibut. And apricot coulis, with a taste of horseradish works well with a champagne poached chicken breast.
Once Wetzel got his bones in the kitchen he became an experimenting genius. The items he developed were all creative. Some worked, some didn’t. However, when the temperature hit 90 degrees and the humidity was so thick the Minnesota state bird couldn’t find your arm to bite it, customers asked for the poached Salmon with the raspberry coulis.
Introduce some chilled sauces on your menu. take your guests on an adventure. Let them know how cool coulis can be.