Friday, December 12, 2014

Tahitian Vanilla Myths Busted by Executive Pastry Chef Marian Getz

How about a little inspiration today? We’re always on the lookout for incredible talent, and of course, we love to get to know our customers. Today, you’ll get an intimate introduction into the mind of world-class pastry chef Marian Getz, author of the Simply the Best series of cookbooks, frequent guest on the Home Shopping Network, and Executive Pastry Chef for Wolfgang Puck.

VFT It's a long way from growing up the daughter of missionaries in the Congo to being the Executive Pastry Chef for Wolfgang Puck. What sparked your love of baking? 
MG Darkness! We didn't have electricity in Africa. At dusk each day we had just the small halo of light provided by candles or kerosene lanterns, so reading became a cherished pastime. Once I outgrew the childrens' books, I moved on to my mom's cookbooks. My favorites were The Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. I was cooking whole meals from these books by age eight. Julia's recipes were so well written that it was like having the most excellent road map. If the map is good, you will most assuredly get from point A to point B. Recipes are like that. Once I started getting praise for my good food from my family, I was completely smitten!

VFT I understand that Julia Child was your assistant for a day. What kind of a person was she to work with? 
MG Aaah. The best! Julia Child is my hero. That delicious day was arranged as a surprise by my beloved husband and Wolfgang Puck, and I was her assistant. I got to spend a whole day at her home in Santa Barbara. My most cherished memories of that day have nothing to do with cooking, but instead are of chatting with Julia about how wonderful it is to have a loving, supportive husband. Julia's Paul was that sort of man, and my Greg is simply the best human being I've ever met.

 VFT How is Tahitian vanilla different from other types of vanilla? 
MG Tahitian vanilla is totally different from others in the most wonderful way. I was first introduced to it by Wolfgang Puck. It's his favorite and the one used in his many restaurants. To teach yourself the difference you must smell and use them side-by-side. Try a Tahitian and another one, say Mexican or Madagascar, and you will see and smell and taste the difference instantly. For me, the Madagascar beans and extract in particular have a medicinal taste and smell that is just awful. I guess for some people it's like coffee where you like what you like, and not everyone agrees on what is the best. For me, there is no contest! Tahitian rules! 

VFT Do you have any favorite recipes that include Tahitian vanilla? 
MG Try using these beautiful vanilla beans and extract in a simple custard-based dish such as vanilla ice cream, crème brûlée, or a vanilla cake and you will understand the difference. 

VFT What are the most important qualities for professional chefs and makers to look for when sourcing ingredients for the kitchen? 
MG Know your sources, get to know the hard working folks who produce the treasures we get to play with as chefs. Buy the best quality you can, and trust your palate to decide for yourself what the is best. Treat all the ingredients you buy with respect and thoughtfulness. Don't waste anything, and I think your food will always taste great and make the world a little bit better tasting.

VFT Please share your thoughts on when to use vanilla extract vs. powder vs. beans. 
MG  Be smart with your vanilla. More is not a good idea, especially if the dish you are making has other prominent flavors in it like chocolate or spices. In many cases, vanilla is singing back up to other flavors to help round out the complexity, so adding more vanilla than called for is wasteful. Extract is used for general taste, beans where the pure vanilla taste will shine through prominently. I am addicted to the new freeze-dried, ground vanilla powder, because it's wonderful and so darn easy to use. I find myself using the freeze-dried powder version everywhere though, even in my morning smoothies! Its amazing stuff!

VFT Are there any myths about Tahitian vanilla that you would like to dispel? 
MG Yes, that it's too expensive. That's just BS. Do your homework and add it up. You can pay even more for crappy vanilla and your dishes will suffer for it. Also, the crazy Internet myth that you shouldn't use Tahitian for hot preparations because some of the perfume will be lost. That's just ignorance. Of course flavors are lost or muted when we manipulate them with heat, but the wonderful nuances are still there. In some cases, a bit more vanilla is added at the end of cooking to add another layer of flavor. But that should never make you think that you shouldn't use Tahitian vanilla! The change in flavors is true of most of the foods we cook. Think of onions, for example. They change dramatically during cooking, which is a wonderful thing, and many times extra onion is added off heat to add that fresh punch of flavor.

VFT Thank you so much for the tips on Tahitian vanilla.
MG You're welcome. It has been a pleasure.

Marian’s experience in the kitchen, working next to Julia Child and Wolfgang Puck, are the stuff dreams are made of! When it comes to quality, it’s obvious she’s been trained by the best, and we’re proud to supply her with Tahitian vanilla. If you’d like to cook with the very same ingredients that she does, every product that she mentioned; Tahitian vanilla beans, Tahitian vanilla extract, and ground vanilla bean powder, are available on our website

Happy baking!

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