Third part of three parts, please start here with Part 1
Since this article was written, things have changed. Bruce is now chef/owner at Union Pasadena in Pasadena, California
Chef Bruce Kalman’s rustic elegant cuisine was shaped in large part by his time at Spiaggia and Park Avenue Café. Those two jobs with chefs Bartolotta and Burke in the early nineties according to Kalman “shaped his style of cooking,” even though Bartolotta and Burke’s approaches to cooking are quite different. Bartolotta’s approach is very simple with three to four ingredients per dish whereas Burke’s involves twelve to fifteen pan pick-ups. But both have bold layered flavors, plus know how to use seasonings. “A mushroom dish tastes like mushrooms.” Bartolotta is classic whereas Burke is crazy creative and innovative.
A lot of Kalman’s current creativity comes from Burke, who made him ask how to use ingredients and to try different things. But as Kalman’s cooking has progressed to be more ingredients driven, Kalman’s cuisine is now both rustic and elegant at the same time. So for example, Kalman will take a whole porchetta leg cooked in a wood fired oven and plate it in a “very sexy” manner. So this, in part, is what Kalman means by “rustic elegance”.
The wood fired oven for pizza is used for a lot of other items too. He does a whole roasted chicken from Mary’s Chickens with braised beet greens and also does his own charcuterie. His main influence is coming from Mediterranean and Northern Italian flavors. He also has a couple pastas on the menu, with a pasta special every night. Produce is sourced from local farmers markets, and he uses a lot of local cheeses and meats.
All of this rocker’s food is handcrafted with lots passion, and soul. Everything has tons of depth of flavors. Kalman tries to make food that brings back memories like of you r mom making a great pot roast. To this end he braises his short ribs for ten hours the old fashion way.
Taking over The Churchill’s kitchen has been a progressive process. A month after arriving he rolled out his own menu and since then has been making smaller changes constantly improving it. With having more time to train his staff, every menu change he’s done has evolved. He’s also made the menu seasonal. If he can’t get produce locally he’s not going to source it from some place like Chile.
So now in California, the cooking style regarding flavors that Bruce learned from Bartolotta and Burke hasn’t changed, but many of ingredients have. Kalman experiments with new products. Both Bartolotta and Burke both do handcrafted food. The next phase for Kalman at The Churchill, when he feels his staff is sufficiently trained, is whole animal butchery, mainly pigs and lamb with daily specials featuring “snout to tail” practices. Now he’s working on his spring menu, beginning to conceptualize it.
The Churchill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus provides food service for the Orlando Hotel in which this restaurant is located. Thus Kalman hasn’t exactly had too much time for songwriting; though this rocking chef is promoting himself and The Churchill as much as he canto build both his and his company’s culinary brands. Those brands feature “Rustic Elegance” in The Churchill’s dining room handcrafted and tuned by Chef Kalman in The Churchill’s kitchen.
[Note since this article was written, Chef Burce Kalman left The Churchill and is now chef/owner of Union in Pasadena]
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