'Top Chef' Mendelsohn cooking in first isle trip


POSTED: Wednesday, October 14, 2009

If you're a “;Top Chef”; fan with a free day tomorrow, the stars are aligned in your favor — starting with a bright one from Season 4 of the popular reality show. Contestant Spike Mendelsohn will be cooking at Macy's Ala Moana on behalf of the store's Come Together program, which is mobilizing chefs nationwide to help fight domestic hunger.

The celebrity chef will be preparing some of his gourmet recipes, including seared tuna with peppercorns and chutney, for attendees, to benefit Hawaii Foodbank.

“;It's my first time in Hawaii, and I'm very excited,”; the chef said earlier this week. “;I'm using locally grown pears, herbs and heart of palm. I used to order heart of palm from a guy on the Big Island, so hopefully he'll be there and I'll get to meet him.

“;I want to use local ingredients so people in Hawaii can replicate it.”;

The chef says he tries his best to use local products in his cooking.

“;I do believe in supporting local farmers. We go through so much oil trucking around ingredients from California. So it's nice to support local farms.”;

Mendelsohn's current venture is the wildly popular Washington, D.C., burger joint Good Stuff Eatery, frequented by none other than the first family. Word has it on the Obama Foodorama blog that President Barack Obama orders takeout, requiring the Secret Service to watch the chef's every move as he grills up a presidential lunch.

“;The first lady's been in a couple of times,”; says Mendelsohn. “;It's going amazing, better than I could have imagined.”;

In fact, Mendelsohn's so well liked by the Obamas that he was invited to be a guest chef at the White House's Easter Egg Roll this year, where he cooked up healthy turkey burgers for the children.

“;It was a great time,”; he recalls.

Times continue to be great for the young chef, who began working in the kitchen as a child at his parents' Florida restaurant. Trained in French cuisine, Mendelsohn studied at the Culinary Institute of America, then worked at such venues as Bouchon restaurant in Napa Valley and LeCirque and Mai House in New York.

The chef is getting ready to launch a new restaurant, We the Pizza, which he says “;is going to have a hip and chic vibe. We're branding ourselves with New York-style pizza and homemade soda and gelato.”;

Also in the works is the expansion of Good Stuff Eatery to such big cities as Los Angeles, New York and Chicago — “;and who knows? Maybe someday, Hawaii,”; Mendelsohn says.





        With chef Spike Mendelsohn:

» Place: Macy's Ala Moana Center


» When: 6 p.m. tomorrow


» Tickets: $10 (at the door and in advance); checks payable to Hawaii Foodbank Inc.


» RSVP: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)





Courtesy Spike Mendelsohn


1/4 cup black pepper corns
1/4 cup pink peppercorns
1/4 cup coriander
1 pound sashimi grade ahi
Grapeseed oil, as needed

» Pear Chutney:
2 -1/4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons red onion, diced
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
1/4 cup red pepper, diced
1/4 cup jalapeno, diced
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons yellow curry


2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 Korean pear, peeled, cored, chopped

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup pineapple juice

1/2 fennel bulb, chopped

1/2 cup parsnip, chopped

2 tablespoons cinnamon powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

» Nouc Cham/ Lime Dressing:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lime juice
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic, chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons Sriracha (Thai hot sauce)

» Garnish:
1 cup cucumber or heart of palm, shaved
1/4 cup cilantro

Combine peppercorns and coriander in food processor and grind.

Dust tuna with spices.

Warm oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Sear tuna on all sides; tuna should still be rare in center.

Slice thinly for service.

To make chutney: In large sauce pot over medium heat, combine olive oil, red onion, ginger, red pepper, jalapeno and raisins, and cook 10 minutes or until soft.

Add yellow curry and brown sugar and caramelize.

Add pears, stir in vinegar, pineapple juice, fennel, parsnip and cinnamon. Cook until chutney is brown and has thick consistency.

Season to taste. Remove from heat.

To make dressing: Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix.

Pour dressing over garnish of cucumber or heart of palm and cilantro, and toss.

To serve: Arrange ahi slices on plate. Top with garnish and serve with chutney on the side. Serves 4.