Lumpia alongside cannoli, and Spam musubi paired with truffled arancini? It’s all fair game at this Sunday’s kick-off collaboration dinner between Suzette Gresham, of San Francisco’s legendary Acquerello (an Italian mainstay), and Carl Foronda, the innovative chef of nearby 1760 (whose cooking is steeped in his Southeast Asian heritage. Here, the two chefs sound off on the joys of collaboration, the surprising consistency of their two cuisines, and their plans for future co-cheffed feasts. Tickets to Sunday’s dinner can be purchased here.
How do you maintain a sense of continuity in your menu when using such a variety of ingredients?
Suzette: The variety of ingredients isn’t as varied as you might think. Contrarily, we were repeatedly struck by the similarities. The difference comes first as dictated by geographical need, philosophical and finally, actual preparation. We were striving for continuity of the dishes that we have chosen to pair together.
Carl: I try to make sure everything that I put in a menu has been tested or that correlates to flavors I’ve used before. All chefs have a flavor/texture profile in their mental rolodex, so when you are experimenting or trying something new, you kind of already know if something’s going to work or not. If it doesn’t, it’s usually just a matter of tweaking everything so it’s all cohesive and comes together in a delicious manner.
Where there any surprisingly delicious combinations?
Suzette: Yes! We would like to think that this is the most fun part. But, we will leave that for the diners to form their own opinions.
Carl: I can’t speak for Chef Suzette on what combos surprised us, but I knew most of our pairings made sense on paper. However, when the lumpia and cannoli test run were paired together for the first time, I felt it was a very thoughtful and tasty.
What do you love most about your co-chef’s dishes?
Suzette: They are delicious and creative renditions of more known preparations, but with a twist. At the end of the day, if what we have created doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t matter what are thought processes may have been. I also admire Chef Carl’s humble, food first approach that is so malleable and open to interpretation. We have both learned so much from each other.
Carl: I think of Chef Suzette’s dishes on this particular menu as very soulful, but with a touch of elegance – which is something I enjoy. Her food to me is very convivial, yet detailed. That’s what I love about her dishes.
Do you have plans for future collaborations?
Suzette: Yes! We had SO many ideas that we couldn’t possibly put them all in one menu. We really chose this as an introductory, adventurous event in which we will open-mindedly explore the cuisines that we professionally represent while satisfying our own curiosity and taste buds, about how they could intertwine.
We called this first dinner the “Side-by-side” dinner in our own minds. It was like laying down the tracks, which display the parallel worlds and go in the same direction, but eventually take some different twists and turns before arriving at their destination.
Carl: Very much so. Just brainstorming with Chef and picking her brain is something a young chef like me looks for in certain phases of their career and collaborating with her so far has been a blast.
What would you like to try next time?
Suzette: Next, will be the more collaborative approach with the ultimate 3rd dinner being the culmination. The goal is take our guests on this journey with us, whatever their preconceived notions or cultural background may be. We feel blessed to be in California for not the obvious culinary reasons alone, but also for our supportive audience that is willing to experience this with us.
Carl: I think it’s all still up for discussion, but I would like to do something totally out of the box, then something truly collaborative with Chef where each dish has both our stamps on them.
[Image: Grace Sager Photography]