The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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Page 33 of 119

34 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 { chef profiles } Rachel Rurkons: What are some of your favorite techniques to explore here at Yusho? Matthias Merges: Pickling, curing and drying are things that have been done for centuries. Each culture has unique components, and I like to find those things that are like a lost art, looking to use these old techniques and use them in modern ways. We use bincho, the Japanese charcoal, as an ash to ferment our meat here at Yusho, and we do all kinds of pickling in-house. What are your thoughts on buzzword terms like seasonal, local and organic? One of the beauties of being a chef, restaurateur or wine professional is that it's always evolving and ever-changing. There aren't four seasons a year—there are 52 seasons a year. Every day, the product coming through the back door is going to be different; the orange I have today won't be the same as the orange I have next week, so you have to be in the moment and cognizant of these changes as a chef. I just had this Twitter back-and-forth with a great friend of mine in Chicago who is a food writer. We were arguing about why people are using ramps when they're not "local," so I asked him to define "local." His response was within 100 miles, and I asked what com - mittee decided that that was "local." His response was, "There is no committee— it's just what I read." So I began to have this philosophi - cal argument with myself about these terms and labels and what people coin "organic." It's become so watered down that it doesn't even make sense anymore. What are your thoughts on pair - ing wine and food? Food is wine, and wine is food. There is no difference; it is something you con- sume, and these flavors need to marry. When it does, it is transcendent. Food for Thought MATTHIAS MERGES WAXES PHILOSOPHICAL AT YUSHO LAS VEGAS by Rachel Burkons / photos by Mona Shield Payne AFTER YEARS TRAINING UNDER CHARLIE TROTTER AND RISING to the ranks of Executive Chef at the famed chef's eponymous restaurant, it may come as a surprise to hear Matthias Merges say, "I do not consider myself a chef. I am a cook. I feel like I have a long way to go before I become a chef." This is unexpected humility for a man who, in addition to having worked in the finest of fine dining establishments, has opened a string of successful restaurants in Chicago and welcomed his newest, Yusho Las Vegas, to the Monte Carlo this year. But talking to Merges about his experiences feels like dabbling in culinary philosophy, and the acclaimed chef (we'll say it, even if he won't) brings a soulful and unique perspective to pairings and specific ingredients. We caught up with Merges for a thought provoking Q&A at Yusho Las Vegas; here are some highlights from the philosophizing chef. In-house pickles made at Yusho Las Vegas. Matthias Merges. Q: Q: Q:

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