The Clever Root

Spring 2018

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1 4 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t The Problem: A multi-use utensil that works no matter what kitchen you're in. The Solution: A $50 spoon from French kitchen supply company Guy Degrenne. The Problem Solver: Juan Torres, Executive Chef of Manhattan House in Manhattan Beach, CA ASK CHEFS ABOUT THE kitchen tools they can't live without, and they'll rarely name the $48,000 La Cornue Chateau Grand Palais Range or the $100,000-plus Molteni Suite. What they do love are their tongs, their tweezers, and—perhaps the most unassuming item of all—their spoons. In the case of Juan Torres, Executive Chef at the trendy Manhattan House in Manhattan Beach just south of Los Angeles, that spoon comes courtesy of French kitchen supply company Guy Degrenne in a set worth roughly $50. From his roots in L.A.'s South Central, Torres got into the Careers through Culinary Arts Program and worked his way up the ladder, working as a line cook under Chef (and fellow Ange- leno) Neal Fraser before ending up at the pasta-intensive Sotto. While there, the restaurant's sous chef gifted him with the spoon that's never far from reach in the kitchen Torres oversees four years later. by Merrill Shindler Chef Juan Torres with his must- have spoon at Manhattan House in Manhattan Beach, CA. The Chef and His Spoon JUAN TORRES OF MANHATTAN HOUSE SINGS THE PRAISES OF HIS FAVORITE UTENSIL ■cr PHOTO COURTESY OF JUAN TORRES Merrill Shindler: First of all, who gives a spoon as a present? Juan Torres: Daniel Cutler is a remarkable chef who taught me so much at Sotto—he really took me under his wing. It was in my first year of working on the line, and he told me that above all, it's all about your spoon. It has a lot of sentimen- tal value to me. Aren't knives the things chefs obsess about? Well, he does have a $500 deba fish-filleting knife from Japan. No one could touch it but him. But $50 for a spoon is still a lot—it's a perfect spoon. A perfect spoon? Pardon me, but isn't a spoon a spoon? No way. This one is the perfect size for tasting, for serving pasta, for checking soups and stews, for basting—and the balance is amazing. It's always in my hand. You make it sound like the razor in Sweeney Todd. Is it a giant spoon? It's not like one of those crazy-big clown spoons or tiny tasting spoons. It's just big enough that you know where it is. And what happens when one of your cooks grabs it to stir a pot? They know not to. They can touch my knives all they want, but no one touches my spoon. What happens if it breaks? It won't—I use it for everything. It won't even bend, see? [attempts to bend in earnest] I've gone through so many spoons—copper spoons, gold spoons—and there's nothing like this one, though I do love a little wooden spoon I have. It used to be longer than it is, but it caught fire on the stove . . . so now it's a short wooden spoon. And how do you clean it? Is there a somber ritual? At the end of the night, I grab all my tools and wash them in a big pan with a little soapy water. I grew up using 99-cent spoons, and maybe I could cook with them today, I don't know. But I do know that if I've got my spoon, I've got what I need.

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