Behind-the-Line Chef’s Edition with Chef Hubert Seifert of Spagio

Behind-the-Line Local Chef’s Edition

by Dara Schwartz on June 20, 2012

Behind-the-Line Chef’s edition connects our favorite chefs with home cooks, weighing in on cooking methods and kitchen technique, favorite ingredients and kitchen resources to help grow your inner cook.

Larger-than-life spirit and lead-with-the-heart joie de vive, Chef Hubert Seifert, of Spagio, shares childhood fond memories that has shaped him today to favorite kitchen supplies that every home cook should own.

One ingredient you couldn’t live without and why?
HS: Butter. You can finish any dish with just a spoonful of butter. It adds richness and beautiful flavor – you can’t beat that.

Must have kitchen supply or utensil in your kitchen:
HS: Big, oval, heavy-duty cast-iron pot, made by French manufacturer, Staub. I own two, but only use one. All you need is a burner and this pot and you can cook anything, from stews and soups, to sauces and roasts.

What can always be found in your refrigerator?
HS: Double-smoked slab of bacon I get from Albert, owner of Thurn’s Specialty Meats. Thurns cold-smokes the bacon and I cut the slab at home. This is the best place to get meat. They do it right and they have the real smokers, versus so many of the over-processed, machine-manufactured meat. Other items: onions and heavy bread, like a pumpernickel or a rye, but heavier.

A cookbook that every cooking enthusiast should have in their cookbook library:
HS: Books by author, Brillat-Savarin. For example, The Physiology of Taste, where he is also recognized for his famous commandment, “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are. A notion stating that the food one eats has a bearing on one’s state of mind and health.

Larousse Gastronomique, presents the history of foods, eating, and restaurants; cooking terms; beginning to advanced techniques; a review of basic ingredients and how to buy, store and use them; biographies of important culinary figures, like Brillat-Savarin; and recommendations for cooking nearly everything.

Your go-to pots and pans:
HS: French cast-iron cookware called Staub. My advice: instead of buying 4-5 pots and pans, just buy one great pan.

What is your fondest memory of eating with your family as you were growing up?
HS: I grew up in a small town in Germany and lived with my parents and two sisters. My grandparents lived with my Aunt close by. We always had preserves on the table and canned items. We didn’t have refrigerators like we do today, so we would can everything and store it in the root cellar. Twice a year, we would slaughter a pig and either can or smoke it. In the fall, we would hang the meat to dry. In late winter/early spring we would process the pig by canning the meat with salt and seasonings to preserve it. We often ate liverwurst with Kosher pickles on heavy rye-like bread. Neighbors of my mother’s aunt and uncle took care of a synagogue nearby, so we would often celebrate Christmas and Jewish holidays together, going back and forth between being Kosher, to eating meat, to not eating meat.

What country has influenced your cooking the most?
HS: Germany and Spain. From April, 1975 to October, 1979, I lived on the island of Mallorca, one of the Balearic Islands of Spain, where I cooked for the Royal family. I lived in the major city of Palma, which was about a 20-minute flight from Barcelona.

Are there chefs you look to for the next big ideas. Which ones and how have they influenced you?
HS: My grandmother, mother and aunt. You get the most exposure when you work with and eat with people. They’re the ones who will influence and inspire you the most.

What are your favorite meat cuts to cook and eat?
HS: Goulash/beef stew, short rib, pork shoulder and a small pig or lamb. I like to take a small lamb or pig and fill the inside with lemons and herbs, then tie it together and cook it in a wood-burning oven, while basting it frequently. You have to cover the ears and nose with foil so they don’t burn. This is how they cook the “lechona,” or pig at the Restaurant Botin, located in Madrid, Spain – one of the oldest restaurants in the world, with a 300-year old wood-burning oven.

What is the most expensive food, beverage or ingredient in your kitchen? Where did you get it from and how do you use it?
HS: Saffron, from Spain, and white truffles from Turin, Italy (in the Piedmonte region in Northern Italy.) I like to use the white truffles in a pureé in pasta or use truffle oil to finish the pasta. The first pressing of olive oil, which is 100% olive oil, is another item from Spain I use. I believe Spanish olive oils are the best. One of my favorite, most simple Spanish dishes is pa amb tomaquet, or Pan con Tomate (Bread with Tomato.) You take rustic Spanish bread, grab a fresh tomato from a vine, then cut it in half and rub the tomato over the bread. Finish the bread with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.

What’s your favorite way to cook vegetables?
HS: Sauté quickly. Do not cut your vegetables too thick. They have to be cut even, so they cook evenly. All you need is a very hot skillet, add your vegetables and finish with sea salt.

Favorite thing to do with raspberries:
I like to make Eau de vie, the juice of life. I fill my container with 30 lbs of raspberries, 10 lbs of sugar and the rest with vodka. I let it sit for a month or so and enjoy with friends.

I also like to make raspberry preserves.

Join Chef Hubert on June 27, 2012, at the North Market School of Cooking for a three-course meal with wine/beer pairings. To sign up for this cooking class, call the North Market at (614) 463-9664, or register online here.

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