If you’re a foodie, like me — what the heck are you reading this if you’re not — you probably fantasize about your “dream kitchen.”
By DAVE ECKERT
You know, the one with the Aga Oven, Wolf Range, and Sub-Zero refrigerator.
Or, maybe you’re more of an outdoor chef who pines over that ultimate back deck set up with a professional smoker, grill, and wood-fired pizza oven.
Actually, they both sound awesome to me. Now, if I only had the financial resources to make it happen and the time and skill set to put all of that fancy stuff to good use.
Neither of those issues posed a problem for James White, Executive chef at Kansas’ Hollywood Casino. White had pretty much an open checkbook when designing and buying for the Casino’s restaurants.
The result: Some of the finest kitchens with the most sophisticated equipment in the entire Midwest. The price tag, according to White: A cool $6 million for the equipment, and another $1.2 million for the kitchen accoutrements like plates, china, silverware …
“I’ve been in most kitchens in town, and some of the guys and gals have great ones, but when you look at what we produce and prepare out here, our ownership has allowed us the chance to assemble some of the finest kitchens in the entire Midwest,” White told me recently.
Now, I haven’t personally toured the kitchen, but I look forward to soon. And, I did have the chance to sample some of the items his kitchen procurements allow the folks at places like Final Cut Steakhouse to turn out on a regular basis.
Want some examples? Well, how about the best sorbet, hands-down, I’ve ever had. Normally, these palate cleansers are icy, difficult to eat, and not entirely pleasant — a couple of small spoonfuls and you’re done.
Not at Final Cut where a $4,400 machine called a PacoJet allows White’s crew to shave off the top of a frozen mass and create intensely flavored, and perfectly textured, creations. My wife and I ate all they gave us and would have gone for seconds.
“Four blades come down on the top of something that’s frozen solid and shave it off very finely,” says White. “Plus, it can do multiple flavors like a trio of sorbets of gelatos.”
Then there’s the $2,000 Sous Vide, a water bath system originating in the finest kitchens in Europe that allows the restaurant to cook something in an environment and at a temperature that’s so regulated and so precise that you have ultimate control over how that product turns out.
“We can cook eggs at 143.45 degrees, and they’re absolutely perfect for toast, with a yolk that’s still liquid and whites that are soft,” claims White. “At 147 degrees, the yoke is still creamy, but solid, and the white is firmer-perfect for a spinach salad.”
Or, there’s shrimp, which can be cooked to moist and tender perfection in the Sous Vide, then finished on the grill. That’s what they do at Final Cut for the shrimp salad, and it is effective. The shrimp is moist and tender on the inside, and crisp and crunchy on the outside. Thank you Sous Vide, apparently the trendiest item in kitchens across the planet.
There are more bells and whistles out at Hollywood, like the $1,200 Anti-Grill, a whimsical toy that allows chefs to freeze sauces, purees and vinaigrettes to a perfect 32 degrees. As a result, creations are really cold and crisp on the outside, but fluid on the inside — Crème Brule lollipop anyone?
And, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the smoking gun, but what about the $1,000 smoke gun, a item that lets chefs apply smoke in non-traditional ways, say to chocolate or meringue. Using a very fine apple or cherry wood, White’s minions can target, or shoot, the smoke into a vessel or small piece of glass-amazing.
Finally, last but not least, is the $1,500 Imperia pasta rolling machine and $800 apiece for the different blades.
With this beauty, White and his staff can create pasta perfection. The team is currently working on an free-form ravioli with braised beef short ribs. I gotta make sure they’re perfecting this when I get my tour.
So, there you have it, more than 7 million reasons to visit the kitchens at the Hollywood Casino. Wanna try your luck? They’re waiting to please.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.