By Carly DeFilippo
Mere steps from our Flatiron teaching kitchens, Silk Road Tavern has become a favorite watering hole of ICE students, chef instructors and staff alike. Yet it’s more than proximity that has inspired this affinity for Chef Leo Forneas‘ latest venture. As he demonstrated in yesterday’s demo for career students and alumni, the secret to his addictive comfort foods is a careful mix of spice, creativity and culinary cultures.
The concept behind Silk Road Tavern is to reimagine classic recipes from both Asian and American culinary traditions. The end result? Innovative combinations of multi-national ingredients, flavors and techniques. For example, in his masterful take on mac ‘n’ cheese, Forneas substitutes Korean rice cakes for macaroni. He explained that rice absorbs more flavor than pasta, making the most of his carefully built béchamel sauce and duo of cheddar cheeses.
A similarly clever take on Singapore-style chili crabs turned the spice-driven stew into an indulgent pot pie. While preparing the dish, Forneas asked students to taste a range of different hot sauces, from traditional toban djan to kimchi base. The flavor ranged from wildly hot to surprisingly “funky”, proving that spice – as Forneas’ repeated through the demo – is a matter of personal preference.
For his last dish, Forneas reinvented Chinese spare ribs, opting for beef instead of pork and adding smoked chipotle to his homemade barbecue sauce. The fall-off-the-bone result rivaled the city’s best ribs – Chinese or otherwise. For those students who hadn’t yet sampled Forneas’ food, the response was unanimous: “We’ll be there tomorrow”.