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Cooking with Dave Arnold

Aired November 25, 2012 - 14:00   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: He's part of a vanguard of cutting edge chefs, instructors and bartenders using science and high tech tools.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A centrifuge, an emergent circulator, chamber making machine and (inaudible) and liquid nitrogen. Forget your liquid nitrogen.


GUPTA: Traditional cooking methods with the precision of just a tenth of a degree.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole way you think about how cooking works has to change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is aggressively creative. He's going 200 miles an hour so you have to keep up.


GUPTA: Dave Arnold doesn't have any formal culinary training and even struggles to neatly define what he does.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I come back in the country and I asked me what I do, I usually write cook, bartender, teacher and writer. That's what I usually write.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Dave gets a lot more into the food science end of things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I own a Cherokee, and it's interesting because it will reform a gel after its set.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Questions you might not normally come across, say how do I saute a particular cut of meat?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not aware of anybody else at a cooking school that's quite like Dave Arnold.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GUPTA: He's the director of technologies at the International Culinary Center in New York City.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the head of the tech department here, but essentially no other culinary school has a tech department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has more knowledge about cooking than I would say most chefs in the world.


GUPTA: When he's not in the classroom, he's in a bar. He's the co- owner of the popular bar "Booker and Dax" in New York City.

So what's the combo? Dynamic demos, extreme experimentation while inspiring a new generation of chefs. That's earned Dave Arnold the spot on THE NEXT LIST. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DAVE ARNOLD, DIRECTOR OF CULINARY TECHNOLOGY, INTERNATIONAL CULINARY CENTER: So I'm the director of culinary technology here at the International Culinary Center. I started doing that, I think, around 2005. At that time, there was really no one anywhere that had this kind of position.

My pitch was, look, you don't want to hire a scientist because they can't really talk to chefs, and you don't really want to hire a chef because they are still chefing right now. What you need is someone like me who can talk to chefs, know what they want, talk to scientists, get the information they want and do a good synthesis with that.

NATHAN MYHYVOLD, AUTHOR, "MODERNIST CUISINE": Because he's here in New York City and he's at an influential school, he brings knowledge about this stuff to a broad set of folks so he really plays a central role.

ARNOLD: The problem is you have to put it into water when it wants to hydrate because it wants to hydrate at all temperatures.

CHEF HERVE MALIVERT, CULINARY COORDINATOR, INTERNATIONAL CULINARY CENTER: I'm a chef, but sometimes when you talk about hydrocolloids and gums and you try to go on when I'm like, now I'm done.

ARNOLD: There's a certain group of chefs who kind of came to expect that from me, that I wouldn't tell them something that wasn't true and that because I hate not knowing things, if they ask me something that I don't know, I will probably go try to find out.

MALIVERT: I learn so much with Dave in four or five years.

ARNOLD: Students who are here for our culinary program sign up for a special six-month culinary that I come in and teach a couple special lectures and hands-on with them to give them a little more technology flavor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to teach students critical thinking that's really what Dave does instead of just accepting facts.

ARNOLD: One of the more important classes that we teach is on sous vide and low temperature cooking. Sous vide is anything that's in a vacuum bag, right, that's sous vide. It means under vacuum in French.

Low temperature cooking is actually the most important thing. It's the accurate control of temperature that has fundamentally changed the way many cooks approach a lot of their cooking problems. When you're cooking, you're not thinking, hey, a degree can make a big difference in something.

And yet I can show you that the difference between a fully runny egg yolk and a fully set egg yolk is only two degrees Celcius. So that all of a sudden a degree becomes an important measure and the ability to control that becomes an important measure.

But the whole way you have to cook, the whole way you think about how cooking works has to change.

MALIVERT: I'm doing a class with Dave Arnold. We subject to offer culinary technology. It's a very intense program on sous vide and low temperature cooking. Students for this class are chefs, foodies, Dave knows all about technology.

ARNOLD: You may not like none of them and that's fine. You're looking at texture and the one you hate least. Remember we're looking like the technique in making the variable so that they go down the line.

MALIVERT: And we cook this 15 different ways and then he have a test. And then they can have an idea what they would like, which range they would like.

ARNOLD: This doesn't make any damn sense because you would think if something cooks for a long time, it's going to overcook. You don't understand it's the temperature that's overcooking it and not the time. Your brain can't wrap around it until you cook that way.

I'm hoping that one of them is horribly undercooked, one of them is horribly overcooked and that two are somewhere in between and we hit the right zone. That's what we want.

MYHYVOLD: There are some effects with sous vide cooking where if you did everything exactly right, you could probably cook it without the machine but why?

ARNOLD: The fact that you could spend all that energy thinking about this tiny window, think of how many other things there are in the world that if you just focused on them harder, you could get amazing results. What was the magic number? Where did we hit?

I get very few people who question the fundamental validity of looking at new techniques now whereas six years ago, you know, all wisecracks all the time. Everyone assuming that if you're using a new technique that you're basically just some circus performer doing a lot of gimmicks and you weren't focused on the food.

In fact, my primary goal when I came to the ICC was to show that these techniques are not for gimmicks. These techniques help make better food. And the proof of that, actually, is interesting.

Every high-end restaurant, every high-end restaurant in New York City uses some of these techniques, whether it's hydrocolloids, lower temperature. They don't use them all the time, but they use them to make the food better.

We fill all of our glasses with liquid nitrogen because it's technically a superior way to chill a drink.




ARNOLD: We're in Booker and Dax, my bar in the east village, and we'll show some of the techniques that we use here to kind of really push drinks forward. We're going to make a drink today called a "French Columbian," which is a take on a fabulous Columbian drink.

So we're going put 2 ounces of pernot, a little bit of lemon, cinnamon stick in there, but I'm not going to put the alcohol in the drink. I'm going to put it in the cup we're going to serve it in. Now we're going to hit it with a red hot poker.

This is a piece of equipment that I designed that has a cartridge heater and I built them. It's a cartridge heater on the end of a stainless steel rod. You stick it into the drink and what happens is it lights on fire.

If you went into a bar in America prior to the civil war and order a hot drink in the wintertime, what they would do, because they had a fireplace running at all times, is they would pull a red hot poker out of the fireplace and stick it into a drink.

Probably the drink would have some form of brandy or whiskey and maybe some beer or some cider, and they would shove this poker into it to heat the drink up. And what the heat from that red hot poker does is change the nature of the drink.

The super high temperature changes the nature of the drink in a way that heating on a stove could never do. So this is designed as a way to recreate that kind of a flavor in a modern environment.

We're going to make a drink called the Thai basil daiquiri using a technique called nitro modelling. Where we use liquid nitrogen to freeze and crush up herbs. This is Thai basil and here is the main part of the technique.

We pour liquid nitrogen on the herb. The liquid nitrogen is going to freeze it. You can hear the herb getting frozen. You don't want too much liquid nitrogen in the container because it will affect the drink.

I want as much as possible all of those drinks to look and drink like a normal drink, because what I want is the technique. I want those techniques to become part of the canon. We chill all our glasses with liquid nitrogen because it's a technically superior way to chill a drink.

Thai basil daiquiri, look at that fresh green color from the nitro. I don't want that to be something that 20 years from now I look back on and think, man, we were making crazy drinks back then, that looks really dated. No.

You want somebody to look back and say, that looks good. That's what you're shooting for, something that isn't just a slice of something from a particular time.

We're at Booker and Dax, the company. We're on the lower east side of Manhattan. Whenever I'm not either teaching or if I'm not at the bar, then I'm here. This is home base.

This is Booker and Dax home base. The purpose of this base is to test, prototype recipes, techniques and ingredients for the bar and also recipes that we might sell to people at home.

PIPER KRISTENSEN, BOOKER AND DAX COMPANY: These are single ingredient features. They're all components we're going to have for our cola soda base and we're just trying them individually with a fixed amount of sugar, fixed amount of phosphoric acid so we can get a sense of how they taste in a soda setting. We have like 100 things going on perfectly. The maps are done, the blueprints are drawn.

ARNOLD: I once had a conversation with someone and they said, why are you doing this? Is this really important? You know, you're worried about these kinds of small differences of cocktails you're serving for $14 to people with money in New York City.

And I said, we can't all be saving babies. My mom, that's what she does for a living. She saves babies. Me, I make drinks. At least I'm doing the best job I can possibly do or trying to.




MYHYVOLD: Modern cuisine is the movement of chefs that are trying to create new kinds of food, new food experiences. And they don't care if they have to break some of the traditional rules of cooking to do so.

ARNOLD: My mom had me when she was in college and my dad was in grad school and my grandparents told my mom that she would never finish school because she had me. She took off, I think, a semester, maybe two, at Stanford, went back, finished college then when I was three, got accepted to Columbia to med school.

It wasn't easy for women to go to med school, and definitely if you had a kid, nobody would let you into med school. I'm not sure if my mom did because she was such a bad ass or if it was because her whole family told her she wouldn't do it, but we picked up and moved to New York.

In high school, I was a huge dork, a small dork. Not physically huge, large in dorkness, small in size. Well, in college I went to Yale and we were all dorks. So I was still dorky even in college, actually.

But, you know, when you go to, you know, a place like that, everyone was a geek where they came from. I was supposed to be a science guy when I went to college. My whole family is science people, science medicine, engineering, the whole crew.

When I went, I realized you kind of had to do the homework in science classes in college, and you kind of had to go to the class in college. I wasn't so good at any of that. I became a philosophy major. I loved it. I ended up writing both of my papers about Plato in Egypt at the time.

I met my future wife in my junior year. I thought, I better take an art class to kind of get a taste for her world. They taught me to weld in that class. I liked welding, I'm done, that's it. They let me loose way welder.

It ended up being very unsafe. I ended up almost killing myself several times. I was doing a lot of performance artwork in welding. Everything that I love, equipment, building things, dealing with people, doing performances all wrapped up into one and got into the art scene.

The products I was working on were just -- I just wasn't getting where I need to go. I started realizing that I didn't necessarily want to make my living in the art world anymore. I really wanted to be in the food world, and the question was how. I've always been a food guy.

I noticed that I was obsessing more and more about the execution of the foods that I was making and realized I should probably be doing this for a living. So I was going to spend this much of any time thinking about it. My sister-in-law was working at time out New York. She was the food editor there.

She said, you know what, there is this food restaurant opening up. You have to go because they're doing really interesting things. I went pretty soon after they opened. They had an amazing kitchen there. The second or third time I went, he somehow figured out I was a techno freak.

He said, can you get me this piece of equipment called a food regulator? I had no idea what it was, but I said I'll find it for you. I went on eBay and found it. And that was strangely, like, my ability to get a circulator to continue running was what started me to have the credentials to get the job at the French culinary. Life is weird.

I did a piece with St. George and the dragon where I built a dragon -- it was an air compressor that I stripped all the parts off and it was kerosene with nitrogen and I wrapped a bunch of old t- shirts in kerosene, turned on the blower, a big fire comes out.

The doctor says it kind of surgically burns, but I think it was mostly second-degree burns on my back. I can't go in the sun anymore with my back. Anyway, my wife was actually taking this picture. You are seeing the last moment of my life where I say, don't worry, it's OK, and my wife believes me.




ARNOLD: I spend almost all of my time thinking and reading about food.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has more knowledge about cooking than I would say most chefs in the world.

ARNOLD: If I'm not learning something today, the day is just wasted. Most people who cook enjoy the teaching aspect of it, enjoy showing other people how to do what they do. It's part of the business. I like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Working with other people cooking, you're always a teacher.

ARNOLD: Cooking issues originally started as a blog. I was working here at the school and there was no venue to spread to a wider audience, the kinds of things I was working on.

NILS NOREN, FORMER VP OF CULINARY AND PASTRY ARTS, ICC: One of the most important things about starting cooking issues was just to be able to provide knowledge. Free. It's there. Take it.

ARNOLD: I would get very technical and very focused on things. There is a lot of people who enjoy that sort of dogged, kind of crazy rundown of particular subjects.

After that I said I wanted something quicker, something I could take more questions in and kind of get more information out quickly, and that's why I started the cooking issues radio show.

Hello and welcome to "Cooking Issues." This is Dave Arnold, your host of "Cooking Issues" coming to you live every Tuesday from Roberto's pizzeria.

JACK INSLEE, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, HERITAGERADIO.ORG: David goes into questions you might not come across, like how do sous vide a particular cut of meat? You say a home chef should get comfortable with agar agar. I call it the car talk of food. One of your friends literally punched you in the face when you made him the fried chicken ice cream? That sounds extreme, right?

There aren't many resources for these things, they're so esoteric, and Dave is just a walking Encyclopedia for these kinds of things.

ARNOLD: It's a slip on the Turkish ice cream, which four or five years ago everyone was trying to duplicate. Most of the questions I get are fairly technical, but I'll answer any question, mostly on food.

INSLEE: We have a pretty big audience on the live show itself in Dave's case because many people speak to go to his lectures. This is their opportunity to get your questions answer ford free and it's live. It's a very unique experience.

MYHYVOLD: Most people don't realize how set in our ways we are about food. For many people it's something they feel more strongly about than religion or politics or any of those sorts of things.

That sounds funny until you serve them some of these modern editions and they say, what the hell is this? In doing that, these chefs are really becoming artists.

ARNOLD: A good analogy with modern art. A lot of people have a chip on their shoulder about modern art the same way they have a chip on their shoulder about modern cuisine.

And the reason is they go to a museum and they expect some crazy, profound experience. And they feel they're being poked fun at because they don't get it. What I always said about the art was, well, do you like looking at it?

Are you getting anything out of it? Do you have any resonance at all? They're like, yes, I said, that's it. That's all you need. The point is to have you enjoy it, have you feel something. If you have to know what somebody is feeling, if you have to understand the concept behind it, then it's not really that good.


GUPTA: Dave Arnold has a lot of irons in the fire literally. He's planning to use his knowledge and expertise to create a museum of food and drink here in New York City. It's his ability to constantly challenge the norm with new food experiences while creating an environment in a kitchen. That's Dave Arnold on THE NEXT LIST. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Hope to see you back here next Sunday.