Dining

In My Kitchen: Alex Seidel, Owner and Executive Chef, Fruition Restaurant

By
February 2011

Alex Seidel wasn’t born with a chef’s hat on. “I found out right away that I was in a little over my head,” he says of his first cooking gig at Louise’s Trattoria in Milwaukee. But that experience lit the spark that continues to burn. He traded his college career at the University of Wisconsin for culinary school at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon. Seidel eventually landed at Vail’s renowned Sweet Basil and then at Mizuna in Denver, where he was executive chef until he opened his own spot, Fruition, in February 2007. The restaurant was an instant hit, and last summer Seidel was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs.

Awards Show Being named by Food & Wine magazine as one of the country’s best new chefs is the highlight of Seidel’s culinary career thus far. He proudly displays the award—a framed mini chef’s coat—on his kitchen wall.

Less is More It’s all about the ingredients for Seidel, who calls himself a minimalist in the kitchen. “I like to keep things simple,” Seidel says. “It’s really about sourcing the best ingredients and highlighting them.”

Meat of the Matter “Mr. Pig” stands guard on top of the refrigerator where the freezer is jammed with all types of meat—much of it hunted by Seidel. Each year, he goes deer, elk, and pheasant hunting and his catch restocks the freezer, becomes dinner, and is often turned into homemade sausage.

Cheese Lover A Wisconsin boy, Seidel received this set of cheese knives as a gift from Solera Restaurant chef Goose Sorensen, who knew about Seidel’s fancy for cheese. With a ready supply of cheese from Fruition Farms (a local farm that he co-owns), these knives are in constant rotation.

Home Cookin’ Seidel loves his slow cooker. With busy work schedules and two kids, Seidel and his wife, Melissa, often fill the pot in the morning with beef stew or Cornish hens with squash. Seidel notes that it’s important to add good seasoning to the mix since the flavors are stewing together all day.

Quick Tip “Always taste your food while you’re making it,” Seidel says. “It trains your palate and lets you see how your food evolves.”

Seidel’s Grocery Grapes, check. Pumpkins, check. Basil and asparagus, check check. This is just a sampling of the homegrown produce found in the Seidels’ backyard garden (much of which is now preserved for the winter months). His four-year-old’s favorite task: harvesting squash for dinner.

    Fruition’s Potato-Wrapped Oysters Rockefeller
  • 4 large russet potatoes, divided
  • 1 pound naturally smoked bacon
  • 3 pounds baby spinach
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 9 medium leeks, diced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup Parmesan
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 45 oysters
  • Peanut oil (for frying)
  • Cut three potatoes lengthwise down the middle. Working from the middle, with skin still on, thinly slice the potato to the thickness of a potato chip. Make 45 chips and hold in cold water. Blanch potatoes in salted boiling water for one minute or just until you can roll the potato without it snapping. Shock in an ice bath, strain, and pat dry.
  • Cube bacon and render it over medium heat. Pour off excess bacon fat and add the spinach leaves. Wilt the spinach and finish with sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper. Set aside. Sweat onion and leeks until translucent. Add the remaining russet potato and deglaze with white wine. Reduce the wine until almost gone and add the heavy cream.
  • Cook the potato in the liquid mixture and use it as a natural thickener for the emulsion. Finish emulsion with Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pur√©e in a blender and hold warm for dipping sauce.
  • Finally, shuck the oysters, making sure there is no shell debris left over. Roll the oyster inside the potato and secure with a toothpick. Fry in peanut oil at 350¬∞ for two minutes or until the potato is golden and crispy. Place oyster on top of spinach, bacon, and sherry mix and serve with emulsion on the side.