How does Curtis Stone pick the monthly ingredient at his restaurant, Maude?
It’s two-fold. The cooking experience should be a really enjoyable one, and I wanted to be surrounded by great chefs, real creativity and talent. I think to do that you’ve got to create an environment that they’re going to want to work in. For chefs to come up with a different menu each month with some limitations around it — like you have to use this one ingredient in every course — gets us really close to the farmers. We go out and meet the farmers and growers. We were recently out on the high desert with an incredible carrot and parsnip grower, who sort of gets this cold climate in California, which is nice. It challenges our creativity.
A pumpkin menu sounds pretty boring, but we say, “What can we do?” We can use the blossoms; we can use the seeds; we can turn it into an oil; we can roast it, poach it and purée it. Once you start figuring out what you can do and what else you can use within that season — all of the game and seafood that’s available this time of year — it actually gets kind of exciting. That’s from the chef’s perspective.
From the diner’s perspective, that’s also really interesting because you come in thinking, “Oh, what are we going to get? It’s a menu around one ingredient.” Then you walk away thinking to yourself, “Who knew you could get such diversity and incredible flavors in one meal from one ingredient?”