Recipes for Success: Mansard Riyadh’s culinary director Glenn Eastman talks patience, ‘scary fusion’
DUBAI: For Glenn Eastman — culinary director at Mansard Riyadh and head chef at Sadelle’s, a chic French-style café in the heart of Riyadh — cooking is all about taking the time to get lost in it.
“I love to cook dishes that take time at home,” he tells Arab News. “I like something that has to braise for, like, three or four hours. I find it very therapeutic.”
Eastman says he has been fortunate to have worked in “many places that have been at the beginning of their boom when they entered the food industry.” And with his move to Saudi six years ago, he continues, “I think that my luck has held. The change is extraordinary. And the growth is extraordinary. The whole direction of food has changed. The whole outlook (on food) now is not as something that’s just to feed your body, people are feeding their souls, feeding their passions, with it.”
Here, Eastman talks patience, scary fusion, and well-done meat, and provides a classic French toast recipe.
What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?
Don’t do it. (Laughs.) No, just kidding. I think it’s important that you have one really good knife that just drives your passion. It’s like if you’re a guitar player and you have that one guitar that when you touch it, it brings music out of you. Also, you should never be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone and really explore. The only way to learn is to do new things.
What was the most common mistake you made when you were starting out?
Many. The worst was that I just didn’t have the patience to follow the flow, to wait for everything to come to its perfect point before it was used. Maybe I’d use an unripe tomato because I didn’t want to wait for it to ripen; or maybe I wouldn’t let bread proof long enough. But as trying as this patience thing is, it’s one of the keys to success.
What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?
There’s a lot, but from my experience, herbs are what really do it. When you add fresh herbs to a dish, that perfume and aroma can really drive the flavor profile to a point where it’s exceptional.
When you go out to eat, are you able to relax and enjoy it, or do you find yourself critiquing the food?
I try not to. And I’ve learned to control myself over the years. But as a young chef, that was very hard. But now I try to just enjoy the experience. And out of every (visit), I can take away something that’s a learning experience for me, you know? So I try to look at it like that.
What’s your favorite cuisine?
I like ethnic cuisines. So, when I’m here, I try to find the best Saudi restaurant… you know? Or I try to find the very best Korean restaurant — which is hard here, by the way — or Japanese. So, I like specific ethnic touches. I’m not a fusion guy. Fusion, it’s a little scary.
What customer behavior most annoys you?
I don’t know where to start. In general, I’m pretty accepting of people’s tastes. Like, you get a lot of people that want their poached eggs well done. To me, that’s just a boiled egg. Those kinds of things are mildly infuriating, but not impossible to deal with. At L’Ami Dave (restaurant in Mansard Riyadh), for example, if someone orders a steak well done, I mean, OK, everybody has their taste. That’s fine. But what a way to ruin a great piece of wagyu. It’s infuriating, but you learn to live with it.
What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?
I had a French mentor and he used two dishes to teach me about patience. One was a real Spanish paella. And the other was beef bourguignon.
What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right?
As a young chef, I used to have a real hard time with rice. I mean, I could make rice paste like you’d never believe; I could use it for glue! But, eventually, through repetition — and having people criticize me, basically — I learned to do it well.
As a head chef, what are you like? Are you a disciplinarian? Or are you quite laid back?
Some people are jokers and some people are serious. I’ve learned to put that on the back burner — I don’t need to over-control that. But I’m inflexible on cleanliness and culinary basics.
Chef Glenn’s French toast
1 loaf of brioche bread, sliced 45mm thick (about 85g per slice); 12 whole eggs; 120g granulated sugar; 2g sea salt; 5g vanilla extract; seeds from ½ vanilla bean; 1lt whole milk
1. Leave the bread at room temperature to dry overnight.
2. Mix all the other ingredients together to make the custard and refrigerate overnight.
3. Soak the dried bread in custard for 2 hours.
4. Pan fry the toast in clarified butter on a low temperature until the toast is lightly brown on both sides.
5. Place on tray in oven at 160c and bake for 10 minutes until the custard sets and brioche slices are moist but firm.
6. Remove from oven, cut in half diagonally and pan fry in butter until lightly crisped.
7. Place on plate, dust with powdered sugar, and serve hot with you favorite red fruit jam and maple syrup.