My Winter Sport

Back CameraDuring this time of the year people are bundling up, lighting up the fireplaces, and covering up with the biggest afghan they can find.  Not me.  Usually this time of the year brings ice carving.  For the past couple of years I have carved competitively in NICA (National Ice Carving Association) sanctioned events all over Michigan.  It’s one of those sports that not a lot of people do or are even exposed to.  I was lucky enough to take a class while I was still in school up at GRCC.  During the class I was asked to carve for the school team, and accepted. Ice2

This sport is becoming more popular in the food industry not for the competitions, but for the displays.  Ice is used for centerpiece decoration, shrimp cocktail, fruit, sushi, and ice bars stocked full of liquor.  These are just a few examples.  Originally though, when it all started it was use as light lanterns.  In the 1600s, native hunters and fishermen of the Chinese province of Heilongjiang, on the border of Russia, designed ice lanterns for dark winter nights. They filled buckets with water to make ice, then slid it out, dug a hole in it and put a candle in the hole to make a lantern. The trend spread, and people started hanging decorated lanterns from homes and parading them in carnivals. In 1897, the Trans Siberian Railway was extended through the small Chinese fishing town of Harbin in Heilongjiang, once occupied by Russia. As a result of the traffic, Harbin grew into a cosmopolitan city. With below freezing winds from Siberia, and ice from the frozen Songhua River, Harbin became the home of the annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Currently, this festival features the work of thousands of artists from all over the world.

Ice3Back then they used little ice scoops or make-shift knives to do the lanterns, and now it’s chainsaws, dremels, grinders, sanders, 3 foot chisels, aluminum, and irons.  There is fusing blocks together to make the illusion of it being alive, and hundreds of garnishing techniques to make it look completely real.  The sport has come a long way, and it’s a total rush to sit in front of a thousand people and create something beautiful out of a three hundred pound ice cube.Back Camera

If you ever get up from the fireplace and can handle a couple of hours in the cold I highly suggest that you make it to a competition, or an event with sculptures.  It will make you appreciate the art, time and love that go into each one of these displays that are just going to melt away.

Joe Pearson
Lead Line Cook

Grandma’s Recipes

Growing up with my Bacha

The Chef's Table - Zazios Birmingham

The Chef’s Table – Zazios Birmingham

It is easy to get caught up in everyday life. We don’t get or take enough chances to do something different or “stray away from the pack”.  About a month ago, I was given the chance to do exactly that. Trust me, I will always love flipping steaks and grilling asparagus, but now it’s time to get out the wok. I have the privilege of cooking at the Chef’s Table in Zazios on January 24th. My chef Jud McMichael and I will be serving a five course Asian inspired dinner.

Aside from Jud’s strong love for Asian fare, Japanese food was part of my childhood. I was the kid who taught my kindergarten class how to use chop sticks for show and tell. The same one who had a rice cooker in his dorm room. My grandmother, Shuko Kuwahara, was born in the beautiful city of Nara, the capital to the Kensai region of Japan. She met my grandfather, Richard Philips, during the Korean War while working as a translator at the military base where he was stationed. An American M.P. was hassling Shuko one day, and my grandfather, a robust and kind man, came to the rescue. They were married shortly after and she moved to the states in 1951. They raised two laudable children and influenced all four of their grandchildren heavily.

My Bacha and Mother

My Bacha and Mother

I will never forget the meals she cooked for us. The captivating smell as you approached their house. The sound of her washing her hands in the kitchen sink as we walked in the front door. The feeling of her small and welcoming arms in the greeting that followed. She was an artist for occupation and that didn’t change in the kitchen. She cooked with such finesse; washing her rice meticulously and chilling the spinach in such a specific way, her delicate hands flipping teppanyaki with chop sticks or drying tempura over paper towel. Delicious inari sushi was a staple along with small Japanese donuts, regardless of the fastidious process to make them. She advanced her grandchildren’s palettes at a young age. More so, she taught us to appreciate dining together around a table of beautiful food as a family, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Inari Sushi

Inari Sushi

As a cook now, I look back and regret the things I didn’t learn from her. It couldn’t be more true that “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. She was a culinary mecca, filled with advanced knowledge of process and an understanding of food that I may never reach.  All I physically have are some simple recipes, most of which are in Japanese, but more importantly, I have vivid memories. I’m going to recreate some of her classic dishes as well as debut a few of my own, but all deriving from the flavors entrenched in those memories. Come dine with us later this month, and taste a piece of inspiration that Shuko left behind.

 Nathan Shaw
Lead Line Cook


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