World Chefs: Lewis passionate about finding new ingredients

Tue Aug 7, 2012 10:27am EDT
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By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Whether it's wild flowers or weeds on his patio, American chef Brian Lewis is on a quest to find new ingredients and has included them in some of the meals at his elm restaurant, which opened earlier this year.

Before launching the eatery in New Canaan, Connecticut in March, the 45-year-old classically trained chef worked at actor Richard Gere's restaurant, The Farmhouse at The Bedford Post in New York state, where he received critical acclaim.

Lewis, who grew up just north of New York City, spoke to Reuters about his new restaurant, his choice of career and favorite ingredients.

Q: Describe your culinary approach for elm.

A: "My food is rooted in tradition and inspired by the seasons. I'm an American chef who draws inspiration from French and Italian cooking. I also have a strong influence from modern Spanish cooking, modern techniques, as well as age-old techniques whether it's salting, curing, preserving, confitting ... We are always looking for new ingredients -- that is what drives me the most."

Q: What new ingredients are you experimenting with now?

A: "A lot of wild herbs and wild lettuces. Even in backyards, there are wild Italian strawberries. My quest now is finding things like purslane, which is a weed growing in the cracks in my patio. It's fabulous and I snip it. I clean it and pair that with heirloom tomato hearts and sheep's milk curd. Wild forage, flowers and greens are the favorite of the moment. These radish, broccoli and watermelon flowers are beautiful. It's just not from an aesthetic point of view, they are peppery and the delicious flavors that come from them are really unique."

Q: What has been the diners' response to elm so far?   Continued...

American chef Brian Lewis poses in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters in New York on August 6, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Weschler/Handout