April 7, 2009 / 7:43 PM / 10 years ago

Chef Jurgensen dishes kitchen secrets

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Dalia Jurgensen left a promising job in publishing to pursue her dream of becoming a pastry chef but it wasn’t always easy being a female in a macho kitchen environment.

Dalia Jurgensen, the 37-year-old chef at Dressler, a Michelin-star restaurant in New York, is seen in an undated photo. REUTERS/Sarah Shatz/Handout

In her new book, “Spiced,” the 37-year-old chef at Dressler, a Michelin-star restaurant in New York, chronicles her culinary journey with an inside look at what happens at some of the city’s top restaurants.

She spoke to Reuters about her experiences and what types of desserts she cooks at home.

Q: In your book you recount some wild incidents at the restaurants. Are they typical?

A: “I think it’s fairly typical. There’s a lot inter-staff shenanigans that go on. I think partly it’s because of (people) working in such close quarters. I can’t say it happens in every restaurants but it’s pretty standard stuff.”

Q: Most female chefs do not like to be distinguished by their gender. Do you feel the same way?

A: “What it comes down to is who does the best job. Once you’ve proved yourself, your being a female is secondary.”

Q: What advice do have for aspiring chefs?

A: “They must do it because they love all aspects of cooking from peeling carrots to chopping to butchering. No matter what point (you are) in your career, you still have to do them. They should also try out different restaurants because there are a lot of food styles and personalities out there.”

Q: How would you describe your approach to desserts now?

A: “I like to do slight twists on flavors to what people are already familiar with, like an interesting ice cream that is out of the ordinary but not so out of the ordinary that it may keep people from ordering it. I like to do things seasonally and use local products, but I’m not tied to that.”

Q: Do you make desserts at home?

A: “I don’t make desserts for myself, but I often make them for my husband who has a huge sweet tooth. For him, I make fruit crumbles, very simple things, very easy to execute and that don’t take up a lot counter space. I would also make cookies, brownies and occasionally pound cakes.”

Hazelnut crusted chevre cheesecake with blackberries and creamsicle sauce (Yield: one 8-inch cheesecake)

Hazelnut crust:

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoon all purpose flour

1/4 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6-1/2 tablespoon butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mix all of the above ingredients until thoroughly


3. Gently press the crust into the bottom, and one-half inch up the sides, of an 8-inch spring form pan.

4. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Cool.

Chevre cheese cake:

12 oz cream cheese, room temperature

11 oz chevre, room temperature

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Using the paddle attachment on a standing mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese and the chevre until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

3. Beat in the sugar until incorporated.

4. Beat in the yolks, two at a time, scraping down the sides in between additions.

5. Fold in the sour cream and lemon juice.

6. Pour batter into prepared spring form pan.

7. Bake until batter is set, about 40 minutes. Cool.


3 pints blackberries

1/4 cup sugar

1. In a saucepan on low-medium heat, cook berries and sugar until berries soften and juices slightly thicken, about 15-20 minutes, adding more sugar to taste. Cool.

“creamsicle” sauce:

2 cups orange juice

1/2 vanilla bean, split or, 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces

1. On medium heat, reduce orange juice and vanilla bean to 1/2 cup. Stir in sugar.

2. Reduce the heat to low. Whisk in butter bit by bit until completely incorporated.

3. Remove from heat and strain. Discard vanilla bean. Reserve at room temperature until needed.

Reporting by Richard Leong; editing by Patricia Reaney

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