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Chefs You Need to Know

Meet the Culinary Trail Blazers

Article by Debra Laizure

Photography by Michael McRuiz

Originally published in Tulsa Lifestyle

Executive Chef Carla Cousins

Details

Restaurant: Cardinal Club

Location: 106th & Memorial, Tulsa

Menu: CardinalClubTulsa.com

Carla Cousins is a well-respected chef who has worked in many of Tulsa’s upscale restaurants. In January, she accepted the executive chef position with Cardinal Club, a premiere dining and social club.

What chef has inspired you the most?

I have been very blessed to work for some of Tulsa’s best chefs so I don’t think I could fairly name just one as an inspiration. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from each of them. Because this is a second career for me, I am inspired by Julia Child’s story and what she was able to accomplish, especially after learning she started her culinary career later in life.

Best kitchen tool for home cooks?

I highly recommend investing in a good 8” chef’s knife and learn how to use it properly. You only need one knife to do most things in the kitchen along with a proper cutting board. I think anyone who wants to up their cooking game at home should take a cooking skills class to go with it!

Best thing you ever ate?

I have had a lot of great meals and it would be hard to pinpoint just one. But our American Wagyu Tomahawk Steak ranks up there with the best of the best. We cook it from start to finish in our Gateway drum smokers using pecan and cherry wood, seasoning it with a blend of five different competition-level seasonings and proprietary rubs. It is literally the best steak I have ever had! I would pair it with a bottle of Walla Walla, Washington Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes, a bottle. It’s a 2 ½ pound steak! You will want to share it with someone.

Favorite item at Cardinal Club?

As mentioned above, the American Wagyu Tomahawk Steak. Try it with Aerials by Revelry Red Mountain Cabernet. This single-vineyard wine can stand up to the spice and rich fats of the steak.

Chef Randy Page

Details

Restaurant: Cricket & Fig Chocolate

Location: 5800 S Lewis Ave, Tulsa

Menu: CricketAndFig.com

 

Randy Page has been in the food industry since 1985 and a Chef for more than 25 years. His restaurant, Cricket & Fig, opened last fall in the London Square shopping center.

Did you cook as a child?

Yes, my mother was a great cook and baker, and I wanted to learn to make cakes and pies like she did. I enjoyed making Chocolate Mousse because it has a reputation for being difficult to make as well as being elegant and rare (at least to an 8-year-old). I like to learn how things work and I enjoy challenges. My early influences were the master chefs of the early 90’s; Charlie Trotter, Jean Louis Palladin and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and pastry chefs Jacques Torres and Norman Love.

Best thing you ever ate?

A Crème Brûlée Napoleon with Butterscotch at The Townhouse in Charlotte, NC. It was the best dessert I have ever had. The layers of rich custard were so cold and just perfectly balanced by delicate, buttery crisp almond pastry layers and a rich butterscotch sauce. And yes, I know how to make it—the chef/owner is a friend of mine.

What is the biggest thing that has ever happened to you as a chef?

While working in San Luis Obispo, California, I was asked to cook for Julia Child and two companions. I can’t remember what I cooked for her, but it was five or six courses and I sat and chatted with her for a half-hour or so afterward. She was incredibly kind and gracious.

Favorite item at Cricket & Fig?

Our Molten Chocolate Cake is incredibly decadent. Made with our stellar Valrhona 64% dark chocolate, it includes a scoop of our handmade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and homemade graham crackers.

Chef Hope Alexander

Details

Restaurant: Esperance Bakery

Location: 610 W. Main St., Jenks

Menu: EsperanceBakery.com

Hope Alexander doesn’t consider herself a Chef, but as someone spreading happiness through handmade pastries. Esperance Bakery recently celebrated its four-year anniversary.

Best kitchen tool for home cooks?

A good cookbook. One that has actual tested recipes. The cookbook that I started with as a teenager was Stir Ups published by the Junior Welfare League of Enid, OK. It’s the book that taught me about Diane Sauce and Coquille St. Jacques, Chocolate Mousse and the frustration of Dutch Handkerchiefs. It was, and still is, such an unexpected compilation of recipes. I still use it.

Best compliment you have ever received?

The best compliment I get starts as unspoken. I have watched customers take a bite of one of our pastries, thinking it’s just another mass-produced thing, and their whole demeanor changes. Sometimes there is a moan of delight or a blush from the unexpected deliciousness. Then they tell me it is the best thing they have eaten, or what is even more delightful, they tell me it takes them back to their honeymoon in France or reminds them of a wonderful trip they took abroad. Those are the ones that make me feel the best about what I do.

What wine pairs best with pastries?

I am not a traditionalist when it comes to wine and wine pairing, and the same goes for beer. I believe that if you like it, drink it. I love pairing wine with our bread puddings. When we have leftover croissants, we freeze them and later make bread puddings. Our Mexican Bread Pudding is made from spicy refried bean croissants with locally sourced ground beef, while our Italian Bread Pudding is made from marinara filled croissants. 

Favorite item at Esperance Bakery?

My favorite item is definitely our savory Bread Pudding with sausage, dates and pine nuts. It is such a different combination of flavors and pairs wonderfully with Austin Hope's 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon.

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