Q & A w Babeth's Feast Chef Demarco on Creating New Dishes
Making a delicious dinner tonight might take an hour or two, or if it’s a Babeth’s Feast meal, 15 minutes or less! But when it comes to creating the actual recipe, perfecting your next Babeth’s Feast meal can take up to six months! We sat down with Babeth’s Feast Executive Chef, Frank Demarco, to learn the details behind his culinary labor of love, and how his process informed the creation of one of the newest Babeth’s Feast main course options, Chicken Asada. Here is what Chef Frank had to say.
What is your creative process for deciding which dishes to craft next?
We hold creative meetings with Elisabeth, our founder, in which we discuss different cuisines and how they would be received by our customers. I then present more refined ideas and provide examples of recipes to choose from.
How did you decide upon Chicken Asada?
We are always looking to innovate by applying our French-influenced cooking techniques to a variety of global flavors. Chicken Asada was an easy choice because it’s a simple dish that relies on clean ingredients and distinctive flavors that personify the region it came from.
Asada is typically a zesty lime marinade—heat and citrus. Chicken Asada is marinated and then cooked on a grill. Our goal was to perfect this even more by applying the sous-vide cooking method. By sealing all of the ingredients in individual pouches and cooking each pouch low and slow, we infuse the dish with the natural juices of the chicken and the flavor of the vegetables. The sous-vide technique locks in freshness, preserves texture, and allows us to achieve a sauce that captures the flavors of the region and the individual ingredients.
You work with culinary partners to create your dishes. What did that process look like for Chicken Asada?
For this dish—for all of our dishes—we work tirelessly with our culinary partner(s) to hone in on the exact time and temperature for cooking each dish. This ensures that each element, or ingredient, is perfectly cooked for the absolute best flavor. But also, to be sure the ingredients maintain their integrity throughout the process. Not just great flavor, but texture, moisture content—and also ensuring that vitamins and other nutrients are not compromised.\
What is the thought behind sous-vide cooking in a pouch?
Cooking in one pouch is not the norm because most meal delivery services cook in mass quantities—1000 pounds or more. They will cook the veggies at one place, the protein at another, and the sauce at yet another—and then combine it to complete the dish. We don’t do this because it inhibits the ability to fine tune and perfect every element of every dish. We feel very confident that we are the only ones using sous-vide cooking from start to finish.
How do you maintain your high standards of quality when producing large quantities of a dish?
It’s a pretty comprehensive process! We start by making quantities of 5 or 10 pounds. When we get that right, we work with 100-pound quantities, then with 500 pounds and more. You can’t just add more of the same ingredients when making larger quantities of food. Often adjustments need to be made. For example, dried red chile flakes. Sometimes you have the quantity right for 10 pounds but for 100 or 500 pounds, it becomes overbearing. Perfecting recipes takes patience and persistence.
What happens after you have cooked the first small test batches of the new dish?
We take it back to the team to taste it, make any last adjustments, and give it final approval. Once it is approved, we work with our culinary partner(s) to create the first official batch, which takes time and cooks low and slow for hours on end, resulting in spot-on flavor!
How long did this process take from beginning to end?
For the Chicken Asada, it took almost six months, which is longer than usual because it took a bit longer to get the flavor profile of the sauce exactly where we wanted it to be. We also take time to source every ingredient responsibly. All of our proteins are antibiotic-free. We only use clean ingredients, which, sometimes, is a challenge but we do not compromise.
How is your founder, Elisabeth, a part of this process?
Elisabeth leads strategy and direction. We work to match her passion for delivering a wide variety of real food—dishes made with clean ingredients, each true to the tradition and taste of the region. She is a part of the ideation process, and tastes and approves everything we create. It gets approved when we can all agree it tastes like someone’s grandma made it!
How many dishes do you create every year?
We do about 25 to 30 new entrees every year. We want to make sure our selection is always growing and our menu is always fresh. Oh, and by the way, we also developed and offer Beef Asada.
We have just started working on Moroccan and Indian recipes. We recently rolled out two Korean dishes, Beef Bulgogi and Chicken Bulgogi. We are always looking to expand our flavors and our offerings, and strive to deliver authenticity using real ingredients. Each global flavor represents the essence of tradition woven into the fabric of family in every unique community. That’s the power food has to unite!