Speaking off the toque: Tim Keating, executive chef at DeVille Restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel, 1300 Lamar Street, (713)652-6250.
Q. Houston chefs are regularly developing dishes with products that do not appear in local grocery stores, such as galangal, ostrich meat, blue corn and paddlefish caviar. But local supermarkets do carry products such as rutabagas, kohlrabi, parsnips and celery root. These ancient European vegetables must have some audience, or grocers would not sell them. Why don't serious chefs use them?
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A. There is a certain population that always uses these vegetables. We utilize "cellar roots" every day here at DeVille. We use rutabagas every day. If someone sends me 50 pounds of kohlrabi, I'll use them. I buy from a grower in Oregon that has heirloom kohlrabi. We utilize local producers of vegetables -- and support the producers of heirloom vegetables -- as much as possible. You mentioned parsnips -- we use them every day. We make long fried things from them that are incorporated into dishes that may use many varieties of vegetables. There are lots of vegetables that we use that are not listed on the menu. When we make a vegetable medley, we may utilize 15 different vegetables, including the ones you mentioned. These vegetables add a ton of color. All these sorts of eclectic vegetables are everywhere on New York menus at the serious restaurants. Here, they do not appear on the menus, but they are in the dishes.