Chef Michael Leviton’s 10 things every cook should know

I was searching the web for 10 things every cook should know and what do you know, I found this article in the Boston Globe written by Matt Barber.  There is a short video that accompanies this article. -Crystal A. Johnson

NEWTON — All chefs have their own way of doing things: cutting an onion, roasting potatoes, making a basic sauce. And all chefs will tell you their way is the right way.

It’s no wonder then, with so many celebrity chefs, cookbooks, and food personalities on TV, that home cooks are confused about even the most basic of kitchen tasks.

Enter Michael Leviton, chef and owner of Lumiere in Newton and chef and partner of Area Four in Cambridge. Leviton is no stranger to basic cooking instruction: He teaches in Boston University’s culinary arts program, and has worked with young chefs right out of school, so he’s aware what novices know and don’t know. As recent college graduates strike out on their own, and newlyweds settle into their own places, the time to start building a lifetime repertoire of cooking skills is now.

“You master things by doing them over and over,” says Leviton. But cheat where it makes sense. “Look, I’ve got two kids. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen when I’m at home.” Translation: Open a can of beans instead of soaking the dried variety, or buy biscuits instead of baking them. Leviton’s list of the 10 cooking essentials covers the basics for many meals.

1. Blanch vegetables

Leviton demonstrates how to blanch geen beans and shock them in cold water.


This is a method of quickly cooking something in boiling water, then plunging it into ice water to stop the cooking process and lock in vibrant color. Leviton uses lots of salty water — his ratio is 1 cup salt to 1 gallon of water. “You want it to taste like the North Atlantic,” he says.

To blanch 1 pound of green beans to serve 4, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water nearby. Working in small batches, add beans to the rapidly boiling water and cook 3½ minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the ice bath. Continue until all beans are cooked and cooled. Drain the beans, pat dry with paper towels, and saute briefly in a little butter or olive oil.


The Fine Dining Restaurants of Vegas “Top Chef”

The Houston Chronicle recently did a piece on Top Chef, recognizing the Chefs and fine dining restaurants of Vegas.  Here is the listing.


Chef Alessandro Stratta’s sumptuous Alex serves what he calls French Riviera dining. We call it stupendous. Everything about the enterprise — the lavish interior, the expert service, the exquisite food — is at the top of its game. Housed in Wynn Las Vegas, home to an embarrassment of culinary riches, Alex offers dishes such as John Dory with fondant potato, ocean trout with charred cuttlefish, crispy pork belly with peas and Serrano ham, braised American Wagyu short ribs with onion jam and roasted squab with seared foie gras. If you’re going for broke, you might as well splurge on the $295 tasting menu, including wines. After all, you only live once.

(Photo Credit/Star Bulletins: Chef Alessandro’s creation)

Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare

There’s a reason Paul Bartolotta won best chef in the Southwest at this year’s James Beard Awards. His restaurant in Wynn Las Vegas has been described by food critics as one of the most breathtaking seafood experiences in the world. Much has been written about the restaurant’s way with sea creatures flown in daily. But the true gauge is your own taste: Go for the whole branzino (sea bass), orata (sea bream) or roasted aragosta (spiny lobster). From the tiny clams in garlic tomato sauce to the seafood risotto to the turbot, Bartolotta is out to impress. And impress he does. The prices may shock Poseidon, but you’ll have to travel far to find a better Italian seafood experience.

BLT Burger

High-end restaurants may be suffering in this economy, which makes a burger (especially a good one) a logical dinner option. Chef Laurent Tourondel, seen in Episode 4, knows from a good burger, and his BLT Burger in Mirage is ready to serve up the quintessential American meal, paired with expert fries and thick milkshakes. The spiffy restaurant makes you feel like a grown-up player while plying you with kiddie comfort foods such as mozzarella sticks, onion rings, nachos, s’mores and Krispy Kreme doughnut bread pudding. Hard to resist, so don’t even try.


Finding Thomas Keller’s bustling bistro in the Venetian’s Venezia Tower is a bit of a chore. But your rewards are many at this grand café from the chef whose French Laundry is one of the world’s most sought-after dining experiences. Bouchon serves up expert French bistro fare, including goat cheese salad, duck confit, roasted leg of lamb, croque madame, brandade, steak frites and profiteroles. It’s homey fare in a casual setting that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. The bread is heavenly. Don’t miss the rillettes of salmon (and excuse to consume even more bread). The raw bar is ready to serve you oysters and a cold glass of Sancerre. In the middle of the desert, you feel you’re in Paris.


Head judge Tom Colicchio’s posh steakhouse in MGM Grand is probably the ultimate Top Chef restaurant. The same laser eyes that Colicchio trains on contestants are focused on his menu of grilled and roasted meats from the top of the beef heap. But as we saw in Season 6’s episode with Natalie Portman, Craftsteak is more than a temple of cow; it also serves impeccable seafood and the most pristine vegetables. If you’re craving Vegas razzle-dazzle you won’t find it in this rather serious dining room. But you will find expert service and terrific food.

Click to See Info on the following Restaurants Below

  • Daniel Boulud Brasserie, Fleur de Lys Restaurant

  • Joel Robuchon, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
  • Olives-Todd English’s Mediterranean restaurant
  • Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood


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