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Issue 105 - Waiter, There's Bourbon in my Dinner

Whisky Magazine Issue 105
July 2012


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Waiter, There's Bourbon in my Dinner

Liza Weisstuchmeets two chefs putting Bourbon at the heart of their dishes

When Laurent Geroli took a job as a chef at Louisville's legendary, stately Brown Hotel in 2007, he was not prepared for the culture shock. Having spent 10 years as chef at a Ritz Carlton resort in Key West, Florida, he arrived in Kentucky knowing very little about Bourbon: how it was made or that it was even popular. So he headed to a Bar and took his education upon himself. Not long into his self-instruction, he realised something every chef is bound to understand: here's a flavour that should be essential in the kitchen pantry.

It's de rigueur to talk about Bourbon's versatility at the bar. It's a common stand-in for rye in a rich, heady Manhattan. It takes a star turn in mint juleps, the quintessential light summer sip. Now American chefs are stepping up to showcase the spirit's versatility in the kitchen.

“To do any sauce, you have to have great flavour. Classical peppercorn sauce is made with Cognac, but when you substitute that with Bourbon; it's just awesome,” Geroli said with gusto. “The charcoal of the barrel brings sweetness, a nice flavour. That's why I cook with Bourbon.” And there you have it, in no uncertain terms.

The Brown Hotel is renowned for its Hot Brown, a baked open-face sandwich piled with Bacon and turkey then soused with what looks like the runoff of a volcanic eruption of a Bechamel cheese sauce. Last year, the 85th anniversary of the dish's invention, the hotel's restaurant sold 16,000 Hot Browns.

Meantime, Geroli, a French Canadian, wa...

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