Theo Friedman’s post-college shtick isn’t the typical gap year or straight to grad school. This recent Tufts graduate has taken a more creative path: master chef.
Back up: From his ex-college course in which he taught students about the chemistry of cooking, to his 20 Course Menus as his senior project, Theo has left a lasting impression on the food scene at Tufts University.
Update: Now, he’s traveling around the country serving beautiful and creative multi-course tasting menus to lucky commissioners. While he’s based out of New York City, he often brings his show on the road to places like DC and LA.
He brought his “Theory Kitchen” dinner concept back for his original Boston food fans in February. Serving four weekend seatings, Theo and his team – Nick Dynan and Jessie Galbston – impressed over 50 diners. The other guests ranged from Theo’s friends from Tufts to his older brother’s girlfriend!
This pop-up dinner vibe is catching on for good reason. The impressive and unfamiliar ingredients composed into perfectly round dishes made me forget that I was sitting in someone’s living room. Yet the laid-back service created a comfortable environment and a bond between the chef, dish, the diner without the distractions of conventional fine dining.
Here’s your course-by-course breakdown:
Cheese, Mustard-Cured Daikon, Edamame Powder
“Snack.” This is definitely one killer way to snack. The daikon, a carrot-shaped, spicy root vegetable, is filled with the fresh cheese and sprinkled with edamame powder. Diners were licking the remaining edamame powder off of the plate.
Sun-choke, Salt-cured Scallop, Satay
The nutty, velvety sunchoke (aka jerusalem artichoke) soup perfectly balanced the salty scallops. Theo walked around the table and personally poured the soup into the bowl for a beautiful presentation. Looking for a simple way to incorporate artichoke into your dishes? Check out our favorite here.
Our Bread, Our Butter, Our Jam
The most important part of any tasting menu. Killed it. A fresh-out-of-the-oven popover, bacon butter, and raspberry vanilla jam. We literally watched them take the popover out of the oven and place it in front of us. It was basically the deconstructed, grown-up version of a Pop Tart, but way better.
Egg, Kale, Shiitake
The soy-flavored egg and shiitake mushrooms were hidden underneath the kale chiffonade. The bite of salt added a bit of indulgence to the dish, but the kale convinced me that it was healthy enough to ask for seconds.
Black Garlic, “Yuzu Kosho,” Uni
Translation: Black garlic is basically a slowly caramelized garlic, Yuzu Kosho is a type of Japanese chili pepper seasoning, and Uni is sea urchin. This warm, savory, one-bite course was exactly what I wanted at that point in the menu. All diners struggled fitting the large bite in their mouths, but tons of garlicky flavor meant tons of delicious health benefits!
Fresh Cheese, Ancho, Citrus
“Unreal dish,” a fellow diner exclaimed. “Can I be part of this dish?” replied another. The torched avocado (seen in the green stroke on the side of the bowl) provided the perfect creaminess for the powerful ancho chile pepper and cheese combination, while the citrus brought a fresh bite to round out the dish.
Bagel and Lox
Who doesn’t like bagels? Friedman explained that he cooked the salmon low and slow so that it just absolutely melted in the mouth. It was then coated in sesame seeds. The horseradish whip, beets, and salmon roe further elevated the deli favorite to a refined dish.
Grapefruit, Fernet, Dill
This bright dessert highlighted winter’s citrus with the grapefruit sorbet. The licorice taste of the Fernet, a type of Italian liquor, and the impossibly fresh dill rounded the flavors.
Rice Krispie Treats
Puffed pork rinds with dulce de leche. Whaaattt?? So good.
They were served in a cool wooden box at dinner. The combination of crunchy pork rinds with dulce de leche was like a super exotic version of bacon and syrup. It was a totally wacky, but surprisingly delicious twist on the classic treat.
Preserved Strawberries, Cream, Pepper
Inspired by a “longing for summer,” Friedman preserved strawberries from the summer season and paired them with a chocolate pepper cake crumble and a fresh cream. The unexpected pepper gave this dish a spicy accent that echoed the acidity of the berries, which was then pleasantly soothed by the sweet cream.
One More Bite
As Friedman continues to take his dinners across the country, more guests will be exposed to his clever, concise culinary style. Go ‘bos!