Lux Insider of The Month – James Ortiaga

Our third Lux Insider of the month hails from a world of vintage luxury as well as uber chic. He is the Executive Chef at Manhattan’s premier address for high society – The St Regis New York. His formative years have seen him with Alain Ducasse to enrich his craft. Much to the delight of Astor Court’s patrons at The St Regis he debuted his signature dish – Champagne Risotto dusted with gold flakes and served with lobster or truffles. The ingredients of this dish inspired him to share his love for authentic and unique ingredients to design a bespoke menu.

I welcome all readers of the blog who are passionate about luxury lifestyle but more so a bespoke dining experience. We all love the experience of the meal but the framework that goes to build that experience relies heavily on the magic between the ingredients. Ingredients are the core of every great recipe and some of these divine recipes owe it to the authenticity and rare find of its ingredients. I am here to share a slice of my culinary passion and the discoveries.

Cooking with Champagne

Champagne Risotto with truffle at Astor Court
Champagne Risotto with truffle at Astor Court

 Many of the amateur chefs and gourmands often ask about the best ingredients to cook with wine or champagne, I have found that pairing items like shellfish or crustaceans (lobsters, scallops and oysters) work best with wine or champagne.  It’s all about balance in cooking, and the natural sweetness that lobsters or scallops release when prepared correctly balances the acidity of (white) wine and champagne.

Be Authentic. Be Green

As with every inquisitive gourmand and chef, the real question about ingredients is its authenticity and the rarity. The authentic the ingredient is to its region the better however the farming influences its quality and sustainability. Over the course of my journey, I have seen the definition of a ‘luxury experience’ evolve and the luxury hospitality business always aims to meet the changing needs of our guests. Today, sustainability is a huge factor driving guests’ decisions. The market as a whole demands authentic and rare farming, offering a more organic and healthier way of eating.

Chef James Ortiaga - St Regis New York
Chef James Ortiaga – St Regis New York

Outrageously Delicious

Exclusivity ultimately does offer its share to any luxury experience and when it comes to the menu ingredients dominate in the domain. The most exclusive ingredient that I have used is Huitlacoche which is also known as Mexican Truffle. The fungus forms galls on the above-the-ground parts of corn species and is considered a delicacy in Mexico. I have used this ingredient with applications similar to how I would utilize truffle puree. It has a distinct earthy flavor with a taste like mushrooms mixed with corn.

French cuisine has since been on the top of the list of bespoke dining. Having been exposed to and trained in French Cuisine, it would only be natural this would be my choice of cuisine to recommend a novice or younger generation venturing into the world of gastronomy. It has opened my palate to many interesting flavors that a luxury epicurean would favor and appreciate. I would focus on the best ways of preparing the ingredients to enhance the flavors of a dish, which is my signature technique.  I am also a firm believer in simplicity.  Acquiring the best ingredient, when it’s in season, is an important step in making your dish a success.

Lastly, for those who have very recently begun pursuing their passion for rare foods and its farming, I would recommend to first know exactly what you want to achieve with regards to farming rare ingredients.  I would also advise that there can be challenges relating to farming of rare ingredients, but the benefits that come from it can be quite rewarding.  

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