The heavy lifting side to cooking – sliding a bone saw through a 200-pound quarter of beef, for example – belies the regal decadence of the art in the final product. Perfectly balanced orbs of color, texture, flavor and elegance arrive to your table. Removed from the blood of the animal and the dirt of the soil as diamonds from carbon.
Chef Jason Hook is comfortable with both sides of this kitchen coin. The same arms that wrestle to break down a halved hog also create foam of the lightest air to grace a perfectly composed plate. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Hook, recently of the Glasbern Inn, a young chef whose enthusiasm for food as both “sustainable” and as an “theatrical experience” was rivaled only by my awe of his energy, plans, accomplishments (check out his book!), and comfort with all facets of the food experience.
Hook’s experience is dizzying – just thinking about it conjures up whirlwind images of late nights, sharp knives, sousvide bags, and the furrowed brows of cooking luminaries. He started his culinary travels in the kitchen of Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia for his first taste of French Cuisine, where he was shortly recruited to The Four Seasons in New York. After a short stint in The Four Seasons in Paris, he returned to NYC, joined Lespinasse, then worked under Alain Ducasse and Jean Georges, before leaving the city to captivate diners with his skills from Reading PA to Providence RI.
One of the many reviews I found was from his time as chef at Dan’s Restaurant in The New York Times, “Hook demonstrates exceptional talent for marrying flavors and highlighting natural tastes, from foie gras with roasted white peaches and fresh honeycomb to tilapia with truffles and golden chanterelles.” You can also see him in this Fox Providence video from his time at Café Nuovo making roasted halibut.
This summer Chef Hook has been holding “pop-up” dinners in the Lehigh Valley as he lays the groundwork for starting his own restaurant.
His latest pop-up was held on August 17. Fern Hall hosted Hook for his “celebration of summer corn from Ships-Holmes Farms.” Hook created 13 courses and every course had corn “in different textures. You can’t beat corn in this area right now – and plus it sounds interesting – when you can translate a dessert into corn – like corn cob crème brulee, which is what we did.”
According to Hook, Ships-Holmes Farms started right after WWII and has been in the same spot for over 60 years, “and so I asked him what his secret is and the farmer said to me, “cow shit,” But that is exactly what it is!” Hook grinned, continuing. Pop-up farm dinners “shows off the farm and shows off the craftsmanship of the farmer and I like that.”
“You try to use the product that it is at its peak – how can you mess up corn harvested that day – when you are using a pudding with a sea scallop flown in that day with summer truffles and a lobster sauce you just made – I mean, how can you mess that up? That is what is fun. How can you mess that up?
Hook is partnering with other restauranteurs, farmers, and “the right people in the Valley that have a deep appreciation for art,” to open his restaurant in Lehigh Valley (while continuing to do pop-up dinners). I look forward to visiting when it is open!