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Saturday, July 08, 2006 

Meet Chef Donald Link of Herbsaint & Cochon

The Saints start marching in...oh the Saints start marching in... to munch on delicacies of The Big Easy that was nearly obliterated by Katrina. The city's restaurants are slowly getting back their spice and sizzle...and none really sizzles so much as Herbsaint and the chef behind the plates...Chef Donald Link.

Chef Link started his culinary career early on..... working in kitchens of Louisiana at age 15 washing dishes. Inspired by his Grandfather, he actually began to cook professionally shortly thereafter. He moved to San Francisco in 1993 and attended the acclaimed California Culinary Academy.

During this time in the City by the Bay, Donald cooked at many of San Francisco's fine restaurants, the Flying Saucer, Cha Cha Cha, Scala’s Bistro, and Zazie.

In 1995, Donald returned to his Louisiana roots to pursue his externship at Susan Spicer’s Bayona in New Orleans and continued on to become sous chef. In 1997, he returned to San Francisco to open the incomperable Jardinière with Traci Des Jardin. This soon led to an executive chef opportunity at the Elite Café where he received raving reviews and appeared on local cooking shows and participated in many charity events around Northern California.

In partnership with Tom Clendening, owner of the Elite Café, Donald opened the critically acclaimed Mojo in Palo Alto, Ca. He received 3 ½ stars from the San Jose Mercury News, the top three restaurants on the Peninsula by San Francisco Magazine, and was hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “…probably the premiere chef doing Creole food in the Bay Area”. He participated in special events such as Sonoma Wine Maker’s Dinners and Bill Graham’s New Orleans by the Bay where he was the featured chef two years in a row.

Since opening Herbsaint in 2000 Donald has been named Chef of the Year by New Orleans Magazine as well as a top ten Chefs to watch by Forbes Magazine. Chef Link was also named to the Top 40 under 40 "Power Generation" by New Orleans City Business. He recently opened up Cochon

Donald continues to travel for, and participate in charitable events such as Meals on Wheels and Dinner at the James Beard House.

On Herbsaint's newsletter, I found this little delicious nugget.
Zagat has now begun the balloting for its New Orleans Restaurants, Nightlife, & Attractions Surveys. They aim to help spread the word that New Orleans is rebuilding and coming back strong and that you can still have a great meal or night out in our vibrant city.

Complete the online survey by the August 9, 2006 deadline and you'll receive a free copy of the resulting guide when it is published. Go out and Vote for Herbsaint and your other favorite Restaurants in the city.


Herbsaint Coconut Cream Pie

Time: 1 hour, plus 2 1/2 hours for chilling

For the pastry cream:
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
5 large egg yolks

For the macadamia nut crust:
8 ounces macadamia nuts, toasted and cooled
1 cup flour
9 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt

For assembly:
4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted and cooled.

1. To prepare the pastry cream, combine in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan 2 1/2 cups of cream and scrapings from the vanilla bean; discard the bean. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. In a medium bowl, combine egg yolks with remaining 1/2 cup of cream.

2. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Whisk sugar and cornstarch mixture into egg yolks when cream is about to boil. (There will be slight movement in the pan.) As it starts to boil, whisk a few hot spoonfuls into the yolk mixture to temper it. Reduce heat under pan to medium-low. Pour yolk mixture into the pan, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thick. (If mixture separates, transfer it to a mixer with a whisk attachment, and beat until it is blended.) Transfer to a shallow container, and cover with plastic wrap to keep a skin from forming on the surface. Refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 1 hour.

3. To prepare macadamia nut crust, combine nuts and flour in a food processor. Process until nuts are finely ground, pulsing to keep them from becoming pasty. In a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with sugar. Add yolk, and mix thoroughly. Add nut mixture and salt, and mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

4. Divide dough in half. Roll out a half between two sheets of plastic wrap to make a 10-inch disk. Repeat with remaining dough. Line two 9-inch tart pans, and chill in freezer until very firm, about 30 minutes.

5. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place pie weights in shells, and bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove pie weights, and continue to bake until the crust is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more. Allow to cool.

6. To assemble, in bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment combine heavy cream, sugar and 2 cups of pastry cream. (Reserve any remaining cream for another use.) Whisk at high speed until soft peaks form. Add coconut, and continue whisking mixture by hand until very stiff. Spoon into cooled tart shells. Serve immediately, or refrigerate to chill.

Yield: Two 9-inch pies.

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