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Meet the chef Q&A: Rene van Broekhuizen

McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants are known for skillfully handling fine ingredients—particularly pristine fish—in a way that enhances the natural quality.

The 74-unit, upscale-casual chain, a subsidiary of Houston-based Landry’s Inc., uses a variety of toppings, garnishes and crusting techniques to create pleasing textures and flavor nuances in dishes such as Almond Crusted Rainbow Trout, Parmesan Crusted Flounder and Green Kale Salad with Toasted Almonds and Yuzu Vinaigrette. 

“Adding snap or crunch to food is simply an enhancement of a good product,” declares Rene van Broekhuizen, McCormick & Schmick’s regional executive chef. “Although many people dislike textures such as rubberiness or gooeyness in their food, it seems that 100 percent of people like a little crispiness.”

Here are some more of the chef’s thoughts on texture.

Q: How is the crusting made on McCormick & Schmick’s signature Almond Crusted Rainbow Trout?

A: We take sliced, blanched almonds and blend them with Japanese-style panko bread crumbs and seasonings. At cooking time, we dip the trout in eggwash and the breading mix, then put the coated side down in a heated sauté pan. We cook it almost all the way through and flip it to get a little sear on the skin side. You always hear how popular grilled fish is, and that certainly is true in our restaurants, but people still love a classic application like this.

Q: What are some of the new ideas that you brought back from the Almond Board of California’s recent corporate chef retreat in Napa Valley?

One is a dish called Asparagus Textures with Almond Cheese. The almond cheese is made by soaking raw almonds in water, grinding them finely and cooking them with lemon and herbs so that they have a soft, moldable texture like goat cheese. It goes into a food dryer, which gives it a little crust on the outside that contrasts with the inside, where a bit of the grain and texture from the almonds remains. Another good application we worked on was using almond milk as a great-tasting, lower-fat substitute for coconut milk in Thai-inspired dishes.

Q: As a chef, how do you feel about almonds as an ingredient?

A: I think versatility is the big advantage. There is so much you can do with almonds, such as slicing, slivering, grinding and so on. The ability to add a little snappy, crispy crunch to food is very useful, even if you just coat sliced almonds with a little sugar and roast them off.

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