6/15/2013 06:50:00 PM

Aspen F&W 2013: Ted Allen Talks Tea, Chopped and More

As day two of Aspen F&W Classic 2013 got off to a hungover start, we happened upon Chopped's Ted Allen, who was talking tea at a lunch and panel talk hosted by Pure Leaf at the St. Regis Hotel. Along with Allen (who drank a lot of the stuff growing up in the South), guest speakers Scott Heimendinger (Modernist Cuisine) and John Cheetham (Pure Leaf tea master) discussed the science of pairing the drink with food. We caught up with Allen for some serious tea talk and found out what else he was up to this summer in the chat below.

Zagat: What are you going to be talking about today?

Ted Allen: First of all, welcome to an event where we're providing you with a non-alcoholic beverage option. 

Zagat: Thank you! I actually really appreciate that. 

Ted Allen: A little hydration is very helpful this weekend. We're going to be talking about the science of pairing. So a lot of energy is being spent talking about pairing food and wine, but tea is something of great interest to people in the culinary world. So we're going to talk about the science behind pairing, how taste works physiologically. One of the first things Scott said to illustrate a bad pairing, which is the example I've been using for years: when you brush your teeth and then you drink orange juice and you go "blech." He can actually explain the science behind that. 

It's exciting to be involved with this brand, because it's actually brewed tea. Most tea you buy in a bottle is made from ground up bits. And when you talk about a food and wine pairing, the most basic way to think about it you usually do one of two things, you're going to complement the food by pairing it with a drink that's similar to the food or you're trying to balance the taste like with a fatty steak, the tannins in the wine cleanse your palate, for example.


Zagat: We're all seeing tea being used a lot more in menus and in cocktails, do you think tea as a flavor is a trend right now?

Ted Allen: I totally think tea's a trend, even though it's been around forever, but we see people doing things like tea-smoked duck. Mixology just continues to explode and tea is great for cocktails. It's delicate and powerful at the same time. 

Zagat: Besides today's event, what's new in your world?

Ted Allen: I have most of the summer off which I'm very excited about. I am going to some events like Taste of Chicago. I emceed a Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry conference in DC, where my dear friend Marc Murphy won a humanitarian award. I'm also interested in upping my involvement with SOS, because with our economy, we're going to all need to pitch in more. I'm going to Bellingham, WA, because my friend has opened a wine shop there. And then in August it's off to Chopped land. We have 39 episodes to shoot so I disappear from the world for three months.

Zagat: Do you have time to do any other TV now that Chopped is such a monster?

Ted Allen: Not a lot. I'm exclusive to Food Network but not a lot of other things. Maybe a few specials near the holidays.

Zagat: Do you have any close chef friends that you reunite with here in Aspen?

Ted Allen: That's what's so fun about here - chefs like Mario and Jacques Pepin they work all the time, and here they do a little work but they get to go to dinner and hang out with friends. I'm reconnecting with Chris Cosentino and his wife Tatiana. It's like a boozy high school reunion for chefs.

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