This chef's sumptuous creations are almost too pretty to eat
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Unlikely beet stems, trimmed and nicked at intervals on an angle, miraculously shape themselves into graceful foliage when immersed in the cold water. The beet root itself he sculptures into a gorgeous rose.Skip to next paragraph
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Taking a leek in his hand, he slices vertically almost through to the root many times, then snips away at the unruly top. ''You give it a haircut,'' he says. In cold water the floppy leek eventually curls into an exotic flower.
Using skewers as stems, Alperowicz arranges a bouquet in the basket. ''It's not more expensive than a big flower arrangement,'' he says, ''and afterward you can make soup out of it.''
Eli Alperowicz was born in Lithuania but grew up in Israel. Although trained in electrical engineering, he later decided that field was not for him.
''Food was very important in my house,'' he explains. ''When I was growing up I constantly watched my mother prepare meals for the family. Everybody says his mother's a great cook; my mother really was a great cook.''
So at the age of 28 he went to Tadmor, a professional chef school in Israel, for 20 months of intensive training 12 hours a day. He read every cookbook he could get hold of and immersed himself in his new career.
Since then Mr. Alperowicz, who is married to an American and speaks five languages, has worked in restaurants in Israel, France, Canada, and the United States. Before Newbury he was the head garde manger chef at the Hotel Meridien in Boston.
''You know what I learned working in France?'' he asks. ''We in the US have nothing to be ashamed of.'' Then, questioned about American cuisine, he replies, ''I think it has a lot of potential if people won't be pretentious about it.''
On another visit to his kitchen, Alperowicz was busy preparing for a special banquet of American cuisine. For over a month he had been making pheasant centerpieces of salt dough, but these were not for the amateur. Flattening pieces of dough with a rolling pin, he wrapped them around a wire mesh base layer upon layer, cutting, filing, sanding the surface with his assortment of tools to make the dough look like feathers.
After the birds had dried naturally in the air, he was painting them one by one with caramelized cornstarch and rubbing alcohol to give a warm brown coloring. By brushing the color on or rubbing it with his finger, he showed how he could achieve special textures and shading. Each pheasant, strikingly realistic, had its own character.
On a separate table at the side of his kitchen stood a grand turkey prepared for the cold-buffet table at this banquet. It was made of tallow, a combination of suet, paraffin, and beeswax, and sculptured and etched in great detail.
While this regal bird surveyed the room in full splendor, Alperowicz helped a young student who was struggling with mayonnaise. ''Life is a messy job,'' he exclaimed. Then, in a gentle voice he coaxed her, ''We've got to get it fixed today, right?''
Mr. Alperowicz has created the following recipe for the holiday season ahead. It is a white seafood mousse, colored with spinach, pimento, and olives, cleverly constructed so that each slice down the length of the terrine will reveal the glorious Christmas tree inside.