A seasonal menu will emphasize "eclectic" Mediterranean-style cuisine.
Teller's restaurant has a new chef and a new menu.
John Beasley, a recent graduate of the California Culinary Academy, joined the restaurant in August as executive chef. Beasley most recently worked under acclaimed chef Michael Mina at Aqua, one of San Francisco's finest eateries.
This isn't Beasley's first stint at Teller's. He worked in the kitchen in 1994, while studying English at KU. It was there he discovered his calling as a chef.
"I found I enjoyed cooking more than what I was in school for," Beasley said.
Now he's putting the finishing touches on a menu, unveiled last week, that is designed to send the Lawrence restaurant in a new direction.
"In the past, Teller's has been mostly Italian-American," Beasley said. "I'm looking to steer it away from that. It's going to be more Mediterranean-European influenced.
"That's the kind of food I enjoy cooking the most because you can draw not only on all the regions of Italy, but all the other countries that border the Mediterranean Sea," Beasley explained. "I can use French, Spanish and Greek influences and northern African and Middle Eastern influences as well."
Beasley describes his style as "eclectic," with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Though his cooking is based on classical French cuisine, he favors lighter purees, reductions and coulis (a puree of raw vegetables or fruits) rather than heavy, cream-based sauces.
Beasley promises interesting ingredients and cooking methods that haven't been used at Teller's in the past.
An old brick oven out of commission for two years because of fire damage is scheduled for repair. That will allow Beasley and his staff to do more roasting and braising. They also will bake their own foccacia and other sandwich breads.
Menu changes will include more sandwiches and quick-preparation items at lunch, according to Teller's general manager Evan Kuhlmann.
"A big complaint has been that it's too hard to get in and out quickly at lunchtime," he said.
The evening menu will feature more entrees and fewer pastas. Prices are expected to remain basically the same, Kuhlmann said.
Beasley said he has been "pretty top-secret" about the new menu. But 35 regular Teller's patrons and special guests got a hint of things to come at an October wine dinner hosted by northern California's Guenoc winery.
The dinner showed off Beasley's love of fresh, seasonal ingredients and his willingness to offer unusual foods. The highlight was a succulent squab breast salad with pomegranate vinaigrette. Tart pomegranate seeds nicely accented the smoky taste of tender squab.
Also featured were Norwegian smoked salmon with lemon chive creme fraiche topped with caviar, and a grilled loin of venison with roasted tomato risotto and celery root. A wine reduction sauce made from Guenoc's robust Langtry Meritage red accompanied the venison. Ten gallons of wine reduced to two quarts provided a potent, flavorful complement to the farm-raised meat.
The night also showcased another culinary element Beasley values: presentation. Everything -- from the red, white and green bruschetta to the fallen chocolate cake with hazelnut caramel sauce and sweet raspberry ricotta -- was beautiful, a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.
Expect Teller's menu to change two or three times a year to reflect changing availability of ingredients, which will be bought locally when possible, Beasley said.
"All the preparations, vegetables and starches will be what's available at that time of year," he said "We make all of our stocks and sauces from scratch, so we only have about three things that come out of a can. That's something I'm proud of.
"It just makes sense. That's the food that's going to be the most flavorful, the freshest and the cheapest."
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