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At the Chef’s Table: It all starts with stock

Stock sauces are backbone quality kitchen says chef Andy MotQuince Homestead Evanston. Here he adds Mussels Stock as finishing touch.

Stock and sauces are the backbone of a quality kitchen, says chef Andy Motto of Quince at the Homestead in Evanston. Here he adds a Mussels Stock as a finishing touch. | Tom Cruze~sun-times photos

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Updated: February 26, 2012 8:02AM

In a brigade-style kitchen, one will find a sauce cook, also known as a saucier. These days, very few kitchens outside of Europe fill such a role. Often, the executive chef or sous chef takes on the duties of the saucier, as it is a very significant role in any kitchen.

The primary responsibility of a saucier is to prepare stocks, soups and sauces. This position is the backbone of an excellent kitchen. A chef’s stocks are the true test of one’s culinary abilities.

Early in my career, I started to recognize the significance of a properly executed stock. This concept of simmering a medley of ingredients and bones to create what will ultimately be the sauce that completes the dish — well, this was a revelation for me as a young cook at Le Francais in Wheeling.

Under chef Roland Liccioni, I learned how a stock ties together the elements on the plate. Chef Roland is a master of sauces, highly regarded for his attention to detail and creation of sublime stocks. Without a noble stock, one cannot make a delicious sauce. Without a delicious sauce, one cannot create an excellent dish. This dying art is somehow disappearing in the modern kitchens of America.  

Respect for such techniques later prepared me for my time at the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., with chef Thomas Keller. Chef Thomas, like many of our greatest culinary leaders, also possesses this reverence for stock. Whether a natural red wine sauce, a slowly prepared soup, an espuma or foam, a veal reduction, deglazing one’s meats — everything begins with the stock.

Thirteen years later, in my kitchen at Quince, I still create every stock and sauce that grace the plates in our cozy dining room.

Andy Motto is the chef at Quince at the Homestead, 1625 Hinman Ave., Evanston.

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