These chefs, who are based in various geographic regions around the U.S., each bring unique cooking styles and global experience to the table. They share a love of cooking with this versatile ingredient as well as an excitement about introducing veal to a younger demographic by putting a modern twist on classic veal dishes.
Until recently, Chef Mark Ulrich served as executive chef of food and nutrition department at his local hospital, where the primary focus was patient nutrition and feeding hungry employees. When the opportunity to go full-time at Cecil Creek Farm in Mickleton, New Jersey—which hosts weddings, farm-to-table dinners, and seasonal events—came up, Ulrich jumped at the chance. An Italian who grew up in South Philadelphia, he’s used to cooking with veal. “Texturally, just like any other animal, you have your tough cuts and tender cuts,” he says. “Smaller animals are more tender and have a more delicate flavor, and the coloring is more of a pale pink than a deep red.” For the challenge, Ulrich will create a dish using the veal tenderloin. “It’s a versatile cut,” he says. “It doesn’t have a ton of fat, but has a ton of flavor.”
Chef Marcos Ascencio came to cooking from the tech world, but once he discovered a passion for cooking, the former Motorola engineer knew he’d found his true calling. Chicagoans may remember him from beloved Bar Lupo, but Ascencio recently took the helm as executive chef at The Ivy Room at Tree Studios. There, he’s in his element managing large catered events at the opulent, historic venue. Having worked in many a French kitchen, he’s skilled in preparations like veal cheeks, sweetbreads, and grilled chops, but is leaning toward a scallopini for the challenge. “It’s a very traditional dish,” he says, which will work nicely on upscale catered event menus. “I may pair it with a nice, creamy polenta with a mushroom ragu. Morels would also be nice, or even asparagus.”
Yet another chef who came to cooking by way of a different career, Jerry Watkins, is owner of Cafe Rosa in College Hill, Pennsylvania. He joined the military with a plan to become a pharmacist. Since then, he’s switched gears and worked with the likes of Charlie Trotter, Lydia Shire, Mario Batali, Alice Waters, and other world-renowned chefs. “I work with veal a lot,” he says. “In fall and winter, we braise or cook it in the oven for long periods of time; in spring and summer, we do veal chops and even pair it with fruit.” Watkins will prepare a veal striploin for the challenge. Much like its beef counterpart, this cut shines with simple preparations and techniques like bone-in grilling and oven roasting.
Lisa Carlson has also worked with veal extensively, in kitchens from London to New York City. As chef and co-owner of Chef Shack in Bay City, Wisconsin, she doesn’t currently serve it in her own restaurants—which include three food trucks and two brick-and-mortars, but she is pleased to see farmers embrace humane growing and sourcing practices and is excited about finally giving veal a spin on her menu. “I’ve done a lot with veal shanks— searing, braising, roasting, bone-in—it’s just a really nice cut to work with,” she says. “It works as a blank slate so you can have fun pairing different items with it, anything from citrus to a heavier red sauce.” For the challenge, Carlson plans to create a veal osso buco, a classic northern Italian dish featuring shanks braised in a wine and vegetable-based sauce.
The partnership between these world-class chefs and Royal Dutch Veal aims to produce four great-tasting LTOs, which will be featured in the chefs’ respective restaurants over the coming months. Stay tuned to learn more about how each chef works with his or her assigned cut to highlight the flavor and pairing possibilities of the versatile and tender meat.