Michel Nischan isn't French. He's a child of the Chicago suburbs whose first name made him something of a target on the playground but, eventually, a natural in haute cuisine kitchens. And it wasn't just his name that made his early life the chronicle of a chef foretold. Nischan's parents had fled their respective family farms in the South when industrialization made them obsolete, but the couple preserved a slice of rural life in the middle of suburbia. "In Des Plaines, Illinois, we had less than a quarter acre," Nischan says, "and my mother rented two rototillers from Ace Hardware, dug up the backyard and side yard, and planted what our neighbors called 'the farm.' We had a small brick patio with a couple of lawn chairs and a table and rows and rows of vegetables. My mom taught me how to cook, but the fact that I knew what good ingredients were did more to rapid-fire my career than anything." Nischan never forgot the magnificence of his mother's fresh vegetables, but for a few years he kept her lessons in simple, pure flavors simmering on the back burner. As a chef at various French restaurants and at his own place, Miche Mache, in Connecticut, he often masked the food's true taste with complex, multilayered sauces. "The French 'mount' sauces with fat, usually butter," he writes in the introduction to his new cookbook, "Taste Pure and Simple". "This means they thicken and smooth their sauces by adding small amounts of fat during cooking, letting the fat emulsify rather than melt, and then add more until the sauce achieves the velvety texture and superrich flavor that have made French sauces famous the world over. I embraced this technique wholeheartedly." But eight years ago, the Nischans' 5-year-old son, Chris, was diagnosed with diabetes. The outpouring of empathy made Nischan realize how many people around him had diet-restricting health problems. All those diners who time after time would request the same chicken and fish dishes, sauce on the side the
About the Author
Michel Nischan pioneered his full-flavored, healthy cuisine at Heartbeat in New York. He can be seen on David Rosengarten's In Food Today and Sara Moulton's Cooking Live. Mary Goodbody is the original editor-in-chief of Cooks magazine, She is a Connecticut-based food writer and a contributing editor to Chocolatier and has collaborated on and co-written a number of cookbooks. Minh + Wass (Ngoc Minh and Julian Wass) is a husband-and-wife photography team who specialize in food and lifestyle shots for books and magazines. After 10 years in New York, they recently relocated to Paris. Minh + Wass (Ngoc Minh and Julian Wass) is a husband-and-wife photography team who specialize in food and lifestyle shots for books and magazines. After 10 years in New York, they recently relocated to Paris.