Chef Sean Shin ’14 Shares his Pastry Skills and Spreads Happiness

A truly magical Sunday was spent in the Gibbons’ kitchen with Abbey grad Sean Shin, currently Chef de Partie at the Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park in New York. He generously took vacation time to show the Culinary Arts Club some of his pastry skills while creating truly beautiful and delicious desserts. One could not be anything but impressed with his talent, humility, passion, and kindness. We are so proud of our own Sean Shin!

Chef Shin is an inspiration to anyone he encounters. In an industry that’s as competitive as food, it would be easy to get lost and give up or even turn sour. Chef Shin has done nothing of the sort. Instead, he has kept his motivation the same for a number of years and worked his way up the food chain (no pun intended) in a wholesome way. He hopes that he’ll be able to up the ‘happiness level’ of the person he encounters whether it’s by way of his mouth-watering food or his bright smile and kind words. He believes that if he is able to make that one person happy, a chain reaction will be started. That happy person will make the next person happy, and then the next until the whole world is happier, even if just a little bit. It only takes one. Seeing Chef Shin work in the kitchen and talk about his experiences in the professional world is unforgettable. While I’m not passionate about food in the same way, his passion made me want to chase my dreams even harder while keeping the same grace, poise and kindness he carries with him. I will be sure to visit Eleven Madison in New York if I ever get the chance. And who knows, maybe I’ll make my server a little happier when I’m there. –Abby Gibbons ‘19

Chef Shin’s philosophy of why he creates the food he does stood out to me. He wants to start a chain of happiness that travels beyond just the food he creates and leave a more lasting impact on everyone. He believes that if someone comes into the restaurant with a happiness level of fifty percent, he wants them to leave even happier and spread that happiness to the next person they interact with. This then makes that person happier and hopefully makes their day better and then they can continue to spread that happiness to the next person. If this chain keeps going everyone will eventually be happier. He also said that he thinks that sleep is crucial to being creative and suggest it to be better to go to sleep rather than wrack your brain for a new idea. Each of the three desserts presented new techniques and ideas to me of how to take an older idea and reinvent it. Chef Shin also suggested making sure to get adequate sleep if at all possible.

The strawberry pistachio tart took a seemingly simple tart shell, strawberries, cream, and gold, and elevated them to complement each other and work together. The chocolate sponge cake was layered with a whipped ganache and topped with a hazelnut, gold leaf, and a dehydrated crumb cookie. For the vanilla sponge cake, the marshmallow with pine nuts added a new dense yet airy texture to the cake.  –Elise Banderob ‘19

Experiencing and watching Chef Sean prepare three desserts was eye-opening to the professional restaurant world. He told us his story from when he graduated from Portsmouth Abbey to his path to becoming a chef at Eleven Madison Park. His work ethic inspires me to work hard at the things that I am passionate about. The movements of a professional chef from a lucrative restaurant is nothing like you have ever seen, Sean was super efficient in his work and even though he said that his work was not as good as usual and casual, each dessert was beautiful. Each ingredient he used was labor-intensive. 

He made a barley cream by roasting and dehydrating barley before rehydrating the barley with milk. The result was a custard like cream that tastes like coffee. The barley cream was incorporated into his version of a tiramisu; layers of sponge with cream and roasted pine nut marshmallows. He also made a strawberry pistachio tart. The tart crust was made with both a regular crust and a layer of almond paste, which was something I had never thought about doing before. The chocolate cake was beautifully presented with bits of gold leaf on top. I usually do not like whipped ganaches, but his was a much thinner consistency than others. He grated in fresh cacao into the ganache rather than cocoa powder or chocolate which was interesting.—India Roemlein ‘19

Chef Shin presented us his procedure of making fancy and delicious desserts, which he called “home – cooking.” He talked about his determination to perfecting his career and shared his philosophy in cooking. I was impressed by his wish to boost the “happy level” of everyone, especially strangers, by his bright smile and positive energy, and so people can pass this happiness to each other. Moreover, he devotes himself to cooking and sacrifices his vacation and resting time in order to invent new recipes as well as to improve the flavors of his old recipes. He also combines his childhood memories and Korean dessert to Western dishes, which makes his desserts more unique and delicious. He was really precise when mixing ingredients for really small components of the whole dish: the cream, the nutty caramel sauce, the marshmallow, etc. I had a glance at his notebook, and it was well-organized and detailed with sketches. He advised us to take notes of inspiration and thoughts all the times and review them and maybe one day they will become really helpful. —Sylvie Qiu ‘19

Chef Shin prepares three desserts for us. The first one is a two-layer sponge cake with barley butter in between. The barley butter filling offers an interesting texture, differing greatly from traditional frosting. The chocolaty rice flakes brushed on the side, combined with the grainy, chewy bite, completes the flavor of this unique cake. The second dessert is another sponge cake. Instead of flakes on the side, Shin mixes the chocolate flavor into the cake itself. He also decorates the cake with toasted hazelnuts and tops it off with edible gold foil (“home-cooking” according to him). The third one, also my personal favorite, is a strawberry pistachio tart. Not only is the tart delicious, but the efforts behind are also admirable. Originally, Shin plans to finish in 10 minutes. However, the tart has two layers and just the strawberries have three different cuttings: Trimmed, halved and diced. Every little detail in Shin’s dessert shows how much of a perfectionist he is and the level of dedication he puts into his work out of passion. —Peter Liu ‘19

The techniques and gentleness that Sean used when preparing the desserts was extremely satisfying to watch. Each step he took into consideration, taking his time to make sure that each element was placed eloquently on the plate. The final products left my mouth watering as I was struggling to stay concentrated after they were complete and we were waiting to indulge in them. Overall, I anticipated that the strawberry tart would be my favorite, and it was even better than I imagined. I’m not sure I’m ever going to enjoy dessert as much as I did this past Sunday.

            Listening to Sean answer the questions that were asked was truly inspiring, especially since you could understand the commitment and love he had for cooking. The way he explained his journey through college and working at Eleven Madison made me want to discover what exactly I want to do when I’m older. He made me want to find something in my future that would make me just as passionate as he was about cooking. –Maddie Burt ‘19

Chef Shin provided an incredibly cool insight into the depth behind the traditional restaurant experience. For most people, dining and food-source (or more specifically, chef-intent) seems relatively disconnected. I don’t remember the last time I went to a restaurant and took time to contemplate the philosophy of the chef! Chef Shin, however, reestablished the depth of intent behind in-restaurant dining experiences that I’ve previously failed to acknowledge. –Megan Behnke ‘19

This Culinary Arts Club outing served as a reminder of the almost forgotten fact that following your dreams ultimately allows you to achieve something beautiful and, in this case, delicious. Each instance Sean Shin moved worked towards the completion of his goal in creating his pastries during our time with him. These purposeful movements seemed to serve as one of the many outward reflections of his determination and ambitions. Not only was the food delicious, and the experience great, it also served as inspiration for Culinary Arts Club members to follow their dreams, and work towards their goals with all they have.—Mia Wright ‘19

Never Too Early to Learn about Food AND Wine: a visit to Newport Vineyards and Café

On perfectly sunny day, students stood by budding grapevines and learned the science of growing grapes for a variety of wines. Our enthusiastic tour guide, Mr. Brenden Deprest, proudly explained how their organic farming led to such healthy growth and delicious reds, whites, and rosés. In the kitchen, the natural teaching and cooking abilities of Chef Andy Teixeira led to the students’ silence as they listened intently while eagerly downing pretzels and sausage.

A trip to the Newport Vineyards can be enjoyable for any person of any age. Whether or not you drink, the venue still offers a rich menu to be devoured while backed by the scenery of the grapevines and aged wine barrels. While the whole wine making process is fascinating–whether it’s learning about the care of the vines or the types of wood that contains the wine–what was a bit more tangibly stimulating was the showcase of the pretzels and the sausage. Before witnessing the magic and craftsmanship that goes into making these dishes, they had to be tasted. The best, most mouth-watering combo: the soft pretzel, made with a secret German recipe, dipped in the brown seed mustard. After every plate of food had been decimated, it was time to see the process behind them. The sausages were made of simple ingredients and put together in a not-so-simple way. The meat was emulsified and dressed with herbs and spices, then had to be packed into sheep intestine. As each little bit was pushed through the meat presser into the lining, it would be twisted and cut to form the shape of a sausage. The pretzels, cooked to a beautiful golden brown, were nearly impossible for us to fold correctly. The table was full of dough blobs. But the taste was never-failing. The Vineyards provide an unforgettable experience for both the eyes and the mouth. —Abby Gibbons ‘19

The Newport Vineyards were built upon a community of support that can be seen through the efforts and partnerships in their business. We learned about how the Vineyards came to be starting with one man making 2,000 bottles of wine to a family making over 25,000 bottles. Before learning how rosé was made, I thought that it was just red and white wine mixed together. At first, the grapes are treated like a red wine and are stemmed and crushed. But then the grapes only ferment and absorb the dark dye for 1-2 days rather than the 1-2 weeks of a red wine. After this process, the grapes are treated like a white wine and are fermented in steel tanks. I also learned that referring to how “dry” a wine is how little sugar is left as the yeast feeds on the sugar. 

In the kitchen, the chefs greeted us with pork sausage and pretzels with a mustard sauce and a cheese sauce to dip into. The sausage had lots of herbs and the pretzels were soft. I enjoyed the grainy mustard sauce with both of them. When the chefs showed us how they made the sausage, they mixed in a lot of toasted fennel for the fragrant taste. The chefs told us about how they are completely farm-to-table and make everything from scratch. We learned about their relationship with a local farmer, who supports the restaurant with many vegetables, greens, and beans up until November. –India Roemlein ‘19

The Newport Winery looked similar to any other store until we walked to the backyard where they grow their vineyards. Everything was well organized, and our tour guide told us the function of the fences and how they gather grapes. Then we walked inside and to see the cases that hold different kinds of wine. Different oaks provided different flavors to the wine (French & American oak are mostly used). I was really surprised that the oak barrels are really expensive: one American oak barrel costs 500 – 1000 dollars while one French oak barrel costs 2000 dollars. The process of oxidizing is really complicated and can easily go wrong. Too much oxidation will make the wine really sour. They control the flavor by temperature, too. When there is too much yeast–which feeds on sugar–the wine will get less sweet, and vice versa. –Sylvie Qiu ‘19

I never knew that wine making could be so interesting until we took a trip to Newport Vineyards! So many things surprised me on this trip, like the fact that an empty French oak barrel that holds over 200 bottles of wine costs $2000 or that the tanks of wine are chilled to prevent the yeast in the wine from eating the sugar in order to produce a sweet or semi-sweet wine instead of a dry wine (meaning that the wine isn’t sweet). Another thing that really interested me about the winemaking process was the bottling machine that bottles 133 cases of wine an hour and that together the bottling machine and the labeling machine cost half a million dollars. What surprised me the most, however, was that screw caps are actually better for sealing wine than corks and are more sustainable, especially since most wine bottles you see are sealed with corks. Then we got to see into the restaurant side of things and try some delicious sausages and pretzels with mustard and cheese dipping sauces. The restaurant makes everything from scratch, and all the ingredients they use are pretty local and are always in season. I also learned that sausages can be made with sheep, pig and cow casings, where the size of the sausage depends on the size of the animal–the sausages with sheep’s casing being the smallest and the sausages made with the cow casing being the biggest. I learned so much on this visit and I was really able to see how wine and food work in harmony. –Sarah Costa ‘19

Eat Well and Stay Healthy: Advice from Amanda Rigsby, RD, LDN

As the Culinary Arts Club–made up of all seniors–move on to college next year, this presentation steered them towards food habits they might embrace as they confront many of the eating–and drinking–challenges that await. Helpful information and an array of healthy snacks led the students to appreciate what Ms. Rigsby had to say and take her advice to heart.

“I loved the fact that she made the general basics of nutrition simple. A lot of the time, you hear all about new, convoluted and trendy diets but don’t really know where your own nutrition stands. It was really cool that I can now tell for myself whether or not something is healthy for my body.”   —Mia Wright ‘19

Ms. Amanda Rigsby taught our group both how easy it is to eat right, but also how easy it is to eat poorly. With college right around the corner, this seminar was much needed as a reminder to not get overwhelmed by the plethora of food choices. A common mistake is to feast on fried foods and sweets, but it’s what really provides energy and keeps your body feeling, functioning and looking right is sticking to, as Amanda puts it, a “colorful plate.” I, personally, will be trying to follow the simple advice she gave us and definitely be on the lookout for healthy snacks like the ones provided during the lecture. They were delicious! —Abby Gibbons ‘19

The most interesting thing that I took away from the lecture was the importance of fiber in a diet. Since it provides no nutrients in itself, I feel it’s kind of an overlooked facet of nutrition. Reviewing my own eating habits, I realized that although I was mostly aware of the balance between proteins, fats, and sugars, I really needed to do more to incorporate fiber into my meals, especially as I move into the unrestricted dining halls of college. –David Sozanski ‘19

Listening to Ms. Rigby talk about nutrition and staying healthy in college was very helpful and informative. She taught us about the “fab five” to look for on the nutrition label and how to think about building a plate of food in college dining halls. She highly encouraged an 80/20 diet, which seems a lot more realistic to live with especially in college. The snacks provided also showed an easy way to eat healthier.—Elise Banderob ‘19

The presentation led by RD Amanda Rigby was incredibly informative. I learned that there should be no more than 5g of sugar in a food. I also learned that by adding hydrogenated oil, companies can hide trans fat. I knew trans fat was unhealthy, but I didn’t know that it was as dangerous as being toxic at one gram’s worth or that trans fat is banned in most other countries. The healthy alternative snacks that were introduced were really good. I enjoyed the Cedar’s red pepper hummus with pita chips.—India Roemlein ‘19

Looking forward to college as a child, I thought nothing of dining halls and food in general. I expected to happily eat go-gurts every day and Annie’s white cheddar shell pasta for dinner. As I understand college more, I realize the importance of knowing what I am eating. I really appreciate Amanda’s ‘fab 5’ rule which made it very easy to understand nutritional labels and the standards of a good meal/snack. I also liked how we had many healthy snacks present to show how nutritious food could taste good. I also appreciated how Amanda acknowledged the realistic food choices of college life, like Chik-fil-a every weekend, with the 80/20 rule. —Bella Hannigan ‘19

Amanda gave us a lot of helpful advice for a healthy diet. Everyone is familiar with “freshman 15,” which also scares me a lot. However, she introduced many eating options that are both healthy and delicious, from meals to snacks. Most importantly, she taught us how to read the food labels, which can sometimes be misleading. Before, I ignored the serving size on the food label, especially on ice cream, and did not realize how many calories and sugar I consume, which is far above the recommended amount per day. Moreover, her “80/20” principle is really helpful which suggests that we can have “junk food” 20% of the time without being too guilty. After Amanda’s sharing, I have a better understanding of a healthy diet and how to fulfill it. -–Sylvie Qiu ‘19

Ms. Rigsby was able to effectively communicate the foundation and essentials to healthy nutrition in such a way that made what she was saying truly engrain in our minds. She made her talk interesting yet informative, delivering essential information in an easily digestible manner. Those who went to the talk clearly left with a much better understanding of a healthy diet as well as amazing tips and tricks to keep in mind while making the transition to college campus dining. From reading nutritional labels to understanding the importance of a healthy diet, Ms. Rigsby has definitely made me much more conscious about what I put in my body as well as helped me understand how to healthily approach a more open dining style. —Jonathan Susilo ‘19

This talk was absolutely great! I was expecting the usual spiel about eating junk foods in moderation, etc, etc, but was very pleased to hear that she had more sensible points to speak to us about. I appreciated how practical Amanda was about how college students actually live and the types of food we will be seeing next year. Her healthy snack buffet provided us with great substitutes for the usual snacks we might be craving. My favorites were the chocolate hummus and the individual sized chips and guac! She also gave us a better insight as to what we are putting in our bodies by teaching us how to be more mindful when reading ingredient labels. —Juistine DelMastro ‘19

The nutritionist discussion was very informative in the way that it opened my eyes towards the change we will be experiencing when we head off to college next year. Our bodies were not made to consume and digest junk food all the time. We need to be mindful when considering what we are putting in our bodies and focus on the benefits we could be receiving from healthier options. There were simple tips introduced, such as not wasting calories on drinks and understanding the labels of the foods we buy, that I will begin to consider and hopefully continue to think about as I am surrounded by large quantities of food next year.—Maddie Burt ‘19

I learned so much from Ms. Rigby! One thing I found especially interesting and helpful was the lesson on how to read nutrition labels. It surprised me how much fiber we should be eating in a day. And the pretzels and tzatziki tasted so good!—Sarah Costa ‘19

         Our sit-down with registered dietician and nutritionist Amanda Rigby was an eye opening experience for all those who had the chance to listen. We were served up some tasty snacks, and learned that satisfaction can come from more than just chips, soda, or ice cream. What I took away from the most was our time spent delving deep into the concepts behind a simple nutrition label. Comprehending the label required much more than just reading skills. We found understanding print on the back of every item for consumption to be an integral part to understanding one’s health. With Ms. Rigby’s help, I feel more knowledgeable about what I put into my body than ever before, and will be sure to stay away from the dreaded hydrogenated foods!—Tatum Bach-Sorensen ‘19