While still fairly new to the downtown scene, Burlingame has quickly established itself as one the finest restaurants on the island. For my visit tonight, I decided to trade in my napkin for an apron and head into the kitchen to help make the magic happen.
In the culinary world, a “stage” is a term derived from the French word stagiaire, meaning trainee. Simply put, a culinarian of any degree will go into another kitchen and work for free for the opportunity to learn new techniques. I was excited to go into the kitchen at Burlingame for a host of reasons, not only to see the delicious food prepared, but also for the people.
Chad Livingston, chef at Burlingame, is a talented Culinary Institute of America graduate, who has trained with some of the world’s best chefs at The Ritz-Carlton. Like me, he is a Fernandina native and a graduate of Fernandina Beach High School. When I entered the kitchen, three of my former culinary students were also there to greet me. Sharing the kitchen with three generations of local culinary talent—swapping stories as we prepped for dinner—was an unforgettable experience.
Kendall Kratky, an FBHS junior and culinary student, would be my guide. When I found her, she was busily weighing out ingredients for the scratch-made sourdough served with the meals. These loaves rise in wooden baskets and are baked in cast iron domes to create the crunchy and rustic crust and tender structure inside. This task takes all day, but there is no substitute for excellence.
As I worked around the kitchen and service began, I saw some very interesting plates headed for the dining room. Chef Chad and Sous Chef Jarrod (also a local talent) showed me their stations, where all the ingredients were stored, and they showed me how to prepare a series of the dishes on the menu. Their kitchen tidy was very tidy, with no wasted space and nothing left indiscriminately lying about.
As the dinner rush began to draw down, I had the chance to try some the items on offer. Earlier I had the opportunity to taste the base for the Shrimp and Corn Bisque, and I could not get it off of my mind. The dish consists of the most delicate corn pudding—which can scarcely maintain its composure once it reaches your mouth—tender local shrimp, Honshimeji mushrooms, and micro greens, all floating on a delicate creamy soup with a flavor more dense than a neutron star.
When I finished the soup, the chefs fired a series of tasting portions of various menu items. Most notable for me were the scallops and the duck, two of my very favorite entrée items. The scallops were seared and served in a lovely sherry cream with potato confit, house-cured egg yolk, asparagus, prosciutto, and grapefruit. The duck breast came with beautifully crispy skin, grilled baby bok choy, pickled mushrooms, lentils, and kimchi. Wine tasters were poured, and we talked about flavors, ingredients, and good times.
I can’t pack enough praise about Burlingame into this one article, but you can experience it for yourself Tuesday through Sunday at 20 South 5th Street in downtown Fernandina Beach.