The rise and fall of this uncommon, classically French spectacle made out of something as simple as an egg is the specialty of the Rise restaurants in Dallas and Houston. The latter, which makes some 300 soufflés a night, will be participating in Houston Restaurant Week through September 4.
Often described as “magic,” soufflés come out of the oven airy and puffed. They must be consumed right away. If not, the air beaten into the egg whites that make it rise will leak out, causing the mound to deflate. While the exterior looks hard, this masterpiece of French cooking melts in one’s mouth (imagine that you’re eating a cloud). Its fickle nature and complicated simplicity caused Julia Child to dub the soufflé the “epitome and triumph of the art of French cooking.”
The Rise restaurants, a brainchild of Francophile Hedda Dowd and Lyon-born chef Cherif Brahmi, offer ten savory soufflés and seven sweet soufflés on the regular menu, with a host of other flavors such as “Duck à l’Orange” and “Eggnog” available seasonally. Each soufflé is prepared as ordered, with the chefs using a technique that cuts down on the whole hour required to make one at home. Executive chef Cameron Achée in Houston told us more about this meticulous process.
France-Amérique: Walk us through the process of making a soufflé.
Cameron Achée: It’s more baking than cooking. You need to be precise with the formula and the procedure. To make our ham and cheese soufflé — one of our most popular dishes — we start with a Mornay sauce as the base. This Béchamel-like sauce is the glue that holds up the structure of a savory soufflé. When we get the order, we mix the Mornay sauce with gruyère cheese and ham, grind it up and heat it. Then we fold it into whipped egg whites until it’s a smooth mixture, which we pour into a ramekin that’s been brushed with whipped butter and parmesan. Finally, it goes in the oven. As soon as it comes out, we only have a couple minutes before it starts falling. Our food goes straight from the oven to the table!
Soufflés are notoriously hard to make. How does your kitchen manage to make such a large number every night?
We streamline everything in the kitchen. We have multiple stations manned by chefs and we set up as far as we can. All the soufflés are made to order, but we have the pastry creams and Mornay sauce ready, all the ramekins buttered, and the purees made. We make them in-house from fresh produce that we get daily. We whip our eggs by machine and then fold them by hand. Our restaurant goes through 6,000 eggs a week. Our ovens are custom-made so a soufflé can cook in 16 to 17 minutes which is a lot better than someone would see at home where it would take about 45 minutes.
Houston Restaurant Week will take place through September 4. What dishes would you recommend to those keen on discovering your restaurant?
A lot of people ask about our marshmallow soup– it’s a carrot and tomato bisque and the “marshmallows” are actually mini-goat cheese soufflés. They look like real marshmallows! In terms of soufflés, our most popular savory options are the jambon and gruyère, the truffle-infused mushroom, and the crabmeat. My personal favorite is the cauliflower and brie. On the sweet side, we have a chocolate and Grand Marnier soufflé that is pretty popular.
1700 Post Oak Blvd #290
Houston, TX 77056