How I won the lottery: Dinner for six with a prodigy chef

Cake as defined by Chef Aaron Kirschner

“Cake” as interpreted by prodigy Chef Aaron Kirschner; delectable, chewy chocolate nougat crowned with cinnamon ice cream to the rest of us

In sixth grade, I won a cake.

We had a Cake Walk, which is similar to musical chairs, only when the music stops, if the number you’re standing on matches the number on one of the cakes being given away, you win a cake. Which… I suppose makes it not so similar to musical chairs. Maybe the opposite of musical chairs. Anyway, I was a winner!

Since then, I haven’t won much in terms of food, dining, cheffery, or any other culinary-related prizes – until earlier this year. A friend of mine, Kathleen, called to say she’d won a silent auction item. The auction item turned out to be a four-course meal with eight of her closest foodie pals, prepared by a 15-year-old prodigy chef. I hadn’t heard of Aaron Kirschner until then, and I was unaware of the impression his culinary expertise would leave on our palates in Boulder on a rainy evening in July. We were simply stunned by his talent.

Our evening went something like this: six of us arrived at Kathleen’s house around 6 p.m. Dinner was slated for eight people, but just six of us were able to attend. Chef Aaron and his sous chef, Oliver, proceeded to establish dominion over the kitchen and usher us into the dining room, where wine and water were waiting. The young chefs served as kitchen staff and waitstaff, announcing ingredients prior to each course, and accommodating the unique requests of individuals in the group by providing dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian dishes where appropriate.

You can read about Aaron’s junior chef competition on The Daily Camera, his work at the Black Cat on the Boulder Weekly, his Junior Iron Chef match on the Daily Camera, his experience at Chicago’s Moto restaurant on the Huffington Post, and on Aaron Kirschner’s personal blog, but the elevator pitch is: Aaron is an exceptional chef, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that he’s a top-tier chef in the making. His understanding of food as art appears to be matched only by chefs who have already been at it for years. A visual sampling of Aaron’s culinary artwork is below, and it tastes as exquisite as it looks.

One challenge I’ve encountered in food blogging has been to adequately describe how good a dish, a meal, or an entire dining experience is. This is another one of those times. My best suggestion, if you want to experience Aaron’s culinary prowess for yourself, is to head to Black Cat in Boulder, where he currently works in the back of the house. Alternatively, give this a try: a six-course tasting menu prepared by Chef Aaron and his youthful team in a pop-up restaurant format in Boulder. Prepare to be impressed!

Hearts of palm confit

First course from Boulder Prodigy Chef Aaron Kirschner: Hearts of palm confit with squash puree, lychee kimchi, chewy lychee, pickled garlic scapes, green garlic aioli, and nasturtium flowers

Pan-roasted black bass

Second course from Boulder Prodigy Chef Aaron Kirschner: Pan-roasted black bass with glazed fava beans, sweet & sour onions, buttered mussels, braised artichokes, pickled grapes, purple basil, thai basil, fennel fronds, and pansies (photograph courtesy of Aaron Kirschner)

Duck breast and arugula pudding

Third course from Boulder Prodigy Chef Aaron Kirschner: Duck breast and arugula pudding with poached apricots, craklin, apricot puree, candied pecans, and baby arugula

Chocolate nougat with burnt cinnamon ice cream

Dessert course from Boulder Prodigy Chef Aaron Kirschner: Chocolate nougat with burnt cinnamon ice cream, pumpkin seed cake, candied pumpkin seeds, coffee gel, coffee crumble, cinnamon lace tuiles, chocolate mint