SALEM, MA – The scallop arrived on its shell, so fresh it was still gently pulsing. Dressed simply with some microgreens, alongside some toasted oats to add a welcome crunch, it encapsulated all that is good in New England winter cuisine. The dish was just one among a bounty of eight courses at Ledger Restaurant and Bar’s first-ever pop-up event, each reflecting what magic can be made with local ingredients.
Ledger’s chef Daniel Gursha pulled out all the stops for his inaugural event January 23, teaming up with chef David Ordonez, the founder of ILLES, a food and travel-based project inspired by the lifestyle, culture, and traditions of Eivissa, a Mediterranean island off the east coast of Spain also known as Ibiza.
Gursha first met Ordonez when the pair was working at Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that makes foodies the world over swoon. Slavishly dedicated to local cuisine and named best restaurant in the world four times, it is bucket list dining for sure.
The two are among the handful of chefs in the world who have been invited to “stage”—chef-speak for intern—at the storied spot. Gursha spent four months there, including time in the restaurant’s test kitchen, working directly with famed chef Rene Redzepi on innovative ideas.
“A lot of the ingredients that Rene was using [at Noma] are very similar to the ingredients that we can get in North America,” Gursha says.
So it’s no surprise the menu leaned heavily on what can be sourced locally in New England in winter, with the star being an Ossabaw Island pig—a heritage breed raised in Pepperell, Mass., and descended from the famous Spanish Iberico. Other dishes on the eight-course menu, paired with wines, include Cod Brandade with aioli and malted potato, Green Olive Ceviche with scallops and turnips and a Bullit de Peix—traditional Ibiza fish stew.
“It was a great opportunity, not just for people that came to dinner, but also for my staff,” Gursha says. “And it’s a learning experience that’s great for me too. I love to work with other chefs and for them to teach me something. And maybe I teach them something too. It’s an ever-changing, ever-learning business.”
This is the first of an ongoing Ledger pop-up series, with chefs from around the world, Gursha says. While he’s not ready to announce other themes as of yet, there is one culinary rock star he would love to cook with—Sean Brock, the James Beard award-winning chef dedicated to preserving Southern food ways.
“I don’t know if he would ever come, but I really admire his style,” Gursha says.
Here’s hoping Brock is listening.
Ledger Restaurant and Bar, 125 Washington St, Salem, 978.594.1908. www.ledgersalem.com.