Most of us struggle to hack a pineapple into somewhat acceptable-looking cubes. Some of us buy them pre-cut at the grocery. Philippe Vongerichten has made an art of carving the prickly beautiful fruit.
Longtime general manager of his brother's namesake Jean-Georges flagship restaurant in New York City for the past 17 years, Vongerichten has revitalized a classic French dessert, ananas au kirsch.
"I went to this very old library in Paris and I found this old service book from the fifties," Vongerichten says, recalling the inspiration for the dish.
He happened upon an illustration of someone cutting a pineapple for ananas au kirsch, and he knew he had to bring the showy yet straight-forward presentation to the then fledgling restaurant.
"And you know in Alsace, we love kirsch."
Armed with a Japanese chef's knife and two slim utility knives, Vongerichten carves the pineapples table-side, meticulously and quickly shaving away the skin and slicing on a diagonal to turn the fruit into swirly sculpture.
Once sectioned into rounds, he drizzles some kirsch and sprinkles crushed bits of crystalized rose petals on top.
And, bon. Dessert is served, just as simple and precise and lovely as it was when Vongerichten put it on the menu years ago.