Chef Shawn McClain's Savory Twist On Crème Brûlée

Chef Shawn McClain's unique fusions of ingredients and cuisines have landed him a James Beard Award, Esquire's Chef of the Year, Desert Companion's Restaurant of the Year, and mentions in The New York Times and Bon Appétit (via  LinkedIn). According to his website, it is McClain's ability to redefine food genres that have contributed to his success.

In 2012, McClain borrowed inspiration from South-Asian cuisine to prepare whelk, conical sea snails, to bag a winning title on Iron Chef America. "I love the challenge of creativity, of new things and businesses," he told SEEN. And, with his current endeavor — Highlands, in Detroit, MI, — he's proving just that. Located on the 71st floor of the General Motors Renaissance Center, McClain's restaurant offers guests an unexpected twist on a classic dish — a unique, timely dessert ready to celebrate National Crème Brûlée Day.

A sweet treat with an unexpected twist

The holiday honoring the sugary, caramelized dessert known as "burnt creme" falls on July 27, as National Today explains. Yet, instead of the traditional crème brûlée recipe of vanilla, sugar, eggs, and cream, McClain's dish incorporates foie gras, Michigan cherries, brioche, and cocoa nibs. In a press release sent to Tasting Table McClain says the Foie Gras Brulee "is a decadent dish that combines both savory and sweet elements and is a perfect dish for those who love the flavor of foie gras." While foie gras has elicited controversy throughout the culinary world, the ingredient remains a staple at upscale restaurants around the world (per CNN). 

By combining savory and sweet flavor profiles, McClain has created a contrast between the creaminess of the custard and the unexpected tartness of cherries. "Highlands is always looking for ways to incorporate and utilize the best of Michigan's fresh produce," he explained. "Michigan cherries are notably some of the best cherries found anywhere." Packed with vitamin C, potassium, and beta carotene, Montmorency tart cherries are known as America's super fruit –- and Michigan is the world's top producer (via Michigan Grown). Not to mention, Michigan's cherries are in season from June through August, so it's a perfect time to sample McClain's dessert. Can't make it to Detroit in the summer? NOt to worry, Highlands serves the signature dish year-round, or you can try making your own crème brûlée at home.