The Dish: Chef Didier Elena

The Dish

Chef Didier Elena, a native of Monaco, was born to a doctor and a fisherman. He was headed toward a medical career until meeting world-renowned chef Alain Ducasse and, as they say in the movies, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

After two decades of working with Ducasse in his restaurants around the globe, Elena broke out on his own. The Michelin-starred chef is now culinary director at Chefs Club in New York and Aspen where a rotating roster of stellar chefs create menus of seasonal ingredients. 

Here are some of Elena's signature recipes: 

Roasted leg of lamb in hay


1 each whole bone-in leg of lamb

2 tablespoons kosher salt

10 garlic cloves

20 Nicoise olives



1. Preheat oven to 280° F

2. Dry lamb leg with paper towels

3. Season generously with salt

4. Heat a large skillet or sauté pan coated with vegetable oil and sear leg on all sides

5. Let the leg cool to touch

6. Make small cuts in the meat with a pairing knife

7. Stud leg with olives and garlic cloves

8. In a roasting pan filled with hay, roast leg of lamb for 30 min per pound

9. Let rest for 20 min before carving 

Crispy potato churros with comté cheese


1 1/4 cup water 

3/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 whole eggs

1 cup potato pulp

1 1/2 cup grated Comte cheese  


1. Bake potatoes on a bed of salt for 45 min at 400° F

2. Bring water, salt, butter to a boil.

3. Incorporate all of the flour first with a whisk then a spatula.

4. Remove from the heat add eggs one by one.

5. Put mixture into a stand mixer bowl and incorporate potato and grated comte.

6. Put in a piping bag with a pastry tip and pipe onto parchment paper and freeze.

7. Cut into desired size and fry at 350° until golden brow.

8. Season with salt and black pepper



1 small eggplant sliced ¼ inch thick   

1 medium yellow onion sliced ¼ inch thick 

1 small zucchini trimmed and sliced ¼ inch thick 

1 medium tomato sliced ¼ inch thick 

1 medium summer squash sliced ¼ inch thick   

1 sprig rosemary 

2 teaspoon kosher salt   

1 teaspoon ground black pepper   

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 300°F 

2. Arrange alternating sliced vegetables in a baking dish  

3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and picked rosemary leaves   

4. Drizzle with olive oil   

5. Bake until vegetables are tender, about an hour and thirty minutes

Petite Pois à la Francaise


8 thick slices applewood smoked bacon cut into lardons 

3 ¼ cups shelled fresh English peas 

10 jumbo asparagus, stems peeled 

10 baby white turnips, quartered   

10 baby carrots, peeled 

25 pearl onions, peeled

2 hearts romaine lettuce, leaves separated   

1 ½ cups vegetable stock 

4 tablespoons olive oil 


1. Blanch peas in salted water for 1 minute and shock in ice water immediately 

2. Peel away outer skin and reserve flesh 

3. In a blender puree ¼ cup of peas and ½ cup of vegetable stock until smooth   

4. Cook bacon in a pan until rendered and cooked 

5. Heat olive oil sauté pan and sear carrots, turnips, and asparagus to give a little color   

6. Add vegetable stock and cook over high heat   

7. Reduce until the vegetables are coated with a glaze   

8. Add pea puree, bacon, peas, pearl onions and romaine leaves   

9. Mix and cook for an additional 5 min   

10. Season to taste with salt and pepper  

Lemon Tart

Tart shell ingredients

2 cups powdered sugar

1 ¾ cups butter

3 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup almond meal

Tart shell directions

1. Preheat oven 350°F

2. Place flour, sugar, almond meal, butter and salt in a food processor

3. Pulse briefly until mixture forms large crumbs

4. Add eggs and vanilla extract

5. Pulse until a dough is formed

6. Remove from processor and roll out to ¼ inch thick

7. Lie dough in tart pan with a removable bottom

8. Chill for 30 min covered

9. Dock dough with fork and bake until golden brown

Crème Citron ingredients

5 Lemons, juiced and zested

5 eggs

3 sheets of gelatin

¼ cup heavy cream (whipped)

Crème Citron directions

1. Bloom gelatin in ice water

2. In a double boiler over medium-low fire slowly whisk lemon juice, zest and eggs together to form a custard

3. Whisk in gelatin to dissolve

4. Strain through a sieve

5. Cool and fold in whipped cream

6. Pour into tart shell