Ask the Expert: Caviar Russe's Chef Christopher Agnew

[Photographs: Brent Herrig]

Chef Christopher Agnew grew up in fine dining—his father owned a restaurant in Delaware, and as soon as Christopher got a license to drive, he was working there. In New York he worked for the celebrated chef Alain Ducasse before making his way to the executive chef position at Caviar Russe, where he was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of caviar he'd get to play with, especially the Caspian Sea Almas Osetra caviar, considered the finest caviar in the world and running up to almost $600 an ounce.

Using caviar in our own kitchens though, Agnew explains, doesn't have to break the bank. Here he offers a few tips on how we can bring a little luxury home during the height of the celebratory season.

What's a good value caviar for cooks and home entertainers who want the luxury experience without breaking the bank? American Sturgeon Caviar, which is also called Shovelnose Sturgeon.

What are American caviars (that are a bit more wallet-friendly) best used for? Certain American roes, such as Paddlefish and Salmon Roe, are really great for garnishes. American Sturgeon is of great quality and flavor, perfect for a caviar service without breaking the bank.

Caramelized Brioche with white chocolate, Asian pear, caviar

What's your favorite caviar preparation? To name a favorite would be the same as naming a favorite child. I love them all equally with each having their own special characteristics.

Maine Lobster with English pea, platinum osetra

What should people buying and using caviar for the first time know? How can they ensure they're getting the best experience and value for their money? Whenever purchasing caviar, consider the use—caviar service, cooking with caviar, garnish, etc.—the target audience, and always taste the caviar prior to purchasing to make sure the flavors and textures are what you want.

What drew you to this type of fine dining? What excites you about these luxury product? I wanted to work with a product that is timeless, to redefine the traditional meaning and to create something that has not been done before.

Diver Sea Scallop with asparagus, fennel, siberian osetra

What's a gentle way for someone unfamiliar with caviar to introduce it at home? Find a protein at your normal supermarket that's fantastic—a fish or shellfish is a solid start. Buy a nice caviar to accompany it and prepare it simply. Don't do anything to overpower it. Let the protein you buy and the caviar speak together. That's it.

King Crab with avocado, lemon purée, borage, golden osetra