Winery Chefs – Part 1
October 29, 2019
Paso Robles wineries continue to raise the bar in not only tasting experiences but also in their culinary offerings. Talented chefs from around the world are planting their roots in Paso with some of the best dining taking place in the heart of the vineyards. There’s a passion for food here with an abundance of year-round produce and artisanal products. For creative food and wine pairings, special garden and farm tours, as well as one-on-one cooking classes and demos look to the wineries for another flavor of Paso Robles wine country.
What sparked your passion for food and wine? In 8th grade, I watched the cooking channel before bed and fell in love with the art of culinary. I liked the flames, and the sounds of searing meat and dreamt that I could work in a real kitchen one day. It wasn’t until later that my wine knowledge began to grow. I worked for a few places when the wine industry was getting some serious notability, I learned how pairing wine and food really amazed people. I was able to see just how mind-blown people were when willing to sit, wait, enjoy and pay for their experience. From there it was kind of sky is the limit, I was able to hone my knowledge on both food and wine and never give up.
If you were on a deserted island, what three ingredients would you bring? Flour, whole chicken, dry active yeast. Why? Well, flour is too hard to make, chicken is nice and I can use the whole bird, and yeast for rising dough… I am imagining that there is water and veggies and other stuff on the island…
What is your guilty pleasure food? I like to have ice cream in a coffee cup, with cookies and milk mixed in!
Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to cook with? Romanesco, nutritional yeast, gelatin, and turmeric.
What fruit/vegetable/herb are you not currently growing you’d love to grow? And what would make with it? Oregano, I have almost every other herb, but I forgot that this year. I would make some mean chimichurri!
What music do you listen to while you cook? I listen to a lot of different music…Whale Rock Spotify, Punk Rock, Tool, Toby Mac, Lecrae, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chet Faker, Disney Hits, Crowder, Circa Survive, and like… so many more but not country. 90’s and older is ok but that’s it for me.
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you the most? I like French influence, I love foods from Spain, and I like New Mexican. I mix a lot of styles together and I love Southern too.
What is your perfect Paso Wine pairing? I do not drink much anymore but I like white wines. I know that crab cakes can be overplayed but this is a great recipe as long as you do it right…wink-wink! Feel free to just simplify 2017 Castoro Cellars Estate Chardonnay and Crab Cakes over escarole.
What sparked your passion for food and wine? I grew up in a large Puerto Rican family that was brought together by fried plantains, arroz con pollo, and Café Bustelo coffee. We lived in Arkansas. My parents loved that they could relive a memory from their childhood just by recreating a dish, or mortaring garlic and salt in their cherished mortar and pestle they brought from their homeland. Their passion was infectious. As I became a more polished cook, I became curious about creating complete experiences: food, wine, and conversation. I feel a personal connection at DAOU. Beyond their passion for wine, the brothers appreciate even more that it brings friends and family together.
If you were on a deserted island, what three ingredients would you bring? Calabrian chili, Maldon salt, and Araucana eggs.
What is your guilty pleasure food? Baskin Robbins Jamoca Almond Fudge, in a cup.
Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to cook with? Preserved Moroccan Lemons. They are just perfect.
What fruit/vegetable/herb are you not currently growing you’d love to grow? And what would make with it? Rose Geranium. I think of making a panna cotta with candied violets to boot.
What music do you listen to while you cook? Bajafondo and Buena Vista Social Club are my go-to’s.
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you the most? The Mediterranean.
What is your perfect Paso Wine pairing? DAOU Patrimony, 2015. Duck Rillette smeared on warm, toasted levain.
What sparked your passion for food and wine? When I was young I did several study abroad trips to France and learned to appreciate the importance of a good meal and delicious wine pairings.
If you were on a deserted island, what three ingredients would you bring? Fleur de sel, dark chocolate, and triple cream cheese.
What is your guilty pleasure food? Probably French fries or chips — I love salty potatoes and they are even better with melted cheese!
Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to cook with? I was recently introduced to cooking with acorns that have an amazing earthy and nutty flavor. Recently for the restaurant, I paired roasted acorns with a risotto and white truffles and also made a savory acorn French macaroon.
What fruit/vegetable/herb are you not currently growing you’d love to grow? And what would make with it? I would love to work with Anise Hyssop, which is part of the mint family. It would be fun to see its application in a sashimi or Crudo dish or have our pastry chef use it for dessert that we could pair with our Orange Muscat dessert wine, Sunny’s Block.
What music do you listen to while you cook? At work, I find that listing to music while I’m cooking is distracting, but at home, I’ll sometimes listen to the chill electronic station.
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you the most? Italian and French for the restaurant, but at home I am inspired by Japanese and Vietnamese.
What is your perfect Paso Wine pairing? Right now, I am loving the seasonal pork dish on the menu which we pair with our Tempranillo. The pork has a crispy skin and is served alongside a small pasta which is filled with braised pork and mustard greens. It is garnished with pickled local mulberries and Blue Bonnet squash purée (new favorite squash!), and a house-made apple, Harissa mostarda — all of the flavors meld together so well, it’s an amazing dish for the start of fall!
What sparked your passion for food and wine? Food and cooking was just what I was good at. I have been cooking since I was in middle school and really developed a passion for it while I was in college. My parents were both great cooks as well. We rarely ever ate fast food and when we did, it was seen more like a special occasion. They also took my sister and me out to dinner a lot when we were younger. Growing up in New Orleans, food and gatherings are just more part of the culture and everyday life. So I guess there’s not a spark so much, as it’s just always been there.
If you were on a deserted island, what three ingredients would you bring? Freshwater, rice, and soy sauce. After all, if I am on a deserted island, I’m trying to survive right?! You need drinkable water to survive; I could eat rice with just about anything three meals a day for a long time, and soy sauce has infinite uses!
What is your guilty pleasure food? My favorite snack is white bread and American cheese. Microwaved. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m very simple when it comes to my everyday eating. This snack is fast, easy and only takes about 45-seconds to assemble and cook. It’s also the first thing I learned how to “cook’ on my own. It still brings a smile to my face to this day.
Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to cook with? Not really. I do cook with quite a lot of different kinds of vinegar though. I love acid in foods, especially via vinegar. The different sweetness and aromas they can provide can help create a great balance in many different ways.
What fruit/vegetable/herb are you not currently growing you’d love to grow? And what would make with it? I had an amazing tomato harvest this year….almost too many. For me, in the summer, nothing is better than amazing fresh tomatoes with as little other ingredients as possible. Just some good oil, salt, and some herbs. Burrata Cheese with marinated garden tomatoes is big in my house during the summer!
What music do you listen to while you cook? The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Ramones, Danzig, The Misfits. I am not too picky, just not into any sort of “modern Country.” I just can’t take it. For the most part, I will put random things on, but let the rest of my staff put on anything they want….well, almost anything. I’m all about letting everyone have their time. However, on solo prep days, I am all about podcasts. I’ll do 8-hours straight of podcasts on a prep day. Your Mom’s House, Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast, and a ton of Joe Rogan Episodes are my go-to’s.
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you the most? I really love Asian cuisines. Thai, Chinese, and Japanese are the ones I gravitate towards the most, even though that is a pretty broad range. Especially if I am in say L.A. or San Francisco when I go out, I want to get food that I know nothing about or don’t know how to cook. Otherwise, I have been known to say…”my favorite meals are the ones I don’t have to cook.” This could be going to a friend’s for dinner, ordering pizza, take out or going out to dinner somewhere.
What is your perfect Paso Wine pairing? This is a hard question to answer! I love the wines in this area. The terroir and the climate here provide amazing circumstances for making beautiful wine. It’s a shame it has taken so long to be recognized for what it is. Lots of the wines coming out of Paso are absolutely stunning. When it comes to food, I like to either know what wine we are drinking or what food we are eating before making the other decision. There is plenty to choose from and more an more awesome small producers coming out each year. I like smaller wineries, they seem to be more focused and it really shows in their vino. Some of my favorites are TOP, Paix Sur Terre, McPrice Myers, L’Aventure, Law, and of course Barton & Grey Wolf!