Winery Chefs – Part 2
November 26, 2019
If you read our blog, Winery Chefs – Part 1, then you’ve seen the talent we have in Paso Robles Wine Country! There are so many awesome chefs here that we had to do another blog. Accomplished and creative 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? My passion for food started at an early age and was sparked by sleepless nights filled with hours of Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour”.
If you were on a deserted island, what three ingredients would you bring? My wife and two kids, the ingredients to my life.
What is your guilty pleasure food? Truffles, not the chocolate kind. Doesn’t matter if they’re black or white.
Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to cook with? I love using Garam Masala, fennel pollen, and yuzu ponzu and yuzukoshu.
What fruit/vegetable/herb are you not currently growing you’d love to grow? And what would make with it? Wild gourmet mushrooms and I would make a fricassee des champignons.
What music do you listen to while you cook? At times I start the day off with opera and Broadway and transition to country, then rock, and then metal. I listen to a little bit of everything, as my colleagues at Le Cuvier could easily confirm.
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you the most? I couldn’t pick one main ethnic cuisine to favor as each of them have elements and flavors that please my palate. From the rich spices of Middle Eastern foods to the herbaceous notes and exotic vegetables of Asian cuisine, back to the bright and warming flavors of the Mediterranean and Europe and down to the comforts and styles of Latin American foods, how is a guy to choose only one?!
What is your perfect Paso Wine pairing? We are currently featuring on our list a Crispy Guanciale (sourced locally from Ale-pia) with Caramelized Onion and Montmorency Cherry Marmalade paired with the 2015 Malbec. The food aspect itself is a good balance of textures, crispy and soft and the ingredients gently coat your tongue as notes of pepper, salt, and sweet build a nice contrast. The concepts behind the pairing were designed in conjunction with our winemaker, Clay Selkirk, as we aimed at balancing the nice acidity of the wine with the richness of the Guanciale and bringing out the depth and dark fruit of the Malbec with the caramelized onion and cherry marmalade.
What sparked your passion for food and wine? Coming to CA for the first time after cooking for years back East. I was passionate before seeing it all, but it was mostly theory and reading until I arrived in CA. Being surrounded with world-class wineries, amazing produce and seasons, living close to the coastline and the incredible seafood, dairy and creameries, and cheeses, artisans and peers who pour their hearts into their craft and the public who appreciates the effort and supports it all.
If you were on a deserted island, what three ingredients would you bring? Eggs, rice (jasmine or any of the Japanese white rice varieties) and probably salami/ham. I first came to CA as an unpaid apprentice. I ate jasmine rice, from the Asian market on my block, 3+ times/day during that time. When I landed the job, I boldly declared I’d never eat rice again! That lasted about 2 days…..I missed my rice.
What is your guilty pleasure food? I always have a chocolate bar in the freezer……breaking off cold squares when I walk by. Milk chocolate with puffed rice is the current stock.
Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to cook with? After living and cooking for three years in Indonesia, I’ve fallen in love with the Kluwak nut. It’s fermented to make edible and turns dark, as black garlic does. A very unique flavor with a lot of depth! Rawon is a traditional beef soup with Kluwak in the broth. Delicious. But, I was stuffing mushroom caps with it, adding it to an omelet, stuffing under the skin of the whole chicken, etc….
What fruit/vegetable/herb are you not currently growing you’d love to grow? Citrus marigolds (not to be confused with the stinky marigolds that were in my yard as a child, I still remember the smell!!) And what would make with it? The flowers and tiny leaves have a very nice, delicate flavor profile. Grapefruit-tarragon-ish. A great way to flavor seafood preparations. Steeping some in white wine vinegar would be a nice addition to our pantry.
What music do you listen to while you cook? Usually late 90s-early 00s hip hop/R&B radio and club mix. I like the rhythm and energy to cook too. I enjoy knowing all the lyrics and singing along. Usually, a spin or two happens as well.
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you the most? Lately, I’ve seen some IG posts and food tours around small villages in China. The simplicity and technique and flavor combinations are things I haven’t encounter before. It’s like being a child again.
What is your perfect Paso Wine pairing? 2016 Niner Cabernet Sauvignon with some fresh pork sausages from J&R Meats. Grilling the sausages, adding some smoke to the fatty pork and a little char to the casing.
What sparked your passion for food and wine? Part of why I enjoy what I do so much is that moment when an individual’s eyes light up when trying something I’ve made, whether it be something they’ve had before or a dish or ingredient that’s new to them. The next step was finding out how much what we drink has an impact on the food we eat, the constant learning about wines and how and where they’re grown, keeps me on my toes…and I love it!
If you were on a deserted island, what 3 ingredients would you bring? Limes, Tamarindo, and Tequila. Oh, the many possibilities!
What is your guilty pleasure food? That’s a toss-up between anything off a taco truck after 10:00pm or corn dogs with spicy chinese mustard and banana ketchup…not at the same time silly!
Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to cook with? Chamoy, Tamarind, and Aji Chili’s
What fruit/herb/vegetable are you not currently growing that you would love to grow? And what would you make with it? Lychee… probably start with a cocktail (of course!) then a scallop ceviche with lychee in it.
What music do you listen to while you cook? It totally depends on my mood and even what I’m making. Anything from a Cuban Samba to Pat Metheny Group to Tool or Stevie Ray Vaughan…yes, I have a huge Pandora library!
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you most? South American and Spain. Argentina, Chile, Colombia specifically, but my bucket list trip would be a month-long, traveling and eating my way through Spain and Portugal.
What is your perfect Paso wine pairing? A Bovino Albariño with a butter-poached lobster tail, Meyer lemon-infused olive oil, and a few dashes of Aji chili paste or the Bovino Tempranillo with beef cheek ravioli and a sage and brown butter sauce…please don’t make me choose just one!
What sparked your passion for food and wine? A lot of memories growing up, stemmed from always helping in the kitchen with my mom and wanting to create dishes for family gatherings, which only continued to blossom once deciding to go to Culinary School. Through life and work experiences I truly have grown to love the relationship that Food and Wine play in our every day. Gathering around a table with friends and loved ones surrounded by both is a beautiful way to reconnect.
If you were on a deserted island, what three ingredients would you bring? Tough question as there are so many great ingredients to choose from, but I’d have to go with avocados, which is one of our daily staples, watermelon where we can plant and continue to grow, and an egg-bearing chicken. 😊
What is your guilty pleasure food? Since I try to eat healthy in my day to day, if I were to indulge it would be a hot fudge sundae for something sweet, or a grilled cheese toasted to ooey-gooey perfection.
Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to cook with? Currently not necessarily anything unusual, but I go through spurts of experimenting with recipes utilizing several different spices, marinades that can morph a dish one is familiar with into something with a unique twist.
What fruit/vegetable/herb are you not currently growing you’d love to grow? And what would make with it? I would love to grow different fruit trees. I’m new to this part of the country and it still excites me walking around the neighborhood and driving around seeing so many types of produce growing all over the place. Citrus, avocados, pomegranate, cherries, and there are endless ways to incorporate into dishes.
What music do you listen to while you cook? I love listening to music while I’m cooking, it keeps me focused and calm at the task and out of my head. It’s hard to narrow down depending on the mood, but will Pandora oldies sing-alongs, Jack Johnson, Beatles, Tom Petty, Paramore, Matisyahu to name a few.
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you the most? Gosh, this one is tough, because there are so many regions that inspire me and continue to learn about.
French technique was my beginning, and still, respect the principals and elegance of, but I love to utilize that as the base and combine with other regions. Seeing street vendors in Mexico, and Asia and so many more that have put out these amazing dishes with so much love for the culture and technique that have been handed down from generation to generation is what inspires me.
What is your perfect Paso Wine pairing? I have been amazed by the quality of the wines in this region, and love seeing the different wineries throughout. I have so many favorites at Tooth & Nail, but to narrow down a few our Stasis Albariño with a seafood dish, Stasis Gamay Noir which goes with almost anything, and Amor Fati Grenache are at the top currently.
What sparked your passion for food and wine? My interest in food came from television programming beginning with “Great Chefs” on PBS followed by The Roux Brothers, Two Fat Ladies, and I’ve watched every episode of Iron Chef Japan. Growing up, my parents loved to entertain at our house, and my father is a great cook, I loved seeing the joy he got cooking for friends and family. Every weekend was a wedding, a baby shower, a baptism, a funeral, a birthday, or just a get-together. Whatever the case may be, my father would often be approached to cater for these events, and I would help wash dishes until I was able to help with mise en place.
If you were on a deserted island, what three ingredients would you bring? 1) Leghorn chickens to lay eggs 2) Flour to make noodles, pasta and bread 3) Salt to season.
What is your guilty pleasure food? Really great bread and butter – two of the simplest foods yet so complex to make.
Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to cook with? Aside from fermented fish sauce, I love to cook with XO sauce. Traditionally made with dried shrimp and scallops, I’ve also made it with dried octopus and giant squid.
What fruit/vegetable/herb are you not currently growing you’d love to grow? And what would make with it? While traveling in Tokyo, I was introduced to miracle berries. It’s a berry native to West Africa and convinces your mind that anything purely sour will be sweet. We made desserts and cocktails without sugar with the berries. I would love to revisit the berry and eliminate conventional sugars from desserts. Miracle berries, maple, coconut sugar, sorghum, and date sugar are great alternatives.
What music do you listen to while you cook? During service, it would be classical music. But I tend to listen to the classics – whether it’s classic rock, classic rap, or Motown.
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you the most? Southeast Asian and Japanese cuisine inspires me because of my upbringing. Still, on a professional level, being classically French-trained as well the influence from my travels, I tend to gravitate towards the European approach to cooking.
What is your perfect Paso Wine pairing? It would be our flagship Ancestor Bordeaux blend with short ribs from Charter Oak. You can taste the rich and intense beef flavor when the ribs are grilled over estate oak, which naturally goes with the long and structured Ancestor that lingers on your palette. Finish it with smoked salt and butter.
What sparked your passion for food and wine? The often dazzling combinations of flavors and colors – the no-bounds opportunity for artistry in use of the elements.
If you were on a deserted island, what three ingredients would you bring? Salt, lemon juice, and olive oil.
What is your guilty pleasure food? Mexican food, hands down; burritos, tacos, spicy salsas.
What fruit/vegetable/herb are you not currently growing you’d love to grow? And what would make with it? Wild mushrooms, almost impossible to recreate the climate of a morel, lobster, porcini, chanterelle. Would use them all Fall season for everything from risottos and pastas to deep, richly flavored meat and chicken dishes.
What music do you listen to while you cook? 80’s pop, 90’s hip hop, 70’s classic rock, soul and funk, Motown.
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you the most? All food inspires me, I take a little from all of it.
What is your perfect Paso Wine pairing? Cheese, charcuterie, fresh sourdough, bottle of Vina Robles Rosé, and a warm summer evening.
What sparked your passion for food and wine? My passion started when I was really young and exploring my mom’s Betty Crocker Cookbook on Sunday mornings looking for something fun and interesting to make. I was never one that wanted to be tied to a desk, so when I discovered I could take what I love to do and make a career out of it that is what I chose.
If you were on a deserted island, what three ingredients would you bring? The three ingredients that I would have to have with me would be chipotle peppers since it gives a two-dimensional seasoning with smoky and spice, bacon because is life really worth living without a nice piece of bacon?…and finally onions since you cannot do anything in the kitchen worth doing without onions.
What is your guilty pleasure food? My guilty pleasure food has gotten a lot easier to get away with eating now that I have a 3-year-old running around the house and if anyone sees me at the grocery store with boxes of cheap macaroni and cheese and Doritos in the cart I can always play it off on her. I eat the mac and cheese like at dip with the Doritos and I have done it since I was a kid.
Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to cook with? For me, this is my dehydrated morel mushroom powder. I used to go out into the woods every spring in fall in Kansas and Missouri and pick all kinds of mushrooms and I don’t get the same chance here on the Central Coast, but I can still use the earthy flavor from the cool fall and spring mornings in soups and sauces here.
What fruit/vegetable/herb are you not currently growing you’d love to grow? And what would make with it? The one thing I wish I could grow here would be ramps. For those of you that have never had them they are a wild onion that grows in the eastern states and in the springtime there is nothing better with a grilled steak or pork chop then some grilled ramps.
What music do you listen to while you cook? In the kitchen here at Cass we have two times we prep and we listen to hard rock like Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie or Nine Inch Nails. Then when it comes time for service we slow it down and put on something laid back and chill like Jack Johnson or Ben Harper to help us keep our heads and stay focused during service.
What style of ethnic cuisine inspires you the most? I find I try to take my influence from my surroundings so when it comes to ethnic cuisines that inspire me here on the central coast I would have to say its Latin. I love the use of spice and acid in all different ways. I also love how if you look outside, you just get that feeling like you out in the plains in Mexico and the food just fits the surrounding.
What is your perfect Paso Wine pairing? There are so many amazing wines out there; Cass Vintage Ted is an amazing wine to pair with, but there are some other great wines from Opolo, Herman Story, LXV to just name a few.