Simplicity Is The Way To Complexity

Deceptively complex simplicity is a great way to describe what I present to you. It’s also a reason why menus aren’t often presented before hand. I create from what the market and the season present to me.

Trying to create new experiences for seasoned diners is the best kind of stressful. I feel the pressure of my clients giving me their trust regarding an unknown menu, and I don’t want to let them down. Take for instance tomatoes. What are the best tried and true combos for fresh tomato? Caprese is always a winner. Fresh salsa/pico de gallo hits the spot as well. Tossed into a salad? Sure. But I try to offer what you wouldn’t make yourself, or maybe; not even order off a menu.

Look at these two tomato courses, made about two months apart…

If You Like Fresh Tomato

The second picture was a fan favorite that night. Cherry tomatoes peeled and tossed with basil oil that has a nice hit of nutmeg, settled over my favorite greens,(kohlrabi) that are sautéed with garlic and white wine. All the dish needed was some texture and richness; enter fried pepitas. Acid, crunch, fat, tart, sweet and earthy all settled with intrigue.

The first pic was a hit as well, again, trying to highlight the tomato without the balance of burrata or buffalo mozzarella. I opted for toasted almond cream that had a little lemon zest. The tomatoes, peeled and tossed with salt, lemon juice and chives paired perfectly with that richness, happily highlighted by some basil oil.

Both dishes look quite simple, and at their technical essence, are. But the complexity that bursts through with each bite offers surprise as your senses explode…Complex simplicity.

A NEW Year

A new year brought in a new experience. My Alaska dwelling bother came in for the holidays with some tasty, wild game treats, and we wasted no time taking advantage of it.

Although my brother has not yet waded into the wild meat procurement game, his awesome neighbor is a seasoned veteran. Wild fish and game fill his freezer, and he was kind enough to gift my brother some meat to share with his inexperienced brother in the lower 48. Halibut, rock fish, moose, deer and jerky from elk, moose and deer. All frozen, and stuffed into a suitcase bound for San Diego, narrowly missing the epic holiday flight derailments of 2022.

My history

First, let me start by saying two things. One…I have never experienced venison that I enjoyed. The gaminess was always at the flavor forefront, which made appreciation a struggle. Second…I always wanted, but never had an opportunity to eat moose steak. Sure I’ve had it in sausage, but that was always mixed with pork and spices. Personally and as a chef, experiencing new foods is in my top 3 pleasures as a human on this planet. My brain goes wild with new palatable experiences, especially when they’re delicious. Combine that with added surprises or revelations about the ingredient, and I’m on anther plane.

This black tail deer and moose were so unbelievably good. Eliciting moans of pleasure and excitement I have not had with a new ingredient in quite some time. Both were as good or better than any steak I’ve had, and equal to my previous favorite game meat experience 15 years ago. Which was elk from New Mexico. It was fun because my brother and the gentleman that produced the meat were curious as to what I would do with said meat. Not even “are you gonna marinate it,” but rather, “what are you gonna marinate it in?”

How to cook meat has been a consistent question from many a dude throughout my career. Yes, dudes ask me about meat cookery 95% more than women. It has to be some kind of primal thing about cooking flesh over fire. Most guys over think and over prepare food as the “more is better” aesthetic is pervasive with men in the kitchen. My answers on meat preparation are usually met with disappointment and doubt. As if there’s a secret way to grill meat only chefs are privy to. The lack of complexity and preparation for steak is to many home cooks; counterintuitive for a glorious experience.


The deer and moose were cooked exactly how I would cook any prized meat that wasn’t being braised. Heavily salt the meat 2+ hours ahead, crack over some fresh pepper and grill over mesquite or oak coals. A little olive oil rubbed on the meat is good if the cut is lean. Brown each side until caramelized and delicious looking. Continue to cook as needed until desired doneness is reached using indirect heat if necessary. Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serve with some tasty sides. Lean meats cook to medium rare and fatty cuts toward the medium side of medium rare.

Dinner For Two

Menus are usually not planned, rather, menus are created according to what is vibrant and available on the day of a party. Menus also need to jive with the clients dietary needs and personal tastes. Sometimes there’s a vegan in the group while other times someone is gluten free and only eats fish. Cooking in an unknown environment that might or might not have the usual equipment or quality is also a heavy variable for a personal chef. Dinner for two is always fun; it’s a time to push boundaries and develop new directions. Things that can’t be done when cooking for 10 because of time constraints.

Take the first pic below of the chicken wings. This new recipe was bound to need some tweaking before it could be served. When it’s a dinner for two, there’s time to make sure any unknowns become knowns; and having time for heavy adjustment is part of creative fun. Conversely, dinner for 10 needs a measured approach consistent with variations on known winners. No matter the count, seasonality and vibrancy is at the forefront of any dinner.

The Menu

Crispy achiote chicken wings with orange syrup, pickled turnip, cilantro stems and chives

Roasted chestnut puree with arugula/basil/golden beet salad and citrus poached cranberries with fresh nutmeg and thyme

Phyllo baked feta with honey/lemon syrup, toasted sesame seeds and fresh parsley

Fig jam stuffed poached pear over homemade sauerkraut, cinnamon roasted walnuts and draped in gorgonzola cream

Fresh white seabass roasted with green tomato and olive oil and topped with snow pea and celery root salad dressed with lemon/orange vinaigrette. Below is white wine and fennel sautéed collard greens and butternut squash bisque

Prime NY strip or roasted chicken breast with red wine/beef bone/maitake mushroom sauce. Perched atop cardoon mashed potatoes and crispy salt and pepper brussels sprouts

Fuyu tart with maple/vanilla whipped cream

Classic and Perfect

Salmon is a rarity on my menus. It’s a Tuesday night dinner item that many people cook for themselves. As a personal Chef in San Diego, it is my mission to give the diner something new. What better way to do something new, than to double or triple down on the classics; or the “assumed” knowns. This first entrée for a group of 8 is just that. Salmon, shrimp, chimichurri and polenta. All known classic items you see on menus everywhere. But if I can make your eyes roll backward with these seemingly pedantic recipes, then we are all winning.

Attention to simplicity

All it takes to make food delicious is to cook it perfectly. A simple to understand rule but not always easily achieved. Lets take a look at polenta. Coarsely ground cornmeal cooked with water (and maybe some milk) with a pinch of salt until the cornmeal has softened. Then hit it with one or multiple dairy fats of your choice. Serve immediately or chill, slice and brown. But this polenta picture above is 90% fresh corn. Using fresh corn kicks up the bright summer vibe and adds diversion from the classic. Cooked, puréed, cooked again and hit with more corn and a solid hit of butter. It’s marvelous.

Salmon follows the same rule as most fish; buy as fresh as possible and don’t overcook. I usually broil most thick pieces of fish. Pan searing stinks up the house and grilled can be dicey in terms of sticking to the grate. Getting color on fish is also not always best for flavor. If I’m eating shrimp cold, I like it poached and chilled. Otherwise, I utilize the grill. Often marinated and usually brined, it’s important to apply some char on marinated shrimp. (Any marinated protein for that matter.) That char is another layer that helps pull this dish into the summer spotlight as the shrimp are tossed into the chimichurri; allowing juices and maillard love to imbue. These attributes also focus regional flavors that can be expected from a San Diego personal Chef.

Not salsa verde

Chimichurri is common in restaurants, and for good reason. Herbs, chile, acidulation, pungent alliums and rich olive oil. But in most restaurants, it’s usually the same green, purée akin to a Mexican verde sauce in terms of look and flavor, and is often underwhelming. My chimi is all done on the board with a knife, allowing layers of flavor to shine instead of muddling together into ambiguity.

Always Grilling, and Photos When I Can

Achiote and orange grilled pork loin with fresh grits, blackened chile and peanut green beans with pickled strawberries

Grilling Is Essential

Most parties get a grilled item or two. The only time I don’t grill something is when I don’t have a working grill. We all have a little caveman in us, so fire charred items on any menu are a must. It allows for a smokey counterpoint that tickles the parietal lobe in the most wonderfully familiar way. It’s also a way for me to Maillard the hell out of things without sending your smoke alarm into a tizzy.

Bringing The Dish Together

Below is a classic dish and photo for Chef Joshua Alkire, (me).The dish is classic and still original, balanced in texture and flavor, and familiar yet peculiar. The dish is part of the menu from my last post. Tikka masala swordfish with banana roasted mashed potatoes and a za’atar grilled carrot. As with all of my food, everything is always from scratch. I start with spices that are toasted and ground; then add in yogurt, lemon, olive oil, garlic and ginger Use this to marinate the sword fish, then grill to perfection.

Grilling swordfish can yield a dry piece of meat if your not careful. Luckily…I’m careful. Fresh fish is pricey so I can’t screw it up. Before you get to grilling the fish, the sauce needs to come together. That starts with caramelized onion, garlic, ginger, spices and tomato paste, added in their appropriate succession. Water to cook for awhile, then hit with some cream and mount it all with a pat of butter before service.

Next are the banana roasted potatoes: Potatoes, garlic, shallots and herbs are roasted until they are perfectly browned and ready for dinner. But then I top it with sliced bananas and broil until caramelized. While still hot, everything gets transferred to a bowl and mashed with butter and cream. Not mashing totally, as we need to leave some roasted potato texture. I like the combination of banana and potato over the use of plantains. It gives us a layered effect of savory and sweet that is more dynamic than the flavor plantains provide.

Photos Are Hard

The photo is classic because, as per usual it looks unassuming. Often times I am missing a garnish that really makes photography pop. Photos for me are truly difficult. The dish I just walked you through is just another course, and all courses have multiple steps. Then I’m getting these to the table while still hot and doing dishes in between. So leaving time to take pictures is often impossible. Especially good pictures with dynamic angles and perfect lighting.

Something New Is The Norm

French onion soup poaching ribeye sashimi with a sautéed mushroom flauta dipper

Before first bite, nervous doubt can hover in the kitchen. It can feel a little uneasy not choosing your menu, or not knowing what you’re getting for dinner that evening. Especially from a guy you’ve never met. I understand the trepidation, but the method exists for a reason. Creating something new, is the norm for this chef.

Not having a pre-planned menu isn’t based on ego or laziness. It’s about freedom, expression, spontaneity and duty. Freedom to choose foods that are exciting or beautiful. Expression because food is art. Spontaneity to choose new ingredients or switch directions and trust my instincts. Then duty; the duty I have to you, the client. The duty to reward your trust and make sure you’re presented with an amazing product. I guess ego is in there to a point because I don’t want to let you down. Or allow you to feel regretful of not going with a chef that manages things a little more traditionally. Just rest assured: Wherever the party, I’m looking to impress.

Garlic kale and zucchini noodles with roasted tomatoes

Although I reside in La Mesa, the menu listed below was for a La Jolla based client. Because I want people to experience something different. I try to stay playful, for all our benefit.

Gorgonzola wrapped red grapes coated with toasted walnuts and vinaigrette
Seared green tomato and seared mozzarella with balsamic/honey arugula
Swordfish tikka masala with banana roasted mashed potatoes and za’atar grilled carrot
Garlic kale and zucchini salad with roasted tomato, fresh herbs and fried oregano
French onion soup over rib-eye “sashimi” with mushroom flauta and a side of grilled rib-eye
Toasted almond and coconut macaroon with fresh lemon curd, strawberries and rhubarb

Always Smilin’

Excited to get going, about 30 minutes before go time

2022 has been a whirlwind. My small covid era parties of 2-4 guests have returned to the normal 6-12 count. With the larger groups of vacationers back on the coast, renting rad houses for supreme parties. Combining that with my kids in little league, I look back and can’t believe summer is upon us. Not much has changed over the years, I still love cooking for private parties and bringing the highlights of each season to the table. Always smilin’, focused on inspiration and bringing unexpected creativity to every dinner.

For instance: The orange sauce in the metal bowl pictured to the left is a roasted honey nut squash vinaigrette that went underneath a celery root, apple and kohlrabi salad with fresh pickled beets. Shown below is Fresh yellow fin sashimi with almond/Fresno chile chimichurri with aligot potatoes. With this kind of vibrancy in food, I can assure you I am not the only one that’s always smilin’.

Courses like these come from taking what the season, market and weather tell me. Menus are not pre-planned so I am never bound to just my thoughts in front of a screen. I can smell, see and touch what I choose before I commit. More to come soon, stay tuned!

Just Getting Started in 2022

This year is off to a smashing start, and the starters are smashing. New in 2022 is a theme throughout the year…and hopefully next year…and the next.

Classic crab cake with pickled blackberry and cucumber over honey/Dijon/thyme sauce

Fulfilling menu requests continues to fire me up. The need to deliver on someone’s request is my favorite pressure. Food memories are strong, and I want to be a part of that. Producing a perfect version of something is (and has always been) part of a chefs journey. Especially classics, recipes that (for whatever reason) don’t get much play as time ticks by. But…those recipes are classics for a reason, and it’s always fun to be revisit them. Like that crab cake in the picture above. A lovely starter made in the traditional manner, updated with some bright pickles and complimented with a familiar but intriguing little sauce.

Next with new in 2022 and the star of this years starters, were these rolled tacos…

Not to be confused with taquitos. These were stuffed with fresh Yellowfin tuna, pickled cucumber brunoise, chives, and black caraway; and then stuffed tenderly into a perfectly fried corn tortilla shell and served with ginger/sesame/chile/soy dipping sauce. The combination of sushi/Mexican/crunchy/soft/familiar/new, was a bit of a homerun.

*Furthermore; apologies for the heavy solidus use. Some menus have an extraordinary amount of flavor layering going on.

Relaxing Is Autumn-atic

We spent the summer getting sun kissed, eating watermelon and grilling. Now the air is crisp, blankets are back strewn over the family room and a warm bowl of soup is a welcome familiar hug. As the calm before the winter holiday season, Autumn is relaxing and relaxing is Autumn-atic.

Grilled romanesco and yellow cauliflower with smoky achiote aioli.

I’m not gonna wax on but gosh darn…I love me some chill in the air. As a chef that fly’s by the seat of the seasons, there is a big exhale at the end of each one. As the new seasons emerge, new ingredients come into play. Away with the cucumbers and zucchini while welcoming large squashes and sweet root veggies. Stone fruits are now only in jams and fresh pears are sparkling with personality.

And of course we can’t forget chili. An October staple in many an American household, ours is no different. I make chili every year for Halloween (just as my mom did), and I have never not made it. It’s never the same and always an unusually obscene amount. If it doesn’t get torched that first week using it for breakfast lunch and dinners, then we’re always happy putting it in the freezer and revisiting a bowl in January.

Halloween through Super Bowl is usually a whirlwind; there are parties to work and parties to attend. When not consumed with holiday obligations and fun, I’m snuggling down with a righteous bowl of soup and a fire. I hope everyone has a safe, fulfilling and memorable holiday season.

Summer, Summer, Summertime

“Time to sit back and unwind”

Maybe not for me…but the Fresh Prince had it right for you. San Diego is a great city for fun and relaxation. Double down on that with a personal chef preparing a summer dinner. Then you’ll bring everyone to another level of contentedness. I find time for myself in the summer as well; but I always strive to cook a memorable dinner with no hassle for you, from introduction to dessert.

About a month ago I cooked for a couple celebrating their anniversary. While 99% of my parties are fun, every now and then there are people who stand out with just a little more sparkle. The vibrancy of two people in love after 10 plus years is always fulfilling to witness. I am luckily in that category, but it’s still always fun to be around.

The pictures show courses 2 and 5 of 8. The first is brassica and spring onions: Butter roasted brussels sprouts and spring onion with poached kohlrabi and kohlrabi leaf nage. Using all components of a vegetable like the kohlrabi is a lot like using the whole chicken instead of just the breast. The course pictured below is righteously grilled prime ribeye with grilled maitake mushroom, fresh parmesan heavy gnocchi and porcini and white wine broth lifted with a little butter. Some courses tend to want another component to bring it all together. Or something added as a garnish for optimal photography. But not having redundancy in flavor from course to course is crucial. So, while this steak dish could have been garnished with herb fried, julienned carrots. Those flavors were already purposed in the salad course. It’s all a fun balancing act.