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 15-17 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 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.

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 have been smashing.

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

Fulfilling menu requests is something that keeps me fired 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 always part of a chefs journey. Especially classics, recipes that (for whatever reason) don’t get much play as time ticks by. But…they’re classics for a reason, so it’s always fun to be reminded of them. Like that crake cake above. A lovely starter, made in the traditional manner, updated with some bright pickles and complimented with a familiar but intriguing little sauce.

The star of this years starters were these rolled tacos…

Fresh Yellowfin tuna with pickled cucumber brunoise, chives, and black caraway stuffed into fried corn tortilla shells and served with a ginger/sesame/chile soy dipping sauce. The combination of sushi/Mexican/crunchy/soft/familiar/new, was a bit of a homerun.

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.

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 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 usually obscene amount. If it doesn’t get torched that first week using it for breakfast lunch and dinners, then we’re always happy freezing it and revisiting bowl in January.

Thanksgiving-Super bowl is usually a whirlwind for me, there are parties to work and parties to attend. When I’m not doing that I’ll be 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. Doubling down on that with a personal chef will take everyone to another level of contentedness. I find my 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 pics are courses 2 and 5 of 8.

April 2021 Is Bringing the Love

April in San Diego tends to produce spectacular weather. This year is no different; with people consciously getting back to life out of the house, April is shining even brighter than normal.

Although some kids have been in classrooms for awhile, mine are just getting back. Which is a gigantic breath of fresh air. Just like it’s nice to get away from home, it’s nice for the daily separation of kids and parents to resume.

Recently my family ordered in sushi for dinner, (Narumi). It was on point as usual, but it also led me to a fun and unexpected inspiration. For my dinner party the next evening, I landed on a sushi-esque preparation for salad.

Over the years, there has always been an element of pride I take in veggie preparations and salads. My belief is that a positive food memory contains balance. Overlooking those herbivorous courses will take you right out of flavor town and lost down fail sauce river. Veggie rolls of varying concepts have been created over the years, with good success. Not something I do for large parties because it is time consuming. But this one is just fire. Texturally and gustatorily, it weaves in new interest with every bite. Carrot, celeriac and zucchini make up the wrapper, while the filling is turnip, apple, avocado and mixed herbs. Everything comes together with a rich but restrained almond/ginger dressing.

So cheers to Spring and getting back into life. While you’ll most likely only see this salad on this blog page. There are other culinary creations to be conjured for your pleasure…and conjure them, I will.

The Best Meal of 2020 Is Not For Sale

It started from a Saveur magazine article that blipped through my news feed. I’m a sucker for an epic sandwich, especially one with a cultural anchor somewhere; so I read on. This French/Caribbean masterpiece that found it’s way to Guadalupe is called Bokit. The bread base is nothing new to our culinary world, yeast leavened fry bread has been done before in various parts of the world. I’ve been making different versions of loukamades for a couple decades, but I guess those are closer to doughnuts. Now that I think about it…most fry breads are soda levened and most places don’t fry naan. Regardless…I never made it into a sandwich, and I definitely never made this sandwich. Another magical creation stemming from random ingredient leftovers; a *Musgo if you will. Rutabaga, mint, unripened strawberries, peppers, lettuce, carrot…

Slicing the fresh Bokit bread
Carnitas to get this train rolling

Topping the carnitas with fresh rutabaga/mint slaw

A layer of chipotle lime baja sauce. Not tossing it into the slaw adds a layer of depth and keeps the slaw texture.

Ending it with pickled peppers and strawberries

My wife was skeptical about the strawberries, but they were essential to the moan inducing creation; as were all the ingredients. This sandwich is a microcosm of my food. Lot’s of unexpected flavors and textures bludgeoning you with pleasure until you have no choice but to close your eyes, let out a moan of ecstasy and try to comprehend the feeling you have been enlightened to. Wondering if what you just experienced was legal.

*anything in the fridge that “Must Go”

Burn It Up Baby, It’s Summertime

Summertime is a season where we crave things bright, cold and crisp, like cold watermelon. It’s also a time people don’t want to heat up their kitchens, so we move out to the grill. A truly iconic smell and flavor of summer is that of the grill. It screams relaxed and ready to party.

Grilled flavor is a consistent point of interest in 98% of my dinner parties. On top of that, I also utilize charring on at least one item during a multi-course dinner. Charring is in essence, burning. It’s a calculated burn with the end result being a charred exterior and sweetened interior. Sometimes the interior stays uncooked, and sometimes it’s soft. Both have their respective places in the menu and each can be an unexpected flavor blast. If you don’t have me coming to cook for your gathering, try it yourself. Sugary things like, carrots, onions and beets all work great for charring. Blaze your grill on high until it’s raging hot. Place an un-oiled item on the hottest part of the grill until the outside(s) burn. Remove from the grill to cool, then rub off the loose char. That’s it, but it might take one or two tries to perfect, so start with carrots.

Below is a dish that could have totally stood up to and benefited from some char. Although the beans are grilled, the bittersweet flavors of charred onion would have been lovely with the heavy butter tones of the risotto.

Alaskan Halibut with artichoke risotto

Summer Harvest

Summer produce options always makes cooking a little easier. Especially when we get all the stone fruits in the market; dessert becomes a little easier to formulate.

What better produce to get then somewhere local offering high quality at a reasonable price. Jared’s Real Food farm in Lakeside has been our go to farm stand this year.

Earlier this summer I was cooking for groups of 2-6 quite often; as people were looking to celebrate in small groups at home. I even had a couple parties of 10. They rented a house in San Diego to party it up and be on vacation, without actually leaving the house. I being alone am a safer option than any dine in business at this point. The only drawback to my service, (compared to a restaurant), is fancy table ware. Restaurants usually have plates and bowls that are elegant or unique, while I serve with whatever the household supplies. Occasionally someone is set up with fancy pants dishes, but usually there are not enough of the cool ones to serve everyone.

Bellow are a couple luscious dishes that have quit a bit going on. First is a wild boar meatball with grilled and marinated baby eggplant, peeled cherry tomatoes and rutabaga noodles. (Yes, even if you don’t like eggplant or rutabaga…this is gooood). The second pic is a lovely, yet complicated salad of bitter endive, tart rhubarb, sweetened broccolini and peeled fresh loquats.

Masked and Ready For Business

I am currently entertaining small groups of wonderful people eating memorable food. Being masked up during parties is no fun, but it beats not being at the party.

Moving forward, we will continue to be healthy, vigilant and kind. We will keep some of our protocols as business returns to whatever the new normal is. June is looking great for me as I hope it is for you. Remember; the world is churning right now, but sometimes agitation gives you something magical…like butter. Below is a quick snap from an anniversary dinner for two awesome parents.

Big Eye tuna with caramelized cauliflower, chile and corn with soy dipping sauce and fresh turmeric oil

Looking Forward…In 2020

I think we are all looking forward to whatever the new normal is going to be. Although my actual cooking hasn’t slowed down, who I am currently cooking for has, as my family has been eating very well.

A random dish from last year: Fresh polenta stuffed with gruyere and served with wild boar sausage and gravy. Crispy kale and herb flowers round it out.

Sooner rather then later, I’ll be back shopping in the markets in some fashion. Practices will change; I imagine I’ll need a mask and removable top to shop before a party. But once I’m at your home, not much will change. I’ll be cooking private dinners for ravenous foodies; which is always great fun. But I love the family vibe and the complications that lie within that type of setting. It’s all fun, like getting a compliment from the grumpy father in-law that proudly “doesn’t like anything”. Or trying to please all the palates for a mutli-generational family of 13. Those successes are just as gratifying as preparing a multi-course fine dining experience.

No matter the occasion, I am excited to bring fresh locally sourced foods into your kitchen. 2020 will end like a flower blooming, and I’ll be here ready to add that flower to a salad…or garnish a soup or something :-)