Author Archive | John Cox

BACK OF THE HOUSE: PLATE LIKE A CHEF

An expert shares secrets to mastering the art of presentation

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COX

When I first started cooking professionally at a small neighborhood bistro back in 1998, one of our signature dishes was Southwest Chicken—a butterflied chicken breast filled with Boursin cheese then wrapped in filo dough. The chicken was baked until the pastry was golden brown, then cut in half on the bias and set on top of a hearty pile of garlic mashed potatoes before being finished with a roasted bell pepper coulis and crowned with a spear of rosemary. Back then we aspired to be like Dean Fearing from the Mansion on Turtle Creek, with his colorful zigzags of sauces from a squeeze bottle and curls of shaved green onions and red bell pepper.

By the … Read More

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ON THE HOOK: TRASH TALK

Why so-called trash fish are actually a secret treasure—and why it matters


Clockwise from upper left, fisherman David Seefeldt bringing in vermilion rockfish, chef Jeremy Tummel with a grenadier and a vermilion rockfish in the chef ’s kitchen

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COX

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “trash fish” before and assumed, as its derogatory name suggests, that it refers to unappetizing or even inedible fish. Or maybe you’ve heard it in a more positive context, like a celebrity chef dinner. While there is no definitive list of species, I have come to think that the best answer to the question, “What is trash fish?” is the most literal. Trash fish is the portion of a fisherman’s catch that has little or no commercial value and is treated as disposable. … Read More

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Out to Sea: Cooking with Ocean Water

Why don’t we cook with seawater? Chefs and food lovers adore the briny taste of a fresh-shucked oyster and don’t think twice about sprinkling food generously with flaky sea salt, but many seem shocked by the idea of cooking with ocean water.

While cooking with seawater may not be common here in California, it is more accepted in kitchens around the world. In fact, companies in both Greece and Scotland have recently introduced filtered and sanitized seawater for cooking. In Maine, corn and lobsters are frequently boiled in seawater. The Japanese reduce seawater down to collect nigari, the coagulant used in making tofu. Olives originated in the Greek Islands where they were leached of their tannins through submersion in the sea—a practice still common in some parts of Greece. Many

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BACK OF THE HOUSE: OVERWORKED

Chef John Cox offers a rare glimpse
into the grueling life of local line cooks

overworked

ILLUSTRATION BY GEORGE CWIRKO-GODYCKI

Carl first walked into the kitchen six weeks ago, a tidy knife roll tucked beneath the starched sleeve of an immaculate chef coat. He was bright eyed and exuberant, eager that this second job would enable him to get ahead on his school loans and car payment.

If you saw Carl today, you wouldn’t recognize him—there are dark bags beneath his eyes, his jacket is wrinkled and his shoulders sag. He lethargically nurses a massive cup of coffee while staring blankly at the morning prep list. Casting his eyes toward the floor, he addresses the chef, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get home until midnight. I don’t know how much longer I … Read More

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ROADSIDE DIARIES: THE WILD, WILD EAST OF MONTEREY COUNTY

South County is both more tame and
more tasty than you might think

wildEast
Scenes of South County: clockwise from upper right, chips and salsa at La Fuente
in Soledad, on the street in Chualar, La Michoacana Peleteria Y Neveria
in King City, cows in Arroyo Seco and agriculture off River Road.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COX

In July 2015 a large headline on a local television news website read: “13 suspected gangsters arrested in South Monterey County.” Illustrating the story was a group of mugshots depicting six stone-faced suspects, one of whom had “93960,” the Soledad zip code, tattooed in bold script across his forehead.

With stories like this appearing in the local news media, it is no wonder that some people don’t see the allure of the eastern edges of … Read More

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