Author Archive | John Cox

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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POSTCARD FROM CUBA

A California chef experiences the
island nation’s changing food scene

travelPostcardCuba

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COX

For most Americans, Cuba is the forbidden fruit of vacation destinations, one of the few countries we are banned from visiting even though its sandy beaches lie merely 100 miles away from Key West, Fla. While it is still illegal for Americans to visit Cuba strictly for tourism, the rules are quickly changing. American investors are waiting for the moment the embargo is lifted and trade can resume with the island. There is no doubt that when that day comes, so will a flood of international corporations eager to plant their flags in Cuban soil.

Earlier this year I decided to throw caution to the wind and visit Havana now, with a group of fellow chefs … Read More

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EDIBLE HISTORY: THE FUTURE OF THE PAST

Exploring Monterey’s historic adobes

theFuturePast

Photography by John Cox

Despite the noise from a live band playing in the nearby Custom House Plaza, the thick adobe walls surrounding the Memory Garden behind the Pacific House make it tranquil. Large white arches create a dramatic frame for Spanish roses and bright yellow Echinacea flowers. Magnolia trees shade the expansive courtyard and cast shadows across a large central fountain. For the careful observer, these spaces offer a fascinating window into early life in the city.

Before this place became a garden in the late 1920s, it was a walled horse corral. On Sundays people would gather in the dusty courtyard and on upstairs balconies for their weekend entertainment. The bull and bear fights were a favorite of the entire town— women, children and … Read More

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WINTER FORAGING: CALIFORNIA BAY LAUREL

A spicy, floral local seasoning for all seasons

caBayLaurel

Photography by John Cox

Many an intrepid local cook has likely ruined a batch of soup or sauce with the addition of a single California bay leaf. These aromatic trees, also called Umbellularia californica or “Balm of Heaven,” are common along coastal roads and hiking trails. Although similar in both aroma and appearance to the true bay laurel most commonly used in cooking, California bay laurel leaves are far stronger, with a single mature leaf having enough potency to overpower a five-gallon batch of soup and render a small pot completely useless.

But despite its potency, California bay laurel has a long history of both culinary and medicinal use. It also offers adventurous chefs an unusual variety of different seasonal textures and … Read More

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