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What inspires a chef?

Tomatoes

For me, my inspiration is using fresh and local ingredients to make great food that our guests will enjoy and go home to tell their family’s about.  Growing up in the “garden state” I have experienced fresh ingredients since my childhood.  Spending time with my grandparents in Maplewood, NJ, I was exposed to their small garden which was filled with figs, tomatoes, basil and a variety of different vegetables and herbs.  I can remember going into their garden, picking tomatoes, and helping my grandmother clean, cut and dress them for a simple salad with olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and basil.  The tomatoes were picked only if they were red and perfectly ripe.  These childhood memories have had a direct effect on my cooking to this day.  As a chef, one faces many challenges; one of which is making the guest happy while still using the freshest ingredients.  A chef must have tomatoes on the menu all year round.  Who wants to eat a hamburger in the winter without a tomato?  So in order to satisfy our customer’s needs, we must have tomatoes.  Coming from Argentina or Chile, the quality of the tomato suffers after a long shipping process. plate However, in the late summer, harvesting tomatoes from our garden, Red Barns Farms, can really let the quality of the tomato shine.  This is shown in a menu addition that is on our menu in August.  Inspired by my grandmother, the dish is fresh tomatoes picked at the peak of ripeness, served on toasted focaccia bread, drizzled with olive oil, salt, parmesan cheese and five different types of basil from our garden.  The simplicity of the dish is the most beautiful part of it.  I feel that my excitement about food in this style is transferred to my employees, the servers and most importantly to our guest.  I am happy that I have found a career in which I can be inspired using the freshest ingredients and my childhood memories, and in turn inspire those around me.

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Guest Saturday, October 25 2014