Celebrity Chef Memes

Many chefs have personalities that bring them out of the kitchen and into our homes and our dinner table discussions. Over time, several celebrity chefs have left a mark on our society and culture.

Here we celebrate those chefs who have changed the way we think about food and cooking or just made us laugh.

Julia Child

Julia Child was known as a woman who wasn’t afraid to make her opinions known. She also wasn’t afraid of non-diet food like butter, cake, and steak. Her wisdom often transcended cooking and applied to living a full life. Recently, Paste Magazine put together some of the best Julia-ism memes as a tribute to one of the first celebrity chefs.

Paste Magazine

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Q&A with Alto-Shaam Chef Robert Simmelink

Not all kitchen equipment is created equal. While some brands cater to accessibility through low prices, others pour innovation, technology, and resources into making their products state of the art. Alto-Shaam, with its highly innovative combi ovens, Cook & Hold ovens and renowned Halo Heat technology, embodies the latter end of this spectrum. We sat down with the brand’s Executive Chef Robert Simmelink, whose been working with Alto-Shaam for twenty-one years, to learn more about how the product line can save you money in the long term while boosting efficiency in the present. Here he answers some commonly asked questions.

Blast Chillers: Only For Large Commercial Kitchens?

Despite popular belief, blast chillers can be useful in kitchens of all sizes, not just large commissaries and other high volume applications. “The whole key to the blast chiller is it cools the food so fast that it locks in the flavor and freshness,” said Chef Simmelink. He recommends that kitchens large and small fill their combi ovens with food product — such as rice — every few days, and rethermalize them later. Rethermalizing takes half the time as cooking, and because the blast chiller locks in freshness, sticking it back in the combi oven makes it taste flavorful and fresh. “It takes the pressure off the kitchen,” he said. 

The Cook & Hold Oven is known for many things, one of which is its ability to roast meats with high yield. What else should we know about the oven?

 The Alto-Shaam team strives to show consumers different applications of the most popular products, such as the famed Cook & Hold Oven. “That oven should never be sitting empty,” said Chef Simmelink adding, “You can proof bread, braise stews and shanks. We even make stocks inside the oven overnight so you don’t tie up the burner and run the hood all night.” As the name suggests, Cook and Holds aren’t just for cooking – they’re also for holding. “A Cook and Hold can hold a roast rare for 24 hours without it overcooking,” said Chef Simmelink. Its technology allows for precision holding at food safe temperatures so you can spend your time focused elsewhere. (Did you know Alto-Shaam also has a Cook & Hold Smoker Oven?)

What’s The Difference Between Holding Cabinets and Warming Drawers?

Warming Drawers and Holding Cabinets are both back of the house holding applications. People often gravitate towards warming drawers versus a traditional holding cabinet if they have a small amount of product to hold. In that case, warming drawers can be conveniently built into a station. For larger amounts of storage, Alto-Shaam’s holding cabinets are the answer. Two compartment holding cabinets allow you to hold different kinds of food at their respective holding temperatures — like red meat and turkey for example.

What’s the Difference Between a Soup Well and a Hot Well?

The only difference is the shape. Hot Wells are based off of a steam table pan, while Soup Wells or Kettles generally hold somewhere between 7 and 11 quarts of food. These products, which are seen in applications ranging from food courts to super market delis, and universities, are catered to cook and also hold. Both use the same Cook & Hold technology, surrounding the food product with gentle radiant Halo Heat, which allows the food to hold longer.

How is the Alto-Shaam Convection Oven Different From Others Out There? 

According to Chef Simmelink, there are two main talking points. First, the distinct Alto-Shaam airflow across the entire oven cavity provides even cooking, eliminating the need to turn pans throughout the cooking process. Second is the durability that’s built into it during construction. “Convection ovens get beat up,” said Chef Simmelink adding that despite the rigorous commercial use, theirs is built to last. Features such as doors that open simultaneously and heavy-duty handles are but a few of the many quality attributes that help Alto-Shaam endure.

The Barrios Family Restaurants, San Antonio, Texas

From left: Diana, Louis, and Teresa in front of a portrait of their mother, Viola. Image courtesy of mysanantonio.com
From left: Diana, Louis, and Teresa in front of a portrait of their mother, Viola. Image courtesy of mysanantonio.com

The restaurant industry is a tough, yet rewarding one. Businesses come and go, but those that stay – those that endure – find a winning combination in creating great food and serving happy, loyal customers. For the Barrios family of San Antonio, their customers are more than just diners and patrons – they are an extension of the family.

Los Barrios, San Antonio’s beloved Mexican restaurant, began in 1979 with Viola Barrios, the matriarch of the Barrios family. After her husband passed away in a car accident, Viola needed to find a way to support herself and her three children, Teresa, Louis, and Diana.

“She always loved cooking,” said Diana Barrios of her late mother. With $3,000, she started her restaurant in a rented boat garage in downtown San Antonio before buying an old Dairy Queen building on Blanco in 1980, where the restaurant remains today. When she first started, she had to do everything and the kids got involved from a young age. “Los Barrios became our home,” said Diana, who admits she and her siblings have always been surrounded by food. For Viola, the restaurant became her passion.

Frozen beverages await at the Viola's Ventanas bar.
Frozen beverages await at the Viola’s Ventanas bar.

Today, the family has added two more restaurants to their name, La Hacienda and Viola’s Ventanas, which were added in 2004 and 2013, respectively. At each of the three restaurants, one of Viola’s kids can always be found, a familiar face in an inviting home. “We are still there on a daily basis, still very connected to the business,” she said adding, “We are owners and operators.” Between the three children are eight grandchildren, the latter of which are lovingly called “The Board of Directors”; they’ve all worked in the restaurants at one point or another. It’s a family establishment through and through, and because of this, customers dining there feel like they’re home.

On the Los Barrios family website, this quote greets visitors: “Eating together is how San Antonians celebrate family,” and indeed, San Antonio’s family-friendliness – from sports to arts to entertainment and food – is one of the many things that makes it unique.

San Antonio has always had a warmth, charm, and rich cultural texture to it, all of which combine to create an atmosphere of inclusivity – something best witnessed at any of the Barrios family restaurants! However, over the years, San Antonio has often remained in the shadow of other Texas cities, such as Dallas and Austin. Thankfully today, the Alamo City is on a path of great growth with well-deserved recognition in all arenas, including the food scene.

Viola's Ventanas at sunset.
Viola’s Ventanas at sunset.

“Finally, San Antonio is being recognized for the great food it’s serving up on a daily basis, in all quadrants of the city,” said Diana of the “Tex-Mex capital of the world.” And just as every region in Mexico produces different styles of Mexican food, so too does San Antonio. After all, Texas was once a part of Mexico, and the collaborations created here were entirely unique, an influence of French, Spanish, Vaquero, and Native American. “San Antonio’s style (of Mexican food) is habit-formingly delicious!” said Diana, who is a popular fixture on many national television outlets, including Food Network. Be sure to check out Diana’s Puffy Taco Throwdown with Bobby Flay! (Can you guess who won?!)

The menus at the Barrios family restaurants are extensive, but all of them are reflective of the family’s emphasis on casero-style cooking, which is essentially Mexican home-style cooking. It’s not fancy food, but it’s quality-driven, authentic, and simple, and it’s served in a homey, attractive setting. This style of cooking is best encapsulated in The Los Barrios Cookbook, which has become a seminal piece of Mexican food literature.

The Los Barrios Family Cookbook.
The Los Barrios Family Cookbook.

“I like to say it’s the perfect gift for any homesick Texan you might know,” said Diana of the book, which compiles the best of their casero-style recipes, all of which are fun, easy, delicious – not hard. These recipes are for novices, to be loved and enjoyed as family favorites, much like the ethos of the restaurant.

For a first-timer to Los Barrios, Diana recommends the cheese enchiladas, a dish people have come back for since Viola started the restaurant thirty-six years ago. The business is a safe haven for family traditions, and often, the employees share their own talents. Enrique, a Los Barrios waiter who has worked with the family for over thirty years always makes secret salsas, something different and delicious that keeps people guessing and craving more.

Kitchen Action: A peek into the back of the house.
Kitchen Action: A peek into the back of the house.

What’s next for the Barrios family? In the months and years ahead, they will continue to do what they do best, and no doubt, their family of customers will continue to come. “We will continue to do like we’ve done for the last thirty-six years, offering our guests a wonderful dining experience and a great meal in an environment that makes you feel like you’re at a friend’s house.”

As the brand has grown over the years, Viola’s spirit lives on through the lives of her children and all those who come back to Los Barrios year after year. The family’s greatest accomplishment? Keeping the customers that they’ve had since their mom started the business. Now, they see 2nd and 3rd generations coming in on a frequent basis.  Keeping her memory alive is a priority for her children and in recent years they’ve started the “Viola’s Huge Heart Foundation” which gives high school scholarships to young ladies with great potential.

Next time you find yourself in a Mexican food mood in San Antonio, be sure to stop by one of the Barrios family restaurants for warm hospitality and a memorable casero-style meal. Thank you to the family for chatting with us!

Chef Diego Fernandez of Starfish, San Antonio

Starfish on South Alamo Street, San Antonio
Starfish on South Alamo Street, San Antonio

It’s not every day that a father and son have restaurants located on the same street, just a few doors from one another, but such is the case for Rene and Diego Fernandez. The father-son duo are marking the King William neighborhood with new foods and flavors to inspire the ever-changing San Antonio dining set, first with Azuca, and now with the seafood-focused Starfish. The dining experience at Starfish is accented by the beautiful historic building which is filled with wonderful seaside delights, from vibrant paintings to gorgeous glass jellyfish, which dangle from the ceiling. We had the pleasure of talking with Chef Diego who filled us in on his much-buzzed about restaurant, which opened in June 2014. Read on to learn a little more about the Chef’s beginnings, inspirations, favorite culinary destinations, and his advice for prospective cooks and restaurateurs! Thank you Chef Diego for sharing!

From left: Diego Fernandez, wife Maria del Carmen Fernandez and Evan Martinez
From left: Diego Fernandez, wife Maria del Carmen Fernandez and Evan Martinez

When did you first realize you wanted to be a professional chef?
The first time that I realized that I wanted to be a professional Chef was probably my first day in a professional kitchen. I began working at Azuca as a prep cook at the age of 16.

Tell us about your career path- where did you start off, what were you doing before? Soon after I started working at Azuca I enrolled at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in San Antonio. I would say the journey started there. During the nine month training at the CIA I was part of  the opening Team as a line cook at the Grand Hyatt. I would wake up early to go to school and get to work right after I got out. After graduating I transferred to Hyde Park , NY and finished my studies there. During a seven month externship at a prestigious boutique restaurant in Cape May, NJ I honed some of the skills and work ethic I carry on today. Under the tutelage of Chef Lucas Manteca i understood more than ever who I wanted to become. Soon after that I traveled to Orlando, FL and worked for three years at the Ritz-Carlton. Much of who I am today is due to the military style brigade they ran at this particular property.

The interior of Starfish with its historic brick walls, glass jellyfish lights, vibrant art and fish sculpture.
The interior of Starfish with its historic brick walls, glass jellyfish lights, vibrant art and fish sculpture.

It’s special that your family has been so incorporated in this line of work, especially with your dad just a few doors down from you at Azuca! What is that like and what can you say about your family-foodservice connection?
We are beyond blessed to be right next to each other. My father has been the role model, mentor, friend, and now best business partner I could ever imagine. Our relationship at work is just that. I think we both subconsciously leave our titles at the door once we step out through the restaurant doors.  It’s a wonderful balance we have. My wife is soon to give birth and so she is no longer cooking at Starfish. During the first few months she would be in charge of all the baking and pastry. Now those roles have been distributed throughout our team. Being a Peruvian national provides me with yet another perspective of the food and beverage world.  All in all the we are there for each other emotionally and professionally.

Tell us a little bit about Starfish: the title, the concept, and what drew you to creating a seafood-focused menu? Has your love for seafood always been important?
An actual starfish is able to regenerate a limb if throughout its life it happened to lose one. I believe our menu concept and ideology  is somewhat resemblant. As we continue to grow and change we keep in mind that in order to succeed you may have to lose a limb or two. We have changed our menu about four times in the time that we have been open. We do this to challenge ourselves and continue to evolve as cooks.  I think our love for food in general is a common thread that connects us as a team. Seafood to me is personal. It’s an intimate relationship that I grew up with. For most of my childhood there was a body of water within walking distance. Deep down I am biased towards marine life.

The whole aesthetic at Starfish from the furnishings to the integrity of the building, to the food is really something. What were you trying to achieve?
Honestly we did not have to do much to the building itself. For one, the building is part of the historic society so you can’t do much changing structurally. Secondly, the shape the building was in gave Starfish its persona. As far as the artwork, we connected with several talented artists in San Antonio to give the place its justification, from reclaimed wood acrylic paintings to jellyfish lights hanging below the bar. For me there is a fine line between classy sealife motifs and going “overboard” with fish nets and life savers. We certainly wanted to give the place a sophisticated look yet relaxed ambiance.

Father / Son Duo: Chef Rene Fernandez and Chef Diego Fernandez
Father / Son Duo: Chef Rene Fernandez and Chef Diego Fernandez

What is your earliest and/or most treasured food memory?
The first memory that captivated me took place in Puerto Rico. I was probably five years old. My mother took my brother and I to visit my father at the Dorado Hyatt. That day fisherman had caught what was probably an eight to nine foot marlin. We walked into the hotel’s back entrance and met my dad in the butcher room. As we were entering he was making the initial cut. The rest is history.

Could you share some advice for aspiring chefs, students and hopeful restaurateurs?
To me as a student the most important part was to ask questions. In an age where everything can be found on the internet perhaps current students do not ask as much. Have a notepad with a pen or pencil on you at all times.  If you think for a second about asking a question that you think you should know, whether it concerns a technique, method, history, etc. I can guarantee there are about five more students that are wondering the same thing. When you’re working as a paid employee or a commis or stage, be humble, respectful, and quiet. At home, stay in tune with your career choice. Read, explore, and experiment to give yourself the best possible choice to succeed.

What experiences do you think have shaped you most as a chef?
There are many to name. But as a whole I could remember one common thread between all of them. The building of a team that has one goal in mind. There is power in that. And after your first couple kitchen experiences you thirst for that feeling. Lastly I would say that I gave myself at least one year at any job before moving on. It’s important that as a professional you never burn bridges.

Where do you see the San Antonio food scene heading and how do you think it stands out in relation to Austin, Corpus, Dallas and Houston?
Its hard to say about the surrounding major cities because I haven’t visited them in a while. But as for San Antonio, I am very proud to be back in this city. Not only are we NBA champions but the food scene here is progressing every day. I see the food scene being par with any major metropolitan city in the next five years. With outstanding restaurateurs like Andrew Wiseman, Johnny Hernandez, Jason Daddy, Mark Bliss, among many others we have the recipe for a success story.

One of the bold fish paintings that hangs on the establishment's walls.
One of the bold fish paintings that hangs on the establishment’s walls.

What are some of your most prized tools in the back of the house?
The Vita-Mix is probably one of the more important pieces of equipment that we have. Pots and pans are also important to us. We take good care of these knowing that they will provide our guest with an exceptional end product.

The Mission Team is very excited to have you all in the neighborhood. Tell us a little bit about the building, being in San Antonio, and what your Southtown/ King William location adds to the experience.
The building has taken many roles throughout its existence. Originally this location was a hub for paint and sheet rock. The name was Menny’s Paint Shop. For a time it served as a small market which I had the pleasure of visiting many times. Currently, I believe Starfish adds some nostalgia for people who may have lived in other major cities like Chicago, New York, or San Francisco. I’ve had several guests tell me that Starfish reminds them of a previous spot they would go to in one of these cities.

Which tastemakers, mixologists & foodservice professionals inspire you?
Heston Blumenthal, Morimmoto, Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, Alain Ducasse, Wyle DuFrense, Ferran Adria, Joan Roca, Voltaggio Brothers, just to name a few.

Can you share with us your favorite culinary destinations?
There is no other city like New York City to dine in. Probably one of my favorite places. Also Lima, Peru changed my life. The freshness, variety, and application of chefs there is unbelievable. Mexico City is another mecca for humble food origins with an aftermath that makes you want to return.

A delicious tuna dish accented with flowers.
A delicious tuna dish accented with flowers.

Which places are you’re dying to go and explore for yourself? Any particular dining destinations on your list?
I really want to go to Spain and Italy. I think I’m half Italian and half Spanish deep down. Mugaritz is one of the restaurants i would love to dine at. Also Noma in Copenhagen.

Do you have a personal creed or ethos that you live by?
“Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards.” -unknown-

Lay out a perfect meal and wine/cocktail pairing for a first timer to Starfish.
For any first time diners, let me know and we will make a perfect custom meal for you!

What has been the biggest surprise in your life?
My wife surprising me with the news of our first baby.

Any fun quirks you can share about yourself?
In the mornings when I wake up my hand are raised in the air. Not sure why that happens.

Lastly, what’s up next for the Starfish team?
James Beard.

Starfish is located at 709 S. Alamo Street San Antonio, Texas 78205
www.starfishsa.com 210-375-4423
Images courtesy of 10 Best, San Antonio Express News & Starfishsa.com 

Chef Interview: Steve McHugh of Cured, San Antonio

Chef Steve McHugh is not new to the industry, but his new restaurant, Cured, has brought something entirely fresh and unique to the San Antonio restaurant scene. Housed in a stunning, historic building from 1904 in the city’s lively Pearl Brewery, the chef and proprietor, along with his wife, revamped the interior with elegant, contemporary touches that complemented the building’s unique character. McHugh takes advantage of seasonal, regional ingredients and has crafted a menu centered around cured foods, from charcuteries to vegetables. And speaking of charcuterie, the menu ranges in offerings from port pate to smoked duck ham and jalapeno sausage, to name a few, and it’s all made in house and displayed in their attractive, humidity-controlled locker. All of these meats are cured from 60 days to 10 months! Aside from the charcuterie, the venue has delicious salads, homemade soups, cabrito sliders, roasted lamb legs and wagyu beef tartare, and that’s just skimming the surface. Their seafood calls to mind great southern traditions and flavors, from crawfish “love letters” to masa flash fried oysters and seared redfish. Read on to learn more about the man behind Cured who’s making a big splash in San Antonio:

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When did you first realize you wanted to be a professional chef?

I started working in kitchens when I was 14.   When I graduated High School I went to college to play music. I loved the saxophone when I was younger but it just wasn’t for me. I liked playing music but I didn’t want to study it. So I left after a year. I went back into restaurant work and it was my father that suggested I go to culinary school. Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin I had never even met a real chef. That was big city stuff. I left that summer to attend the CIA in Hyde Park New York and the rest is history.

Did cooking play a large role in your upbringing and childhood?
As a child I didn’t realize the role it played but as I came into my own as a chef I started to see the lessons. My Mom canned during the summers for winter and when we raised hogs the entire pig went to good use. It was important for my parents because they were raising 7 boys. Nothing could be wasted when you have that many mouths to feed.

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Share with us a special food memory that sticks with you today.
One particular food moment for me was when I was about 15 my father took my younger brother and I to New York City for a quick trip. I remember going into a Times Square Deli and having a Rueben. The sandwich was good but I couldn’t get out of my head how good the pickle and cole slaw was. I seemed odd to me that these two items I’ve eaten all my life could actually have some value to the meal.

What advice do you have for aspiring chefs, students and hopeful restaurateurs?
What you see on TV is not real. I know I’ve been on TV. Restaurants are hard work, plain and simple. It requires more time than you think and if you aren’t willing to put in the time you will never make it.

Tell us about your career path- where did you start off, what were you doing before?
I’ve always been in kitchens. I grew up on a farm and wanted to move to the big city. When I graduated culinary school in 1997 I moved to New Orleans and just immersed myself in the history of the city. New Orleans taught me to cook with respect to my ingredients as well as those that came before me.

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Tell us a little bit about Cured.
My wife Sylvia and I wanted a place where we could go and eat. It sounds funny but we longed for some of that New Orleans comfort. We also wanted to be a friend to the farmer and knew the only way to do that was to buy whole animals. The curing became a result of that. A good friend of mine came up with the name Cured because I had a bout with Lymphoma a couple of years ago and it fit not only my cooking but my history as well.

What experiences do you think have shaped you most as a chef?
The most important thing I can do as a chef is travel. You need to get out and see what others are doing. Get out of your own comfort zone. I tell my young chefs that a day trip to Austin or Houston will open your eyes.

Where do you see the San Antonio food scene heading and how do you think it stands out in relation to Austin, Corpus, Dallas and Houston?
It is amazing to me how far San Antonio has come since I moved here in 2010. So much has changed in just a few short years and I feel great to be apart of it. There is so much energy now and the customers are only getting smarter thanks to TV and the Internet. You can ‘t fool people like you could years ago. I honestly think that San Antonio has a leg up on the other Texas cities because like New Orleans we have a truly indigenous cuisine rooted solely in its history.

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What are some of your most prized tools in the back of the house? Any Mission Restaurant Supply favorites?
I am a big fan of the simplest pieces becoming workhorses in the kitchen. My favorite Mission piece is a 6-foot cheese-melter that we use and it is extremely versatile. It holds sauté pans hot for when you need them, keeps food warm on the bottom shelf and browns on the top. Mission set themselves apart because of service. I had the honor to work with Jim Conner. Jim had been designing kitchen so long that I felt he had probably forgotten more about them than I have ever learned. After his untimely passing Don Brawner stepped in to make sure we didn’t skip a beat.

You all have landed in a honey hole with your location at the Pearl. Tell us a little bit about the building and about what your location adds to the experience.
The building was something that we talked about for a long time. Once I cooked for the higher-ups at Pearl and they had a chance to see my vision we realized it matched their vision for the Admin building. It is the original administration office for the brewery. It was built in 1904 and we are grateful to be able to come to work there everyday.

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Which tastemakers, mixologists & foodservice professionals inspire you?
My career is heavily influenced by John Besh, whom I worked with for 10 years. He is one of the most giving people I know and that is reflected in everything that happens in any of his restaurants. I catch myself on a daily basis saying to myself “would you serve that to John”?

Can you share with us your favorite culinary destinations?
In San Antonio, Fruteria, for me. It’s all about learning and I know that Johnny has traveled extensively and I learn something new every time I eat there. In Texas I love day tripping to Lockhart for Blacks BBQ or off to Houston for Chris Sheppard’s Underbelly. In the U.S. one of my favorite cities in Chicago. Pretty much anything Paul Kahan touches is gold and I am a big fan of Girl and The Goat by Stephanie Izard. Around the world, Chartier in Paris. Its one of the oldest Brasseries in the city and you can eat a full lunch for about 15 euros.

What towns/villages/cities are you’re dying to go and explore for yourself? Any particular dining destinations on your list?
I’ve become friends with Johnny Hernandez over the years and he is always going on and on about Oaxaca and I’ve traveled a lot throughout Europe but have never been south of the U.S. so it will be on the itinerary for 2015 for sure.

The whole aesthetic at Cured from the furnishings to the integrity of the building, to the bar program and the presentation of the food is really something. What were you trying to achieve with the “look and feel” of Cured?
My wife and I tend to agonize over details. It’s probably why what was supposed to be a 6-month project turned into 14. It had to not only be perfect but it also had to make sense. We tried to do the impossible which is to make a place for everyone. We feel like we got as close as we could and are extremely happy with the support of the community.

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Do you have a personal creed or ethos that you live by?
Not really. My Mom passed away 5 months before we opened and for my brother (also my partner) and I it was tough for us because she never go to see it finished. I do imagine that she is watching and it makes me want to work harder because I know she would be proud.

“Charcuterie, Dining & Subtleties” is the motto at Cured. How do those things infuse the Cured experience?
We want people to know that we are trying. You will never see me go through the motions. It’s that little something extra, cologne in the men’s room, the garnish on your drink, turning beets into cracklings instead of croutons on your salad. It was about setting ourselves apart.

Lay out a perfect meal and wine/cocktail pairing for a first timer to Cured.
I get asked all the time what is your favorite. It changes everyday. We do get a lot of comments on our poutine and so I will tell first-timers to make sure they try that. Also get the Cured Cocktail because it’s a moonshine infusion. And of course try some of the charcuterie. Make sure you come with someone you enjoy sharing with because it’s all about being communal.

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What’s your favorite dish?
There’s no way I have a favorite dish. If I get to to attached to something I’m afraid I will be scared to take it off the menu. We have to be able to keep things fresh and new.

What has been the biggest surprise in your life?
Cancer. It doesn’t run in my family and when I heard that word it was a complete surprise. I’m a relatively healthy person and you want to know what you did wrong.

What’s up next for Chef Steve and Cured? Any fun quirks you can share about yourself?
We get asked all the time if we are going to do something else. We have worked so hard this first year to put together the best team of people in the city of San Antonio and the team gets stronger and better with every new person we hire. It’s hard to think of doing that all over again. Our People make Cured.   I’m a total goof in the kitchen and I love to crack jokes. It’s important to remind the team that we’re all human and its okay to enjoy your job and the people around you.

Check out Cured the next time you’re looking for a fun lunch or night out in San Antonio! You won’t be disappointed. Thank you Chef Steve for visiting with us!
All Pictures Courtesy of atpearl.com and tastingtable.com

Chef Interview | Jesse Perez | Arcade Midtown Kitchen

Tucked into the bustling Pearl Brewery in San Antonio is a place called Arcade Midtown Kitchen where “Food Fortune Awaits.” The aesthetics of the place are as satisfying outside as they are inside, and best yet, the food (and drinks) don’t disappoint. The man behind it is Jesse Perez, a local chef who has earned his stripes working in his native San Antonio in addition to both the East and West coasts, and also in Mexico. The fusion of those culinary styles, flavors and traditions come together to make “something old, something mood, something borrowed and damn good food.” Somewhere between the crispy chili and lime calamari to the soft lobster taco with sweet potato and the delectable brussel sprouts, we became caught in a paradise of flavors and relaxed fare. Wash down your meal with one of Arcade’s signature craft cocktails and make sure to stop by the bathroom for a fortune telling visit to Zoltar. Without further ado, check out our latest Chef Interview with Jesse Perez from Arcade Midtown Kitchen.

MRS: When did you first realize you wanted to be a professional chef?
CHEF JP: I grew up being comfortable in the kitchen. At home my grandmother and my mother did all the cooking. The kitchen was where all the action was and so was the food. It wasn’t until my first cooking job while at the University of Michigan that I realized that the kitchen wasn’t scary to me and felt right at home.

MRS: Did cooking play a large role in your upbringing and childhood? If so, how did it shape you?
CHEF JP: All the meals growing up where made at home. Something was always cooking at home, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Whether it was my grandmother or mother or my father. Going out to eat was a very rare occasion. It was always about the home cooked meal. Nothing better than that.

MRS: What is your earliest and/or most treasured food memory?
CHEF JP: I believe the most treasured memories that I have with food are the monthly barbecue cook-outs that my Dad and my uncle would have as fundraisers for birthdays or for friends/family in need. All the family would get together and pitch in their ‘best of’ for the offering. It was truly inspiring.

MRS: What advice do you have for aspiring chefs, students and hopeful restaurateurs?
CHEF JP: My advice is to be a student of the craft. Earn your stripes and battle scars by staging at a few restaurants and search for chefs and kitchens that will hone your skills. Then make the decision if this is truly a career path you want to pursue, or realize that you just like to cook. A real restaurant is not what you see on TV.

MRS: Your career path has taken you from coast to coast. What did you like most and notice most about east/west styles?
CHEF JP: Working as an Executive Chef in Atlanta was an amazing experience. The southern approach to food was a great lesson for me. Serious but simple was the approach and making great food was the only way to make a mark on the table. In Los Angeles and Long Beach, it was a little slower pace but also serious about sustainability and great products. The farmers markets are like no other and the customer was careful about the origin of their experience.

MRS: We know that Latin flavors influence your cooking approach and have made their way onto the “Americana” menu at Arcade. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means? Also, what was the biggest take-away from your time in cooking school in Oaxaca?
CHEF JP: Oaxaca is a very special place. Susana Trilling and her ‘Season’s of my Heart’ cooking school is like no other around. You are taken to this oasis of culture and flavor that can only inspire to immerse yourself into the tradition and passion for true interior Mexican cuisine. Throughout my career, I have taken those techniques and traditions and implemented those flavors on dishes. Taking the traditional methods with a modern twist is what makes ‘Americana’ a thing for us here at Arcade. It’s a fun thing to do.

MRS: After all this travel, you’ve settled back down into your hometown of San Antonio. What is it about the Alamo city that draws you back?
CHEF JP: First and foremost is that my family is here in SA. Secondly, it was always a goal of mine whether in this field or another to come back and give back to the community that gave me so much. I was brought up with a ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ mentality. I’ve enjoyed paying it forward.

MRS: Where do you see the San Antonio food scene heading and how do you think it stands out in relation to Austin, Corpus, Dallas and Houston?
CHEF JP: This is the most exciting time for SA. Never has the dining and beverage scene been so aggressive and innovative. National publications are constantly on the prowl for what SA is doing. That says a lot about where we are and where we are going.

MRS: What are some of your most prized tools in the back of the house? Any Mission Restaurant Supply favorites?
CHEF JP: Strainers. Vita Prep. Food Processor. Blue Tape. Black Sharpie.

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MRS: You’ve landed in a honey hole with your location at the Pearl Brewery, an area you’ve cleverly dubbed “Midtown.” What is the Midtown vibe in your own words and how does that fit the Arcade vision?
CHEF JP: Location wise it made sense to me to coin Arcade, as a Midtown Kitchen. Midtown in ATL was a hot and urban spot where things were constantly moving forward. I have and continue to see that with SA and Pearl. With the ‘Kitchen’ it was perfect for the approachability on what diners are looking for right now.

MRS: Which tastemakers, mixologists & foodservice professionals inspire you?
CHEF JP: Chef Mark Miller will always been a true inspiration to me. Every Chef has a Chef. He’s my Chef. Others that inspire me with their drive and passion, would be Jason Dady, Alice Waters, Nancy Silverton, David Chang, Pano Karatassos, and Dr. Richard Becker. To name a few.

MRS: Can you share with us your favorite culinary destinations and name some specific memorable meals/libations you’ve had at each of them?
CHEF JP: Chicago is my favorite R&D spot. I’ve had some of my best meals there. Not necessarily only at the finest dining spots. They really take food seriously and I love traveling up there for inspiration. And their cocktails are top notch!

MRS: What places are you’re dying to go to still? Any particular dining destinations on your list?
CHEF JP: Barcelona is on my bucket list. And I would love to add Bangkok, Hong Kong, and South Korea on that list.

The bar seating at Arcade Midtown Kitchen
The bar seating at Arcade Midtown Kitchen

MRS: The bar program at Arcade is one of the most unique and stimulating facets of your restaurant. What inspired you to incorporate this feature and tell us a little bit about Christopher Ware?
CHEF JP: The bar program was designed to be a sexy amenity to Arcade. It was built small but it was meant to run big. Implementing an aggressive approach of ‘vintage’ and ‘modern’ cocktails with fine product was the goal. Taking the steps to implement a barrel aged program and hand crafted cocktails to the table diners was still a new thing when we first opened. It’s been exciting to see the growth with our restaurants following the same approach. Everyone wins.

MRS: Do you have a personal creed or ethos that you live by?
CHEF JP: (1.) Cooking is the easy part (2.) Adapt or die

MRS: What was the most difficult part about starting your own restaurant business? What surprised you?
CHEF JP: Constantly second guessing yourself and wondering if it all will work like you envisioned in your head. You are constantly at the mercy of time tables and product availability. There truly are not enough hours in the day for it and you are never truly ready for it. Buckle up and take the ride.

MRS: What inspired you to name your first restaurant Arcade Midtown Kitchen?
CHEF JP: The architecture of the façade of the restaurant was a standout fixture to me. Also the covered dining with rounded brick columns the restaurant houses. In my research, Arcade would constantly come up for ‘columns’ and I immediately was attracted to that name. The name Arcade also stood true for a place where people gather to meet and have a good time. Back in the boardwalk days (aka Boardwalk Empire), Arcades were places to wine and dine with your friends and family. We ran with it and took the more vintage and ‘tongue and cheek’ approach as opposed to the playful ‘video’ game approach.

MRS: Lay out a perfect meal and wine/cocktail pairing for a first timer to Arcade.
CHEF JP: Order an Arcade and barrel aged cocktail to share. Calamari and Lobster taco for the table to taste. Any red wine from our wine list that are carefully selected to pair with our cuisine, to enjoy with the Salmon ‘on the rocks’ and ‘Arcade Chile Rubbed Hand Cut Ribeye’ steak with Red Chile Potatoes. A side of Brussel Sprouts. Finishing with Chocolate Pudding Cake and Roasted Banana Stack with Salted Caramel.

MRS: We recently read that you earned the Introduction Certificate of Sommeliers from the Guild of Master Sommeliers. What an honor. Tell us a little bit about that experience.
CHEF JP:  I took that test back in 2000, as a hot apps cook when I worked at the former Westin La Cantera Resort. It was an honor to study under Master Sommelier Virginia Phillip. It really sparked my confidence to pair wine with food, especially with Southwestern and Americana flavors. I still have aspirations to take the advanced test in the future.

MRS: Lastly, what’s up next for Chef Jesse?
CHEF JP: Great question. Right now, just put my head down and continue to make Arcade a consistently great place for people to enjoy. Then, perhaps a spot or two.

Thank you Jesse for the great interview! Learn more about Arcade here.

Chef Interview | Luca Della Casa | Silo & Nosh

Italians have long been known for their passionate enthusiasm on life, culture, family and food, and Torino-born Chef, Luca Della Casa, is no exception. The Italian Chef has become a much talked about fixture on the San Antonio dining circuit thanks to his impressive work as Executive Chef at Silo Elevated Cuisine and Nosh in addition to being a contestant on the much talked about Food Network Star.

Chef Luca Della Casa
Chef Luca Della Casa

The Mission Team loves going to Silo and to Nosh, where crispy fried oysters abound and fresh, homemade tagliatelle hangs in the kitchen, awaiting its sauce du jour. And clearly, others do too. Della Casa has a humble, happy, hard-working spirit that is contagious for diners coming to both of his restaurants. Since his early days in Italy learning from the best (his grandmother Nonna) to his time working across Europe at different establishments, Della Casa has appreciated the joy that comes from bringing people together around a table. And luckily for us, Chef Luca has turned that joy into a career that everyone can taste and enjoy.

The Mission Team recently chatted with the popular Chef to pick his brain about his inspiration, favorite kitchen supplies, words of wisdom and more. Read the Interview here & enjoy!


MissionRS: You’re from Torino, Italy which we’re sure is bursting left and right with culinary inspiration. Tell us a little bit about your Italian heritage and how the “homestyle” cooking influences your vision and work. 

Chef LDC: I was born in a family that loved to cook and entertain. My best food memories were in my grandma Nonna’s kitchen, which is my culinary inspiration.

MissionRS: When did you know that you wanted to make cooking a career? 

Chef LDC: After working my way up the ranks in the kitchens of Italy and Spain, I knew that cooking was my passion because I love food and making people happy.


MissionRS: What is one of your favorite pieces of kitchen equipment/supplies?

Chef LDC: I love the cast iron pans from Mission because they get really hot and give an amazing sear.

MissionRS: You know what it takes to work your way up in the industry. Tell us a little bit about your past and any advice you may have for aspiring young chefs.

Chef LDC: I have worked my way up from dishwasher to Executive Chef. My advice is as follows:
1. Be ready to work hard. 2. Be humble; and 3. Always taste your food. 

 MissionRS: What are some of your favorite and most treasured food memories?

Chef LDC: My favorite food memory is always having Sunday dinner at my Grandma Nonna’s house and eating gnocchi with rabbit sauce.

 MissionRS: Name a handful  of tastemakers/chefs/foodies who inspire you today. 

 Chef LDC: I am inspired by Chefs like Bruce Auden, Johnny Hernandez, Mark Bliss, Jason Dady, Gabriel Ibarra, Steven McHugh, Tim Rattray, and Stefan Bowers who work hard to put San Antonio on the culinary map.

MissionRS: San Antonio is really picking up as a coveted culinary destination. What other cities do you look to for serious eats?

Chef LDC: My wife and I love New York, Chicago and Seattle. We are planning to visit Portland next.

Judges of Food Network Star

MissionRS: For a first timer to Silo and Nosh what would your ideal dinner/wine pairings be?

Chef LDC: 
For Silo: Start with the Signature Chicken Fried Oysters and a glass of Sancerre; Oak Grilled Lamb and Palmaz Cabernet, and a Coconut Pie with Tokai.

For Nosh: Truffle Parmesan French Fries; Shrimp and Tomato Salad with a glass of Prosecco. Buon Appetito!

MissionRS: Your homemade tagliatelle is one of our favorite things ever. (Listen up readers- it’s a must order at Nosh!) What is the trick to making really good, light pasta? Any other tricks in the kitchen you’d mind sharing?

Chef LDC: The trick to good homemade pasta is to use a high quality “OO” Flour. Follow me on the Food Network Star to learn some of my other culinary tricks.

MissionRS: Finally, where do you see the industry headed? Anything on your radar for the next year?

Chef LDC: I believe San Antonio is becoming a culinary destination and it’s also a wonderful place to live. As for the future, I want to take my wife on a vacation.

Make sure to swing by Nosh and Silo- Alamo Heights in San Antonio next time you’re in the area. To follow Luca through social media and on his quest through the Food Network Star, use the following links:

Hashtags and @Mentions:
#FoodNetworkStar #StarSalvation #TeamLuca @FoodNetwork @FoodNetworkFans

And last but not least, we’d like to say a big thank you to Chef Luca and to his wife, Marcella for being a part of our Mission Chef Series!

*All pictures courtesy of Food Network*

Chef Interview | Mark Bliss | Bliss, San Antonio

Chef Mark Bliss in action, courtesy of Southern Living.

If you haven’t already heard, it’s about time to add San Antonio to your list of dining destinations, and pronto. With the plethora of restaurants in our fair city, there is no shortage of great places to eat, so let your culinary compass be your guide.

But guide you as it may, we are taking it upon ourselves to introduce you to some of the highlights. Enter: our new series of Chef Interviews.

Over the coming months, we will be sharing some of the chefs and tastemakers that are doing exciting, innovative things in the restaurant industry and we hope you will read along. Do crispy fried gulf oysters with candied bacon, buttermilk chive biscuits and brown butter hollandaise sound appealing to you? How about seared sea scallops with pepperjack-white cheddar grits, sauteed spinach, avocado mousse and cilantro lime jalapeno beurre blanc? Hungry? We thought so.

Behind these delightful, blissfully concocted dishes is Mark Bliss, a San Antonio Chef who oozes culinary talent in relaxed and refreshing ways at his eponymous restaurant, Bliss. Though he’s originally from Northern California, Chef Bliss started his culinary career following his move to Texas in the early eighties, working in a handful of hotel and restaurant kitchens before opening Silo in San Antonio, a restaurant which has received tremendous national and regional acclaim over the years. Following a brief sabbatical, Chef Bliss opened his new restaurant concept, Bliss, in the bustling Southtown neighborhood of San Antonio.

The restaurant location was decided after Mark and his wife/business partner, Lisa, found a hopeful home in a decrepit yet charming filling station from the early nineteen hundreds. After a good deal of renovation, the building’s original exposed brick was complemented by contemporary steel panels, beautiful landscaping, and large glass windows and skylights to bring natural light into the space.

The building, with its relaxed yet refined ambiance and contemporary spin is much like the chef who conducts business within. They are a perfect match and as a result, a dinner here is a harmonious melody of things: it’s unpretentious yet service-driven, relaxed yet elegant, comfortable yet subtly swanky, and most of all, the food is bliss.

Keep reading to learn more about Chef Mark Bliss:

A sampling of sights at Bliss: the contemporary exterior, a peek inside the kitchen’s Chef’s Table (available by reservation), the Chef’s famous oyster sliders, and the restaurant’s covetable back patio.

MissionRS: How long have you been in the industry and when was it that you first realized you wanted to be a chef? Was it a gradual revelation or an early conviction?

Chef Mark Bliss: I have been in the business since I was 16 years old, I started as a sandwich prep at TOGO’s in Northern California. I started becoming serious about it in 1983. I worked at a small trattoria in north San Antonio for a year then went to work at the Hilton Palacio del Rio in 1984. I worked with 4 different chefs while at the Hilton. The Hilton experience really lit a fire under me professionally. I left the Hilton in 1986 to work at The Fairmount Hotel. 

MissionRS: Was there one key person (or group of people) who you credit for teaching you the ropes?

Chef Mark Bliss: The first sous chefs I worked with at the Hilton, George Keeney & Louis Spost, were both extremely talented ambitious chefs who had just graduated from the CIA in Hyde Park NY. They taught me a lot about production, sauce making. They are both well-respected Chefs to this day. Luckily for me they saw I had the passion for the job and put me on an intensive in-house training program. Bruce Auden, the godfather of New American Cuisine in San Antonio became a huge mentor during my tenure at The Fairmount Hotel. Bruce eventually hired me as chef de cuisine at Biga in 1991.

MissionRS: For the newcomers to Bliss, what would be your ideal “first timer” food & wine pairing?

Chef Mark Bliss: Chicken fried oyster sliders & Contaldi Castaldi sparkling rose

{LEFT} The main interior dining room of Bliss with the filling station’s original brick walls. {RIGHT} The restaurant’s red Berkel slicer makes plate after plate of paper thin charcuterie.

MissionRS: Name a handful of tastemakers/ chefs/ foodies who’re inspiring you today.

Chef Mark Bliss: I recently returned from Spain and had numerous fantastic experiences in Barcelona & Donostia-San Sebastian. The food scene in Spain is world class. Pakta restaurant in Barcelona was enlightening and delicious as we navigated through 34 tiny bites or courses. Albert Adria from El Bulli & Tickets is a partner with Japanese chef Kyoko Ii & Peruvian chef Jorge Munoz. Pakta is basically a Japanese, Spanish, Peruvian fusion restaurant. The food they are creating is light, healthy & delicious. Here in the states, there are numerous great young chef’s really getting into the whole farm to table concept. Jared Wentworth at Longman & Eagle in Chicago has really gotten my attention, his food is brilliant. 

MissionRS: In the back of the house, what’s your most cherished kitchen tool?

Chef Mark Bliss: My chef’s knife.

MissionRS: You’re nicely nestled into the heart of Southtown San Antonio. Tell us a little bit about why you enjoy this part of town and how it is incorporated into your vision and the dining experience at Bliss.

Chef Mark Bliss: Southtown is a wonderfully diverse food & arts community. Some of the most innovative food in SA is located here. I wanted to do a concept that was comfortable, not pretentious, fun & relaxed with a professional staff & service. I am very blessed to have one of the best staffs in the business. I also have a fantastic partner in my wife Lisa who is responsible for all financial aspects of the business. We have a beautiful space, great landlords…It’s a very, very positive environment.

MissionRS: With all the innovative cooking techniques on the market today have you experimented with any that are now mainstays in your kitchen or that you’re anxious to try? 

Chef Mark Bliss: Sous Vide is definitely on my radar.

MissionRS: For you, what are the secrets or fundamental staples to running a successful restaurant business?

Chef Mark Bliss: Being a fair & honest employer/restaurateur. Not being afraid to make daily changes or try new dishes on a whim. Basically keeping myself & my staff enthused so we do not get stale or dated.

Picture courtesy of eater.com

MissionRS: What is the most memorable meal you’ve had?

Chef Mark Bliss: Recently at Patka in Barcelona & in 1993 at Bouley in NYC.

MissionRS: Where do you see the food industry heading and what do you see for the future of Bliss?

Chef Mark Bliss: Hopefully, the public will continue to embrace small independent restaurants. I see Bliss continuing to get better and evolve with the times. And perhaps the occasional Brunch.

MissionRS: Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs and restaurateurs?

Chef Mark Bliss: Never stop learning, don’t be too greedy. Always feed the dishwashers first and foremost as they are truly the heart & soul of a great restaurant. If you want to get a point across, do so respectfully, your staff will truly pay attention.

Bliss is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday and you can make a reservation by calling them at 210.225.2547. Bliss is also directly across the street from our showroom, which is open to the public at 1126 S. St. Marys Street San Antonio, Texas 78210. Come by and see us! Thank you to Chef Bliss and to Lisa Bliss for helping us kick off this new series!

Restaurant Spotlight: NOSH, San Antonio, Texas

If you’re a dining enthusiast and you live in the San Antonio/Central Texas region, chances are you’ve been to (or heard of) Silo Elevated Cuisine, the fabulous and highly praised restaurant with locations in both the Alamo Heights area and off of 1604. It’s modern approach to fine dining brings together the perfect combination of sophistication and eclecticism in an elegant yet relaxed environment that everyone can enjoy. It is literally elevated dining at its best.


But the newest addition to the Silo family comes with Nosh, a small sister restaurant tucked just onto the front of the Alamo Heights Silo location that delivers an experience uniquely its own. The restaurant beckons diners for its small, cozy, neighborhood charm that satisfies without feeling pretentious. Think: An ice- cold beer with a perfect steak tartare and truffle fries or a hot, thin crust pizza washed down with a glass of wine. The relaxed decor adds to the restaurants charm with a small but well-stocked bar welcoming patrons as they enter and a large chalkboard wall featuring the impressive beer selection available to you. The dining style is best summed up by the restaurant’s mantra, “Small Plates. Big Taste” with the menu featuring  smaller dishes meant for sharing so that diners can “nosh” while getting a nice sampling of food. Nosh is excited to have just brought on one of San Antonio’s finest chefs, “Lucca della Casa” who brings with him experience from Il Sogno in the Pearl Brewery and beyond. After dining at Nosh just this week, we can see the change he’s bringing to the table, and it is both sweet, savory and not to be missed:


Stop by Nosh for a great, relaxed dining experience that won’t disappoint! 

Nosh is located at 1133 Austin Highway San Antonio, Texas 78209
Hours of Operation: Tuesday – Saturday 11AM to 11PM