Food Network star Guy Fieri gave Monterey County chefs the ultimate compliment following the Pebble Beach Food & Wine: “Let me tell you, the talent that’s in this area is right in line with anywhere. They can cook with me anytime. What a blast.”
Fieri hosted the Interactive Dinner on Saturday, a loud, fast-paced cooking demo (he made pork watermelon tacos) with each table getting a private chef. Helping out were the likes of local chefs Cy Yontz (Rio Grill), Thomas Snyder (Esteban), Todd Fisher (Sticks), Mo Tabib (The Fish Hopper) among others.
PBFW does not shine its bright lights on local chefs, choosing instead to focus on the celebrity chefs of our day, the “rock stars” of the culinary world. But there is some local talent sprinkled throughout the weekend, and our chefs managed to steal some of the limelight.
Fisher, who set up the demo kitchens used by the PBFW talent, was holding court at the Sunday Lexus Grand Tasting, with cries of “popcorn, get your popcorn!” His dish? Beef bone marrow with truffle popcorn herb salad. So rich and buttery and flavorful.
Fisher is in the midst of changing the culture at Sticks, imprinting the menu with his bold flavors and push-the-envelope style. Recent specials included: Crisp pork belly carnitas with pumpkin-seed romesco, burnt orange crema and guacamole; and Maine lobster
carbonara with sweet corn, English peas and caramelized onion with a cage-free yolk.
Tony Baker of Montrio Bistro turned a lot of heads at Sunday’s tasting with his bacon pie. The founder of Baker’s Bacon, a British-style back bacon, made a bacon-pork shoulder terrine on top of a lard crust, garnished with Piccadilly relish and a side of pickled red cabbage. These decadent wedges were a hit.
Chef Tim Wood of Carmel Valley Ranch created two dishes on Sunday: shrimp with green garlic sauce and truffled gnocchi; and short rib and porcini bruschetta.
Chef Don Ferch, who with his wife Cheryl runs Contemporary Catering, was the founding chef (at Highlands Inn in Carmel) for the Masters of Food & Wine, the predecessor to PBFW. At Sunday’s grand tasting, Ferch made applewood smoked veal bacon lettuce wrap with pickled cauliflower, almonds and sun-dried tomatoes.
Chef Levi Mezick of Restauranat 1833 got to spend Thursday cooking an epic seven-course meal for Michelin 3-star legend Daniel Boulud, with whom he once served under at Café Boulud.
Originally from the Washington, D.C., area, Mezick brings a wealth of culinary expertise, cultivated under some of the world’s most famous chefs. Aside from Boulud, Mezick also worked at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, as well as stages in Michelin-starred European restaurants, including Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, Italy. He also teamed up with superstar chef Michel Richard in 2008 at Michel at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, Va.
Chef Anastasia Simpson, pastry chef for the Inn at Spanish Bay, wowed visitors with a three-layered chocolate and caramel dessert cup. Delicious and artful. Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Marina resident attended Paul Bocuse’s Ecole des Arts Culinaires et de l’Hotellerie in Ecully, France. In 2000, she moved to the Peninsula and began working for the Pebble Beach Co.