'Twas a week before Christmas and I sat down with the merry man himself - Chef Gabe Caliendo. Check out my interview with our king of the kitchen and catch a sneak peek of our new menu coming to all locations early next year! (You can also take a gander at additional behind the scenes photos from our food shoot under the SNAPSHOTS tab above.)
Chef Gabe interviewed by R. Simms
Chef, if you could describe the Spring 2016 Menu in one sentence- how would you describe it?
The spring menu will feature seasonal additions, such as Asparagus and Citrus fruits, made from scratch in each of our Lazy Dog kitchens.
What part of the Spring 2016 menu are you most excited about?
There are a lot of changes, but I think I’m most excited about bringing back an old Lazy Dog favorite: Cast Iron Trout with Sea Salt Roasted Marble Potatoes and Walnut Butter. We haven’t had this dish on the menu for at least 4 years. The trout is from Idaho, tilting its hat to the rocky mountains cuisine. The preparation is fun and also features seasonal asparagus.
What was your inspiration for the new menu items?
There are so many exciting things going on with the new spring menu. I was inspired in several directions. As always, never settling played a big part in all of the revamp items and the new in house roasted garlic chicken for our sandwiches is amazing.
The seasonal component is also always on my mind. We are using fresh spring Asparagus in several applications and it replaces the Broccolini.
Citrus is also at its peak in the winter/spring contrary to what most people think is summer. The housemade orange marmalade for our new French toast and the lemon curd for our new raspberry cheesecake are both examples of seasonal spring citrus.
When you create new dishes, what is your creative process? Does it start with an idea you see or a taste you experience somewhere else?
I start with a concept based on seasonality usually. The refinement process comes in after that. For instance, once I have an idea of what I’d like to make- I might look it up online to get visual inspiration for plating. I may also go to a restaurant that is serving that style of dish or item and taste it. Especially ethnic cuisines. I love to try and make our dishes as authentic to their origins as possible.
Where do you find you are most inspired?
Well I’m generally most inspired on or near the ocean and in the mountains. It must be that they both have amazing air or something. I feel refreshed and energized in those environments. What I do is truly a lifestyle and not a job. What I mean by that is I’m always thinking about new menu items and inspiration is happening to me everyday….everywhere.
Do you test your new ideas out at home?
I do and honestly they are tough….even tougher than Chris (as in Chris Simms, Lazy Dog Founder + CEO) sometimes. They know that I want the truth and they give it to me. It can be hard to hear their feedback when I’m sometimes emotionally attached to my work, but the majority of the time it makes the dish better. I also really enjoy sharing my work life with my wife and kids…they want to know what I’m doing and it is easier and more fun to show them than it is to explain.
What seasonal produce are you most excited to see pop up in Farmer’s Markets come January/February?
I’m always happy to see Kumquats come into the market. They are only available for about 3 months: Jan-March. Another item that I personally love is Treviso. Treviso is a bitter green in the cabbage family. Great for grilling.
And because its only a couple weeks from Christmas…I’m assuming Santa is beer guy- because most awesome people are – If you were to leave a beer for Santa on Christmas Eve, what would you leave for him?
Being that he is such a great guy, I would give him my last homebrew creation. I made a double stout fermented with cocoa nibs and hazlenuts. I then barrel aged it and fortified it with some scratch made vanilla bean bourbon. So in short, I’d leave him a 22 bomber of my Nutella Bourbon Stout.