One of the highlights of attending Expo West is rubbing shoulders with remarkable people. We were lucky enough to have a private interview with Chef David Slay, where we learn insider tips to being successful in the kitchen. As 3 generation chef where much of his culinary skill and passion was taught to him as a young boy. His skill was refined during an apprenticeship in Paris. The French influence is reflected in his gourmet dishes and fine dining experience he serves daily at both his restaurants. Yes that’s right, both his restaurants. Chef Slay owns and operates both Park Ave and Il Garage as well as a large garden on his property.
All of his produce is organic and picked fresh daily, washed then served with the evenings course. Menus change frequently if not daily to accommodate the days harvest. Herbs and veggies are tenderly prepared in the kitchen and served with skillful presentation. Now if that isn’t fine dining, I don’t know what is. As we sat listening to Chef Slay explain the process he goes through daily to produce such a meal we where in awe! Literally, we can sometimes manage a simple stir-fry for dinner. Let alone grow and harvest fresh produce and then create a gourmet meal for our small families. Naturally we were full of questions and wanted to know how in the world does he execute all of this in one day?! Granted his work is large scale with gardeners and staff, he had some pretty good advice for home cooks. We have taken it to heart and applied much of it in our own kitchens.
One of our first questions was what was his favorite kitchen tool? His reply was a Mandoline Slicer and a good chef’s knife. Personally, I couldn’t agree more, a few months ago I did a write up on cutting boards and explained my pains of dealing with awful knives. Sharp quality blades are the key to timely preparation, safety, and plain old sanity.
His next piece of advice may seem elementary, but sometimes the simple things make a world of difference. Be Prepared. Be Organized. There is no way he is going to walk into the kitchen and open the fridge and throw together a 3 course meal for over 300 people with out some sort of planning and preparation. How can we at home think that we are going to be able to prepare a wholesome and palatable meal with no prior. We might squeak by a night or two, especially if we had the skills of Chef Slay but to manage on a nightly basis, planning and organizing is key. For us at home that means meal planning, detailed grocery lists and organized kitchen spaces.
Another piece of advice he offered was to use quality ingredients. Chef Slay is obviously partially to organic home-grown. However, not all of us have his culinary green thumb. For those desiring to home he suggests starting small and simple. Choose plants that you will be successful with such as lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, and herbs. As your skills grow and you find it enjoyable, then expand garden and flourish your skills.
His last words of wisdom we absolutely loved, as it is a subject near to our hearts. “Get your kids involved!” Chef Slay is a thriving example of what skill and knowledge passed on can arise to. Those sticky little fingers might require some patience on our part, but it will be worth it. Someday they will develop a taste for good food and retain skills for life.
We had a wonderful discussion with Chef David Slay. If you are in the Orange County area and looking for a quality dining experience, he is your man. Bring your family to the garden and visit his restaurants, Park Ave. and Il Garage. Be sure to give your compliments to the Chef.