F&W Star Chef
Restaurant: George’s at the Cove
Education: Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York
Experience: Tree Room & Foundry Grill (Utah), L’Orangerie (Los Angeles), La Folie (San Francisco), Rockenwagner (Santa Monica), Sheraton Grande (Los Angeles), Bay Terrace (Five Diamond Mauna Lani Hotel & Bungalows, Hawaii)
What is your signature dish?
My Deconstructed Fish Taco. It embellishes what San Diego dining is today, a more playful and inventive take on a traditional dish. In Mexico, the fish is usually breaded and fried, and served in a corn tortilla with cabbage, sauces and salsa fresco. My recipe breaks down each element and turns it into an inside-out fish taco with fried avocado and corn nuts.
What is your favorite cookbook of all time?
I can’t name just one, because that would be like picking a favorite child. The books that have influenced me the most are Chez Panisse Cooking by Paul Bertolli and Alice Waters; Le Livre de Michel Bras; Grand Livre de Cuisine by Alain Ducasse; and La Cuisine Immediate: Les Recettes Originales De Pierre Gagnaire. I don’t look at cookbooks in the same way I used to. I look more to see the particular chef’s perspective. For Gagnaire and Bras, it’s doing things out of the norm and looking at the ingredients. The inspiration comes more from the attitude and the philosophy than it does from the specific recipes.
What’s a technique that everyone should know?
How to debone a chicken. You go to the supermarket and people buy chicken stock in a box, and a chicken breast in a cellophane wrapper instead of just buying a whole chicken. People don’t really know how to butcher a chicken, but you can feed a family of four for at least three days on one chicken. It’s a way of saving money and it doesn’t take more than five minutes to cut up a chicken. If you’re scraping bone, you’re doing the right thing.
What is your secret-weapon ingredient?
Chipotle. Use it in your stocks to add smoke and a hint of spice. I use dry chipotle in a chicken stock or I also sometimes use chipotle en adobo, the one that comes in a can, so I get the sauce and the chile.
What’s your favorite food letter of the alphabet?
F, for French, fried, foie, flavor, flan, figs, farro, fava, forage, french fries, fennel, fruit, flour, fingerlings, fowl, Ferran, fork, fromage, frosting, fruit de mer, fumé, funghi, ferment, fish, fire and flame.
What ingredients will people be talking about in five years?
Probably still foie gras and bluefin tuna, but also bugs. Although we have been eating them forever, it seems there is a resurgence in exploring the possibilities. The obvious bugs are grasshoppers and worms, but I’m sure there will be more. I’ve had crickets and worms and ant larvae in Mexico, and those have all been around forever.
What’s your favorite new store-bought ingredient?
California Olive Ranch olive oil. It’s a great product for a reasonable price and has the harvest date on the bottle.
Background Trained at the Culinary Institute of America. Worked at La Folie, San Francisco; L'Orangerie and Röckenwagner, Los Angeles.
How he got into cooking "I needed to support my surfing habit."
Menu bomb Barbecued barracuda.
Favorite equipment Anything that's made of cast iron.
Mentor La Folie's Roland Passot. "He led by example; he was the first in and the last to leave."
Favorite place to eat Sushi Nozawa, Los Angeles.
How he got his name "My dad loved poker, so he named me Trey, for the 'three' card. Très fauché is French for very penniless; my dad had no idea I'd ever cook in a French kitchen."
Recipe tip If you can't find fresh morels, soak dried ones in water.
Won Best New Chef at: The Tree Room, Sundance, Utah
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.