by Chef Roy Perez, Culinary Arts Instructor

A former student in Texas recently called me. He’s at a restaurant and is feeling pretty stagnant right now. He is looking for inspiration and called to ask for my advice.

I told the former student who called me that you have to think about what got you into this in the first place because that was your initial inspiration. It helps to read books and magazines and check websites that show you food and trends that inspires you, and it’s important to network with other like-minded people, but at the end of the day you have to look in the mirror and ask what inspires you and seek it out every day and build on that. He’s still young and growing and he said he forgot what inspired him in the first place. One of the biggest inspirations for many cooks is just cooking a great meal and putting it in front of people to watch them to enjoy it.

Around the same time, I was asked by my former employer Vitaly Paley (owner of Paley’s Place) if I would work for him at the IPNC (International Pinot Noir Conference) kick-off dinner at Scott Paul Winery with him. His food inspires me and working in his kitchen made me who I am in the kitchen today, and I was happy to say yes.

Vitaly Paley (left) and crew (Chef Perez, far right). photo credit Robin Burnside.

Menu (5-course plated dinner for 80 guests)
Appetizers
Grilled flat bread w/house-smoked prosciutto
Grilled oysters with fennel, bacon and spicy mignonette

Salad
Workhorse Salad – roasted rabbit with saffron aioli, arugula, frisee, and ficoide glacial greens w/roasted vegetables, cherries and cherry tomatoes

Photo credit Robin Burnside.

Entrée
Haricot verts, roasted baby fingerling potatoes, braised oxtail and king oyster mushrooms with marrow bone. Kobe rib eye, seared then placed on bed of hay, barley, fennel sticks and wood chips then roasted in the oven, sliced and placed on top of the vegetables

“The flavor and aromatics of the bed jumped right up into the beef and smelled like the beef walked off the field and onto the plate.”

Fourth Course
Cheese plate and Paley Bar

Dessert
House -made Ice Cream Sandwiches

Having the chance to work with Vitaly at these events to see what he’s doing now with food and the product he’s able to pull in from the local cutting edge farms is very inspiring and rejuvenates me and gets me ready to play with food and teach others.