Chef F.J. of 58 Degrees & Holding Co. has bigger things on his plate this weekend than Chef Challenge: Heâ€™s getting married October 1st to his sweetheart, Janine, sous chef at Fatâ€™s Asia Bistro. Congratulations to the happy couple!
Chef F.J. loves his job at 58 Degrees, his restaurant home for the past 4 years. He â€œworks with good people who are passionate about food & wine.â€ Heâ€™s been the Executive Chef since January 2010, and enjoys the â€œtotal creative freedomâ€ of his position. â€œWe combine flavors here, and like to combine French technique with Asian influence & flavors,â€ says F.J. Cooking has always been fun for him. Lately, heâ€™s been experimenting with Latin/ Central American flavors~which he says are similar to Mediterranean.
He recently created an heirloom tomato salad, and brightened it up with innovative twists: he added farro, and a balsamic whip cream. He says the eye-appealing dish had â€œlayers of flavor and texture,â€ and â€œrepresents what we do here with innovative subtleties & techniques. ”
This is F.J.â€™s first cooking competition. Heâ€™s looking forward to competing with Billy from Kru: â€œHeâ€™s awesome! Billy is one of the guys that has really inspired me out here in Sacramento.â€ He is also inspired by his grandmother, who raised him. He says she is a strong, intelligent family-oriented woman who provided the roots and foundation. â€œFamily is why you are the way you are,â€ says F.J. He notes that when his mom was pregnant, she took cooking classes from Biba. His stepmom has a Filipino Pastry & Cupcake shop in the Bay area.
Chef F.J. is highly conscious of what heâ€™s putting into other peopleâ€™s bodies. Heâ€™s excited about the Challenge because it affords him the opportunity to create menu items that are healthy and â€œa little different from what weâ€™re accustomed to.â€ Heâ€™s especially proud of once hosting an entirely vegan party at 58 Degrees. Chef F.J. says, â€œThe great thing about vegans is that theyâ€™re so appreciative. They provided honest feedback (re: the menu) and really enjoyed it!â€ He plans to continue the dishes he is creating for the Challenge on his menu afterward.
On his drawing board for the Challenge: Smoked Tofu in the style of Korean BBQ, served with Seaweed Rice; â€œToron,â€ Banana Fritters; Vegan Chocolate Mousse and/or Peanut Butter Gelato made with almond milk.
For their honeymoon, F.J. and Janine are embarking on a restaurant tour of Napa Valley down the Pacific Coast. They intend to â€œEnjoy each otherâ€™s company and OTHER peopleâ€™s food!â€