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Chef Residencies Continue to Shift the Lens

08 September, 2022
Jenny Dorsey working in a kitchen surrounded by her staff
Just as the financial crisis of 2007/8 led to the rise of food trucks, could the coronavirus pandemic revive the pop-up, as more and more displaced chefs take up guest residencies in restaurant kitchens? Chef and pop-up player Kiki Aranita reports from the front line.

Ensuing chefs on the agenda are Shenarri Freeman and Preeti Mistry, who is also functioning as the consulting chef for the program, a role that Mistry describes as: “Key in determining the chefs we would feature and being their liaison throughout the project. From an operational side, I have been working closely with the chefs on-site with regards to sourcing, whether that is specialty ingredients, or relationships I have built with local farmers, ranchers, etc. I'm also another chef in the kitchen when it comes to prep, execution, pairings, etc.”

Mistry was also able to be firm and uphold the ideals of a chef residency as an exercise in cultural exchange, maintaining a foundation of education in the kitchen. “Cultural appropriation is something that frustrates and angers me quite a bit. In cultural appropriation, ideas, recipes, and menus are taken and not compensated or credited. Oftentimes you hear this lament from white people that they are being told what they ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ cook. So, from that perspective, I took this as an opportunity to make it clear: you can cook whatever you want. Just do it right and respectfully. Not just reading a recipe online and winging it but having a meaningful exchange with a chef from a different background and deepening your knowledge about the culture, ingredients, and techniques you are using. Because of the time spent [together in the kitchen], chef Forest and the whole J Team are prepared to talk about the dishes, ingredients, and motivations intelligently to guests.”

This series is unique in the current sea of chef residencies because it’s a conversation. As each residency draws to a close, J Winery’s estate chef Forest Kellogg will serve a menu informed by the departing chef, a sort of responsorial psalm. Both Mistry and Dorsey frequently sung Kellogg’s praises, noting how difficult an endeavour this residency series would have been if not for his competence.

Kellogg is originally from Sonoma County and is here, cooking on his home turf. He’s being stretched by the residencies. When they aren’t happening, his menus follow a similar structure. “I think what’s so interesting about Shifting the Lens is that each chef has a very unique voice and distinct style. Our usual menu is much more indicative of the food that I cook. I really focus on seasonality and local products with an emphasis on sustainable proteins. With chef Jenny, she’s using a lot of ingredients I’ve never seen before, that are being sourced through vendors in Southern California that I’m not as familiar with. It lets people to expand their knowledge of food and wine pairings and what’s possible, as well as their perceptions of what Chinese food is. And it will hopefully open our wine up to new markets.”

Dorsey’s unique cuisine, marked by restraint and balance, Chinese-inflected and deeply personal. The terroir of Californian ingredients. The conversations about cooking without appropriating. The effervescent, minerally glass of Brut Rosé before me. Pinot noir poured from a yellow decanter that resembles a blown glass French horn. To have all these elements come together in one a meal is spectacular. This is how we should be cooking, influenced by others and their ingredients by being taught directly by them, through sharing and conversation and really good wine pairings.


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