Chef’s Secrets: Let’s Talk Outside The Box

By Chef Marcus Webster

A seafood crepe enchilada will impress even the most discriminating palates.

A seafood crepe enchilada will impress even the most discriminating palates.

When deciding on what is trendy, what’s hot in the foodie world, you just have to think outside the box. There is no more such thing as, “Do these food items go together?”

My dad always told me there are only two things that do not fare well together and that is oil and water. You can do whatever you like with food but just create it with your own twist.

Perfect example: I used to make this Caribbean drink called Rumtopf in which you blend rum, fruit, cinnamon, berries, etc. all together and let it steep for a couple of weeks. When you open and drink it, the flavors are amazing, similar to a Sangria or a vodka watermelon skewer. But with Rumtopf, I took it to another level and added jalapeños, cilantro, onion and spices and used it as a marinade and a sauce when cooked down.

I create menus that excite clients with that WOW factor, or “spot on,” as some people like to say nowadays. When a guest takes that first bite of something magical, they are hooked and are eagerly anticipating the next dish.

A stuffed zucchini pirogue is a crowd-pleaser as well as a salute to my Southern-French heritage.

A stuffed zucchini pirogue is a crowd-pleaser as well as a salute to my Southern-French heritage.

Recently, I just had a long-time client call me to book an event. He had his heart set on shrimps and beef tenderloin, which was in a previous menu. I had to explain that both items are at an all-time high so the quote will be a bit more this time.

As we kept the conversation open, the prices no longer mattered. When you grill a beef tenderloin Pismo and serve it with caramelized onions, horseradish crème and a brandy bleu cheese sauce with mushrooms at a carving station, the food just never fails to impress. The slider is so incredible that it is the #1 item ordered for most private catering events.

Being in California, of course, Mexican food stands out, but what if you put a twist to it? Enchiladas become crepes and there are endless variations you could create – chicken with a mushroom crème sauce to seafood with Creole hollandaise sauce. Tacos can also come in any form or combination–shrimp, lobster or crab with a spicy ceviche’ twist.

Think burgers! Make homemade burgers and you can stuff them with the whole fridge these days. Use any kind of cheese and add caramelized onions, mushrooms and a special sauce that is thickened so when you bite into it, the sauce just oozes out.

One of my favorites is using a great sausage such as Italian, Cajun or a more traditional jalapeños-style type. I’ll take it out of the casing then I’ll sauté it for the right flavor and add my favorite cheese, sautéed onions and bell peppers and stuff them into the burger. This is an instant hit with guests.

Speaking of the beef tenderloin earlier, my dad created that recipe back in the 1950’s but he stuffed it within the beef and smoked it as I still do it that way today. The bleu cheese, onions and brandy cook within the meat and turns it into a culinary coma, but a good one. Enjoy your masterpiece!

Never be afraid of pairing foods together.  That is the trend now.  You are a foodie, but you just don’t know it yet.

Chef Marcus Webster has been a professional chef for over 20 years, starting as a private chef before becoming a corporate chef at the Thousand Oaks-based Auctions in Motion. He is currently the executive chef for NAWLINZ Bistro in downtown Oxnard and Conejo Valley Catering, the catering arm of NAWLINZ Bistro.  


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