The Escoffier Questionnaire: Chef Josh Seibert

By / Photography By Michael Woolsey | May 24, 2017
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Chef Josh Seibert is not really interested in the spotlight. But there happens to be one following him around these days, now that he’s the new executive chef at Nick’s Cove, Marshall’s winsome seaside property with a storied history.

While commercial kitchens traditionally run on a hierarchical system, there is a new tenor of collaboration in many restaurants these days. Chef Seibert is definitely new guard in this respect. It is clear in the way he speaks about his staff that he views the Nick’s Cove kitchen as a team effort and is happy to give credit where it is due.

Seibert’s trajectory feels a little gentler than those of many other chefs I have interviewed, as well. He grew up in New Market, Maryland, which, he reports, was long on camaraderie and other kids, but short on pretty much everything else. The town had one general store. The need for a job got him into the kitchen of a local inn at age 14, initially washing dishes while learning to cook. He eventually approached the town’s star chef for a job, a move that set him on course toward a serious culinary career.

After meanderings through Breckenridge, Colorado, and back home again,—at the nudging of his mother—Seibert headed all the way west to attend the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. An externship at Mission Beach Café, a notoriously busy San Francisco brunch destination, evolved into the executive chef’s position in just two years. Baptized in the fire of the brunch rush, at Mission Beach Seibert learned a great deal about dealing with kitchen “personalities” and being a leader without being a brute.

The chef’s heart seems most full talking about his late father, a man of robust love, and his own wife and young daughter. And, of course, salads. When given the opportunity to expound on his firm conviction that “salads must be seasonal,” he launches into a description of the greens he sources from local growers Green String Farm and Marin Roots Farm, and Brokaw avocados, and how he would serve them—so detailed it was almost fiendish, and certainly inspiring.

EDIBLE MARIN & WINE COUNTRY: What was the first meal you made that you were proud of?

JOSH SEIBERT: When I was 16, I was working at a deli and my mentor, Chef John Lancy, taught me how to braise pork and I mastered the Cubano sandwich.

What was your favorite food as a kid?

Pepperoni pizza. I was a picky eater.

What food do you wish you loved?

I literally love all food. There is nothing I won’t eat, as long as it’s prepared well.

What food do you love unreasonably much?

Ground beef tacos with crunchy taco shells. The combo of flavors and textures is so addicting and it’s such an Americanized version of a Latin food. I guess I feel kind of guilty for liking it so much, because of that.

What is the most difficult cooking technique to do well?

Curing meats. It’s a science and you have to be so exact. It’s similar to baking in that way, and I don’t have a lot of experience in either charcuterie or baking. It’s intimidating because you can so easily mess it up and ruin a lot of meat.

What are you exploring in your kitchen now?

Cold ramen salads. I had one at Two Birds/One Stone [in St. Helena] that was incredible, and I’m working on one for Nick’s Cove using dried seaweed, sesame, ginger, scallions, watermelon radishes and jalapeños.

What nonculinary influence inspires you?

The memory of my father, who was a passionate, hardworking man. I wasn’t a super productive or passionate teenager, and when he died I realized I really wanted to try to live up to the kind of man he was. He wasn’t a chef, but he was a great cook and he did everything he could to support his family. Now I hope I’m following in his footsteps.

What is your idea of a very healthy meal?

One that has a balance of ingredients. You need your vegetables, grains and protein. It’s what I’m always trying to do: put balanced meals on plates in a creative and beautiful way.

What is your favorite ingredient?

Garlic and fennel are both favorites. They add flavor and complexity and both pretty much go in everything I make, every purée, every soup. I love to blend fennel fronds, garlic and olive oil together and I use this with every vegetable that I sauté.

What is your favorite hangover meal?

Five Guys burger with Old Bay Fries.

What restaurant in the world are you most dying to try?

Sukiyabashi Jiro in Japan. I probably never will make it there, but I hope to!

What kitchen utensil is most indispensable to you?

My Mac Ultimate knife

Who do you most like to cook for?

My wife and daughter. My daughter is still pretty young, but I love to make tortilla soup for my wife. It’s the ultimate healthy comfort food.

If you could do one other job, what would it be?

Build children’s play houses! I made one for my daughter and had so much fun building it. I try to be handy and build things on my days off.

What is your favorite midnight snack?

Chocolate pot de crème. I don’t really eat sweets, but when I do, this is the only thing I want.

What would you eat at your last meal, if you could plan such a thing?

Buttermilk fried chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans. I always have one fried dish on the menu at Nick’s to satisfy this craving. Right now it’s Cajun fried oyster mushrooms with an English pea crème fraiche, pickled cauliflower and pea shoots.

What’s your favorite place to go for (and what is your favorite thing to order)

… a splurge meal?

Rich Table in San Francisco. Everything is delicious and they change their menu so often it’s hard to pick out one item that I love.

… breakfast?

Topsy’s Kitchen in Petaluma. I usually get bacon and eggs with a biscuit, but they have the best cinnamon rolls, apple fritters and BLTs.

… pastry?

Wild Flour Bread in Occidental. The sticky buns are insane!

… a late night/after work meal?

NOPA. I used to go there all the time when I lived in San Francisco and I would get the Little Gem salad and any uni dish that Al put on the menu.

… a cup of coffee?

Acre Café in Petaluma

… a greasy spoon meal?

Tommy’s Joint in San Francisco. It’s amazing. It’s, like, $11 for more food than you could ever eat. Go for the oxtail on Sunday and the lamb shanks on Monday. It just so happens those are my days off.

… groceries?

Petaluma Market

… kitchen equipment?

TriMark Economy Restaurant Fixtures in San Francisco

… ice cream?

Three Twins Milk Coffee flavor

… chocolate?

Dandelion in San Francisco. Their whole program is very impressive. I love trying the different chocolates made from beans sourced from all over the world.

And, lastly but not leastly: What is your favorite local wine or beer for the season?

My favorite summer beer is HenHouse Brewing Company’s Saison. And A. Rafanelli Zinfandel is my go-to, always.

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