mind that someone or something worked extremely hard
to get that ingredient to your plate, so I always try to allow
ingredients to speak for themselves.
Has a specific person influenced you?
Three executive chefs I have worked under, Rigoberto Lemus,
Andrew Edwards and Alex Reyes (in no specific order) have
really molded me into what I am today. In my younger years,
I was a fireball. I was always the first one in and last one
out. Over time they showed me how to manage my time and
abilities to get things done effectively and efficiently. They
told me if I really wanted to become successful I needed to
learn the business side of things. It’s one thing to be able to
cook amazing food, but the key is to be able to do that and
know your numbers and operation. At the end of the day, if
you can’t make smart business decisions, then that amazing
dish you cooked cannot take you to the next level.
What is the most difficult part about being a chef and
what is the most rewarding?
The hardest thing about being a chef is the pressure to
excel and be on top of your game every day. Chefs don’t
get to have a bad day. If I have a bad day then it will affect
my entire staff and that’s not fair to them. They work just
as hard and just as long as I do. If I can’t keep a smile on
my face and be cool, calm and collected, how can I expect
the same from them? Sometimes it’s hard to balance the
work and home life, especially when I have an amazing
wife and beautiful 9-month-old daughter. It’s hard on
them, too, but I know they are proud. The most rewarding
aspect is the feeling of accomplishment knowing you did
your best and made an impact in someone’s life. I’ve been
a part of important life events, from creating a memorable
experience for someone’s wedding day, to serving a dish
that will keep people intrigued and talking about it
for years to come.
How would you describe your culinary style?
My culinary style is simplistic yet inventive. There are so
many ingredients out there that are great to work with. With
that in mind, every dish doesn’t have to be complicated.
Sometimes a simple roasted chicken with a pan jus and
garlic mashed potatoes is just what you need. Start with a
great chicken that is fresh, add natural items and use good
technique. Your result will be something that is full of flavor
and ready to impress.
Another signature dish—I make a compressed watermelon
rolled in sesame seeds and seared with liquid nitrogen. It looks
just like tuna, so I call it vegan tuna. It’s simple, yet inventive.
What are some of the challenges of coming up with new
One of the biggest challenges of coming up with new menu
items is perfecting them. Coming up with ideas takes time,
but once you have an idea the hard part is creating and
perfecting the dish. There are many ideas that sound great
on paper, but when making them you realize something is
The Don CeSar
missing, or too much is there. You have to ensure that you are
pleasing your clientele and not yourself. I wish I could write
menus just for me but that’s the challenge and mark of a
How long does it take you to perfect a dish?
You have to start with design, then come up with solid ideas,
write them down and make sure they read as to what you’re
envisioning. You must cook each item and write recipes that
can be produced by everyone on staff. Finally, you must take
photos of each dish to ensure they are plated the same way
Can you describe the Maritana Grille and Rowe Bar
restaurants/menus for us?
Currently I am working at revamping all the menus
here at The Don. I want to make sure what I present is a
representation of myself and the amazing team around me.
Once they are completed and rolled out by the end of the
year, I can go about showing them off.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 localsDISH 17