CORONA DEL MAR, Ca, April 23, 2011 — Chef John Cuevas is happy to be in a place where he can cook the way he likes to eat.
He spent much of his career in high-end hotels such as the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, St. Regis Resort in Dana Point, the Montage in Laguna Beach and most recently, the Montage in Beverly Hills, where he led the culinary team as opening executive chef. Although each provided excellent training under culinary masters, he took a year off after his last job at the Montage.
“I did some soul searching. What would make me happy?” Cuevas said.
Given the inevitable layers of administration and corporate policies, his menus choices were sometimes limited. He did some consulting and interviewed for a number of positions before meeting with Crow Bar owner Steve Geary.
While consulting, Cuevas often noticed equipment was not up to par, due to sloppy maintenance.
“The ovens needed to be calibrated and grills made to fire on all cylinders. Owners only wanted to hear the good news, not the bad,” Cuevas commented about his consulting experiences.
“They want you to help them, but they don’t really want to change.”
He also found a fish house using 90% frozen fish, and others buying their own groceries, instead of sourcing from purveyors, thinking they were saving money.
“You waste more money that way and lose consistency of product,” he added. “Some had no idea of the food cost they were running, or labor cost,” Geary was a regular at the Loft in the Montage Laguna where Cuevas cooked for several years.
“He always liked my food. He called, we met and talked a long time about food,” said Cuevas.
Cuevas took over the kitchen at the Crow Bar and is working on their next project, The Crow Burger Kitchen, located in nearby Newport Beach, due to open soon.
He said his food features layers of textures, not just crunch, but flavors. “All different levels–flavors, sweet, sour, fruit, savory–not just crispy/creamy.”
When asked about the blackened, double cut pork chop, which arrives with an apple turnover, Cuevas said, “You have crunchy in the turnover with crisp apples and salty cheese. Savory comes from the grill smoke and spice rub. The bone sticks out, giving the dish some height.”
He wants his food to be playful, not pretentious.
Tip: order the crow fries off the secret menu.
Cuevas’ ingredients are impeccable – locally sourced, and sustainably grown. A self-confessed coffee junkie, he uses LAMILL, a boutique roaster and restaurant in Silver Lake, at Crow Bar. “I like double espressos and lattes with two raw sugars,” he said.
Cuevas, 40, is secure enough in his own abilities. “I can cook the encyclopedia. I get satisfaction from building younger kids, not just me. It’s a team effort.”
Organic risotto | 6.5
Cured pepperoni, Danish havarti chees, garden oregano
Grilled stuffed dates | 9
Chorizo and Laura Chenel goat cheese filling, port syrup
Jar of heirloom tomatoes | 11
Avocado, charred citrus, smoked oil, baby parsley
Local Carlsbad mussels | 16
Roasted garlic, grilled country bread, herb aioli
Sweet corn agnolotti | 14
Burnt butter sauce, mizitha cheese
The Crow Burger | 8
Tallegio & gorgonzola, house made ketchup, wild rocket, rosemary bun
Duck fat fries, truffle aioli | 7
Sweet potato fries, cabrales aioli | 6
The Crow Bar and Kitchen
2325 E. Coast Hwy
Corona del Mar, CA 92625
Linda Mensinga was editor of Culinary Trends for 15 years, now a contributing writer. If you have a great restaurant, recipe or food you’d like to share please send an email. You can reach her at email@example.com or Linda@culinarytrends.net.
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