Tag Archives: Four Seasons

i8tonite with Four Seasons Chef Emmanuel Calderon & Ceviche Tostadas Recipe

The food world has many captivating stories, such as Kim Sunee’s Trail of Crumbs: The Hunger for Food, Love, and a Search for Home, Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater by former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, and Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. All feature great storytelling narratives detailing how food played an important part of their lives. However, Executive Sous Chef at the Four Seasons Santa Barbara Emmanuel Calderon is not only fascinating, but humble as well. Here’s his story.

When I first met Calderon, he was the banquet chef to Executive Chef Mel Mecinas at Four Seasons at Troon Nort, Scottsdale. I had been writing two Arizona Latino stories – one on Mecinas, who had won an Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame award as best chef, and his new restaurant sous chef Sammy Sanz, who was, at the time, the youngest female sous chef working in a Four Seasons in North America. To me, they are both interesting accounts about the rise of a Mexican-born man becoming one of the top chefs in Phoenix, and with Sanz, how a woman, born in Mexico as well, rose to the top of a luxury hotelier while working with two of the city’s best cooks: Chef Beau MacMillian at Sanctuary and Virtu’s Gio Osso, before heading to work with Mecinas.

Mecinas said to me, “I want you to do a story on Emmanuel. He is like a son to me. One day, he will be a great chef.” Of course, I agreed. However, things happen, Mecinas went on to a new position at a private club after more than two decades working for Four Seasons, and Calderon became the executive sous chef at the luxury hotel company’s Santa Barbara property, working at the breathtaking Bella Vista, helmed by Italian-born talented chef Marco Rossati.

Having just turned 30 last year, he has already received an award for Top Ten Chefs Under the Age of 30 while working for the Four Seasons Mexico. He’s also worked in the kitchens of Four Seasons Punta Mita, Scottsdale, Dallas, and many other of hotels, as well as the cruise line Holland America, which took him to Italy, Philippines, and throughout the Mediterranean. Through these excursions abroad from his homeland, it taught him different flavors and techniques. Not bad for a guy who was born in the tourist city of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula and wasn’t planning on becoming a chef.

“I wanted to eat all the time,” says Calderon. “I think this has not changed at all. As a kid, I spent most of the time waiting for my grandmother and mom (serving up) the food.”

Now , as Calderon is an adult, we have the pleasure of eating his well-rounded dishes and get to explore the world through his global experiences.

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
This year will be 14 years since I start cooking – but to be honest…not sure If I should consider the first couple of years, when I was just trying.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love seafood, I find it challenging and interesting to cook, plus reminds me: respect to the ocean.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Tortillas, habanero chili, limes, shrimp…………Negra modelo .

What do you cook at home?
On my days off, I like to cook easy but slow cooking food that allows me to do laundry and have food for a week…cochinita pibil, chicken soup, marinara sauce….this will help me to make a lot of turns up during the week!!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I really love when customers respect and make an effort to understand the menu and let themselves be surprised.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Modifications…I understand allergies but nowadays, you have people allergic to seafood that can eat lobster!! Gf that can eat pasta or vegans that eat FISH!!!!!

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer

Your favorite cookbook author?
Marco Pierre White

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef Knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Chilies of all kinds

Your least favorite ingredient?
I haven’t met him yet!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
I think while you are in the kitchen everything is fun…even pastry shop, but my least favorite thing to do is office work!! It’s the longest hour of my day…

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mexican…..or more specific Yucatecan.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Corn…. My mom sells a beautiful corn on the cob and “esquites” in Cancun

Chef you most admire?
This one is difficult. Since I started, I had been having a model to follow – I’m used to admiring to the person who share his knowledge and passion. I still remember the name of my first Chef de Partie….. But If I need to say a famous chef, it must be Marco Pierre White and a Mexican – Carlos Juan Gaytan.

Food you like the most to eat?
I love street food like taco stands, pho places, and when in Mexico you find everything in the street nothing fancy. I found a tasty relaxation after work…

Food you dislike the most?
As a cook, it is difficult to me to dislike something, but if I think as a kid, I don’t like fish soup……something that my mom used to make me when I was a kid… It was a soup made just with the head of the fish…I love my mom, though.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos…yet

Ceviche Tostadas Recipe

1# Clean Fish Fillet (could be any kind of fish; the least fatty fish the best)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 habanero chili
2 roma tomatoes
1 avocado
1 small size red onion
8 Limes
1 orange
½ bunch fresh cilantro
8 corn tortillas

Get 3 ea 5 oz clean fillets, skin off, at your local market.
Dice the fish in medium size dice. Marinate with lime juice salt, pepper, and oregano.
In a dry hot pan, put 1 habanero chili to literally get burned – be careful and make sure you have ventilation.
Once the chili is burned in a black color, squeeze the juice of 1 orange and blend, add mix to the fish.
Small Dice ½ red onion and add to the fish.
Keep at the fridge for 20 min.
While the fish is in the fridge, small dice roma tomatoes, small size medium avocado, and chopped fresh cilantro and reserve.
Also, I love to do oven baked tortillas instead of using commercial tortilla chips or tostadas. It is more healthy and traditional, too – we used to cook it in a comal until they get crunchy.

Put your oven as high as you can then place whole corn tortillas in a sheet pan. Bake between 7 to 10 min, depending your oven, until they are firm and crisp.

At this moment, the fish should be ready. The fish should have a white color now. Add the tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro. With the help of a kitchen spoon, mix all together – add more salt to taste, and enjoy!!!
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Chef Mel Mecinas: Executive Chef, Four Seasons Scottsdale and Chicken Posole, Oaxacan-style

Chef MelFour Seasons Executive Chef Mel (full name Meliton) Mecina’s story is the stuff of American dreams. Currently, overseeing the five kitchens of the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North and its culinary staff, Mecinas is a self-taught chef. He unwittingly followed in the footsteps of many well-known kitchen individuals who never attended a formal cooking school; internationally known chefs such as LA’s Suzanne Goin (Lucques, AOC), Tom Colicchio (Craft, judge on “Top Chef”), and British cooking phenomenon Jamie Oliver and the late Charlie Trotter.

Talavera. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons.
Talavera. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons.

In 1987, an 18-year-old Mecinas followed his father from Oaxacaand worked in the prep area of a Los Angeles chain restaurant, washing dishes.  Graduating to kitchen prep (i.e. chopping lettuce) after several years, Mecinas applied for a kitchen position at famed chef’s Joachim Spilchal’s Patina prior to opening. It was paying out another fifty cents more per hour than his current employment.

After being hired, Mecinas quickly realized his personal desire to beTomato Salad a chef, not just another worker chopping mise-en-place. And so, he pursued the calling with vigor under the tutelage of Splichal, known as one of North America’s great French culinary technicians.  Mecinas apprenticed and soaked up food information. He was so eager to learn the craft of cookery that Mecinas often came to work two to three hours ahead of schedule, getting his station in order. Once he finished, he would watch and learn from other chefs in Splichal’s kitchen as well.

Proof. Photo courtesy of Four Seasons.

It was truly an auspicious start and for almost a decade Patina taught him well. Other opportunities began to arise for Mecinas which included the Four Seasons. He started working with the luxury hotelier in Los Angeles and eventually headed to Santa Barbara.  It was at the latter where Mecinas cooked one of the courses for the late Julia Child on her 90th birthday, a very special career moment.

TalaveraOver the past nine years, Mecinas has become the culinary spokesperson for Four Seasons Resorts Scottsdale at Troon North. It’s difficult for even the most accomplished chefs to highlight one gastronomic character of their restaurant. With finesse, Mecinas manages to discuss several epicurean personalities from an al fresco poolside dining stage, a casual American fare complete with pretzel knots to a signature steakhouse that brings in the area’s residents. His cooking and affable personality are highlighted in food stories from the Arizona Republic,  Phoenix New Times and Phoenix Magazine. Lastly, in August, he returned from a whirlwind media tour cooking in New York City and at the famed James Beard House. Mecinas kitchen skills are not only a showcase for the resort but also for Phoenix’s food scene.  As Mecinas star gains momentum, so will Arizona on our nation’s stage about great food.

Chef’s Questionnaire: 

PRINT -- USE Proof! (183 of 305)How long have you been cooking? 28 Years.

What is your favorite food to cook? Gnocchi, you can add almost any herb or spice to it – I love that it is a blank canvas.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? OJ, haricot vert, pickles, Greek yogurt, tortillas, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, garlic — all the items needed to spice up a dish.

Image result for greek yogurt

What do you cook at home? Everything! I am not a chef who only cooks at work. I love to cook everything even when I am home with my family. I’m in the kitchen, and my wife does all the things around the house —  I am so thankful for that type of teamwork. I wouldn’t be successful without her.

For breakfast, I’ll make chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, enfrijoladas or French toast, but I’ll admit that when I’m tired, the family eats cereal!

I’ve made lunch for my son since first grade, so I still love to do that. It has sentimental value to me.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? I love when guests come in the door excited to try something new and have an open mind to their dining experience. When guests order our 6-course “Taste of Talavera,” and say, “I’ll let the chef decide what I eat tonight” – that is what I love.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? Customers are all unique and have different needs and expectations, which I always strive to exceed. It is disappointing when guests feel like we did not try to give them the best dining experience. A lot of hard work and passion goes into each dish and sometimes guests don’t see that. But it does provide good motivation – we just try harder next time!

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?  Pyrex

Beer, wine or cocktail?  Most of the time, I drink wine. Every now and again, I drink a Negroni.

Your favorite cookbook author? Michel Bras from Laguiole, France.

 

Your favorite kitchen tool?  A sharp knife and my heart (you have to cook with your heart).

Your favorite ingredient? Salt (if the food has no salt there is often no flavor) – it is a delicate balance.

Your least favorite ingredient? Turmeric.

 Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Sit in my office doing office work. I want to be on my feet in the kitchen with my team.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Besides Mexican, I love Spanish, French, Italian and anything with Asian flavor.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu?  All of it!

Favorite vegetable?  Avocado.

Chef you most admire?  Charlie Trotter.

Food you like the most to eat?  Salami, cheese, olives – I prefer salty and savory over sweet.

Food you dislike the most?  Brain (Mostly used in tacos, luckily very few places use it!)

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None, which is rare among chefs these days! I would like to get one in the future, but I’ll have to personally design it.

Mel Mecina’s Chicken Pozole, Oaxacan Style Yield: 8 servings

 Ingredients:

  • 4  Large diced chicken breast
  • 2 lbs tomatoes
  • 1 quart of water
  • ½ medium white onion
  • 3 each of dried gualillo chiles
  • 5 each of chile de arbol,  toasted
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 3 cups hominy
  • 2 cups green cabbage, finely julienne
  • 2 cups thinly slice radish
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 cup minced red onions
  • 2 limes cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • Salt and Pepper

 Broth. Put the tomatoes, seeded guajillo and chile de arbol into sauce pot with some water to cover. Cook over medium heat until soft. Transfer to a blender. Add the onions and garlic. Puree to a textured sauce.

 Chicken. Heat the oil in a large sauce pot. Add the chicken and sear for a few minutes. Add the tomato-chile puree and the remaining water. Bring to a boil. Add the hominy. Season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Serving. Pozole is a traditional Mexican dish that will be a showcase on any festive occasion. The recipe and ingredients differ according to Mexican regions and states. The garnish might be the same as traditional condiments served on the side: julienned cabbage, radishes, cilantro, onions, and lime.

The End. Go Eat.