John Cox is the executive chef at the highly acclaimed Sierra Mar restaurant at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California. Inspired by his upbringing in northern New Mexico, Chef Cox believes in blending bold, primal flavors along with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and his passion can be experienced each night at Sierra Mar. Chef Cox’s start at Sierra Mar in July 2014 marks a return to Big Sur, where he began his professional career in 2005, rising to the position of chef de cuisine after having trained at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt. His initial success in Big Sur landed him in Hawaii where he spent time immersing himself in island cuisine. From there, Chef Cox had a stint in New Mexico before serving as the corporate chef for Noble House Hotels, where he was responsible for revitalizing the menu concepts for its group of restaurants. Most recently, Chef Cox served as executive chef at the celebrated Carmel, California restaurants, Casanova and La Bicyclette, where he initiated dynamic, daily changing menus focused around locally-sourced ingredients. The new concept and menus were wildly successful and soon earned recognition as some of the finest in Carmel by publications ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle to Food and Wine magazine.
The Taste and Savor Questionnaire - Chefs
Describe your cooking philosophy in one sentence: I use ingredients from the Big Sur Coast to craft a culinary adventure encompassing the history, culture and environment, that can only be found here at Post Ranch.
What is your earliest food memory? When I was twelve I got my first job as a paperboy for the local newspaper. I remember saving up my small paychecks until I had enough to afford dinner at one of the restaurants in Santa Fe. I would clip out articles and making lists of places I wanted to try. Once I had saved enough I would either take the bus or get an older friend to drive. Since we couldn’t drink, and usually just ordered appetizers, it wasn’t very expensive. I think that is why I am always so happy to see young people dining at Sierra Mar; it takes me back to a time when everything was very new and exciting.
Who is or was your biggest culinary influence? Growing up in Northern New Mexico there were many strong influences on my culinary style. I can’t point to one person; rather I remember the food culture in general. Before micro-regional cooking became trendy, New Mexico was fully embracing local farms, particularly heirloom chiles. The idea of embracing local ingredients and reflecting terroir has stayed with me since my childhood. Even today, I don’t want to create a dish simply for the sake of making something beautiful and flavorful, I want it to be a reflection of place, something that exists and is enjoyed only at that perfect moment.
Name your favorite food city and why. Big Sur… Is Big Sur a city? I have had the unique opportunity to work and cook across the country- from Hawaii to Vermont, Key West, San Diego, Seattle and many spots in between. There are so many incredible food cities, each with their unique style, but for me, Big Sur is the perfect convergence of coast and mountains. If you think of a chef’s environment as their artistic palate- then Big Sur is the perfect median for the kind of cooking and food that I love. Big Sur is not about subtlety or nuance- it is about extremes and contrasting elements, it is an environment that is so raw and beautiful that it evokes strong emotions.
What food item or dish is your guilty pleasure? Lots of Red and Green Chile. There is nothing better than perfectly roasted chile rellenos in Autumn, covered in Red and Green chile. Sadly that is something I can only experience when I travel back home.
After a long day, do you prefer wine, beer or a cocktail? Being surrounded by so many incredible vineyards I tend to lean more in the wine direction. There has been a real renaissance in the local wine industry and it seems like tasting rooms are popping up all over the Central Coast. Just like my own culinary philosophy, I appreciate the way that a great winemaker can concentrate the terroir of their vineyard into their own creative expression.
What is your ultimate day off meal? There is nothing better than inviting over some friends, firing up the barbecue and enjoy a simple meal with some great wine and cheese. (Preferably with minimal pot and pan use to facilitate cleaning up later!)
Join Chef John Cox - March 5-8, 2015 #TasteandSavor2015 at The Broadmoor!