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April, 2009

Chef Joseph Martin

By Dennis Linden

On April 13th, our featured Guest Chef will be a bit preoccupied, serving a party of 56,000 guests.

Chef Joseph Martin
It’s the day that Chef Joseph Martin, Executive Chef at Dodger Stadium, and his Levy Restaurants culinary team will begin another seven month culinary challenge starting with playing food service hosts to a maximum capacity crowd on the opening day of the major league baseball season. Like the athletes playing on the stadium’s field, Chef Joseph’s crew is also a group of culinary professionals in their third season working together as a cohesive team. Until the baseball season ends in early October, Chef Joseph will be focused on the culinary needs of the stadium’s average attendance of 46,056 guests who will attend each of the 81 home games, if the 2008 attendance record repeats itself. So, a month before this talented chef became immersed in the rigors of his upcoming season, we invited Joseph to come up with a recipe for this article using some of the harvests of spring. The chef agreed, saying that our recipe challenge would be a part of his personal spring training and the resulting dish is definitely a home run.

Chef Joseph’s Sea Bass with Rock Shrimp Salsa is a visual celebration of colorful and distinct tasting ingredients that parade on the palate sometimes together, sometimes separately, but always in balance, no matter the seemingly endless flavor combinations. The simplicity of the seared Sea Bass plays the perfect supporting role to the obvious celebrity of the plate, the Rock Shrimp Salsa. Actually, this versatile salsa recipe would work well with any kind fish or even a boneless, skinless chicken breast. In choosing all seafood ingredients, especially the bass and shrimp called for in Chef Joseph’s recipe, the chef suggests using the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list as a guide to help ensure the continued sustainability of all ocean fisheries.

Here are a few cooking tips to ensure maximum enjoyment of this complex sauce. While the ingredients should not be minced so small that their vibrant colors are muted, the flavor key is a medium fine dice technique. Remember, this is a salsa, aka a condiment, not a rough chopped topping. Also, choose a very ripe pineapple so that its fruity sweetness stands out in the face of the strong competition coming from the cilantro, red onion, bell peppers and mint in the recipe. The amount of jalapeño called for in Joseph’s recipe will give the mixture a mild heat; add more to increase this spiciness to your taste. While the salsa can be prepared up to two days in advance and refrigerated, be sure to serve it at room temperature. Not only will a chilled salsa be far less flavorful, the cold temperature would clash with the fish fillet or chicken breast coming from the searing pan.

As a child, Chef Joseph had a unique exposure to the culinary arts from the business side of the kitchen. His grandfather, being one of the top producers and sellers of menus in the 70’s and 80’s, would take Joseph on his rounds to learn about the family’s business. As a young boy, he would eat in the kitchens of the most exclusive clubs and restaurants in the Los Angeles area with the executive chefs and owners. They would not eat at a table, but rather on milk crates that the chefs would set up for all three of them to taste dishes. “I still remember the smells of those kitchens and, if not the details, the conversations between my grandfather and the chefs as they discussed the description of the food or dish for a new menu. Later, when I was about to enter the work force, I realized that food was what I was most passionate about. As fate would have it, I had the opportunity to work and learn in the kitchens of those very same chefs I had visited as a child.”

As one can imagine, managing the kitchens of a large venue like Dodger Stadium requires a much different approach than that of a chef cooking in even the largest of restaurants. The stadium has four levels of service: General Concession kiosks located throughout the arena, an international Food Court Pavilion, the Loge Terrace hosts private parties of fifty to four hundred in a sports bar atmosphere, and the exclusive Stadium Club offers the elegance of white tablecloth dining where members can indulge in first class fare. Each of these venues must operate at a very high speed of production and efficiency for approximately four hours a day, for maybe three or four days in a row, then go dark for sometimes more than a week before having to gear up all over again for the next series of home games.

“We have a close relationship with Melissa’s food service staff; if we need special items for a certain menu or research on a specific item, they take care of it for us. They will also let us know if there are any new items that might be a good fit for the stadium. It gets going pretty fast and furious around here during the season, so it’s important that our fresh ingredient supplier be almost one step ahead of our needs. What we really do here is cater eighty-one gala grand openings in the span of 200 days,” explained the chef, “and I love it.”

Chef Joseph admits that he is living his dream as a culinary professional and a lifelong Dodger fan growing up in Southern California. “Though it’s been three years since I started here, I still get a thrill in my stomach each time I come through the gates of the stadium, again realizing that I am actually on my way to work,” admitted the chef. “In fact, these past three years have been filled with good fortune; I got married, we had our first child and I got the professional position of a lifetime!”

Sea Bass with Rock Shrimp Salsa

Serves: 4 [plus plenty of salsa for another dish]
Sea Bass with Rock Shrimp Salsa
Ingredients:
Fish 4 sea bass fillets (8 oz. each)
2 organic lemons (halved horizontally and grilled)
Several Cilantro sprigs (garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. extra virgin olive oil
Salsa (makes approx. 3 cups)
8 oz. rock shrimp, poached and chilled
1 baby cucumber, diced ¼” pieces
2 oz. organic red bell pepper, diced ¼” pieces
2 oz. organic orange bell pepper, diced ¼” pieces
4 oz. organic red onion, diced ¼” pieces
1 Organic Shallot, minced
2 oz. Cilantro, finely chopped
2 oz. fresh mint, julienned
2 organic roma tomatoes, diced ¼” pieces
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, finely chopped**
6 oz. baby pineapple, diced ¼” pieces**
1 oz.lime juice

Preparation Salsa :
Combine all ingredients. Can be made up to two days in advance.

Bass:
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat oil in sauté pan until it begins to smoke, sear fillets on both sides for about 2-3 minutes.

Plating
Place fillet in center of plate. Top with salsa. Place grilled lemon to one side of the fish. Garnish with cilantro springs. Drizzle olive oil around the plate. Serve.