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Meet Evan Marks, First in Our New Series of "Domestic Chefs"

Posted by John Arlotta on

It takes years, smarts, experience, commitment, and passion to earn the distinguished title of "Chef".  While the "Executive Chef" (Chef de Cuisine, Head Chef) is the pinnacle of a Cook's journey, there are other professional culinary experts who have their essential role:

  • Sous Chef (Second Chef, Under Chef)
  • Senior Chef (Chef de Partie, Station Chef)
  • Pastry Chef (Patissier)
  • Sauce Chef (Saucier, Saute Chef)
  • Fish Chef (Poissonier)
  • Vegetable Chef (Entremetier)

But I believe there is one missing. One that we all know or have met in our lifetime of love for food, one who's only compensation comes in the form of smiles: "The Domestic Chef".

We are very proud to introduce our dear friend and neighbor, Evan Marks. Here is his story:

My name is Evan Marks, I live at the East End of Long Island in New York and I have been standing in front of a stove or with a knife in my hand at one time or another nearly every day for essentially the last 53 years.

I started my journey at age 8 working through the basic breakfast dishes of eggs, omelettes, pancakes and the like. In my early teens I began working as a busboy and took particular interest in what was happening in the kitchen where I was exposed to endless new dishes to experiment with at home. I later worked in Italian and French restaurants where as a waiter I always made friends with the chef and kitchen staff plying them for recipes and tips.

By the time I was a young man, I had a relatively broad repertoire of American, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern dishes with minor explorations into various popular Asian cuisines (especially Thai which I tried for the first time in New York when I was 13). Those who know me know I am obsessed with ingredients, shopping for them, and taking those special, fresh ingredients and transforming them into epicurean experiences that often exceed that which can be obtained in restaurants.

At some point I realized that I could obtain ingredients better than or fresher than those used in most restaurants and, more importantly, that I could fuss over my small number of dishes with more care and love than could ever be done in a restaurant kitchen working in large numbers. I also learned that good ingredients combined with a little experience will trump poor ingredients in the hands of an experienced cook. In the end, the ingredients are what makes the difference. In fact when I am marketing, I decide on what’s for lunch or dinner based on what looks good or special. Sometimes it’s a perfectly young and fresh offering of fava beans that inspires. Other times, a perfectly marbled porterhouse with a giant filet sets the agenda. Using what is special or in peak season to drive your cooking provides a wonderful freedom that I hope other cooks can harness to inspire their creativity.

My pantry is admittedly out of control. I have a selection of spices, dry goods, sauces, condiments that allow me to put out an almost endless supply of dishes inspired by the kitchens from around the world. Some of the most utilized staples in my kitchen are my oils and vinegars which I use almost daily. I became familiar with Arlotta oils and vinegars over a decade ago while frequenting the farmers markets near where I live. These days my oil and vinegar department always has a few of these items which make a difference for me.

I want to focus on three of these. First of these is the Blood Orange infused olive oil. There are occasions where I am looking for a citrusy sweet note which this oil provides. I think it pairs well with bitter greens in salads. Think endive, radicchio, or arugula, and especially where nuts like walnuts are used. Again the bitterness of walnuts and the sweetness of the blood orange flavor work well together. This dressing is amplified with one of my favorite Arlotta vinegars, the Lambrusco. The Lambrusco vinegar is mild in its acidity and delicately sweet. Paired with the Blood Orange oil for the applications above is a winner. I like to add a touch of dijon mustard , minced shallot along with the salt and pepper  to make a truly great dressing again especially in applications where bitter greens are used. I also use the lemon or blood orange olive oil in the making of olive oil cake depending if I am going for lemon or orange flavor variants. 

Finally, I tried the Arlotta Balsamic Vinegar and like its viscosity and flavor. However when I tried the fig Balsamic, I knew found another one of those special ingredients I can use as a condiment or drizzle to elevate a grilled vegetable or a creamy burrata.  I add a small amount to my roasted pepper marinade. When making some tomato based sauces, occasionally I like to add either Saba, an Italian grape must that tastes of prunes, or a dash of the fig balsamic to add a figgy sweetness note to the sauce. Oil and vinegar are among the most used members of our culinary arsenal. These products from Arlotta are a great addition to any well equipped pantry. 

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