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Savoring a victory in Morro Bay

October’s wine and cuisine extravaganza Savor the Central Coast may be a sated memory for most, but for executive chefs Neil Smith and Kirk Sowell, their 15 minutes of fame demonstrated to Sunset magazine’s staff and readers there is more than scrumptious fish and chips in Morro Bay.

Windows on the Water’s chef Smith and Frankie and Lola’s chef Sowell were selected to compete in the Battle of the Bay cooking demonstration at San Margarita Ranch. About 200 foodies watched as their edible art was detailed on two huge video walls.

“The organizers did their homework and required certain ingredients produced around Morro Bay,” Smith said.

“We had 15 minutes and had to include avocados, abalone, Morro Bay black cod and oysters, blood oranges and melons.”

Sunset Editor-in-Chief Katie Tamony was the judge. She confirmed the talents of Smith and Sowell “exceeded her expectations (presenting) eight amazing dishes.” She was “overwhelmed by the tasting challenge.”

Smith said he will never forget Tamony’s comment that his four-course presentation was better than most she’d seen in Sunset’s test kitchens. And although the choice was difficult, Tamony announced Smith’s black cod with heirloom tomatoes “sold it for me.”

“It was awesome,” he said. “A good win for me and the biggest thing I’ve been involved in.”

Smith says he’s always been artistic.

“I like to use local, sustainable ingredients I find at farmers markets and from our fishermen. I want to see the products I’m going to serve, and I enjoy putting money back into the local economy.”

Windows owner Stan Trapp said, “If he doesn’t like the presentation, he won’t serve it.”

Smith has been cooking since age 14. Starting in an oriental kitchen, he’s supervised a large corporate sports bar, been sous chef for Windows on the Water and the Gardens of Avila restaurant at the Sycamore Mineral Springs resort, and partnered in a local catering company.

Trapp recruited him to return to Windows on the Water as executive chef. He supervises 11 crew members, including sous chef Darrel Janes and pastry chef Thomas Drahos.

“We prepare everything from scratch,” he said, including sorbet and ice cream. “The menu changes daily.”

Manager Paul Merkle, sommelier Chris Battles and Smith continue to design locally popular and pocketbook-friendly bar promotions.

These include Tuesday Oyster Night and Wednesday Slider Night, offering grass-fed beef trimmed from New York, fillet and rib-eye cuts. They just launched Thursday Tequila and Taco Night.

Trapp agreed with Tamony that Savor the Central Coast brought to light the area’s communities and lifestyle.

Savor will return in October 2011. Check out www.savorcentralcoast.com.

­Reach Judy Salamacha at 801-1422 or jsalamacha@yahoo.com.

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