Food & Drink Caught by the Chef. COOKED BY THE CHEF. Chef Greg from Seaport Bistro at the Holiday Inn Resort INTERVIEWED BY ANGELA PUCHALA Fresh seafood and international flavors are specialties of this popular local chef, who has a wide cooking background Where did you grow up? I grew up in Evanston, Illinois, north of Chicago, where I attended culinary school. I worked on the Cayman Islands for about a year after graduating. On the Cayman Islands, I was able to utilize the fresh seafood and produce, especially conch, tomatoes, peppers and onions, to cook island inspired dishes. Currently on the Seaport Bistro menu are the conch fritters, which were inspired by my time spent there. What brought you to Catalina Island? My wife was born on Catalina Island. We met in San Diego when I was a chef at the Sheraton. We moved to Catalina Island and have enjoyed living and raising our family here for over 19 years. When did you know you wanted to be a chef? I have been cooking since eight years old and by the time I was 11 I had worked in two restaurants. I have always been inspired by different flavors. I got a job in Chicago working for a chef who graduated from the same Culinary Institute where I was for about two years before going to the Cayman Islands. He was the one who inspired me to go to chef school. He always told me I had the talent. I am now a certified Chef with the Culinary Institute of America, New York. How would you describe your style of cooking? This menu is inspired by seaports I have worked in or visited from around the world such as paella from Spain, tagine from Turkey and Morocco, and the conch from Cayman Islands. I am proud of the international flavors I bring to my menu and invite both visitors and locals to try something new. What is one of your favorite ingredients to use in your dishes and why? One of my cooking philosophies is fresh and clean. I grow all of my own herbs for the restaurant and use a lot of citrus zest. Whenever possible, I like to use fresh seafood I catch off the coast of Catalina. I like the way saffron compliments seafood, so I create a special saffron seafood dish for Avalon’s Restaurant Week once a year. What is your favorite tool to work with in the kitchen besides a knife? It is hard to choose just one. I make my dishes and desserts from scratch, so my ice cream maker, pasta maker and my dice machine are huge time savers for me. What is your favorite dish to cook? Even though I have won six chicken cook- offs on the Island, my favorite dishes to cook are duck and lamb. I run both as specials on the Seaport menu. I use the whole duck. Who is your inspiration in the cooking world? My chefs and instructors from school. They were our mentors who were great chefs who wanted to share their passion for food and cooking. I now teach a few cooking classes on the Island to share my inspiration. What do you love most about your job? Making people happy. The biggest reward is people enjoying the food I made. I love to see when people come back because they appreciated their meal. What advice do you have for aspiring chefs? Go to chef school. Learn the basics. Work in different restaurants, with different chefs and really figure out what your cooking niche is, and what you’re good at. 48 CATALINA EXPRESS MAGAZINE 2018-2019