Welcome to the “Trilogy’s Top Chefs” series where we highlight some of the incredibly talented chefs leading the culinary teams at the Trilogy communities. If you missed our first instillation of the series, click here to read about Chef Randy Lutz of Trilogy at The Vineyards.
In this second issue, we’ll get to know Chef Charles Weber of Trilogy at Monarch Dunes in Nipomo, California.
Chef Weber, a classically trained French chef, has worked in and helped to open restaurants across the country for more than 30 years. He ran the kitchens of some of Chicago’s best restaurants, including Michael Foley’s Printer’s Row and La Tour in the Park Hyatt Chicago, where he raised the ratings from three to four Mobil stars. He opened the first Park Avenue Café outside of New York City and was the executive chef at Grenadiers in Milwaukee, also a Mobil four-star restaurant. He was awarded Chef of the Year for the Chicago area by the National Executive Chefs Association.
Chef Weber then headed west to California, bringing his culinary talent to the classic French brasserie Left Bank Restaurant in Pleasant Hill. From there, he started Zuzu in Napa Valley with a friend. After three years at Zuzu, Chef Weber moved back to Illinois, where he helped a friend launch another restaurant. But he missed California’s wine country, so when an opportunity arose in the small but growing town of Nipomo, nestled between the vineyards of the Santa Ynez and Edna valleys, he knew that it was time to return to California. Chef Weber has been Executive Chef of Adelina’s Bistro of Trilogy at Monarch Dunes in Nipomo ever since – and the Trilogy at Monarch Dunes members are thrilled to have him here.
Get to know more about Chef Charles Weber through our “Ten Questions for the Chef” segment, below.
1. When did you first discover your passion for food?
My parents gardened, and they often cooked what they grew. My dad made sparkling cider and wine from concord grapes that he grew when we lived in Wisconsin. This influenced me at a young age. I cooked all through high school. I enjoyed cooking; it inspired me.
2. How would you describe your cooking style?
My cooking style has evolved over the years. It is based upon seasonal ingredients, freshness, healthy preparations, flavor boosters, and tradition. (Scroll through the images below to see some of the Chef’s dishes from various member events: Seared Ahi, Alsacian Tartlette, Quail Dumpling with Pinot Stewed Plums, Kobe Skirt Steak with Porcini Butter.)
3. Which chefs have inspired you the most during your career?
I have been inspired by several chefs with whom I have worked over the years. My apprenticeship under Chef Knut Apitz at Grenadier’s in Milwaukee in the early 1980’s was extremely influential on my growth as a chef. Michael Foley at Printer’s Row in Chicago and David Burke and the New York Restaurant Group have all inspired me in different ways. Extensive travel and dining at top restaurants have also helped to inspire my career.
4. What are your favorite ingredients to work with?
I enjoy cooking with seafood. There are so many varieties, so many options of techniques to use, so many flavors and textures. (Pictured to the right, Chef Charles visits an abalone farm to get the freshest ingredients for the New Year’s Eve dinner at Adelina’s Bistro.)
I have also recently enjoyed working with fresh, seasonal vegetables more and more. I’ve been experimenting with vegetables in new and different ways, which has been fun.
5. What is your favorite tool or piece of equipment in your kitchen?
There are so many different gadgets and tools for different kitchen tasks. The tools that I favor, however, are those that I use every day – specifically, high-quality knives, I have several different types and no favorites, as the important thing is to have the right knife for the right job. A Japanese mandolin is a very useful daily tool as well.
6. If you could have any meal prepared for you tonight, by any chef in the world, what meal would you choose, and who would prepare it?
The chef would be Ferran Adria from El Bulli in Spain. I believe he is one of the most influential chefs of the last decade. I was never able to eat in his restaurant, and I believe it is now closed for good. I would love for him to prepare his specialties – the dishes for which he is famous.
7. What is your favorite meal to prepare when you’re not at work?
When I am not working and I want to cook, I will usually throw something nice on the grill – perhaps meat or fish that I have marinated with herbs and spices for a few hours. I like to grill vegetables, as well. I experiment quite a lot with grill cookery.
8. Since many of our Trilogy members love to pair wine with their favorite meals, what are some wonderful wines that you love to drink with dinner?
I always like to try something new with wines. I very rarely buy multiple bottles of a particular wine because I enjoy trying something new and different. When I want to drink a white, I like to try different varietals like Albarino, Verdejo, Roussanne, etc. I prefer drinkable reds, soft tannins with fruit and complexity. This includes Pinot Noirs, Grenaches, Rhone Blends, etc. When it comes to pairing food and wine, select a wine you like and a dish you like, and not too much can go wrong from there.
9. What is the best piece of advice you would give to aspiring home chefs who are nervous about stretching out of their cooking comfort zone?
Use a cookbook recipe as a guide, but don’t feel like you have to follow it exactly if you don’t want to. Add something extra or something different that you like to make it your own. Experiment and learn as you go. Find a picture of a great looking dish in a magazine and try to recreate it. Don’t use a recipe; use your instinct. Don’t put pressure on yourself; instead, have fun with it. Remember, you’re not cooking for the president.
10. Do you have a favorite event that you’ve hosted at Trilogy at Monarch Dunes in the last year?
I don’t necessarily have a favorite, but the Cooking Classes and Wine Dinners (pictured below) challenge me to raise the bar every time. There is a certain amount of satisfaction and reward in that. After each event, the members tell me it was the best one yet. It’s a great challenge to see how long I can continue that trend.
Thank you to Chef Charles Weber for sharing a bit about his kitchen and his culinary perspective.
Watch for the next article in the “Trilogy’s Top Chefs” series, which will be published later this season!