Chef Diaz
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Recipe by Ben Diaz, Executive Chef, McCormick & Schmicks at The Omni Hotel

My father was a chef. When I was about 15, he used to bring me into his kitchen to peel potatoes. I was like, why would anyone want to do this? Now I’m doing it. Now I realize, hey, I’m being paid to play with my food. Not everyone can make their artwork edible.

My biggest challenge now is pleasing everybody. Everybody has their own taste or flavors. Someone wants more salt and someone wants less. With steak, everyone has his or her own definition of medium rare. It can be hard.

But I love challenges. Each year I do 3-4 food competitions. In terms of the food shows, I’m on the back burner for Chopped on the Food Network. I am waiting for the next season. My favorite category in competitions is the Mystery Box. No one knows what ingredients will be in the box they get. You have about 10 minutes to prepare a menu from the random food you get and about an hour to prepare it. It forces you to think outside the box and it’s fun to see how people react to being on the spot. Once I got salmon and vanilla and I made a sorbet. It’s like peanut butter and jelly. You would never think those flavors would work but they do.

In my kitchen, I do exercises with the other chefs. We try to push ourselves. I’ll say, pick an ingredient. A chef will say spinach. I’ll ask another chef to pick an ingredient and she’ll say shrimp. If the experiment goes well, we’ll put it on the menu. Many times the ideas flop, but that’s how you succeed. You keep trying. You keep taking risks. Once we made ahi with poppy seeds and an orange glaze. It was amazing.

I eat, sleep, and breathe at the restaurant. But when I’m home, I find myself creating things with leftovers. Like Top Ramen with marinara sauce and croutons. Maybe with a piece of cheese on top. When my friends come over, I tend to make semi-homemade stuff so it’s as easy as possible. I know they have things like Doritos and Fudgecicles so I start there. Like I’ll dip chicken cutlets in a beaten egg and then coat it with crushed, Cool Ranch Doritos. You can bake it or deep fry it. I also love spicy English muffin pizzas with chorizo. It’s all about working with what you have. I love to learn new things. When that happens, it’s a good day.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 6 as an appetizer, 3 for lunch

  • 3 oz. BBQ sauce
  • 3 oz. Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. birds eye or jalapeno chili, minced
  • 6 Bays English Muffins, cut in half
  • ½ cup chorizo, cut into small dice (can substitute linguica or another hard sausage)
  • 1 cup pecorino cheese, grated

HOW TO DO IT

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Next, combine the BBQ Sauce, Thai sweet chili sauce and birds eye chili together to make the sauce. Coat each muffin half with the sauce and top with the chorizo, or sausage. Generously spread the pecorino cheese on top of each muffin half. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 7 minutes or until cheese is slightly browned. Remove from oven and enjoy.

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