Executive Chef Simon Dolinky
Famed for his fun-loving New American menu and near-obsession with local ingredients, the well-traveled and highly regarded Simon Dolinky has made Saltbox and San Diego home.
Dolinky's journey started with childhood trips to the Madison, Wisconsin farmers' market, where the dedication to fresh produce struck a very young nerve. His career started in Milwaukee under the tutelage of James Beard Award-winning chef Sanford D'Amato, followed by immersive culinary experiences in Madrid and New Orleans. When it was time to chart a new course, Dolinky set his sites on Southern California specifically for the organic small farm movement that was thriving here.
Ask to name his favorite local ingredients, Dolinky enthuses about the Santa Barbara deepwater Spot Prawns, So Cal's all-natural beef, local artisan olive oils and California's already famous avocadoes. He doesn't trust labels and has a habit of visiting his suppliers in person.
The local atmosphere also influences his menu. "The Gaslamp neighborhood is rambunctious and outgoing," says Dolinky. "The food has to stand up to that. So I tend to like big, loud flavors."
San Diego has already made Simon's Beef Cheek Tacos and Lobster Corn Dogs local favorites. And he's just getting started. To see what other New American foods Chef Dolinky is cooking up, check out the menu.
What's "Behind the Apron" with Chef Simon:
What does infusion mean to you?
It’s a culinary alchemistic word that literally means “to pour over.” Yet it carries into our emotion and lives in more than just food. You can infuse energy and hope and desire into people. Cooking wise, it’s a way to preserve things … a way to add flavor.
What kinds of things do you infuse?
Oil. It’s easy and you can easily capture seasonal flavors. Also, vanilla beans. You infuse that flavor into cream and fat into ice cream. Braising is a form of infusing, too. We do a nice slow-cooked short rib.
What’s important in order to create an infusion right?
You have to consider the ratios. By that I mean infuse the right amount of an ingredient into the right amount of a liquid. In the case of herbs, for example, it’s about making sure you have enough flavor in the oil to make it distinct. Timing is also crucial: If it doesn’t go long enough there’s not enough pop. If it goes for too long, then the flavor is too much.
How do you think up what things or flavors to infuse?
Necessity is always the mother of invention. I find a lot of things by accident or by need … to preserve something or to keep it. I also look at natural existing flavor combinations, like orange and star anise, and start at things from their roots and work from there. It’s one of those great revelations that you have as a cook when you finally say, “I’ve figured out how to do this.”
What, if any, special tools do you use or need to infuse?
All you really need is the ability to heat something up in a container. And in some cases, you don’t even need that. Remember, the word means “to pour over,” so you need a container, a vessel for pouring that particular flavor or alcohol, and some kind of fat or oil to infuse something into.
What’s the most unique or interesting infusion you’ve created?
Tobacco leaves in ice cream. It was a fun because it’s not what you’d expect. I got the leaves from a local farm. When eaten infused in ice cream, you get some heat in the back and cold and sweet in the front. And, a little buzz from the tobacco.
What are some seasonal infusions that have worked well for elevating the flavors in a dish?
In the wintertime, it’s citrus, which is easy to use in infusions. Anything to isolate flavor from grapefruit, or find a balance between orange and lime is fun. Blood orange is another great one; I use it a lot with my crudos, raw fish and hamachi.
What do you find most interesting about creating infusions?
I love the cultural history of food and cuisine. I love to be a part of something that’s so old and has been done so many times that it’s a staple … a right hand to cooking. I enjoy interpreting things that are time-honored and traditional. As a technique, I love the versatility … being flexible in many ways to introduce and preserve flavor.
Kimpton Master Sommelier Emily Wines
Emily Wines' lifelong passion for wine started in her hometown of Seattle and followed her down to San Francisco and a job with Kimpton Hotels and Restuarants. She was quickly promoted to Wine Director of Kimpton's Fifth Floor restaurant in 2005. During her tenure, Fifth Floor's wine list earned the prestigious Grand Award from Wine Spectator magazine, and the restaurant was nominated for the Outstanding Wine Service award by the James Beard Foundation
In 2008, Emily Wines became one of only 96 people in the United States to earn the designation of Master Sommelier. She was awarded the prestigious Remi Krug cup for passing all three sections of the certification exam on her first attempt, one of only two women to achieve this remarkable feat.
For Saltbox, Emily has assembled a wine list to compliment Chef Dolinky's menu. Short by design and carefully selected, her Saltbox wine list is easy to choose from and hard to go wrong with.
Kimpton Master Mixologist Jacques Bezuindenhout
Jacques began his career as a bartender in the mid-90s, working in bars and restaurants in his native South Africa before moving to London, where the making of drinks is considered a profession rather than a job. A graduate of the prestigious BAR program, directed by Paul Pacult, Steve Olsen, Dale DeGroff, Dave Wondrich and Doug Frost, Bezuindenhout would relocate to San Francisco where he became the opening consultant for a number of respected bars and restaurants.
Most recently, Jacques has taken on the role of Master Mixologist for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants' nearly 50 restaurants and bars throughout the country As the chief consultant for Kimpton's brand-wide beverage program, Jacques oversees the company's individual and national spirits menus and works closely with newly opened Kimpton restaurants and bars on training staff and developing cocktails that reflect each individual location and concept.