Paul James Chats with Southwood Farm Customer Jared Chamberlain

I first met Jared Chamberlain in 2010, the year he joined Bodean’s Seafood Restaurant as Chef de Cuisine. I took an immediate liking to him, thanks to his big, friendly smile and contagious laugh. But I was particularly impressed by his take on food preparation: less is more, freshness is key, and pretentiousness has no place on the plate.

Jared’s roots in the restaurant biz go way back. His mother, Debbie Higgs, operated Route 66 Diner, and it was there that Jared became acquainted with one of the most important tasks in any kitchen. “I washed dishes in third grade after bringing home bad grades,” he told me.

Jared was promoted (deservedly) to Executive Chef at Bodean’s in 2015. I sat down with him last week to chat about a number of things, especially his love of local ingredients.

PJ: You actually seek out local farmers for the freshest ingredients. Why is that?

JC: Taste!

PJ: So there’s a noticeable difference in the flavor of local produce?

JC: Absolutely. The flavors of locally grown fruits and vegetables are more unique and always better.

PJ: And why do you think that is?

JC: It’s because everything is picked when it’s perfectly ripe, and because local farmers seem to genuinely care about the quality of what they grow. They’re passionate about what they do, and so am I. The farmers and I have the same goal, which is the freshest, tastiest product.

PJ: You buy a lot of veggies from Southwood Farm. Have you been pleased with the produce?

JC: Oh yeah. The tomatoes in particular are delicious. Farmer Kyle (Dismukes) does a great job at growing them and picking them at just the right moment – not too early, not too late. I also love the Austrian Crescent potatoes. And the eggplant. And the cucumbers. And the squash.

PJ: What’s your favorite way of preparing most veggies?

JC: Roasted! I thinking roasting brings out the flavors of veggies in a way no other cooking method can.

PJ: And how are you using the cucumbers?

JC: Well of course we use them in salads. But what’s really cool – as cool as a cucumber, you might say – is the cucumber “water” we make and use as the base sauce for halibut. Customers love it.

Cucumber “Water”

Peel six cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise and chop into one-inch chunks. Using the metal blade in a food processor or a blender, process on high for about two minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth. Press solids to extract as much liquid (and flavor) as you can.

Use cucumber water as a refreshing drink straight up or mixed with a splash of soda, add it to gin- or vodka-based cocktails, or use it as a simple sauce, seasoned with a little salt and pepper. It’ll keep for several days in the fridge.