As a winner of TV competition shows such as Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped: Next Generation, Chef Carlos Anthony has made a name for himself in the culinary world. The Arizona native and restaurateur Brian Malarkey’s protégé is currently the executive chef of San Diego’s Herb & Wood, where he is combining his homegrown and family-rooted love for cuisine with a touch of technology.
We caught up with him to hear more about how he first studied law, his passion for food and why his oxtail gnocchi takes four people and three days to make.
Tell us about your background.
I grew up in Tucson, Arizona in a first-generation Hispanic household. I was raised by my grandparents, so food and culture were a huge part of my upbringing. Food has always been at the center of every gathering. Whether we’re celebrating or mourning, there is always a delicious home cooked meal. I fell in love with food and the power it has to make people feel good.
Do you remember the first dish that you cooked as a kid?
There would always be a pot of beans on the stove. My grandma would have me separate beans to remove the broken or split ones, which taught me attention to detail at a young age. Something as simple as beans requires love and care to make sure it tastes good.
You studied law. Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career?
I was cooking through college, but it wasn’t until I graduated that I was faced with a decision to either continue my education or pursue something that I’m passionate about. I dropped everything and moved to California to chase my dream.
What kinds of challenges did you face early on while establishing yourself as a chef?
Being a great chef isn’t about being the best or having the best food. I led with my ego and was humbled quickly. I learned that being a great chef means taking care of your team and giving them an environment to succeed.
What kept you going despite those challenges?
The team; there’s a strong sense of community and companionship in a kitchen. I wouldn’t have been able to get as far as I have without leaning on other people, not just the chefs, but everyone in the restaurant.
What are some of your bestselling menu items at Herb & Wood?
Our oxtail gnocchi is a simple dish that takes four people and three days to make. Frankly, it’s not the most unique dish because it’s just oxtail and gnocchi, but it takes time and effort to create. The attention to detail that is put into each ingredient beforehand is what makes the dish delicious.
The roasted oysters and bone marrow is pure decadence and is a true representation of Herb & Wood’s over-the-top nature. It’s the type of dish where the world stops spinning, where you can have luxurious oysters roasted with horseradish butter and finished with bone marrow.
How do you source your ingredients?
Through my relationships with farmers and fishermen, people that care and know more about the product than I do. I work with them to know what’s in season and to learn about how everything is grown.
Can you tell us how you create an immersive and innovative experience at your restaurant?
Through social media, we’ve been able to connect with our diners before and after they come into the restaurant. For example, when we’re launching new items, we’ll post a poll to Instagram and ask our followers to vote for which dish they think should be on the menu. Engaging with our diners outside of our four walls is what keeps them excited and coming back. We’ve been able to tell stories about our ingredients, the local farms and fishermen they come from and build a relationship with our diners.
Can we expect changes to the restaurant experience thanks to new technologies?
The future of the restaurant experience will be widely varied. In the fine dining space it will be a more streamlined and efficient experience from sophisticated guest data that better understands the wants and needs of diners.
What do you love most about the San Diego food scene?
I love that San Diego’s food scene is growing and feels untapped. There are so many talented chefs putting themselves out there and hungry to put San Diego on the map. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the scene.
What’s coming up for you and the restaurant?
I don’t know where to begin! For the restaurant, we’ll continue to work with our partners at Berry Good Food and Ecology Center to connect people back to their food and how it’s grown. I’ll also be on more Food Network shows alongside Brian Malarkey in the coming year.
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