Fired up about artichokes
June/July 2012 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Kate Campbell
Photos by Richard Green
Monterey chef finds inspiration in the fields.
Russell Young, executive chef for the Hyatt Regency Monterey.
When he drives to work each day, Russell Young sees not only the lush farm fields of Monterey County, but inspiration for his day's work. Young, executive chef for the Hyatt Regency Monterey, uses a variety of locally grown farm products on the menu of the hotel's restaurants, including Tusca, which serves a fusion of Tuscan and California cuisines.
"I enjoy living in this area and using the local produce, along with all the available seafood," Young said, adding that his in-season, locally grown approach to food allows him to introduce new produce items to people visiting the Monterey area from all over the world.
Sometimes, farmers contact the chef to find out if there are crops he'd like to see grown—romanesco, for example, which is a star-shaped broccoli variety. There also are different types of eggplants and pole beans grown for local restaurants that aren't always available at farmers markets or in grocery store produce sections.
Young said he remembers the first time he ate an artichoke—and then laughs.
"It was about 20 years ago and I was going to culinary school," he recalled. "We attended a food vendor show and I had fried artichoke hearts with mayonnaise. It just tasted like mayonnaise. I wasn't sure what the big deal was about, besides the funny name."
A little later, he had artichokes both grilled over an open fire and sautéed and thought, "Now this is much better. Artichokes have so much flavor and character when cooked right."
Young now offers artichokes as a staple on Tusca's menu. "People are discovering artichokes are versatile, available nearly year-round, delicious and good for you. You can't go wrong with that."