Perk it up with Pixies
Mar./Apr. 2010 California Country magazine
Story by Tracy Sellers, Photos by Paolo Vescia
Jamie West, executive chef of the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, uses Pixie tangerines and other local ingredients in his recipes.
The tiny Pixie tangerine plays a big role in chef Jamie West’s seasonal menus at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.
With the “local” food and wine movement sweeping the nation, it’s only natural that you will find a crop of chefs eager to recognize and support these agrarian producers. Jamie West, executive chef of the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, leads the way in the tiny Ventura County town of Ojai.
A native of Southern California, West understands the potential of this fertile area and its unusual microclimates—perfect for producing an extraordinary variety of fruits and vegetables.
While West and his talented team of chefs grow a number of their own herbs on the inn’s rolling hills—including rosemary, basil, lemongrass, thyme, tarragon and lavender—they rely heavily on local farmers, ranchers, fishermen and vintners to provide fresh, natural products for the inn’s seasonal menus. Among the highlights: Ojai squab, Ojai olive oil and Ojai Pixie tangerines.
“I love to cook in a way that not only pleases the palate, but the eye as well. We all know we eat with our eyes first,” said West. “And when you have a product like the Pixie, there really are no limits to what you can do with it as a chef.”
Besides, he adds, the Pixie’s easy-peel attributes make it a perfect fit for a busy kitchen.
West said he enjoys the luxury of living in an agriculture-rich area and being able to select from a wide variety of produce at peak season.
“It seems like there is always something being harvested in the area,” the chef said. In fact, he often advises his restaurant guests to check out their local farmers markets because “having access to the growers allows you to pick and choose specific items that you want to cook with and ask questions directly of the grower.”