The Sanctuary Beach Resort’s onsite restaurant Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette is a choice destination where local Monterey ingredients are prepared with care and creativity.
At the helm of its kitchen is Executive Chef Paul Corsentino. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy, and alumnus of high profile restaurants including New York’s Bouley and National Bar & Dining Room, Corsentino brings a wealth of experience and prestige to his latest project. Paul is also a former contestant on Iron Chef America, appearing as sous chef under Geoffrey Zakarian.
Here, Chef Paul chats staying relevant in the kitchen,
What’s one lesson from your first years as a chef that you keep with you?
The most important thing is to always be cooking. And to always be interested in what’s going on around you and what’s still relevant by reading cookbooks, going out to eat, cooking at home. Just always keep doing that—that’s the most important thing to keep yourself relevant. Working with Cesar Ramirez at Bouley taught me to always buy cookbooks and always look at them, always see what’s out there.
Talk to us about the intensity of Iron Chef America versus what you experience in the kitchen every night.
Iron Chef America is an hour, so it’s intense for an hour. Whereas working in the kitchen is intense for the whole day. So, 10-to-12 hours of intensity versus one hour of intensity. I’d say working in the kitchen is definitely harder.
More pressure than having the camera on you?
When I first started Iron Chef America, it was more intense for those first one or two episodes. But after that, you start to get used to it. And I would say, working in the kitchen, there’s more pressure. I just feel your name’s on the menu. There’s more pressure trying to please people everyday. Iron Chef America has this pressure for an hour but then it’s over when it’s over. But the kitchen life, it never ends. It’s 24/7.
What’s the one difference you see in West Coast versus East Coast dining?
There’s more of a sense of locality in the West Coast. On the East Coast, everyone cooks seasonally, sure, but they’re getting produce from Florida, the Midwest, and California. Here, people are truer to what’s super, uber local and seasonal, which is natural, since it’s more available.
How would you define your own personal style in the kitchen?
You know I’ve been asked this question my entire career. I would say technique-driven but never taking it too seriously.
Meaning…you allow yourself to have some creativity as you’re cooking, vs. following specific recipes?
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I would say we don’t cook within our box. We just kind of do what we do for fun at the moment.
How do you feel that translates to the menu now at Salt Wood?
You know, menus are an evolution, as far as what my personal preferences are and what I like to have fun with. I also know what our guests are willing to try and to accept. At Salt Wood we’re at a better spot than we were two months ago, because I have a better understanding of what our clientele wants.
You’re kind of doing it the way a business or marketer would: looking at what your audience needs and wants.
Yeah, it’s half me and dreaming of what I want to do, and the other half is being considerate of what our guests want to eat. I think we’re finding a happy medium right now.
What are your favorite, locally sourced ingredients that you’d didn’t use so much on the East Coast?
I would definitely say, in the fall, any type of mushrooms that grow around here, for sure. We get super local porcinis and chanterelles, and you don’t really see those too much on the East Coast.
What are you other favorite restaurants in the Monterey area and why?
I’d say The Sur House and Ebb & Tonic, because those are my old stomping grounds. I’m also a fan of Jeninni Kitchen in Pacific Grove. It’s Spanish-influenced cuisine, and they do a good job of execution. I also like Ferdi’s in my neighborhood for the muffaletta, and The Bench in Pebble Beach.
What’s your favorite part about living in Monterey Bay region?
I enjoy the weather. It’s never too hot and it’s never too cold. It’s always the perfect temperature for hiking and running.
Planning a visit to the shores of Monterey Bay? Experience the region like a local, following our insider recommendations on the Sanctuary Beach Resort blog!