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Maurice Dissels Executive Chef at Birk’s Restaurant
Thursday, October 11, 2007
- The News
South American-born Maurice Dissels came to San Jose by way of Chicago, where he began as a food server and moved into line cooking. From there he cooked in restaurants in Colorado, Pasta Cuisine in Orinda, the Historical Pleasanton Hotel and 840 North First in San Jose. He has been executive chef at Birk’s Restaurant for four years.
Where were you born?
Georgetown, Guyana [formerly British Guiana].
What do you do to relax?
I garden. That is my one true relaxation, along with spending time with my family. I have a seasonal garden that I cultivate in the spring and late summer when I reap its bount ies – tomatoes, zucchini, squash, melons, a variety of chilies, fresh herbs (I have an extensive herb garden).
If you could do any other work, what would it be?
At this point in my culinary career, I have lusted after getting into the wine making side of things. It seems like a natural progression.
What’s your current favorite dish in your repertoire?
This is hard – our cooking is so seasonally driven – but if I must pick something that I really, truly enjoy, then I would say sauces. I love coming up with different sauces, creating them from start to finish.
What’s a dish that will always be on your menu?
Two come to mind: The pepper filet, which is one of our signature dishes. We currently use between 700 and 800 pounds of filet mignon a week for that dish. The second is our fried calamari.
What’s your favorite fast food indulgence?
You know, perhaps once a month I go do wn to the local burger joint – specifically Bob’s Giant Burger – and indulge in a double garden cheeseburger.
What did you have for breakfast?
Today I had a bowl of Wheaties with some peaches, bananas and soymilk, along with a vitamin B tablet and a multivitamin.
If you could have any celebrity – alive or dead – to your restaurant, who would it be?
I would probably invite Luciano Pavarotti. I think there is almost a spiritual connection among opera, red wine and good food and ambience.
What would you eat for your last meal?
It would be the quintessential vegetarian entrée: A cluster of broccolini, baby carrots, asparagus, hearts of palm, some red potatoes perhaps. I might top it with a small portion of a perfectly cooked wild salmon, and then a wonderful heirloom tomato coulis.
How would you describe Silicon Valley diners?
They are a very educated group of diners. I woul d say they are very particular about what they eat – the quality, the consistency, and the good, hearty, overall center plate. By center plate, I mean food that is well thought out, well prepared and presented.
How do you define “fine dining”?
Fine dining to me means the entire package: obviously, friendly service, the highest quality produce that your purveyors have to offer you, and your approach to preparing those products. There should be a very high attention to detail and guest satisfaction, along with presentation, cleanliness, and a great wine list that complements the cuisine.
What is an underrated ingredient used in your kitchen?
I would say curry. It’s kind of a weird one. There is so much you can do with that particular spice – not as the dominant spice, but as an infusion, subtly, to make someone ask, “What is that?”
When you go out to eat, what are some things you appreciate about other restaurants ?
Ingenuity with respect to presentation and fabrication – cooking in ways that people have not seen before.