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Cultivating creativity

Feb./Mar. 2012 California Bountiful magazine

Sonoma chef John Toulze shares seasonal recipes.



John Toulze didn't set out to become a chef, but perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that a child who requested escargot for birthday dinners would follow his passion for food into the kitchen.

After cooking seasonal food in California for nearly 15 years, Toulze took that passion even deeper when, in 2010, he began growing much of the food used at three Sonoma Valley restaurants where he serves as executive chef—Estate, the Girl and the Fig, and the Fig Café and Wine Bar.

"What it's taught me is that I don't really know seasonal as well as I thought I did," the Northern California native said. "There was a point last year where we had on the menu tomatoes, squash, figs, green beans. ... We had three seasons on the menu simultaneously and I loved it!"

Toulze shares his love of seasonal cooking in the recently released book "Plats Du Jour, the Girl and the Fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country."

When not in the kitchen, Toulze, along with his sous chefs and prep cooks, plant, weed and harvest a two-acre farm on Imagery Estate Winery in Glen Ellen.

"The farm can get kind of crazy when you have 12 consecutive days of harvesting more than 100 pounds of tomatoes or 15 consecutive days of picking 70 pounds of cucumbers," Toulze said. "It's changed the way I cook. Nothing goes to waste."

Toulze points out that cooking must be intuitive to a certain point.

"You either have an ability to understand flavors or it presents itself simply to you," he said. "I was just lucky to find that was my niche."

Recipes

Trina Wood twood@californiabountiful.com


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