New South Tahoe chef brings fresh style to resort restaurant
What: Jimmy’s at the Landing Resort and Spa
Where: 4104 Lakeshore Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Hours: Breakfast, 7-11:30 a.m.; Lunch, noon-3 p.m.; Dinner, 5-9:30 p.m. Reservations recommended.
When Patrick Contreras signed on as executive chef at Jimmy’s at The Landing Resort & Spa, he brought a straightforward style.
“I cook like I would at home and I try to use a lot of fresh, organic ingredients,” Contreras said. “I don’t try to drown a dish in a lot of sauce.”
The new chef’s personal style resulted in a menu change. Small plate dishes were pared down, and easier-to-understand meals were introduced.
“When I came in, I looked at the menu and put stuff on [it] that people can understand and children can eat,” Contreras said. “At the end of the day, I’m cooking for the people, not myself.”
Using organic ingredients is a trend Contreras sees steadily returning to people’s diets as well.
“Everyone seems to be going organic, enjoying farm-to-table,” he said. “If you start with something good, you end up with something good.”
New dishes include Alaskan halibut, flown in fresh, and duck. Try a small dish like a burrata salad — tomato, balsamic reduction and imported Greek olive oil — as well as a host of simpler dishes.
According to Contreras, he runs a disciplined kitchen, with expectations focused on professionalism and organization.
“We don’t take any shortcuts; and if we need to make something, we’re going to do it right,” he said.
ABOUT THE CHEF
Contreras traces his passion for cooking back to his childhood growing up in Argentina.
“My first impression was cooking with my grandmother in the kitchen when I was 10 years old, so that’s where I got my passion,” Contreras said.
In addition, his family prepared a lot of meals, reducing the need to eat out.
Food, he said, has a central social role, something that he said has been lacking in the U.S.
“Going back culturally, you see people sitting down to dinner for three hours,” Contreras said. “It’s such a shame we’ve pulled away from that because no one spends time talking to each other.”
Passion for food helped sparked his culinary career early on, he explained — “When I hit my 20s, I decided to get serious about it.”
Conteras attended culinary school at Los Angeles Trade Technical College and apprenticed at the Ritz Carlton in Pasadena, Calif. His early career includes working for Andrea Bell’s LA Celebrations, which did catering for a number of celebrities like Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen. He spent eight years in Las Vegas and four years in Palm Springs, Calif.
His last post was the executive sous chef at MGM Grand in Biloxi, Miss., before heading back to Los Angeles.
“When I came back to Los Angeles, it wasn’t the place I remembered,” Contreras said.
So he set his eyes on South Lake Tahoe.
“I enjoy cooking, but I’m also at a point where I want to enjoy life,” Contreras said. “This is paradise up here.”
For more information, visit Jimmy’s online at http://www.thelandingtahoe.com/dining.
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