For three years, Chef John Sallman has been executive chef at Beach Walk Cafe at Henderson Park Inn.
A chef for 17 years, The Sun’s Chef of the Month for May began his career at Hooters in Destin.
“I was 17 years old, so at the time it was the greatest job in the world,” Sallman told The Sun. “And, right before I left for college, I had dinner at the Elephant Walk, and it was the greatest meal I had ever had so it made me even more excited to go to culinary school.”
Sallman graduated from Johnson & Wales University in culinary arts and often found the learning to be an extremely difficult road.
“I called home in tears on a few occasions during culinary school,” he said. “But, I had an amazing mentor in Miami and he taught me more than just how to cook. He taught me how to handle the business, the hours, the holidays, the stress, the burns, cuts, backaches and more.”
Sallman considers himself to always be in training and said he will “never stop learning this art.”
And there is much to learn about the role of an executive chef. The kitchen equivalent of a CEO, the chef wears many hats and is a highly skilled professional who is knowledgeable in all areas of food preparation.
“An executive chef is responsible for menu planning and development, food costing, kitchen labor control, kitchen cleaning, all ordering and scheduling,” Sallman said. “Plus you’re a marriage counselor, mentor, friend, boss, plumber, electrician, carpenter, handyman/woman, excel worksheet specialist, and provide kitchen morale and motivation.”
And although many chefs today do not actually cook, Sallman said he cooks six nights a week.
“When I was in school in 2000, chefs used to expo the food on the service side, and now you see a lot more chefs behind the line cooking with their team,” he said. “Which is what I do daily.”
Sallman loves to share recipes and said “anyone can contact me anytime and I am happy to share.” His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Do you have a signature recipe?
A: No real signature recipe, but over the years I see people noticing my Bacardi Limon Beurre Blanc, and I like to cook a lot of comfort foods. My style is classical French technique. I love simple cooking using few ingredients to let the ingredient of focus to speak for itself.
Q: Are there any foods you just don’t like, either to eat or cook?
A: Liver and onions. I love foie gras, but other than that I don’t do liver. I will try anything at least once. Cook and eat with an open mind.
Q: What is the most necessary ingredient for the majority of recipes?
A: Salt and love … and alcohol.
Q: What is your favorite food to eat?
A: My mother’s and my wife’s cooking. Also, hot dogs, chicken wings, chili cheese fries and anything from China, the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. And, Indian cuisine. I love spicy.
Q: What is your favorite cuisine to cook? Why?
A: Asian cuisine. I find it challenging, and it is some of my favorite food to eat.
Q: Best piece of advice you would give a home cook.
A: Do not be afraid to try cooking something “difficult” in your kitchen. Read the recipe from beginning to end before you even begin the preparation, including the method of preparation. Then assemble all ingredients first. Once you have read your recipe and you have the ingredients from start to finish, start cooking and have fun.
Chef Sallman’s Bacardi
Limon Beurre Blanc
1 cup Bacardi
2 oz. rice vinegar
2 oz. Karo syrup
2 shallots, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 bay leaf
1 lb. butter, unsalted
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground white pepper, to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
Combine Bacardi, rice vinegar, Karo syrup, shallots, lemon zest and bay leaf in a sauce pot.
Bring to a boil and reduce heat to allow to simmer to semi sec, where most of liquid has evaporated.
Add the heavy cream and bring heat back to a simmer.
Gradually mount butter into sauce, whisking constantly to emulsify butter.
Squeeze the remaining lemon juice into sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
Strain through a fine strainer. Makes about 10 (2 oz.) servings.