A Petaluma native, Austin Perkins grew up enjoying the West Marin coast, its natural beauty and abundant farm produce. Raised in a family where his father was the culinary patriarch, Perkins learned an appreciation of food from a young age, often cooking with his father on a variety of pastas, stews, steaks, chicken and experimental sauces.
This foundation extends into his current cooking philosophy where now he can’t imagine himself as anything other than a chef. “I like to keep it simple and let the natural flavor of each ingredient do the talking,” he said. “Minimally manicured dishes that are delicious, seasonal and comforting are what I’m most excited about.”
“My cuisine is California Coastal with an emphasis on approachable.”
– Chef Austin Perkins, Executive Chef
At the helm of Nick’s Cove, Oyster Bar & Cottages since August 2011, Perkins creates the finest seasonal, sustainable California cuisine sourced from the area’s abundant farms in Marin and Sonoma County as well as fresh seafood and Tomales Bay oysters year-round. Since joining the restaurant in 2008, working his way up to the role of Executive Sous Chef, he has built many relationships with the area farmers, sourcing ingredients for the menu such as fresh cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in Pt. Reyes and veal from Rossotti Ranch.
“I love the diversity our area offers and enjoy creating a variety of dishes at Nick’s Cove that capture the essence of what farm-to-table cuisine is all about,” said Perkins.
Prior to Nick’s Cove, Perkins worked at the the two-Michelin-starred Cyrus restaurant in Healdsburg, Calif., where he worked under Executive Chef Douglas Keane. He graduated from Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco in 2007.
When he’s not in the kitchen, he enjoys woodworking, boating, golf, sports and fine wine. He lives in Petaluma with his girlfriend, Ashley and their puppy, Wilson.
What a treat it is to visit Nick’s Cove, a coastal escape off Highway 1 in Marshall on Tomales Bay. The drive there is part of the experience; windy coastal roads, passing lush green fields scattered with cows, goats and sheep along the way. When you get there, thought just over an hour from San Francisco you feel like you are a world away. However Chef Austin’s approachable cuisine immediately brings you home.
Chef and I met in the kitchen at Nick’s Cove for our Foodie Chap chat.
Five Tasty Questions with Chef Austin Perkins
1. Define your cuisine.
I think our cuisine is California Coastal with an emphasis on being approachable and using local sustainable food.
2. What’s the soundtrack to your culinary journey? One song, one artist or one flavor of music.
I think definitely with our experience here it’s definitely a Latin kitchen. Right now it’s definitely Latin music from Mariachi to the whole realm of Latin.
3. If you came back in a second life as something other than a Chef what might you be?
I think I’d be unhappy. I really like what I do.
4. What is your biggest joy outside of the kitchen?
Definitely spending time with my family although I do have some hobbies. I love golfing, eating out, wine, but definitely time with my family.
5. At your last supper you can have a couple of guests, who would they be and what would you eat?
Again, my guests would have to be my family and for the meal I think it would have to be between 30-40 courses focused on all of the cuisines of the world. I think I’d want to eat everything. It would take maybe a day and start with the full spectrum of food.
Liam: Tasty Answers! Chef Austin Perkins, thank you so much!
Nick’s Cove Paella
Makes 4-6 Servings
To Make Rice
½ cup white wine
½ cup sherry wine
1 tablespoon saffron (separated into two halves)
1 cup minced onion
1 cup minced fennel
¼ cup minced garlic
1 pound bomba rice
1 quart water
½ tablespoon smoked paprika
½ tablespoon hot paprika
Note: this recipe calls for no salt.
First, in one container, combine white wine and sherry wine, with half of the saffron. In another container, combine water and the remainder of the saffron (note: saffron is very sensitive, but really gives off more of its aromatic qualities when allowed to bloom in a liquid). In a large pan, sweat the onions and fennel, add garlic, and cook a minute or two. Add the rice, and toast thoroughly, about five minutes, deglaze with the sherry/white wine/saffron mixture. Cook until the mixture boils to cook off the alcohol in the wine. Add the water and remaining saffron, little by little as needed over the next 15-20 minutes. As the rice nears the end of cooking time (all liquid is absorbed, and the rice is nearly completely soft) stir in both paprikas.
To Make Chicken
1 pounds chicken thighs
1/4 cup sherry wine
1/2 tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon smoked paprika
Combine all ingredients and grill over a wood burning fire. Cool, and slice into strips about 1/4″ wide.
To Create the Paella
2/3 cup tablespoons rice bran oil
2 pounds Spanish chorizo (Nick’s Cove’s is house-made)
Chicken (as made above)
30 manila clams
12 large gulf white shrimp
6 piquillo peppers (julienned)
1 ½ cup English peas
Rice (as made above)
½ cup ounce fish stock
minced chives (garnish)
course sea salt (Maldon, preferably, garnish)
5 tablespoons good, extra virgin olive oil (Da Vero or the like)
salt and pepper to taste
In a 10″ paella pan (if you don’t have a paella pan, substitute a saute pan, and plate in a large bowl) heat the oil and saute the chorizo until slightly crisped. Add the chicken and all seafood, the peppers, and peas, cook a minute or two and add the rice, stir and deglaze with the fish stock. Season and finish in a 400 degree oven 4-6 minutes until rice is hot and all shellfish has opened. Sprinkle with good olive oil, maldon sea salt, and chives, and serve.
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