Chef Ben Paula fell in love with the kitchen growing up cooking with his dad in their family home in Massachusetts. While attending Endicott collage out side of Boston, Ben got his 1st chance to directly influence the output from a restaurant kitchen while creating daily menus as Sous Chef for the Wild Horse Cafe.
Ben caught the eye of Chef Jesse Llapitan who offered him a position at the four-diamond Vail Cascade Resort and a year and a half later invited Ben to join him as Banquette Chef for the grand opening of the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles. Following a tremendously successful opening Chef Ben was asked to take over as Executive Sous Chef at the Universal Sheraton.
“Cooking to me is about getting paid to do something I love.”
– Chef Ben Paula
Ben moved to San Francisco in 2003 where he revitalized the menu at Charlie’s on Union. After serving as Chef and GM for Charlie’s Ben decided the time had come and struck out on his own with Sauce in Hayes valley.
In his first restaurant venture “Sauce” he did a bit of everything; from personally hand crafting the redwood bar during construction, to delivering the extra ladle of gravy to a table in need.
Chef Ben’s love comes through in every aspect of Sauce and his food and personality resulted in its ranking #2 in the “Best new Restaurant” category of San Francisco Magazine’s 2004 readers’ poll. Signature Chef Ben dishes, ranging from portabella mushroom fries to bacon wrapped meatloaf, will warm your heart as well as fill your belly, and like Ben himself, always deliver just a little more than you expect. The “mac & cheese” is my personal Sauce favorite.
The second Sauce restaurant recently opened in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown, Belden Place just a few blocks from Union Square. It’s nestled among a United Nations row of restaurants serving; French, Spanish, Italian and more. Sauce Belden continues Chef Ben’s tradition of East coast inspired comfort food. Late owls will especially love it here as the kitchen is open nightly until 1:30am. There is a happy hour too, daily from 2:30pm – 6pm, offering perfectly paired dishes.
We connected at Sauce on Belden for our Foodie Chap chat and what a tasty chat it is.
“Five Tasty Questions with Chef Ben Paula”
1. Being a chef to you is about…?
Getting paid to do what I love.
2. When I go your fridge at home at midnight, what would I find?
A couple Guinness inside and a Jameson on top.
3. If not a Chef, in a second life, what would you be?
Probably a carpenter. I really enjoy doing wood work. My grandfather was an amazing craftsman.
4. Who have you had the most pleasure cooking for?
That would be the Arista Records party down in Los Angeles, CA. I was the banquet chef at the St. Regis. Shaq was there and I shook his hand; it was pretty cool.
5. At your last supper, you can have a couple of guests, dead or alive, who would they be and what would you eat?
I’d have to go with Thanksgiving; a family event. It’s always been our anniversary at the original Sauce, so usually the table is pretty big, maybe 80 people, but a Thanksgiving meal would take the cake right there.
New England Lobster Rolls
2 gallons water
1 head celery
3 large carrots
1 large onion
8 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
5 bay leaves
2 cups lobster stock reduction
2 pounds unsalted butter
¼ cup parsley
¼ cup fresh thyme
¼ cup green onion
(3) 2-2.5 pound Live Maine Lobster
¼ cup Whole Grain Mustard
¼ Cup Mayonnaise
¼ cup Compound Butter
In a large pot add all the ingredients for the poaching liquid. All of the vegetables will be discarded, so a rough chop of all vegetables is fine. The goal is to have all the vegetables the same size so that they cook uniformly. Bring the poaching liquid to a boil then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and discard all vegetable matter and return the pot to the heat. Once the poaching liquid has returned to a boil add the lobsters.
For the lobster roll overcooking the lobster is detrimental to the success of the dish. Lobsters take roughly 8 minutes per pound with 2 minutes per additional ¼ pound. Cooked lobsters will turn bright red, but that’s not the best indicator of doneness, especially for large lobsters. They may still be underdone when the shell turns red. When the recommended time is close, crack one of the lobsters where the tail meets the body. If it’s done, the meat will have changed from translucent to white. For this recipe it is ok to not fully cook the lobster as you will be applying more heat in the final process. If you feel the lobsters are fully cooked then place in an ice bath to cool rapidly. If they are partially cooked just place in the refrigerator or cooler with ice.
Remove the lobster meat from the shell and place in the fridge. Roast the shells in an oven to concentrate the flavor then add to the poaching liquid and simmer for 1 hour. Strain out the shells and reduce the liquid at high heat until the it is salty to taste. This will vary in the amount of salt in the lobsters to start. Remove from the heat and slowly add the chopped unsalted butter until it becomes smooth. Add the fresh herbs and chill in the refrigerator. This compound butter can be used in a multitude of ways- such as finishing a pasta dish or melting over a grilled steak.
Trim the sides of the New England style hot dog roll and brush with ½ butter ½ vegetable oil then pan sear in a nonstick Teflon pan. Spread the whole grain mustard and mayonnaise mix into the bun. Warm the chopped lobster meat in a sauté pan over low heat. Adjust seasoning with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Hold the buns in one hand and fill with lobster meat using tongs in the other hand. This will help prevent the bun from splitting open.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)