Dustin Valette began his culinary career at Chateau Sourverain, a Francis Ford Coppola Estate in Geyserville, California where he apprenticed under Executive Chef Martin Courtman. Now, more than 15 years later, Valette finds himself back in Northern California’s wine country as chef de cuisine at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen.
Valette honed his craft in some of the most celebrated restaurants on the West Coast, including the Michelin-starred Aqua in San Francisco and Napa Valley’s Bouchon. Additional credits include Hokus at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Honolulu, a five-star, five-diamond property; the exclusive North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, California; and VOX Restaurant & Wine Lounge in Henderson, Nevada where he served as Executive Chef.
“Cooking to me is about getting paid
to do something I love.”
– Chef Dustin Valette
At Dry Creek Kitchen, Valette draws on the strong relationships he cultivated with local farmers and purveyors in order to provide the restaurant with the area’s freshest and most exceptional ingredients. See him travelling from the farmers market in a classic red flyer wagon.
Originally from Sonoma County, Valette is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He currently resides in Downtown Healdsburg a block and half away from the restaurant. And when not cooking he is making wine, classic Bordeax varietals.
Chef has a steadfast commitment to excellence and to tradition. That said Chef Dustin also has a darn good sense of humour as you’ll discover during our tasty conversation, taped recently in the dining room at Dry Creek Kitchen. However next visit we are venturing to his wine cellar!
Five Tasty Questions with Chef Dustin Valette
1. Being a Chef to you is about….?
Tradition. Maintaining tradition and keeping it alive.
2. It’s midnight and I go to your fridge, what will I find?
We’re going to find copious amounts of cheeses, locally made charcuterie, maybe from my celler, and chocolate. I’m a big fan of chocolate. I just got a big batch from Switzerland that Mothers dropped off three days ago!
3. In another life you come back as something other than a Chef, what might you be?
I would say a professional winemaker so I can stop messing up the wines I’m making right now.
4. What’s a perfect Sunday to you?
Waking up, having a nice hot cup of coffee, taking my puppy dogs on a walk with my wife, coming back, having a mimosa sitting outside, having one or two glasses of Rose, possibly two, and eat some pizza. Sit out there in the beautiful day and maybe transition to some Pinot.
5. At your last supper Chef, you can have a couple of guests, who would they be and what would you eat?
Last supper would probably be my great-grandfather, and probably Thomas Keller, he helped refine my style at a very young age and gave me direction. I think for dinner we would be very simple. I think dinner would have to be salad, a little bit of roasted chicken, and I think for dessert would have to be lemon chiffon.
Flash Seared Hawaiian Kampachi
with Pickled Watermelon, Avocado Puree, Cantaloupe & Yuzu Gazpacho
1# Hawaiian Kampachi, Skin Off, Bones and Blood Line Removed
2 each Watermelon Radish, Peeled and Sliced Very Thin
1/6 each Watermelon, Red, Seedless
1 each Avocado, Ripe
½ each Cantaloupe, Peeled, Seeds Removed, Diced into pieces
1 ounce Fresh Yuzu Juice
1 ounce Rice Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Sugar
TT Kosher Salt
TT Fresh Pepper
-Pickled Watermelon – Take the watermelon and using a melon baler cut marble size rounds out of the flesh. Place the water melon in a glass bowl. In a sauce pan combine the rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt to taste and 1 ounce water. Bring to a boil and pour the ‘pickling liquid’ on to the watermelon balls. Place in the refrigerator and allow cooling.
-Cantaloupe Gazpacho – Place the diced cantaloupe flesh in a blender and add the yuzu juice, a touch of salt and 1 ounce water. Puree the mixture until smooth adjust seasoning and reserve in the refrigerator for later use.
-Avocado Puree- Remove the skin and seed of the avocado and puree smooth the flesh of the avocado, lemon juice in a food processor. Adjust seasoning then place the puree in a small pastry bag; reserved chilled for later use.
-Preparing the Kampachi. Make sure the Kampachi is Very fresh and has been completely cleaned, then cut the Kampachi into 4 even portions. Season the Kampachi with salt and fresh pepper; sear in a Very hot pan for 15 seconds per side, do not over cook. Once the fish is seared Rare then carefully slice each portion into 5 even pieces.
-Plating – The final set is to arrange all the components into the dish. Place a line of the avocado puree in the center of a large bowl; place the slice fish on top. Arrange the pickled watermelon and sliced radishes around the fish. The last step is to pour the cantaloupe gazpacho around the fish, careful not to cover all your gorgeous work!
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