KCBS Foodie Chap With Boxing Room’s Chef Justin Simoneaux
KCBS Foodie Chap Podcast:
Justin Simoneaux’s cooking is influenced by the Cajun and Creole dishes of New Orleans and coastal Louisiana. As Executive Chef of Boxing Room, he couples traditional techniques and recipes with seasonal Northern California ingredients for lunch, dinner, and brunch menus.
A Southern Louisiana native, Simoneaux’s affinity for coastal Louisiana cuisine originated from years of hunting and fishing and enjoying frequent family gatherings around seafood boils, fish fries, barbecues, pig roasts, and simple pots of gumbo. He recalls a precocious appreciation for good food as a child, and spent many moments in the home kitchen absorbing recipes from his mother and grandmother. Simoneaux began cooking in a New Orleans seafood restaurant at age 15 and worked his way up to line cook and then kitchen manager by age 18. Realizing he needed to gain further experience and training, he moved to San Francisco and enrolled in the California Culinary Academy in 2005.
“Being a Chef is about LOVE”
– Justin Simoneaux, Executive Chef
While attending the CCA, he worked under the direction of Chef Robert Cubberly at the now-closed Le Petit Robert in San Francisco and was promoted to the position of sous-chef after only one year. Simoneaux says Chef Cubberly set his foundation for cooking and was a great mentor in his culinary progression. In 2007, Simoneaux joined Coco500 as sous-chef, working with Chef Loretta Keller, where he remained one year before she hired him to open The Moss Room at the California Academy of Sciences in 2008 as her chef-de-cuisine. While he was there, the restaurant received three stars from Michael Bauer at the San Francisco Chronicle, and was featured in the publication’s “Top 100 Restaurants” list in 2009. He was also named a San Francisco Chronicle 2009 “Rising Star Chef.”
At Boxing Room, the menu includes many of Simoneaux’s personal favorites, such as Cajun Boiled Peanuts; Deep-Fried Alligator with Creole Remoulade; Smoked Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo; Louisiana Shrimp Po’ boy; and New Orleans-Style Stuffed Artichoke. Since opening in June 2011, Boxing Room has garnered rave reviews including three stars from San Francisco magazine, and Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle said, “Simoneaux knows his way around a fryer…but it’s far from a greasy spoon because the kitchen takes a light, fresh approach.” Boxing Room was also named one of San Francisco’s “2012 Best New Restaurants” by 7×7 magazine.
Though known for some meaty Cajun eats, the menu at The Boxing Room has plenty for those who enjoy lighter fare and in the Veggie corner; Little Gem & chopped vegetable salads, Roasted Beets and a mushroom risotto that’s to die for. The midday $1 oysters are are the real deal and a steal. The weekend brunch is knockout. On a recent visit my world was rocked – in a good way – by chef’s char-boiled oysters with garlic herb butter, lemon & breadcrumbs. WOW. WOW. WOW. For lunch, dinner or brunch this spot packs a punch.
On a recent Saturday morn I ventured to The Boxing Room in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley for a ringside seat with Chef Justin. But why is this spot called the BOXING ROOM? Listen to the conversation in our audio podcast to find out.
Cheers and “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (Let the good times roll).
5 Tasty Questions with Chef Justin Simoneax
1) Cooking to you is about?
Cooking to me is about love, and just a certain lifestyle.
2) What dish reminds you of home?
Pretty much everything here at Boxer Room, gumbo, po’boys.
3) If not a Chef in a second life what would you be?
I like working with my hands so I would probably be a carpenter or something along those lines.
4) Cook book you can not live without?
John Folse’s, “Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cooking.”
5) Last super couple of guest famous or not living or dead who will they be and what will you eat?
My Grandpa who passed away before I was alive, I’d like to share an intimate moment with him, and we’d have a couple of pounds of crawfish, shrimp poor boy, and a bowl of gumbo.
Executive Chef Justin Simoneaux’
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Chicken Stock/Meat Ingredients:
1 3-4 pound chicken
2 Tbs canola oil
1 medium onion cut into eighths
1 cup celery, cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup carrots, cut into 1″ pieces
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black peppercorn
5 sprigs thyme
1 gal water
2 Tb salt
In a 2 gallon stock pot, heat oil on medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add onion, celery, and carrot and cook, stirring regularly, until vegetables are caramelized. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or until chicken is cooked through. Strain liquid from chicken and vegetables, pick chicken and reserve for making gumbo. This can be done up to a day in advance.
Picked chicken meat, from above recipe
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/2 pound slices
1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups flour
2 cups onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup green bell pepper chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper chopped
1 cup okra, cut into 1/2″ pieces
3 quarts hot chicken, from above recipe
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme, chopped
In a 2 gallon stock pot, heat oil, then whisk in flour and stir constantly until roux becomes a pecan color. Add onion, celery and peppers. Cook until vegetables are wilted (about 3-5 minutes). Add in garlic and sausage and cook for another 3 minutes. Add in the stock and bay leaf. Stir regularly to ensure that the roux does not burn. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Add chicken, okra and thyme. Continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne to personal preference.
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