BERKELEY (CBS SF) – A California native, Chef Sergio Emilio Monleón, 32, was raised in a Spanish household and has always loved Spanish culture and, more importantly, Spanish food. Though formally trained in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was six unforgettable years in Madrid that changed everything for Chef Monleón. After experiencing the beauty of home-cooked paella and the excitement of a tapas stroll, Chef Monleón discovered his life’s passion: creating community through food.READ MORE: Fmr. Pinole Police Officer Allegedly Videotaped Himself Having Sex With Minor
For nearly 20 years, Chef Monleón worked in restaurants throughout the Bay Area, mostly as a server. He spent more thandecade at Trattoria La Siciliana, one of Berkeley’s top Italian restaurants, where he occasionally helped out in the kitchen. While he enjoyed interacting with customers, Chef Monleón soon realized he loved cooking in the back of the house. At Trattoria, he also met and bonded with Chef Emily Sarlatte, his future business partner.
Inspired by the growing food scene in the Bay Area, Chef Monleóndecided to further hone his culinary and business skills by studying hospitality and restaurant management at San Francisco State University and completing the Certified Specialist of Wine Certification Program administered by the Society of Wine Educators.
After years of hosting elaborate dinner parties and cooking at private events, Chef Monleón re-connected with Chef Sarlatte in 2012 and opened Ñora Cocina Española, the popular mobilecatering business specializing in paella and Spanish-influenced cuisine. Since its inception, the San Francisco Bay Area-basedcompany has catered countless high-end weddings and special events, and made appearances at food festivals like Off the Grid and Eat Real Festival.
Much to the delight of their loyal and growing customer base, ChefMonleón and Chef Sarlatte joined forces again in Fall 2015 to open a full-service restaurant: La Marcha, a rustic, neighborhood tapas bar in the heart of Berkeley. “La Marcha” is a reference to the typical late-night Spanish bar crawl, where patrons stroll from place to place and enjoy small plates and drinks throughout the evening.
La Marcha’s flavorful menu of tapas and paellas coupled with a welcoming community atmosphere reflect the chefs’ shared passion for Spanish cuisine and desire to bring the tapas bar culture to the Bay Area.
I met this brilliant culinary pair recently for a bite and conversation for Foodie Chap at their “flavor bomb filled ” Spanish inspired restaurant.
Enjoy the conversation.
(Crispy Brussels Sprouts)
- 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved
- 1/2 lb. grapes, halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup Pedro Ximénez sherry
Preheat oven to 400° F. Coat Brussels sprouts with oil, salt and pepper and place on baking sheet. Roast in oven for 15 minutes, adding the grapes halfway through. Check doneness of sprouts with a fork; they should be soft in the center and crispy on the outside. It may take up to 25 minutes (depending on the oven).
For balsamic reduction:
While the Brussels sprouts roast, combine balsamic vinegar and Pedro Ximénez sherry in a saucepan over medium heat and simmer slowly until amount has reduced by half.
Combine balsamic vinegar, shallot and agave in blender and slowly drizzle in the olive oil as ingredients are blending to emulsify.
Toss Brussels sprouts and grapes mixture with vinaigrette (there will be some vinaigrette left over.) Drizzle with the reduction and serve.
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