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Chris New is SCV’s ‘Elite’ chef

Valencia graduate is gourmet chef and finds his calling as the owner of Elite Dining & Catering

Posted: June 27, 2009 8:11 p.m.
Updated: June 28, 2009 4:30 a.m.

New slices a perfectly cooked piece of New York Strip steak that he plates at left with wild Oregon morels and organic asparagus.

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Wild Oregon morels. Organic asparagus. Prime New York steak. Potatoes. Separately, the ingredients are special.

Put together by chef Chris New, the sum total is spectacular — steak that melts in your mouth with hints of garlic and thyme and a touch of acidic sweetness from Bordelaise syrup, a succulent and delicately seasoned potato cube with a satisfying crunch, asparagus that defines tender topped with earthy mushrooms.

“I love food and put my love on the plate,” New said. “There are no shortcuts. Great chefs never do that.”

While New doesn’t consider himself one of the greats just yet, he certainly has worked for many of them at some of the most celebrated restaurants in the country including Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Napa Valley and Grant Achatz of Chicago’s Alinea, to name but two.

The Valencia High graduate (class of 1989) studied at Pasadena’s Le Cordon Bleu, earning a culinary degree before venturing off to high-profile kitchens where he honed his craft.

Now New is back in the Santa Clarita Valley to start his own business, Elite Dining & Catering, and enjoy family life with his wife Rebecca and 2-year-old daughter Alexandra.

His plan is to present fine dining aspects — white linens, beautiful presentation, six-to nine-course gourmet menus — for 10 to 100 guests at a client’s home or offsite location. New travels with the latest equipment — to cook sous vide or create foams, for example — and can match his menus to a client’s wine collection.

“If you have a cellar with great wines, why go out to a restaurant? They’ll charge you double what I would,” he said.

New’s also open to more casual events.

“It doesn’t have to be foie gras and truffles. I’m happy to barbecue or make pizzas for your kid’s party,” he said.
New caught the culinary bug when he was a child. As part of a large, Eastern European family, with a stay-at-home mom that loved to cook, New came to appreciate the importance of good food.

“Food creates fellowship. It’s a time to catch up with people and appreciate what the earth has to offer us,” he said.

While New would help his mom in the kitchen at mealtimes, his first solo effort flopped.

“I was watching Tyler Florence on Food Network, right when it first came on. He was making his Ultimate Chocolate Cake. I thought, ‘I could do that,’” New said. “It was a disaster.  Everyone laughed at me. But I didn’t care.”

After high school, New went to work in local SCV kitchens (including the now defunct Twin Palms in Valencia’s Town Center) before heading off to cooking school and subsequent stints at Ritz Carlton hotels in Los Angeles and Pasadena.

In 2001, New reconnected with grade-school sweetheart Rebecca Cox, whom he had kept in touch with over the years. They kissed at midnight and according to New, that was it.

“We’ve been together ever since,” he said.

After marrying, the duo traveled to Florence, Italy, cooking together. They then moved to Paso Robles, where New worked as a sous chef at Justin Vineyards.

Two years later, with some serious wine knowledge under his belt, New went on to Alinea, to learn under gastronomic molecular master Grant Achatz.

Not that he got too close to the celebrated chef. There were 22 people in the kitchen — Achatz, an executive chef, six sous chefs and five stages, or culinary interns like New.

“I was told early on, ‘That’s chef Grant, don’t talk to him,’” New said. “Alinea was amazing. It changed my life, the way I look at food, service and professionalism.”

That experience led to nine months under Thomas Keller’s tutelage at the family-style Ad Hoc. Keller, whose French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley is widely recognized as one of the world’s top restaurants, continues to be an inspiration to New.

The restaurant’s ingredients came from the chef’s nearby one and a half acre Jacobsen Farm, with the rest sourced from local purveyors.

“Keller’s message is to source the highest possible ingredients and execute them as perfectly as possible,” New said. “That’s burned into my brain. It was such a great environment. They were so serious about the food and respecting one another.”

New counts an 18-course, $240 meal at the French Laundry as his most memorable dining moment, though he can appreciate less expensive pleasures, as well.

“I love In-N-Out. It’s my one single vice. I go there once a month,” New said.

At home, he and Rebecca lean towards a comfort food menu of meatloaf, roast chicken with root vegetables, and potato gratin.

Whether it’s for clients or his family, New lets a Keller quote be his guide. ‘We have a respect for food and a respect for life. It’s what we do and who we are.’

“We don’t reinvent the wheel as chefs, we just put our own mark on something,” New said.

For more information on Elite Dining and Catering, call (661) 313-6923 or e-mail chris@elitediningandcatering.com.

 

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