September 13, 2012


Secret to chef's success includes simple flavors, 'hands-on research'

Paul Murphy is the executive chef at Humphreys Restaurant.

Q: What is your culinary background?

A: My culinary career began with hands-on work in the kitchen. As with most creative jobs, there's a certain amount of both innate talent and real-life experience that contributes to becoming a successful chef. I attended Mesa College while doing a full rotation of all the stations at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, then went to Belgium to work at a restaurant in Brugge, Belgium, before returning to the States. I was subsequently a chef at Ritz-Carlton before working at Humphreys Restaurant. Humphreys is home.

Q: Why do you cook?

A: I cook for the satisfaction I get with the final products and the happiness from our guests.

Q: What is your culinary philosophy, and how do you execute it at Humphreys Restaurant?

A: I believe in using only the best ingredients to produce simple, pure flavors.

Q: You've worked at Humphreys for 10 years. How do you keep it fresh and interesting?

A: I keep it fresh by doing hands-on research (i.e., I eat out a lot), and I read several publications to keep up on local, national and international trends in the food world.

Q: Is the food you cook year-round the same that you cook for the summer celebrities who perform at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay?

A: Some of the food is similar, but because our concerts run during summer, the hottest season of the year, we use the fresh, local produce of that particular season, like heirloom tomatoes.

Q: Tell me about your perfect meal.

A: My perfect meal would be Dover sole with brown butter, tourneed potatoes and cauliflower gratin. Can you tell I enjoy butter? I would really look forward to eating this meal because it is one of the first meals we prepared on a nightly basis at El Bizcocho early in my career. We would sell sometimes 50 of these plates. I had to cook every Dover sole perfectly or the captain would come back and yell at me that I just embarrassed him at a table because the fish was undercooked and he or she could not filet it table-side.

Q: How would your wife and kids describe your cooking?

A: Messy. My wife likes to eat my food but is not a fan of cleaning up after me. My kids love it when I cook simple things, like brined pork chops with corn and carrots or barbecue chicken with broccoli.

Q: Do you dine out often? Where are your favorite haunts?

A: I do dine out often. I really like Bencotto in Little Italy. A considerable amount of eating out happens with the family, and we live in San Marcos. So we like to go to Pizza Nova in San Marcos, and, for breakfast as a family, we like to dine at Argyle Steakhouse at Park Hyatt Aviara.

Q: You've recently begun supporting more local food purveyors. Tell us about this transition.

A: BJ Kjaer, the guy who owns SolarRain, a local bottled water produced from ocean water, has a boat in the harbor next to us. We got to talking, and I tasted his water -- delicious. We now use it for our restaurant and hotel guests. We really enjoy what is available locally and will continue to create more dishes using local ingredients. Right now, we source from Suzie's Organic Farm; Pacific Shellfish for locally caught swordfish; Chesapeake Fish for organic Shetland Island salmon, one of the only open water farms in the world that uses organic feed free of color additives. They use shrimp shells and by-products from other fisheries to feed their salmon. The fish is 100 percent European organic certified.

Q: What's the best meal you've ever eaten?

A: At Presidio Heights in San Francisco in the 1990s, Charles Solomon was the chef, and every course was better than the last: sweet breads, foie gras, lamb loin -- and the chocolate terrine was incredible. We also had paired wines with every course. Needless to say, we took cabs home.

Arsalun Tafazoli and Nathan Stanton of Consortium Holdings, the brains behind venues such as Craft & Commerce, UnderBelly, Neighborhood and more, recently announced plans for two new concepts coming to Normal Heights in December 2012: Polite Provisions and Soda & Swine.

Based off the philosophy that "a space should inspire, its simplicity allowing for the seemingly lost art of conversation to thrive in an environment that cultivates charisma and the resurgence of real human interaction," Polite Provisions aims to captivate that golden era of the drugstore and pharmacy, where people would gather together to exchange thoughtful dialogue at the soda fountain. Led by bartender Erick Castro, the beverage program will focus on house-made tonics and bitters, as a nod to those ingredients' medicinal uses. Also of note, the venue will have a 46-tap system, which will focus primarily on wine, handcrafted sodas, spirits and cocktails -- all offered on draft.

Opening immediately after Polite Provisions will be Soda & Swine, an adjacent sister restaurant concept featuring a straightforward menu by newly appointed Executive Chef Jason McLeod. Interestingly enough, the menu will consist of two classic staples: meatball and apple pie. The meat will be ground in an old-fashioned butcher shop setting, available in basic or "smashed" meatball form, in various flavors and vegan alternatives, and the pies will be made from scratch and served with house-made ice cream.

San Diego-based food writer Caron Golden will be a guest tour guide for the Oct. 17 Chef's Market Dinner at Red Door, which supports Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center.

The event begins with a tour of the Mission Hills Farmers Market, where Golden will share details about what's in season and how to use it. Guests will then walk back to The Red Door for a four-course dinner by Chef Miguel Valdez and his team.

The guided tour begins at 5:30 p.m. RSVP by calling the restaurant.



September 13, 2012