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Sea Rocket Bistro chef develops international palate

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Chad White is executive chef/partner of Sea Rocket Bistro and owner of EGO Culinary Trends.

Q: Where -- and how -- did you learn to cook?

A: My first professional cooking job was in the U.S. Navy. I was exploring hotel management and my recruiter for the Navy told me I could secure a position in that field immediately if I became a mess specialist (now culinary specialist). I was fooled.

I went from Boot Camp to cook and, cooking for thousands of sailors as I toured the Pacific Rim, eating in foreign port after foreign port. I concurrently developed a discriminating palate and the skills to prepare delicious food. As an artist, it came easy, as I could relate to the colors and textures of food.

But I didn't really learn to cook until, upon finishing my sea duty, I took a Chef de Partie job at the Hotel del Coronado. I was now in fine dining-- quite a departure from cooking for a thousand sailors in a mess hall. I quickly learned I wasn't in Kansas anymore.

Q: What drew you to Sea Rocket Bistro?

A: I didn't know the owners were looking for a chef, and to be completely frank, I wasn't interested, since I already own Ego Culinary Trends -- my catering company. One of my close friends told me they may be looking for a partner -- and that's when I made my move. I wanted to be more involved than I had been in previous establishments and this was my opportunity. I love fish and local food, so it's a perfect match. I love it.

Q: You're both a chef and entrepreneur but, as many know, being a chef is a full time job and then some. How do you balance both roles?

A: As a creative, the balancing act of being creative and being organized is very difficult. It all comes down to how much pre-planning you do, and in some cases I'm forced to simply fly by the seat of my pants. The management and staff with which I surround myself, however, tend to help bridge that gap.

Q: What is your signature dish?

A: I'm too adventurous to have one signature dish. My signature philosophy, however, is to continue to be unique within each dish created. Each season is different -- and each gives me an opportunity to explore the flavors and textures that come with it.

Q: What new concepts have you employed, so far, at Sea Rocket Bistro?

A: The concept is simple: begin with the best seasonal ingredients and don't overcomplicate. The local, sustainably-raised fish I select fresh daily by hand before any other chef shows up for their orders. And I've created relationships with the growers that provide me with their delicious, fresh work. I know I'm getting the best because they show it to me themselves.

Q: Which cooking utensil, if lost, would cause you the most distress?

A: Spoon.

Q: The Food Network: thumbs up or down?

A: Thumbs up. The Food Network was what got me more interested in cooking when I was starting out. I feel, however, that it needs to show people how it gets to the table. If you want to present the world of cooking to the household, show them all aspects -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Not necessarily "Kitchen Nightmares" or "Hell's Kitchen"-style, but rather why, what, when and how a chef does what he or she does -- how the food is received and how to take care of it. More Alton Brown-type shows, more food advocate stuff. Show "King Corn" or "Ocean Foundations," educate about healthy eating and/or remove the fear of cooking and emphasize the importance of buying local to support your community.

Q: Any words of wisdom you'd like to impart upon home cooks?

A: Make the mess in someone else's kitchen! Cook for yourself and others will enjoy it.

Catch Chad on Twitter @chadatsearocket

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