The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2015

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Page 65 of 136

july 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  65 Fred Dame: Donald, we met by accident in the lobby when I was checking in here for the first time. Since then I dine here once a month. I have to say that I love the way you change the menu and use local products. Donald Lockhart: That was crazy! I was walking through the lobby and saw you checking in. I had just seen the movie Somm and said, 'Hey, that's the guy.' You're the first chef I've interviewed for THE TASTING PANEL. I knew we should do this because you love wine just as much as you love food. We've had some great conversations about pairings here at Cusp. In fact, I brought a really interesting wine to taste today. Especially since we're such interesting guys! Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz from Australia. It's a project from Tony Terlato and Michel Chapoutier. I really love great wine and this is one of them. Lots of fruit, that classic black pepper, long finish. So, how did you start in the hospitality industry? It's a family tradition. My grandfather cooked, my dad cooked and I cook. In fact, I still have my grandfather's carbon steel knives. I grew up in Anaheim; we had a garden and it just became a given that I would one day become a chef. What kind of wine do you like? Red, white, rosé? I absolutely love Champagne. I love the fact it has another dimension: effervescence. I find that Champagne can be difficult to pair. Oh, I'm talking about drinking it! I could drink it all day on my day off. When I drink sparkling wine, I just do it for the pure enjoyment. When I come to dine at Cusp, I always stand and watch you work with the crew and look over the dishes for the evening. I begin formulating my wine choices just looking at the dishes. When you are thinking about the night's specials, do you consider the wine pairings? I think a lot about texture, color, acidity. Since I passed my MS Level One, I think quite a bit more about how it will pair with the wine list. But the food always comes first for me. We just got in the most perfect figs today; I made fig jam and am preparing a burrata/prosciutto salad appetizer. You can work on that pairing! How's the food scene in San Diego? It's just taking off and I've had some great experiences recently. Three years ago when I came here from Los Angeles I wasn't sure what to expect. It just gets better and better. So, what's next? Do you have a dream? I knew you would ask me that. I really love it here in La Jolla and being at Cusp. I am really interested in condiments. So that may be a direction that I take one day. This is my first number-one position. So I really want to enjoy it for a while. We're in a major drought here in California. Does that affect your menus? It certainly does. Beef, chicken and eggs are crazy right now. So we are always looking at menu elements that are under- utilized. So, ends, greens, tops—things that might have been discarded in the past—we are now working with. What is the greatest restaurant you have ever been to? I've been to a few Michelin Three Stars but my best experi- ence ever was at Charlie Trotter's. The cuisine, the service, the wine—it was absolutely amazing. I'm glad to have had the chance to experience it before Charlie's passing. His legacy will far outlast his life. So the ghost of Escoffier comes down and tells you that you have one wish. What would it be? More likely the ghost of Robert Mondavi. I worked for him at Disney early in my career and his vision of the food and wine experience that should be enjoyed by every guest has stuck with me throughout my career. "It's a family tradition. My grandfather cooked, my dad cooked and I cook. In fact, I still have my grandfather's carbon steel knives." Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz.

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