Executive Chef Rob Davis preparing a meal in Irises Cafe and Wine Bar’s kitchen in downtown Plattsburgh.
Whether it’s brewing a craft IPA in Lake Placid, or scratch-making a French Bechamel sauce at one of the many Northern Tier restaurants he’s worked at over the years, Rob Davis is a self-described foodie, who taught himself to be a chef.
Davis started his working life in restaurants, usually working in the “front of the house.” But all the while he was picking up techniques, and honing them at home, where he still loves to cook and experiment.
“If an individual wants to get educated, with the technology that is available, it’s literally there at your fingertips,” says Davis.
Davis has a love for reading, and added cook books from the Culinary Institute of America and other culinary juggernauts to the Faukners and Dostoevkies in his reading rotation. Coupled with the lessens he had picked up over the years, and the experimenting he was doing at home, over time Davis became locally respected for his culinary talents.
In a field where many have culinary school educations, cooking is one place where a self-taught person can still compete. Davis sees value to both types of backgrounds. He’s seen people coming out of culinary schools who didn’t have the still-set to run a restaurant, and vice-versa, has seen self-taught chefs who lacked some of the finer points to the culinary arts.
“You have to be creative, but do it day after day, week after week. You should enjoy food for what it is.”
He became Brew Master at the Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood in Lake Placid, which he left in 2004 when he bought the Tamarac Inn, just outside Malone. It was at the Tamarac that his growing experience in both the culinary and business end of running a restaurant finally came together.
A massive fire brought an end to the Tamarac, and the Massena native moved back to Lake Placid to cook in or run some of the finer named restaurants in that foodie mecca. Just this past summer, he decided to move to Plattsburgh, and in July he brought his resume around, just to see what was available. What he found was an Executive Chef position at Downtown Plattsburgh’s Irises Café and Wine Bar, where he has seamlessly transitioned to their menu, which he calls “An American spin on classic cuisine.”
He lists French cuisine as his favorite to cook.
“It’s been executed and refined over so many centuries, it’s hard to argue with,” he says.
With his French cuisine backbone and varied experience, Davis can spin off to any style cuisine that the menu or specials call for. With his love of cooking both at home and in the restaurant, and an inquisitive, studious nature, the options coming out of Irises kitchen are sure to keep growing.
INGREDIENTS FOR RISOTTO CAKES:• 2 cups of aborrio rice
• 4 cups of vegetable stock
• 2 medium shallots (fine dice)
• 3 tbl extra virgin olive oil
• 2 tbl fresh sage
• 1/2 allspice
• 1/2 nutmeg
• salt and pepper to taste
• 2 cups roasted butternut squash
• 4 cups blended panko bread crumbs
TO PREPARE:In a sauce pan with good conduction (heavy gauged) heat olive oil over medium heat and add shallots and aborrio rice. With a spatula or wooden spoon, consistently stir the rice and toast it until it turns lightly brown. Ladle in 4-6 o.z of the vegetable stock and slowly stir the rice mixture until all the liquid is absorbed. Continue to ladle the stock in until the rice cooks, as it should become soft, yet still have a resistance to the tooth (al dante). (Very important to never stop stirring the rice as it cooks to release the enzymes in the rice!!!!!) Add the allspice, nutmeg, sage, squash, salt and pepper. Once incorporated, spread into a shallow pan and let cool. Shape into 6 o.z patties and coat with panko. Heat 1/4 cup of evo on medium high heat and brown risotto cakes on both sides. Arrange cakes on a baking tray and bake to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
INGREDIENTS FOR ASIAGO MOURNAY SAUCE:• 2 shallots (fine dice)
• 4 o.z butter
• 3 tbls flour
• 2 cups whole milk
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
• salt and pepper to taste
TO PREPARE:Saute shallots in butter over medium heat until translucent (about 3-4 minutes) Add flour, then wisk milk and cream in and cook until the mixture becomes thick. Wisk in cheese and finish with salt and pepper.
INGREDIENTS FOR SCALLOPS:
• 6-8 diver scallops (U 10) if possible
• salt and pepper
Over high heat, season scallops with salt and pepper and sear in frying pan with olive oil. Once both sides of scallops are brown, finish in 375 oven until cooked to 120.