Assembly Executive Chef Carlo Espinas Creates Menu Featuring Locally Sourced Wine and Food
Carlo Espinas, new-to-town chef for Assembly Restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz, says that when he cooks, he usually makes too much food. It’s a habit that was formed when cooking for his large Filipino family (including 46 cousins just on his mom’s side), and it’s still influencing him. He says, “Our culture centers around the table—laughing, chatting and eating. I like food that facilitates conversation and cheer, and food that excites and satiates.”
To illustrate this point, he explains that the name “Assembly” describes the assembling of the community. “I wanted to be a part of contributing to the growth of both this company and also the community at large. So, while I am a new resident to Santa Cruz, I have always been a true Bay Area soul. I am excited by the opportunity to bring my history and my passion and add it to the conversation of an already vibrant food community,” he said.
Although he hasn’t had much of a chance to get around town, he says that he did have a great meal at La Posta. “I met Chef Mark Denham in San Francisco some years ago and it’s great to see him working his skills down here. Plus I get to see him at the market on Wednesdays, which is always an opportunity for some chef talk.”
From Communicating with Words to Communication with Food
Espinas grew up in Fremont, California, attending high school in San Jose. He studied print journalism in Washington DC, followed by freelancing in New York before returning to San Francisco to enroll in the California Culinary Academy. Assembly co-owner Kendra Baker met Espinas when she was pastry chef at Bar Tartine in San Francisco and since then she has kept tabs on him. “I knew Carlo was one to watch. When Zach (Davis) and I started talking about people we would want to work with, he immediately came to mind,” she said.
Espinas looks forward to exploring a community and region that has always looked inviting from the outside. “Along with the natural beauty, this area seems so bountiful, teeming with farms, wine makers and artisan producers of every sort. That’s what initially drew me here. I’m excited that I get to try all of this new food!”
“Food is changing because people, both chefs and diners, are asking more questions. They want to know where things are coming from; they want to know how things are made and how they are handled. People want food choices to mirror the choices they make in how they live. I think restaurants provide an essential service to communities. I see Assembly being that to Santa Cruz,” he added.
His main focus will be on the use of local, certified organic, raw ingredients whenever possible. He’ll buy direct from the same farms used by The Picnic Basket, part of The Glass Jar, a farm-to-table restaurant group founded in 2009 by Baker and Davis. Centralized ordering supports the eco-system in every respect. He’ll follow the latest menu trends by making use of super grains, including quinoa, amaranth, farro and spelt. “It’s what people are asking for,” he says.
Baker and Davis agree that Espinas, whose career has spanned the kitchens of Bay Area restaurants including Incanto, Piccino, and Camino, is a perfect fit for their planned menu of rustic California cuisine. “Simple, beautiful, and delicious food prepared with skill and intention; this is what we know from Carlo” says Davis. “It’s no accident that we sought out someone whose former haunts and influences all connect back to places like Chez Pannise and the origins of the local, seasonal, sustainable dining movement.”
Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation Wineries
Chef Carlo will also be working closely with Assembly beverage director Scott Zapotocky. Among the Santa Cruz Mountains wineries featured in the first menu offering will be Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard and Windy Oaks Estate Vineyard and Winery. He looks forward to featuring more wineries from the appellation in future menus.
Judy Schultze of Windy Oaks Estate Winery and Vineyard, part of the Corralitos Wine Trail, thanks the Assembly management team for showing a commitment to locally sourced wine and food. “We know that our pinot noir, grown and made in Corralitos, will be a great addition to their imaginative menu,” she said.
Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, whose featured wines will be Bobcat Red table wine, 2010 Branciforte Creek Pinot Noir and Quinta Cruz 2007 Rabelo, says, “The concept sounds fun and entertaining and I’m sure the restaurant will be just as successful as Kendra and Zach’s previous ventures.”
The restaurant, located at 1108 Pacific Avenue, has announced an opening date of March 11, 2014. Hours are from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. with weekend brunch hours planned. Make online reservations here.
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