“Somebody asked me, ‘If I wasn’t a chef, what would I be?’ My reply was simple. ‘If I wasn’t a chef, I wouldn’t BE.’”
Working in restaurant kitchens, even executive chefs have to follow the “rules” of the industry. But cooking is an art that shouldn’t be restrained. That’s why Ronny Miranda came to Feastly – to share his personal experiments with passionate eaters who appreciate the story behind each and every dish.
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Miranda hails from a long line of cooks. As a third generation Azorean-American, he grew up experiencing a plethora of cuisines in the culinary mecca that is the Bay Area. “Cooking is simply a part of my family’s history and has continued to be,” he says of his culinary-savvy forefathers, who immigrated to the United States from Portugal in the 1930’s.
Miranda’s first gig was washing dishes for his family’s ice creamery. “It was a very humbling experience,” he tells us, looking back, “it’s harder than you think to get ice cream and hot fudge off 600 plates in one sitting.” His cooking is heavily influenced by the Azorean family recipes he grew up eating in his mother’s and grandmother’s kitchen. Talent and creativity with food has clearly always been a part of their tight-knit culture.
Miranda’s professional experience includes his tenure at San Francisco’s French-American inspired Fifth Floor, and most recently as the Sous Chef at Revival Bar and Kitchen in Berkeley. He began hosting with Feastly when he realized how life in the restaurant world–though constantly exciting and moving–was creatively limiting and at times barring to personal potential. His go-to mantra in the kitchen? “Strategy will compensate the talent. The talent will never compensate the strategy.”
We visited Chef Miranda at Revival to chat with him about food, growing up in the kitchen, and his never-ending passion for pork.
Book seats to his Oktoberfest pop-up on September 30, Wednesday: http://bit.ly/1Lf7ecj
1. What is food to you?
Food is life. A cliche answer, but it’s true. Everything in my life revolves around food, from preparing a new dish or working with a new ingredient to choosing which new restaurants to try. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin said, “Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are.” Food can tell you where a civilization came from, their hunting techniques, how they farmed…Hell–salt, milk and honey were all used as currency at one point in time.
2. How and when did cooking come into your life?
Growing up in a Portuguese household, I was always in the kitchen with my grandmother. She would prop a booster seat up at the dining room table and have me help anyway I could, whether it was cleaning beans or tomatoes. A family tradition was watching PBS cooking shows together every Sunday morning.
3. Who is your food role model?
Heston Blumenthal. He’s a chef that pushes limits, demands perfection and knows when to play with his food. As a chef, he never forgot that what we do is truly fun and creative.
4. What do you love about hosting with Feastly?
I love hosting with Feastly in part because of the amazing staff. They’re all awesome and show so much love and passion for the chefs and food. Also because it’s personal, I’m not worried about what Bauer will think when I’m making a dish. I get to make the food I want to make and share it with complete strangers.
5. What are your cooking goals/dreams right now? And in the long run?
Right now my goals are to learn as much as I can while experiencing as many techniques as possible, and to travel. In the long term, I want to own a few restaurants, each with completely different themes expressing every cuisine I love. Maybe a food truck or five. My ultimate goal is to go back to the valley and start a farm & restaurant where we grow local harvest to serve in my own kitchen.
6. Favorite feast you’re ever had?
Part of my heritage is Hawaiian and the first thing that comes to mind is a luau we had when I was about 9 or 10. I was handed a shovel and told to dig an imu in the back yard for a 225 pound hog. Then I was sent inside with my aunts to make lau lau with butter fish, yams, and pork. I can still see the huge spread of food as vividly as yesterday.
7. What’s the one thing you always keep in your fridge?
Eggs! I’m an egg slut. It’s the one food I can eat anytime of the day, in any form. If you can get an egg with an egg sauce on a plate, I’m there. The difficulty of cooking this ingredient also intrigues me. There are so many levels of cooking an egg, it’s amazing what a 2-degree difference can do.
8. What is the go-to dish you make for yourself when home alone?
Other than a PB&J after a 12 hour shift in a restaurant, I would have to say roasted chicken with peppers and onions. It’s something my grandmother would make for me all the time as a kid. Simple, but so full of flavor.
9. Weapon of Choice (in the kitchen):
My 4-inch utility knife. It’s the perfect size for every use imaginable. I’ve gone from breaking down chickens to chiffonading basil on the line.
10. You’re stranded on a desert island. You can only have one ingredient, but unlimited amounts of it. What is it?
Pig, of course. Being Portuguese, I’m not sure I could go without pork for more than a week.
11. A fun food fact:
Coconuts kill more people than sharks each year. A coconut falling from a full size tree impacts the ground at one ton of force. Don’t be afraid of the ocean, be afraid of that damn tree.
12. What’s the cheesiest food pun:
13. What’s a food trend that you’ve heard of lately?
I stay up to date as much as possible on food trends. Filipino food is exploding all over the Bay Area right now, which is awesome. It’s a food culture that is not explored nearly enough in this country.