In The Kitchen With Chef Rogelio
Tomatina’s Executive Chef Rogelio Jacinto has helped to craft an extensive Italian menu that takes a modern approach to traditional Italian recipes. Chef Jacinto has been with Tomatina since its inception in 1998. He began his career in 1989 at the prestigious Tra Vigne Restaurant in St. Helena, California under the instruction of American celebrity chef Michael Chiarello. When Chiarello opened Tomatina in 1998, he entrusted Jacinto with the task of developing the menu.
Chef Jacinto was promoted to Executive Chef of Tomatina in 2002 and continues in this role, where he plays an integral part in the creation of Tomatina’s menu and rotating specials. With a passion for fresh food prepared as he would at home; Rogelio is always pushing to provide Tomatina guests with a memorable dining experience.
Meet your Chef!
Q: Did you always want to be a chef?
A: Actually, being a chef was not in my plans it all – I graduated as a mechanic. I always liked cars and was fascinated by how each piece of an engine comes together to form something bigger. I changed my career when I moved to Napa Valley while working in a restaurant. I saw how each ingredient worked together in the same way as an engine. Each piece plays an important role in making the dish taste good.
Q: Who or what most influences your cooking?
A: I grew up in Mexico, and I was always around fresh ingredients. I learned early on to respect food. My early influences came from my mother and grandmother, but here in the United States my biggest influence is Chef Michael Chiarello, whom I trained under beginning in 1989.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the most important cooking tip for someone cooking at home?
A. Don’t be afraid to try new things and to make mistakes. And, watch your heat levels and oven temperatures!
Q: What was the most difficult recipe you’ve had to master?
A: I would say that mastering recipes is the easy part, some of them are just more time consuming than others. Mastering individual techniques is more difficult. Once, I volunteered at an event and had to sear salmon filets using honey. This technique is very tricky and in the end, the Chef was not happy with the result.
Q: What is your family’s favorite meal that you make at home?
A: I like recipes that are slow-roasted in the oven for more intense flavors. Our favorite: Spiced pork loin. Deglaze a roasting pan with chicken broth to obtain some of that roasting flavor and reduce, adding touch of butter and chopped sage. Pour this sauce over the pork loin, and top with peach chutney. Serve with a side of sautéed broccoli rabe.
Q: What is your favorite Tomatina dish to make? Why?
A: The Caprese Piadine. Why? Because it has fresh-made mozzarella that we hand-stretch at the restaurant, with slices of sweet, oven-dried tomatoes, Parmesan and basil pesto. It’s a great combination.
Q: Do you tend to follow recipes or are you more of a “wing it” type of chef?
A: I only follow recipes when I’m baking, Other than that, I like to experiment and then write the recipe.
Q: If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: Rigatoni with seafood and tomato . . . and a whole loaf of a rustic bread.