“I consider myself a leader not a boss. I like to have fun with my team and help them learn.”
Javie Solis leads our kitchen staff as head chef, he has been with us for quite a while now even before we opened the doors as Linden Public. He’s pioneered our kitchen and our hearts, always keeping spirits high and our mouths happy.
We couldn’t think of a better person to kick off our staff spotlight posts. Which we will regularly be updating here. Javie will be auditioning for the Food Networks’ Chopped, he leaves today to begin the process.
I sat down with him and asked him a few things about his life and the secret to his start. Get to know him and check back for updates
How old are you?
J: 27 years old.
Where are you from?
J: I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I grew up in New York.
When did you move to Southern California?
J: I was 20 years old and my first job in CA was as a bar back right here in Long Beach.
Thats a very different position from chef. How was the transition?
J: A year later, I had become a line cook at another restaurant. It was a busy weekend night when stress is at an all time high for everyone in the a kitchen, and our head chef walks out. We’re panicking, it’s me and the only other guy in the kitchen. There are 10 tickets up, and more are coming through. I froze, I didn’t know what to do. I sat on the floor and weighed my options. I could follow my chef or stay and sweat out the night. I thought of my son. After a minute of everyone staring at me I got up and finished the night, the kitchen was a mess but we got it done and I remember the GM coming in and saying “this is your kitchen now”. I became fearless after that.
Who inspires you in the kitchen and in life?
J: I cook for my son, I want to make him proud and he gets excited about it. Also I get a lot of inspiration from dance, I used to dance when I was younger living in NY. I listen to music while I cook, and the rhythm and movement make the process a lot of fun.
Does that influence your style of cooking?
J: My style is mostly fusion. I like combining ingredients and flavors that span the map. Whether its Italian, french, vietnamese, moroccan, greek, american, or spanish style I say bring it on. There’s always something new to create as long as you have imagination. That’s big for me.
Imagination is the secret?
J: When I’m trying to create a new dish I decide on 1 ingredient then throw the rest of what I have up in the air (figuratively lol) pick from what I see and go from there. Im a visual guy.
So what’s your go-to ingredient to pick from then?
J: I like spices. Basil, oregano, paprika, and nutmeg. Fresh vegetables also carry a dish.
You already know what’s next. Favorite dish?
J: I’d say Ratatouille, stacked. it’s a very old recipe with a lot of potential.
Speaking of old recipes, and new. How do you stay current with food trends? Do you read cookbooks/food blogs?
J: I don’t really pay attention to trends and I’ve never been interested in cookbooks. Everything I knew about food prior to school is because of my adoptive mother. Trends pass, I just always try to keep an open mind in the kitchen.
J: There are 3 rounds of auditions before filming begins. 10 cooks are chosen from the auditions, then the finale is 3 chefs competing against each other. I love competing, it’s just another challenge.
Have you competed before?
J: A long time ago. I entered a dish in some chocolate festival and won. I like to think of cooking as a hobby and my career.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
J: I plan on continuing my education while helping other restaurants improve their menu. The end goal is I want to own my own restaurant, serving Italian food to honor my adoptive parents.
Any chef advice for a novice just getting into the business?
J: Ask questions. Be interested in learning or you’ll miss the point completely. You need to be motivated!
Ok last question I promise.
J: Laughs. This was fun.
What would be your ‘Last Meal’ so to speak. If you could have anything.
J: More laughter. I think a need minute for this one.
J: Mozzarella sticks. Meat Lasagna. Glass of Cabernet. French Tiramisu.
I think we’re all hungry now.
Keep an eye here to see his progress! Good Luck Javie