The Sommelier and the Chef have a volatile partnership, because they harbor a philosophical rift. The Sommelier thinks of food as a reference point to describe the subtle nuances of wine. The Chef puts the food above all else, even wantonly dumping wine into it. At their best they call an armistice, wherein food and grape agree to pair.
The Chef and the Mixologist share a comfortable relationship, conciliatory and compromising. The Mixologist defers to the Chef, who freely explores flavor without constraints like white or red, dry or fruity. The Mixologist thoughtfully curates ingredients from the menu to build the cocktail program. Mixologist and Chef ascribe to the same philosophy; it’s all about the food. For this reason, Executive Chef Amiko Gubbins and Travis Perkins, General Manager for Harvest by the Patio in East Village, have a harmonious working relationship. They both put food first.
The Seasoned Chef
Chef Amiko Gubbins became the hot chef in town back in 1999, when headed up Parallel 33 in Mission Hills. Eight years later she left the restaurant to become personal chef in NYC to musician Lenny Kravitz. Chef Amiko (an avid surfer, hiker and dog lover) missed the Southern California lifestyle, so she returned to work with Specialty Foods, then Sysco, then The Cohn Group and recently, the Patio Group, where, in October 2016 she launched her brainchild--Harvest by the Patio.
Chef Amiko explains her inspiration behind the organic, farm-fresh concept at Harvest, “I can actually match how I live my life to what I am doing in my career…I eat clean, I have a strong yoga practice and I work out as much as I can. I understand my food is pure. The most important thing to me is making sure that there aren't GMOs and everything is sustainable…no antibiotics have ever been used, from birth to raising the animal.”
The menu at Harvest is local, organic and foundationally vegan. According to dietary preference, customers add the protein to the dish, instead of asking the chef to omit it, a problem most vegetarians and vegans encounter when eating out. Chef Amiko, a vegan herself, explains, “There are ten vegan dishes…It's so nice to open up a menu and not go, Okay, I have this one farm salad to take from. Or, I have some of these side dishes that I have to piece together to make an entrée.”
The Young Mixologist
Travis Carter worked as a mixologist in the Detroit cocktail scene for several years before coming out to San Diego to consult for Legal Restaurants. According to Carter, mixologists in Detroit were doing what we are currently doing in San Diego ten years ago. We may be slow to catch on in this city, but we’ve elevated mixology with our nearly unlimited year-round access to rare and unusual produce: “…every single type of produce you can ever imagine, right in front of your fingertips” says Carter. This means a lot to Carter, for whom a bar functions just like a kitchen. He crafts his own recipes based on seasonal, local ingredients rather than the base spirit or sugary mixer. Carter says, “My staff...they wear chef aprons behind the bar, they look at their products just the same way as a chef sees their products.”
It is quite simple and elegant, this passion for food first. Between Chef Amiko and Travis Carter, there are no fundamental differences to iron out, no tense conversations or arguments about what should have the spotlight—the food or the drink. Chef Amiko designs the menu, gives it to Carter and he goes to work. Carter says, “I knew that with this menu being so passionate and so heartfelt and what she is emotionally; I knew the cocktails had to have this same emotion within the cocktail program.”
The control that Carter has over his cocktails isn’t something you can get with wild and unpredictable grapes. Wine, as we know, takes on its flavor profile based on thousands of minute often mysterious variations during the grape growing, cultivation and blending. As Chef Amiko explains, “I think with the flavor structure of the menu, with the cocktail you can get in the flavor to match it, to have it complement better. I feel like if there is a certain herb in a dish, that could be a syrup in the cocktail, so that there is a common breed.”
The Happy Result
This shared passion has paid off in phenomenal reviews for Harvest on Yelp: “Everything here is fresh and handmade...All the cocktails here are hand crafted and made with love,” and “There's so much love here. It's written on the walls and you can taste the extra tender loving care that goes into the preparation of their food offerings.”
The admiration flows between Chef Amiko and Carter as well. Chef Amiko says, “…it's like him understanding my food by catering this whole entire cocktail program around it. He is so talented, I can't even say enough good things about how I just think he is doing some of the best cocktails that I have ever seen put together.”
Carter returns the compliment, “A lot of different factors went into creating this menu and it all started with Amiko, I told her my views. I have said that many and different times, she is my soul mate. Really I can't put it into words what just being around her did to my creativity, you know, it elevated me.”
In those moments when the food and wine are good, they are very, very good. Unity, for the Chef and Sommelier, is hard work, but so worth it. At Harvest by the Patio, the Chef and the Mixologist share the same ingredients, so the food and cocktails are consistently harmonious and always fresh. That kind of relationship is effortless, symbiotic. That’s not to say that we should choose cocktails over wine every time. But sometimes, we want a sure thing.
If you want to sample the Harvest by the Patio menu with a Trust Me Vodka Cocktail, Harvest by the Patio is located in East Village at 369 Tenth Ave San Diego, CA 92101. It is open Sunday thru Friday 11am-11pm and Saturday 10am-12am. No reservations needed. For more information call (619) 541-8301 or visit their website at www.harvestbythepatio.com.