Off the Menu: Chef Victor Scargle
The executive chef of Lucy Restaurant & Bar in Yountville, CA, offers his kitchen tips and tricks.
Victor Scargle got his first taste of kitchen life at age 13, and with the exception of a brief break from professional cooking while he gave college a try, the chef, now 42, has been at the stove ever since.
"You go from the adrenaline of working on the line to sitting in a class with 800 to 1,200 people, and I was like, 'This is not for me,'" Scargle says of his days as an economics major. "I need to be in the kitchen."
Over the next two decades, he cooked under top chefs in Miami, New York City, and San Francisco. Now, he has settled into his role as executive chef at Lucy Restaurant & Bar in the Bardessono Hotel & Spa. There, he oversees a seasonal menu that draws on the garden just outside the kitchen.
"We kind of create our menu backwards," Scargle says. The ready-to-pick produce determines what he'll dish up, rather than the always-available beef, pork, chicken, and other proteins.
It's not just the garden that brings out his culinary artistry. Scargle says he needs a solid workout in order to really shine. "If you're not exercising, you're not getting your blood flowing, and so you're just not going to be as creative," he says. "That's one reason I make it a routine. And I actually like to go to the gym."
He tries to make time for a 45-minute workout on the cardio machines. These days he's concentrating on his abs, though it's not a six-pack he's after. "Lately, I've learned that strengthening my abs is great for my back," he says. "When you're on your feet all the time, your back gets really sore if you don't have a strong core." On the weekends, he often joins his 9-year-old son's tae kwon do class as they do 2 hours of conditioning exercises.
When Scargle cooks at home, he likes to keep things simple. If he's not at the grill with a nice piece of fresh tuna, you'll likely find him sautéing wild-caught king salmon and serving it with tart rhubarb, as in the recipe available in the WebMD Magazine app.
"It's really good for you, it's meaty, it goes well with a lot of different wines, and it's got lots of flavor."
His go-to comfort food: "Udon or ramen noodles. I like it with different broths, with duck, and I like to spice it up with togarashi, a Japanese seven-spice mix."
When he wants to lose 5 pounds: "I go out to the garden and start pulling up vegetables, and I get whatever fish is in season. I serve them together with a light vinaigrette rather than a heavy sauce."
Where he gets his best recipe ideas: "Mostly, it comes from just walking out into the restaurant's garden, our garden at home, and the farmers market and seeing what's there. It keeps you true to the seasons."
The one lesson every home cook should learn: "Season as you go so that by the end, you've brought out all the flavor and have a nice, well-rounded dish. Add small amounts of salt as you add the onions, the herbs, etc. If you wait until the end, no amount of salt will get you that flavor."
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