Meet Joseph Stiles – Profile of a Charter Chef
- Stiles knew early in life his destiny lay in food preparation and aimed for perfection with imagination.
Joseph Stiles, a native of Washington state, is 34 years old, and has had a remarkable education in both food preparation and multi-varied cultures. He was born into a farming family, sharing the daily work with his two brothers and his parents. From the land they processed everything edible for the family. His mother raised dairy goats for over 40 years and slaughtered other livestock including beef, pigs, chickens, rabbits and, of course, goats. The farm work did not stop there. It encompassed a massive garden, growing everything from vegetables to berries and orchard fruits. They grew up on raw milk, made butter and cheese, and preserved everything for the winter months. With this background, it is hardly surprising he loves food.
Fortunately for the gourmet aficionados, Stiles knew early in life his destiny lay in food preparation and aimed for perfection with imagination. To achieve this goal, he learned the basics of cooking professionally in a commercial kitchen, starting in an Irish pub in Spokane at age 20. Moving to a small Italian restaurant, he learned basic sauce-making skills and improved his line working ability. Next came a boutique hotel, where he trained under acclaimed chef Chet Geri in a fine dining restaurant. One final stop before culinary school paired him with chef Kyle Tansey, and Stiles helped him open his restaurant Quinns (named after Tansey’s daughter). Stiles took over as the first sous chef, learning the intricacies of running a restaurant from hiring and firing to menu development, ordering and fabrication. With three years of experience under his apron, Joseph attended Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, and graduated with a degree in culinary arts in 2003. He returned to Spokane and managed an established restaurant Mizuna, which featured vegan, vegetarian and featured wild fish and local organic meats. There, he drew on his childhood experiences, foraging in local forests for wild mushrooms and edible greens, and utilizing the local farmers’ markets that, at that time, many other chefs ignored. Stiles received recognition for his farm-to-table philosophy at Mizuna.
To broaden his cultural knowledge, as he phrased it: “ I packed my bags and headed to Italy, a place I had visited two years prior while attending culinary school, to immerse myself in the culture I traveled every region of the country.” His timing was perfect. He attended Christmas Eve Mass, the last given by Pope Paul II, spent Easter in Rome and New Year’s in Lecce. Most important for his thriving ambition, he visited the very impressive Truffle Festival in the ancient town of Alba in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. This is the premier truffle destination in the world. During the month of October, the city center is abuzz with local vendors selling their most prized possessions, the white truffle. Truffles can be purchased for a handsome price, ranging as high as 4,000 euros per pound, and hail from as far south as Tuscany. Stiles described it, “Upon my arrival in Alba, a lovely medieval town, I was immediately overcome with the encompassing aroma of truffles. As I wandered through the bazaar, I found every local restaurant offering fresh truffles on their menus. I spent two weeks in Alba in the beginning of October in 2004 and remember hopping from restaurant to restaurant sampling the local fare spiked with truffles. Everything from a crostini with truffle pesto to homemade tagliatelle pasta with fresh truffles shaved over the top were never disappointing. I found that chefs and purchasers had traveled from all over the world to attend at least one weekend of the festival, buying up a supply they would export to their respective establishments. However, I was there as only a consumer and took only wonderful memories home with me. Alba during the month of October is a must-visit for any culinarian to enjoy the beautiful city, amazing wine and of course the prized white truffle.”
Stiles continued, “Traveling to Sicily was a highlight. Upon my arrival in Trapani on the west coast of the island, I strolled into a local restaurant on my first evening in search of a drink of locally made Marsala. The couple who owned the establishment must have been impressed with a guy from the US traveling with his own knives and disclosing his culinary background, so they hired me. I spent some time in Trapani and was exposed to traditional fare, including fresh pasta with sea urchin roe, handmade couscous with fish broth and buffalo mozzarella. Everything was made from scratch, and after dinner service was spent with the kitchen staff enjoying family meals together and then cleaning a 50-gallon container of fresh sea urchins.”
Deciding he had soaked up all of the culture he could afford, Stiles returned to Portland and continued his studies at Western Culinary Institute, receiving a degree in patisserie baking in 2006. He joined a large-scale French brasserie, Fenouil, where he refined his technique and learned valuable experience in high-end, high-volume cuisine. He spent two years honing his pastry skills, filling in for colleagues in the pastry field establishments. To round out his cultural cuisine, Stiles accepted the position of chef de cuisine at Coupage, a Korean-French restaurant in Seattle. “This gave me an opportunity to explore north Asian cuisine, and I fully utilized the markets of the international district. Shopping almost daily, I exposed myself to a multitude of ingredients and styles of cuisine.”
After a year and a half at Coupage, Stiles teamed up with a talented chef Ashley Merriman at the newly opened restaurant Branzino in downtown Seattle. The restaurant received rave reviews almost immediately from the dining elite. With a small and extremely talented kitchen staff, they filled the restaurant nightly while maintaining quality and execution.
Wanting to leave the Pacific Northwest behind, Stiles relocated to the Caribbean. As the chef of Salud Bistro on St. Croix, he took a modest Mediterranean bistro to new heights for over two years. Stiles can proudly state, “From curing my own meats and sausages to artesian breads and pastas, I have received critical acclaim from both the public, media and food judges at A Taste of St. Croix 2010 for the Best Entrée.” With all of his exciting travel and restaurant experience, Stiles now aspired to chef on a yacht. He met George Custer, captain of the 120-foot M/Y Freedom
. “George is now giving me the chance to learn a new and exciting realm of the hospitality industry.”
I asked Stiles two special questions: First, what special memories do you have? “On my first trip to Italy, I was referred to a restaurant by Mario Batali. He told me that if I was ever in Modena I had to go to Hosteria Guisti and that it was the best food in Italy. I found the food to be of such perfection that it made me cry. The food took me somewhere I had never been before, and I was truly amazed at the culinary brilliance of the entire experience.” Second, what makes it all worthwhile? “The love I have for food is unconditional, and getting to share it with people is a very intimate experience. The fact that I have a beautiful yacht on which to cook and the Caribbean as my backdrop creates a unique atmosphere that would be hard to find anywhere in the world. That makes it all worthwhile.”
When not on Freedom
, Joseph lives with his girlfriend Britta Luzny on his 30-foot sloop. In spite of his extensive, exciting experiences, he is still an old fashioned guy at heart. He plans to become engaged to Luzny as soon as he has had a chance to ask her father’s permission!
A native of New Zealand, Jan Robinson sailed the Caribbean on her 65-foot yacht for more than 20 years as a charter chef and yacht captain. She now divides her time between homes in the US Virgin Islands and Charlotte, North Carolina.
YELLOWFIN TUNA TARTARE WITH PLANTAIN CHIPS AND TOMATO SEED VINAIGRETTE
6 oz. fresh yellowfin tuna 1 English cucumber, peeled, half small diced and half sliced into thin rounds 1 avocado 1Tbsp minced shallot 1/2 bunch cilantro 2 vine ripe tomatoes 1 green plantain 2 fresh lemons Extra virgin olive oil Splash sherry vinegar Kosher salt Peanut oil
Scrape the piece of tuna with a large tablespoon, scraping the meat into shreds and discarding the sinew between the bands of meat. Place in a stainless-steel bowl and place in the refrigerator.
Peel and seed tomatoes, saving the seeds for sauce. Small dice the tomato flesh and set aside.
Pick cilantro leaves from stems and finely mince.
Cut avocado in half, remove pit, cut avocado into quarters and peel. Cut avocado into a medium dice.
Combine the reserved tomato seeds with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of sherry vinegar, and stir together and set aside.
In the bowl holding your shredded tuna, add your cilantro, minced cucumber, minced shallot, fresh squeezed lemons, small diced tomato, medium diced avocado, two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and kosher salt to taste. Stir all ingredients together and adjust seasoning as needed with more lemon juice and kosher salt.
Heat 3 cups of peanut oil to 350 degrees F.
Peel the green plantain and slice as thin as possible on a mandolin. Once oil has reached proper cooking temperature drop four to five slices of plantain into the oil at a time and allow to cook until crispy. Remove from oil and season with kosher salt.
Arrange sliced cucumber around the perimeter of the plate, overlapping the cucumbers as you fan them around.
Using a ring mold approximately 2.5 inches in diameter, fill with the tartar and press into the mold until firm. Remove the mold and repeat steps one and two.
Dress the plate with your tomato seed vinaigrette and garnish the top of the tuna with your fried plantain chips.