Executive Chef at Poseidon shares advice for getting the most out of meals.
Story by Robyn Passante + Photography by Lisa Staff
Local chef Chris Carge began his career as a teen toiling in the kitchen of his parents’ mom-and-pop restaurant in Lima, Ohio.
I did a little bit of everything. I was the cook, the sauté guy, I was the grill guy, the flat-top fryer guy and the dishwasher all combined,” says Carge, who today is executive chef at Poseidon Coastal Cuisine and a partner with SERG Restaurant Group. “I wasn’t a huge fan. I wanted to get out and hang out with my friends and do fun stuff — and not smell like the fryer.”
It’s no wonder, then, that Carge went off to college to pursue a career in occupational therapy. But he didn’t get far before the family passion surfaced, pulling him back into the business, this time into the kitchens of two chefs in Columbus, Ohio — one Italian, one German — who trained him in the classic European style of cooking.
“I started at the very bottom and fell in love with it, worked my way up and never looked back.”
Today Carge does more overseeing than cooking, but he enjoys the new challenges and skills the SERG partnership has brought to his career.
“I never really owned my own restaurant, so they’ve given me the opportunity to step up and do so (as a partner), and I’m enjoying learning more toward the business side, the paperwork, the marketing,” he says. He also likes using his cooking skills in new ways to enlighten rather than merely to delight.
“I’ll get some ingredients from the farm, stuff (my staff) has never heard of, and it’s my job to challenge them,” he says. “It’s nice to start giving back and teaching my staff and watching them evolve into chefs themselves.”
Carge and his partners have made a commitment to use as many local producers of food as possible. “As a community of chefs and restaurants … all of us are pushing and pushing local and really opening people’s eyes up to the quality and health benefits of local, and the business aspects as well,” he says. “We’re proud of what we serve and we want to serve the community as well, so that’s what we’ve decided to do.”
Timing Is Everything
The biggest tip Carge has for fish lovers is to stop cooking all the flavor out of it. “I think a lot of people overcook fish, so all the moisture’s gone from the fish. If you’re looking for that juicy, nice piece of fish, you want a little pink in the middle, that’s perfect. The time depends on your fish and how it’s been cut. For mahi-mahi, depending on the size of the fish, maybe 2-3 minutes on each side. And then right at the end do a little dollop of butter in there, baste it and serve it.”
“People with diet restrictions are a lot more intense now. Most of our fried food was dredged in flour, so we’ve come up with a cornmeal recipe, so all of our fried food is gluten-free. I take big pride in that. I have a little gluten allergy test kit, and we do random tests throughout the month.”
Break from Tradition
Carge urges amateur cooks to get out of their holiday ruts and try something different this year. “Even if it’s out of a Food Network magazine or whatever your favorite culinary magazine is, try something new when you have family and friends over, they really enjoy it. Once you do it, there’s a real ‘wow’ factor. Even taking your green bean casserole and jazzing it up a little bit. Do something different.”
And yes, he has taken his own advice. “Last year (my wife and I) got some lobsters, had our neighbors over and for Christmas dinner we did baked lobster with miso butter, different nontraditional things, and everybody loved it.”
In 2015, Carge cooked and chatted with celebrity chef Curtis Stone when Stone brought the Food Network show “Beach Eats” to Hilton Head Island’s Black Marlin Bayside Grill, where Carge was executive chef.
“Curtis was very cool, very intimidating at first. He’s a tall guy, I’m just a little short Romanian-Italian guy, so he towered over me. But we hit if off really well, and we went and played golf and talked shop for a little bit. He’s a really down-to-earth guy. His philosophy is the same as mine. As chefs get older, I think it’s more simplistic — let the ingredients shine. I think when you’re young you’re trying to be froufrou and fancy, make everything look cool instead of focusing on the taste.”
So who’s the better golfer? “Oh he is, for sure. He’s actually an excellent golfer. I’m atrocious. And I live in one of the golf capitals on the East Coast.”
Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 sliced shallots
2 sliced garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme stems
1/4 cup diced fennel
1/4 diced red pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon salt & pepper mix
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 gram saffron
1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, hand-crushed
2 8-ounce cans clam juice
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chiffonade of basil
24 large shrimp, peeled & deveined
24 littleneck clams
24 PEI Mussels
1 1/2 pounds local fish of your liking (cubed)
Directions  In a container, combine crushed tomatoes and clam juice. Set aside.  In a small saucepan, combine wine and saffron, bring to a simmer, turn off heat, let stand to bloom the saffron. Set aside.  In large stockpot, heat olive oil. Add shallots, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, fennel, and salt and pepper mix. Cook over medium heat, sweating the vegetables until almost tender.  Add celery to mix. Continue cooking until tender (approx. 5 minutes).  Add red peppers. Cook until tender. Add wine/saffron mixture; cook until reduced by half. Add clam juice and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add seafood and cook till shellfish pop open. Turn off heat and serve.
Holiday Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients (Serves 6-8)
2 pounds of green beans
1 cup of sliced shallots
1/2 cup diced guanciale (or bacon)
2 ounces cooking oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
1 cup toasted bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Directions  Get a pot of salted water on stove and bring to a boil, then add green beans. Cook for 5-7 minutes until al dente.  While beans are working, get a heavy bottom sauce pot on medium heat and add guanciale and oil; sauté for 3-4 minutes. Next add shallots, butter and pepper; cook for another 2 minutes.  When beans are done, strain water off and fold into guanciale mix, add kosher salt and sauté for 1 minute.  Next take the green beans off the heat and place in a mixing bowl. Add basil, cheese and bread crumbs. Give it a few tosses to incorporate.  Fold in 3 tbsp. lemon gremolata (see next recipe) and toss one more time. Place in your favorite casserole dish and serve.
Lemon Gremolata Oil
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
6 ounces chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 ounces chopped garlic
6 ounces minced shallots
6 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons of red pepper chili flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Place all ingredients in mixing bowl and mix well with whisk. Reserve to toss green beans with.