From left: Navio's Chef de Cuisine Jason Pringle; smoked Mt. Lassen trout appears on the appetizer menu ($21).
Chef Jason Pringle is at home by the water, having lived for a spell along Idaho’s Snake River and the Sacramento Delta, where he happily fished most days. He’s also the former executive chef of Aqua in San Francisco and Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne in Miami. So, earlier this year, when the East Bay-reared, 37-year-old chef assumed the mantle of chef de cuisine of Navio at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, high on the bluffs of the Pacific Ocean, it proved a perfect fit. Here, he explains what he prizes about seafood and the unlikely job he coveted as a kid.
What changes have you instituted at Navio?
The hotel wanted to elevate the style of dining. It was the next progression. I completely redid the menu and implemented a nightly tasting menu too. We are a seafood restaurant, so I want to highlight the fish and to utilize coastal ingredients to let them shine as well.
Do you and your staff forage the grounds daily for ingredients?
We get whatever is available on the property or right off of it—wild arugula, radishes, watercress, fiddlehead ferns, different mushrooms, seaweed and even some wild strawberries. It’s literally right outside my back door.
Did you always know that you wanted to cook?
As a kid, I always dreamed that I would be a French waiter. I didn’t know what that meant. I think I just liked the tuxedos. I cooked with my grandparents, be it escargot with my grandmother or big barbecues with my grandfather. Food was always a celebration that brought people together. My first restaurant job was making sandwiches at a Subway. I was pretty much hooked from that.
What do you like about seafood?
It’s very diverse. It can be trickier, though. It’s not as forgiving as a cut of beef. It requires a little more finesse. For example, the Dover sole is a lean fish. We sous vide it, a la minute, because it’s a gentle method. But it’s all in the timing. If it goes too long, it will get tough and dry. But when it’s done properly, it’s perfectly moist and delicate.
Restaurants with great views often get knocked for mediocre food. Your thoughts on that?
I somewhat agree with that. But a great view deserves food that’s equally spectacular. I use the view as my inspiration for the dishes.
Originally published in the September issue of Silicon Valley