Photograph by Jenn Ireland
Victuals with a view: Hollins House chef Michael Alonzo with grilled artichoke and chimichuri halibut.
How golf and good weather lured a chef to Pasatiempo
By Christina Waters
Armed with culinary degree from the Philadelphia Restaurant School, experience cooking in major hotels on the East Coast and a passion for golf, Michael Alonzo came to California five years ago and has been chef at Pasatiempo Golf Club's Hollins House Restaurant ever since.
SANTA CRUZ WEEKLY: Why Santa Cruz?
MICHAEL ALONZO: Well, most of my friends had come out here to work in the tech industry, so when I came to visit and saw the fabulous weather, wow! So my fiance and I drove across the country. I interviewed at the Westin St. Francis, and the same day I got a call from Pasatiempo. It had a great golf course and I was tired of working in hotels.
Did you always want to cook?
Believe it or not, I started off in engineering, but my uncle was a chef at our local Hilton, and I started working for him. He saw that I had a knack for it, so he trained me.
What was the major challenge when you arrived at Hollins House?
We have 300-plus members from pretty diverse backgrounds. They wanted consistency, but some wanted fine dining; some were more into comfort casual. And that's what's reflected in the menu. The menu is across the board.
How did you make it your own?
Once I proved that I could execute their mission, then they let me develop my own. I've borrowed techniques from everywhere. I'm Filipino, and my background is in classical French. My scheme was to do a tapas menu, and that let me incorporate lots of cultural influences like curries and mojo butter sauce.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Comfort food mixed with classic techniques and new ingredients.
Is this a good place to do that?
As far as produce, it's fantastic. But as far as exotic ingredients, they're easier to get in a big city.
You do so many special events at Hollins House. What's your favorite?
Weddings. Definitely. We just did three this weekend. They allow me to stretch.
What's your personal favorite food?
I love sandwiches (laughs). Right now I'm in the mood for barbecue pulled pork.
And your favorite cooking technique?
I'd have to say it's braised meats. You really have to take your time. A long process. Tonight for example we're doing braised lamb shanks, and they've been in the oven for about six hours, concentrating all those flavors.
What's the best part of this job?
Well, I like to cook and I love to play golf.
SANTA CRUZ RESTAURANT WEEK is Oct. 1-8 at participating restaurants. Visit www.santacruzrestaurantweek.com for more info.
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