Profile: Personal Chef Jessica Rhomberg
Jessica Rhomberg is a very good cook. Not even 30 years old, she has spent more than half of her life in the kitchen.
As a kid in San Diego, California, she happily assisted her dad—a great cook—when he entertained on weekends.
“I chopped vegetables, helped him grill, and I made my first garlic bread when I was 13,” she said recently at her sister’s house in Orange County, where she was visiting her newborn nephew and took charge of breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole family.
At 19, she fully executed a family Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people.
She found her calling. In Hyde Park, New York, she attended the Culinary Institute of America and went pro.
At 22, Jessica accepted a job as a head chef in a boutique resort in Jaco, Costa Rica. She stayed for a year and a half, oversaw five sous chefs and enjoyed cooking with local ingredients, especially seafood. Among her favorite creations were sesame seared ahi tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes, pappardelle with langoustines, and white fish with mango salsa.
Back in the States, she worked at Good News, a cooking school and culinary store in San Diego. She managed the kitchen and was in charge of buying and prepping all the ingredients the chef-teachers needed. “It was really great,” said Jessica. “I learned new techniques from all kinds of cooks.” She stayed for six years, until the owner decided to retire and close the business.
Now, it’s about pop-up dinners. She invites 15 to 20 people, mostly strangers, and serves them a four-course menu paired with wine. Recently, the theme was Alice in Wonderland. There were clocks and mad hatters on the table as décor, and she served fresh English peas, sausage dumplings, Parmesan consommé, and a salad with goat cheese, nectarines, toasted pecans and blood orange vinaigrette.
“For me,” she said, “cooking is about being 100 percent creative.”
Age 29 — Hometown Newport/Huntington Beach, CA — Where do you live? San Diego (Northpark) — Occupation Personal Chef & Cooking Instructor — Signature dish Thai Chicken Curry Salad—I will be selling this to stores soon! — Who taught you how to cook? My father would always bring me into the kitchen when I was younger. He was always telling me "this is my secret recipe and you are the only one who knows." I loved hearing that as a kid. — Favorite kitchen tool I love my Global chef's knife. Kyocera mandolin. I appreciate convenience & efficiency so I developed a kitchen tool that cuts multiple small tomatoes and grapes in half with one slice of the blade. I sell it online at halveitnow.com — Always in your pantry Quality tortilla chips, Tapatio, and pretzels. Great items to accompany amazing beer in the luxury of your own home. — Go-to snack Pretzel Crisps, Laughing Cow cheese, and Dijon mustard. Whenever I am near San Diego's Little Italy, I will always go to Mona Lisa's Deli to get freshly shaved prosciutto to go with my snacks—it's a must. — Favorite cuisine Japanese food for sure. I love sushi. And brunch is my favorite meal. — Do you diet? Umm, no...not really. I try to eat healthy most of the time, but I love great pasta or pizza from time to time. — Food addictions Pho Pho Pho Pho...I LOVE PHO — Food allergies I am lucky on this, none that I know of yet. — Food fad pet peeve I don't think I have one—I understand dietery restrictions. To each his own. — Who’s your sous chef? Me, myself & I most of the time. When I'm cooking for friends, someone will always offer to help, and I'll give a nice and easy job if needed. Other than that, I like for others to relax and enjoy. — Drinking while cooking? Absolutely, I love a good wine or beer. — What’s for dinner tonight? Cooking for my sister, her hubby and her little ones. Homemade pizza with tomato and artichoke, and avocado salad. I have a feeling it will be a quiet night after that meal. — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? No, but I almost cried over three quarts of pastry cream that was dumped on the floor. I made it for a cooking class and needed ASAP for the dessert...it was a crazy day, but I whipped some more out and got it done. That was the closest I got. — Best meal you ever had The best meal I ever had is not rated solely on food, oddly enough. I have eaten at amazing restaurants, but for me it's about the company and atmosphere. When I'm with a great group of individuals, it will always be the best meal I will have, because I'm at the happiest!
Corn Bisque With Sautéed Crab and Shiitake Bacon
Jessica came up with this irresistible dish while still in culinary school, as her contribution to a Thanksgiving potluck with her classmates. It’s festive, luxurious and very, very good. It is also surprisingly easy and fast to prepare.
Fresh sweet corn is cooked in a chicken broth, seasoned with a kicky mix of Old Bay and cayenne pepper, and then blended to a silky creaminess. If you stopped right there, you would end up with an excellent and eminently satisfying soup (vegetarian, too, if you use vegetable broth).
You don’t really need to do much with the crab—just quickly sauté and coat with butter—because it will stand out on its own: subtly sweet, feathery and succulent. But try to get the freshest and highest quality possible.
The shiitake bacon is cool—such a simple, no-brainer idea. Make extra and use it to sprinkle over salads or scrambled eggs, or just to munch on.
- Serves 4
- Corn Bisque
- 6 ears fresh corn
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups yellow onion, peeled, small dice (about 2 medium onions)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
- ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock, plus 1 extra cup
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Sautéed Crab
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 6 ounces lump crab meat
- Shiitake Bacon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup shiitake mushrooms, caps only, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chives, minced
- Using a sharp knife, remove the corn kernels from the cob. Reserve the stalks.
- In a large stock pot, melt the butter on medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, corn, Old Bay seasoning, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.
- Pour the chicken stock into the pot, add the corn stalks, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove the stalks from the pot and discard. Using a hand-held immersion blender or a high-powered stand blender, purée the mixture until very smooth. (Add an additional cup of chicken stock if the consistency seems too thick.)
- Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a medium-size soup pot, pushing the liquid through with a spatula. Stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Keep warm over very low heat.
- Prepare the crab. Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crab and sauté, stirring frequently, for 2–3 minutes. Set aside.
- Prepare the shiitake bacon. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel, and heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Fry the mushrooms until crisp and golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. Season with a pinch of salt.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, place the crab in the middle, top with shiitake bacon, and sprinkle with the chives.
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