Mention the word chef and images of made-famous-by-T.V. chefs like Gordon Ramsay scolding some poor soul in Hell's Kitchen, or bleach-blonde Guy Fieri "rollin'out", maybe even Paula Deen with her Southern twang and heavy use of butter come to mind. Hey, if you can't handle the heat get out of the kitchen. Our chefs at TBR can definitely handle the heat which was confirmed when I brought whole fried habaneros to work and Chef Gerardo Martinez devoured all four. Chef Trevor Chappell is no amateur with handling heat either--when Urge had their 6th Anniversary, Urge's Executive Chef Chuy created a hot sauce made from Carolina Reapers (no big deal just the world's HOTTEST pepper) and Trevor threw back those torturous wings like it ain't no thang.
Both Chefs at The Barrel Room can certainly devour some seriously spicy food but the metaphorical heat they deal with on a daily basis comes from the pressure to create new and enticing specials, holding down the kitchen when the restaurant is at capacity, and overseeing each dish as it is prepared and plated before the guest takes the first bite.
Let's get to know them both a little better:
Trevor’s passion for cooking started at a very young age on the beaches of the Chesapeake Bay. Growing up in a family of food and wine lovers, he was consistently surrounded by wonderful tastes and smells. His older sister is a pastry chef and his parents are both great cooks and wine connoisseurs. Holidays at this household are no joke.
When he gets a chance to step out of the kitchen, Trevor jumps on any opportunity to be outdoors. Whether its hiking, camping, paddle boarding, mountain biking, or snowboarding, he is always looking for a new adventure. His passion for traveling has led him to Europe multiple times where he immersed himself in the cultures and cuisines of many countries. You can see his passion for European cuisine through his cooking.
How do you get your inspiration?
A lot of it comes from my daily interactions and experiences with my peers, friends or family. Traveling and dining around the world has given me many different experiences, and inspirations to go along with them. Reading cook books and sharing photos of food on social media are also big influences.
Do you have a favorite wine?
It’s impossible for me to pick a single wine. One of the greatest things about wine is how diverse it can be and that there is always something new to try. I really enjoy trying new varietals or regions. However, my two favorite varietals are Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Where did you grow up?
San Diego, right down the street from TBR.
Name some of your top spots to grub in San Diego.
Ironside Fish & Oyster, Jake’s Del Mar, Bracero, Tiger!Tiger!, Cucina Urbana, and Nine Ten are some of my favorites.
Are there any foods you don’t really care for?
Fast foods and highly processed or imitation foods. Besides that, I like almost everything.
What do you love most about being a chef?
Making people happy through my expression of food. That feeling you get after working all day and night, feeding hundreds of guests, and hearing about their experience with a smile on their face. Seeing the immediate effects of all your hard work, it’s hard to explain that feeling, but there is nothing quite like it.
Was there someone in particular that inspired you to pursue a career in culinary arts?
My passion for culinary arts streamed from my family, particularly my Grandmother. She was an amazing cook.
What has been your greatest challenge while on the path to becoming an Executive Chef?
My greatest challenges have been juggling my time for family, learning to let go, and not stressing the little things. Early in my career I struggled a lot with taking everything too personally. Being a Chef can be very demanding, but also very rewarding. The challenges along the way, only make the reward that much sweeter at the end of the day.
Gerardo's passion for food started at age 12 when he was working at his father's taquería in Sinaloa, México. He fell in love with the way he could please people and draw smiles just by serving them a good taco (seriously, who DOESN'T love tacos?). He drew from this passion for customer service and decided to study culinary arts in Tijuana. Now, he is in the process of attaining a Master's Degree in Mexican Cuisines. Charcuterie is another passion that drives his cooking style at TBR--he runs a charcuterie program that expresses the seasonality and local meats. He loves to eat more than he loves to cook and enjoys listening to and playing jazz music, especially the drums. He values the ancient roots of food and seeks to explore where certain ingredients originated from and how they were used in the past. Traveling, mastering various cooking techniques from different cultures around the world carrying only his backpack, chef knife, notebook, and a camera; THAT is the ideal vacation for G.
Favorite kitchen equipment or tool?
My knives. I think a knife tells a lot about a Chef, the way you maintain it, sharpen it, your knife preferences, it really describes a chef's style of cooking and finesse. Another tool is the meat grinder, it is really a love-hate relationship. Charcuterie is a passion that I discovered a couple years ago while working with Chef Joe Magnanelli from "Urban Kitchen Group". After emulating some recipes from cookbooks, I really found in charcuterie a "therapy" of some sort that both helps me with my creative processes and challenges me to experiment more with meat curing techniques.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
If I was to label the way I cook based on a country, I would call it Mexican. If I'm describing the way I cook based on a philosophy, it would be "down to earth". I like to cook with what I have in hand; really, the only one who should decide what we cook with should be the land. Seasons give and take away, and I like to cook as "naturally" as I can. If I'm in San Diego, seafood is the answer and small farmers dictate what to put in the pan. If I'm in Chicago, it might not be wise to get shrimp from Mazatlán but there is amazing trout or some other fish or produce for options. This way, I believe that we grow more as individuals by acknowledging that there is a limitation that is called "time and place". This helps us consider more things, like the culture where the product is transformed, the traditions and so many things that employ the utilization of a single product in a specific place within a specific time.
What are some of your favorite foods to cook with?
Mexican ingredients, the unknown ones. For example, there are more than 120 varieties of corn just in the state of Tlaxcala, the smallest state in México! I love to get a hold of them and start studying them and how they differentiate from the other ones. Fruits too, there are some interesting kinds of fruit like mamey, the sapotaceae family, just so many "treasures" that we have and still are unknown to outsiders.
If you could travel anywhere in the world for a week, where would it be and why?
Right now, it would be Chiapas, because it is a state that I feel attracted to for multiple reasons. One, because it hosted many European settlements in the nineteenth century, so they have a very interesting charcuterie culture that is heavily influenced with ingredients native to that state. Also because of its biodiversity and its views, it is a paradise of mountains, amazing flora and fauna. Chiapas is a state that I would love to experience deeper.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I see myself running a restaurant and getting more involved in social matters. My first passion is to serve, then to cook, so serving is a milestone in my life and I feel that I need to get more involved in giving back. It might not be through just charity events but I would love to somehow figure out how to use the platform that I'm on right now to help people and communities that are in need. The cacao producers in México for example, in the last century, were "contaminated" with a purple variety of cacao trees, so the quality of the produce from the tree is very low. There must be a way to support the small farmers to start growing better cacao trees so we can recover the native quality of this amazing product.
It’s the end of world as we know it. What would be your “last supper”?
Tacos de buche, Oh yes! I would just love to be at a taco stand with carnitas, suadero, al pastor, birria, and longaniza, and call it a day. Nothing else.
Do you like In-N-Out? What's your go-to order?
I mean, who doesn't? I would call it one of my guilty pleasures. Cheeseburger animal style, extra yellow peppers.
Your sweet tooth is needy. What is your go-to sweet snack?
Coffee. I don't really have a particular sweet snack that I like. If I want something sweet, I look for beverages. The salted maple latte from Dark Horse Coffee is a go-to sweet snack for me.
Written by: Sara Cortez