Executive Chef Josh Silvers
Syrah Restaurant, Santa Rosa, Ca.

By Ellen Walsh

Born in Manhattan Beach, California, and an integral part of the Los Angeles restaurant scene for many years, Josh opened his first restaurant in Santa Rosa because of the building. “The only criteria I had, was that I wanted to be in Sonoma County. I looked everywhere from Healdsburg down to Petaluma. When I saw this building, I knew this was it.” Josh is referring to the beautiful conversion of a run down cement terminal located under the highway in downtown Santa Rosa, executed by designer Bobby Sariaslani. Featuring high-beamed ceilings with skylights, the walls of the common space are adorned with natural rock and art, while the acid stained cement floors are home to calming waterfalls, and common sitting areas. By the time you reach Syrah, you are already in the mood to be relaxed and waited upon, a point not missed by Josh in his 3 month long negotiation.

The 1251 square foot restaurant includes an open kitchen, visible to seating for 60. “A good night sees 90 customers, but it's not uncommon on a weekend night to turn 150,” says Josh. The small size allows Josh to concentrate on quality. “What inspires me –and that is why I built an open kitchen –is to have more of an interaction with customers and chefs. The tasting menu is all about people in it for the experience. We are selling an experience –the whole dining experience. It's the great service, the great food, the wine list, - cause there are so many things that can go wrong on each level.” In fact, Josh preps his staff as if they are preparing for a play. The start every shift with a “rehearsal” –how to greet the customer, how to present the wine list, even how to turn the coffee cup to the 4:00 position. “It's more important to define the spirit of service vs. the technicality of service. The guests shouldn't have to think, it should be a mini vacation.”

Josh pays just as much attention to the “back of the house” as to the “front of the house.” Einstein said that God lived in the details,” says Josh. This is a principal that Josh lives by. (PULL QUOTE) He makes everything from scratch –the stock has to be skinned, produce from suppliers have to be carefully screened before final acceptance. No detail can be overlooked.

Often, there is a correlation between the development of a creative chef, and the early work experience during the teen years. We see that as a common occurrence in the European culture, where some of the great chefs from France and Italy began their career as a kitchen assistant to some of the greatest chefs in the world. It is a little more difficult to isolate those experiences in the United States, where the culture dictates a different kind of educational approach. Josh Silvers found himself in one of the memorable social engineering experiments of the 60's.

Synanon, was an alternative society drug rehab facility started by Charles Dieterich, located in Santa Monica. It started out as a private club for recovering alcoholics, and moved into other areas of drug rehab, such as violence prevention. As part of their experiment with social engineering, they took kids out of school and put them to work. Since Josh's father worked in the kitchen of Synanon, it was only natural that Josh be a part of the experience as well. This was a defining experience in Josh's life.

As Synanon evolved into an alternative living commune for people from all walks of life, Josh worked in a kitchen that fed 1000 people a day. " It was actually a central commissary that dispersed food to other kitchens." And Josh loved it. "The equipment was bigger than me. I stood on a milk crate to work on a griddle. I held a 30-gallon bowl that was a food cutter and it had separate steam cleaning equipment. It was awesome. No experience ever compared with that again." In fact the die was cast. Although he left the kitchen when he was 13 and returned to traditional schooling, he stayed only until the 8th grade was finished, and left school again to work in a kitchen in Berkeley, California. After a series of bosses he refers to as mentors, (including Jeremiah Towers) Josh evolved into the chef that brings him to where he is today.

It should come as no surprise, then, that when the NutraFoodies gang at Food&Beverage International wanted to create something different and exciting out of organic prunes, that they came directly to the door of Josh Silvers. Harvested out of Live Oak, California by the Sowden Brothers, these moist prunes are the sweetest you have ever tasted. We think this will change the way you look at prunes forever.

Chef Recipes:
Chicken Coq Au Vin

Chicken Paella

Chicken with Organic Prunes Soaked in Armagnac

Egg Pate and Caviar

Heirloom Tomato Vinaigrette

Hot Smoked Petaluma Poultry Chicken

Old Fashion Egg Salad

Organic Prunes in a Squab Consommé Gelee

Sesame Glazed Chicken

Three California Cheese and Mac Medley

Tomato Sorbet

Truffled Egg Mix

Truffled Egg Mix topped with Crème Fraiche and Caviar

Truffled Egg Pate with Aspic

Other Related Links:
The Styling of California Cheese

Living in the Details

The Secret's in the Rice

Petaluma Poultry

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