Califonia Bountiful

Come taste and talk

January/February 2022 California Bountiful magazine

Chef delights in sharing knowledge about food




Jammir Gray likes to introduce guests to new ingredients and techniques. Photo: © 2022 Lori Eanes

Like virtually all professional chefs, Jammir Gray strives to ensure patrons of her restaurant get their fill of good food and wine. But she also hopes they enjoy a little something that's not on the menu: education.

"I love talking to guests," said the executive chef of Compline Restaurant and Wine Bar in Napa. "To me, the restaurant industry is hospitality and I love that part. I mean, I love it."

And although she's well-versed in any number of topics, the tableside conversations naturally revolve around food. Gray, a Vallejo native who's worked in cities across the U.S., shares her knowledge through taste as well as talk.

"I like introducing people to new ingredients by way of items that they may already know," she said.

Her preparation of Cornish hens last year is an example. She seasoned the birds with sumac—a spice more common in the Middle East—and served them with a side of roasted persimmons. (Gray offers a variation using chicken and quince here.)

"This dish may seem simple, but just teaching guests about new ingredients that are right here in their own backyard, in abundance, that's the education part that I love to do here," she said. "Growing up in Vallejo, everybody had a persimmon tree. But our servers are from all over the country and they have never had a persimmon. And the same goes for a lot of our guests here in Napa."

Expanding one's palate, Gray noted, might help expand one's worldview: "If people were more open to different foods that are outside of their repertoire of foods that they grew up with, I feel like there would be a lot more understanding."

Barbara Arciero

Recipes

Brussels sprouts with Parmesan vinaigrette

Sumac roasted chicken with honey-glazed quince

Root vegetable tian

Whipped almond dip

Whiskey apple upside-down cake


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