When he worked as the executive chef at the Nintendo Headquarters near Seattle, Al Flores was tasked with preparing food so good that the none of the employees would want to be anywhere else for lunch.
Keeping these 1,000 to 2,000 people happy — and on campus, working — was no small task.
“There’s a lot of different demands, and it’s always changing,” Flores said.
To that end, he set up food stations; there was pizza and an American grill, of course, but with the high number of Asians working there, he also had to master pho, bento, sushi and other cuisines. In addition, there was usually some type of catering happening somewhere on the campus.
After spending nearly 30 years in corporate kitchens, Flores moved to Diamond, Wash. with the intention of retiring. That was before he got distracted by culinary opportunities here. He was hired by the former owner of Sage Baking Co. in Uniontown (now closed) to rework their artisan bread and other baked items. He will be teaching a series in the culinary kitchen at Artisans at the Dahmen Barn.
Flores also works as a personal chef for hire, preferring smaller settings where he can pay attention to details. He’s willing to travel around the country creating one-of-a-kind experiences for clients — like a Japanese curry so aromatic it’s “almost like going someplace.”
Now in a more laid-back setting than urban corporate kitchens, Flores describes life here as quiet and comfortable. He raises chickens and ducks, and he built a bread oven in his back yard.
“I love the people out here. It’s so different. In the city, you shake hands to be be polite, but out here I feel that when I’m shaking someone’s hand, they’re truly interested in me,” he said.
He shared about his work and experience in a recent phone interview:
Name: Eliodoro Flores, goes by “Al”
Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.
Culinary background/training: Le Cordon Bleu and Culinary Institute of America, four years in culinary training, two in bakery, one in chocolate; Flores is a certified executive chef.
Currently works as: Personal chef, available through thumbtack.com. People submit a request for a personal chef, specifying what they want; if Flores is interested, they agree to a contract. He gets around 10 requests a week. In an average month, he takes one to three jobs, which typically take a few days each.
Past culinary experience: Executive chef of Nintendo of America in Redmond, Wash., culinary trainer at Amazon.com headquarters, Seattle, Wash., worked as a chef for other corporations, including REI and Paccar.
Primary specialties: Asian, Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine.
Favorite meal to prepare at home: I do love the basic American hamburger. I’ve always been a good burger fan. But another thing I do a lot of is steamed king salmon.
Most difficult dish to make: The curries, the masalas. They can contain as many as 20 spices, and they use the dry heat method, and you have to roast them to get that going. If you’re new to Asian cooking it can be taxing.
Advice for home chefs: Remember the basics. When your food tastes slightly bland, it probably just needs salt.
Most-used tricks of the trade: Making sure knives are sharp — I hone them after each use. I check spices for freshness and don’t assume what I have is still good.
Current favorite ingredient: Ginger and lemongrass — I really love Thai food.
If you could use only five tools from your kitchen, they would be: Definitely a chef knife, that’s 100 percent for sure. Then a food processor, a basic wooden spoon, tongs and a pan.
Favorite specialized kitchen tool: A Japanese knife that has six blades. It’s used for sushi and saves me time for slicing in a hurry — they’re a lifesaver for Asian food.
New ingredients you’re using or playing with right now: Greek food. I’m introducing some of the breads of Greece — recently I made a rosemary-and-kalamata bread with an artichoke tapenade.
On pursuing a culinary career: You’ve got to have a passion for it. I graduated with 78 people, and I only know of three who are still in the industry.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT & WHEN:
Let’s Cook Culinary Series Classes, 6 to 8 p.m.
March 14 – Shepherds Pie
March 21 – Falafel Pita Sandwich
March 28 – The French Galette
April 11 – Moroccan Charmoula
April 25 – Grilled Chicken Tandoori Naanwich
WHERE: Artisans at the Dahmen Barn, 419 N. Parkway, Uniontown
COST: $35; register at www.artisanbarn.org or call (509) 229-3414