by Katie Israel August 2007 Issue
Over the years I’ve basically created my own style. It’s how you see things and how you do things:you create this definition of what you like to cook, what’s talented and what people are enjoying.
Chef Evan Lite, 35, who will serve as Executive Chef at friends the Sports Tavern when it opens in Trabuco Canyon, started cooking at a young age and now has 13 years “back of the house” experience.
Evan was born and raised in Northridge, Calif. When his parents divorced, he moved in with his dad and took over some of the cooking responsibilities. Evan liked working with food and his father encouraged him to, “just try things,” and also taught him invaluable culinary techniques like how to work with meats, butcher a chicken and cut steaks.
Sadly, Evan’s father passed away from cancer when Evan was in his early twenties and that’s when Evan decided he wanted to become a Chef. Evan told GT he had come to realize that “the most important thing is to be able to wake up each morning and enjoy what you are going to be doing.”
In 1994 Evan moved to the San Francisco Bay area where he attended culinary school at the California Culinary Academy. “Once I got into school I realized, wow, this is great,” Evan said. “There are so many ups and so many downs (in the culinary industry) but I was pigheaded enough to stick with it.” Evan’s hard work and persistence paid off – straight out of culinary school, he landed a job as pastry cook at Strait’s Cafe, a Singaporean restaurant in San Francisco.
Chef Evan spent the next few years working at varies restaurants throughout the bay area including the Moa Room, Eos, Bistro Viola and Stella Mares.
Evan did his best to absorb all the culinary aspects and food culture San Francisco has to offer. “I was blessed to work with some really great Chefs:I went from restaurant to restaurant just learning as much as I could from each Chef. I took the best and worst experiences from each restaurant,” Evan said. “and in my off hours I frequented the restaurants where the other chefs went and absorbed even more information and vision.”
On his own as a Chef since 2000, Evan moved to Southern California in 2004 to be closer to his mom and sister who reside in Orange County.Shortly after relocating, Evan joined Opah Restaurant and Bar in Tustin and later transferred to the Rancho Santa Margarita location (he was Executive Chef at Opah for a total of two years).He also worked one year at Woody’s at the Beach in Laguna Beach until the restaurant closed its doors in February.
Evan’s new adventure – Executive Chef at friends the Sports Tavern. He is busy “starting from scratch,” trying to get his kitchen ready for the opening. This involves attending meetings, ordering and receiving equipment and creating a concept for the menus (he will have a lunch, dinner and bar menu).
Evan is passionate and energetic about food and describes his cooking style as California with French influence. The “friends” menu will be more regional American- “nothing too sophisticated since it is upscale sports bar,” Evan said, “but definitely great quality, great food and fresh ingredients.”
Chef Lite Trivia
1st Cooking or food memory:
Baking and burning, (mostly myself) giant chocolate chip cookies when I was in First grade.
What was your first job?
A basketball referee at a local park.
What first interested you in the hospitality industry?
The art, the passion, yet the serenity of cooking.
What was your first hospitality job?
A Grill/Pastry cook, at the Straits Cafe (it was crazy, I didn’t know Singaporean Food, could barely cook and knew next to nothing about baking).
If not a chef, what would you be?
A high school basketball coach. I enjoy teaching and passing my experiences on to others.
Biggest Myth about working in Kitchen:
People who believe being a chef is glamorous. Those not in the industry don’t understand the hours, the blood, sweat and tears it takes for us to make them an amazing meal.
If not a chef, what would you be?Bullpen coach
Signature or Favorite Dish to make:From Santa Barbara, My, Coq Au Vin.
Other Cuisines worked with:
Singaporean, Chinese, French, Southwestern and Californian.
Hobbies:wine collecting/tasting, trying to lead a semi normal life.
Family:Mother and Sister living in OC.
Favorite OC restaurant:It was La Troquet, I’m still looking for a new one.
Favorite Kitchen Gadget or Tool:Chefs knife.
Favorite Kitchen Appliance:Bar blenders.
Favorite type of cookware:Lincoln Products.
Favorite Condiment/Spice:smoked paprika.
Favorite Raw Ingredient:Shallots.
Favorite Dish to eat:Don’t hate me, Foie Gras
Favorite Junk Food:Tacos at Jack in the Box
Culinary Hero:Hubert Keller (Fleur de Lys)
Herb braised Farpoint Livestock Free Range Chicken Breast
with Pancetta, pearl onions and mushroom caps in a Pinot Noir reduction
Recipe by Chef Evan Lite
Ingredients for the Chicken
4 Farpoint Livestock free range Chicken breast, boneless
“airline” breast (recommended)
1/4 C Flour
1/2 C Pancetta, diced
1 C Crimini mushroom caps, cleaned
1 C Pearl onions, whole-peeled
1/4 C Fresh garden herbs, chopped
1 t Smoked paprika
In a saute pan, brown pancetta (reserving fat). When browned remove pancetta and set aside. Without cleaning pan, saute pearl onions and mushroom caps in reserved pancetta fat. Generously coat chicken breasts with herbs, flour, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Saute in same pan skin side down until golden brown. Remove chicken Breast and strain out excess fat.
Ingredients for Pinot Noir Reduction
6 C Pinot Noir
4 C Strong Chicken stock
1 Garlic head, roasted-peeled
1/4 C Butter, room temperature
1/4 C Fresh garden herbs, chopped
Salt and Pepper
In large walled saute pan heat the Pinot Noir, the pearl onions and the mushroom caps. Reduce by half. Add the chicken stock, herbs and roasted garlic. Reduce by a third. Add chicken breasts to liquid and braise in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven; pull the chicken out to let them rest. Add the butter and pancetta to the sauce and reduce to desired thickness. Season to taste.
Oven roasted fingerling potatoes, Garlic mash potatoes, Celery root or Parsnip puree.