Chef Fred Mensinga began his indoctrination into the culinary world in East Germany, where his family had always owned restaurants. One restaurant that his mother and father ran was destroyed in World War II, and as a result, they moved to Holland, just across the German border, when Chef Mensinga was still young. While in Holland, Chef Mensinga fondly remembers how his mother took great care in preparing the day’s meals. She would bike several miles to shop for groceries. Sometimes she would even cross the German border in search of breads and other ingredients. His mother’s passion and diligence got him interested in cooking.
Chef Mensinga also had an older brother who was a pastry chef and chef who was travelling around the world. Fred would receive postcards from his brother while on his travels, and he longed to have the same freedom to experience the world. When speaking to his brother about his intentions, his brother admitted that if he were to do it all over again, he would have become a chef and not a pastry chef. Upon this advice, Chef Mensinga decided once and for all that he would become a chef. He located a book on how to apply to school and sent out applications. He was accepted to a school in Hamburg, Germany. After explaining to his mother that he was accepted to a school in Hamburg, she was not so sure of the idea. Hamburg is a big city and she was leery of sending her young son to such a large city on his own. They reached a compromise and he attended school in a smaller city closer to home.
Schooling is structured a bit differently in Europe. First, Chef Mensinga worked as an apprentice in a restaurant. Then, after the apprenticeship he worked and attended school. According to Chef Mensinga, this is a better experience than how culinary school is structured in the United States. The European structure allows the students to experience the industry before they attend school which gives them an idea of what to expect upon graduating. If the student does not like the apprenticeship, then they can move on to something else. If, however, the student still wants to continue, they not only have an idea of how the business is run, but they also have some practical experience to apply to the next step in the process. Chef Mensinga explained that the real journey began upon graduation when he was able to work for other chefs.
After graduating, Chef Mensinga went to Berlin for some time and then moved to Austria. Fred had the good fortune to meet his wife, Linda, while in Austria. They began their life together as Chef Mensinga continually worked in restaurants. His wife began to talk of America. Before long, they took the opportunity to move to America in 1979. Chef Mensinga began working at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. He worked there for six years. Since he was new to the American culinary industry, Chef Mensinga had to start all over again. He began as a cook at the Bonaventure, then became a dinner cook, then sous chef, and so on until he became the Executive Sous Chef.
In 1985, Fred left the Bonaventure and began working at the Hilton. He said that when he first began working at the Hilton it was very busy. Daily they would turn out two to three thousand covers. He said that this took a toll on many of the workers there. Slowly he began to work out the kinks so that after a change in staff and menu, the restaurant could accommodate the massive number of diners served. When Chef Mensinga came to the Hilton, he brought a small team with him from the Bonaventure. Then he began to make small changes with his personnel until everyone performed as a team. Another major change was to the menu. He says the first thing he changed was to use only fresh vegetables, sauces, and ingredients. The next change he made to the menu was to make it smaller. He says that stand-alone restaurants can have the luxury of specific menus catering to a certain demographic. Hotel restaurants must appeal to a large base of people from all over the country as well as all over the world. This can present a challenge when constructing a menu. Chef realized that, for the most part, people eat the same things. He designed a menu that drew upon the things people come to expect and made them with creativity and flair.
Chef Mensinga keeps up with trends by traveling and seeing what other chefs are doing, learning from them; which is why in 1990 Chef Mensinga started Culinary Trends magazine. He saw there was a need for a magazine to expose chefs to what is going on in the culinary world around them. Initially, Fred sent out a newsletter to get an idea of how many chefs or subscribers might be interested. The response was more than he expected. So, with the help of some publishing professionals, Chef Mensinga launched his magazine. Ultimately, he and his wife ended up doing a lot of the work on the publication themselves. After 18 years of publishing the magazine, Fred and Linda recently decided to sell the magazine and give themselves a much needed break.
Chef Mensinga still loves to travel around the world and experience new innovations in the culinary industry. Because of his well established reputation in the culinary industry, Chef Mensinga is often asked to be a judge for culinary events. This gives him further exposure to what is on the cutting edge of the industry. He has a passion for fresh, natural food, and is a big advocate of using food which is free of antibiotics, hormones, chemicals, etc. When Chef Mensinga finds a new recipe or technique he tries them out with his sous chefs to see if they like it. He wants to get the sous chefs to buy into the new dish because they will have to cook it every day. He also allows the sous chefs to tweak the dishes as necessary – that is how new and innovative dishes are created. He feels it is very important for chefs and cooks alike to read culinary books and magazines in order to stay up with and ahead of trends.
Chef Mensinga is the consummate culinary professional. He is an award winning chef, President of Les Toques Blanches international, and a culinary entrepreneur. His accomplishments have earned him a great deal of respect and notoriety within the culinary profession and, lucky for the people of Orange County, his culinary delights can be tasted at Mix restaurant inside the Hilton restaurant in Anaheim.
Chef Fred Mensinga
FAVORITE KITCHEN GADGET OR TOOL: Mandolin.
FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE: Hand mixer for sauces.
HOBBIES: Skiing, traveling, movies, basketball, reading food magazines, cookbooks.
FAVORITE OC RESTAURANT: Napa Rose.
FAVORITE JUNK FOOD: Hot dogs.
FAVORITE RAW INGREDIENT: Kohlrabi.
FAMOUS CHEFS YOU’VE MET: Roger Verge, Paul Bocuse, Wolfgang Puck, Michelle Richard, Jean-Louis Palladin, Thomas Keller, Michael Chiarello, Sara Moulton, Roy Yamaguchi and I can’t remember who else.
CULINARY HEROES: Witzigman from Germany and my former Chef.
YEARS OF CULINARY EDUCATION: 3 years.
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 35 years.
PLACES TRAVLED TO EXPLORE AND LEARN ADDITIONAL CUISINES: Japan, Korea, Germany, Austria, Holland, Switzerland, France, Belize, Mexico, Canada.
Hilton Anaheim777 Convention way
Anaheim, CA 92802
Daily: 6 a.m. 10 p.m.
Grilled Pacific Salmon with Orange Blossom Vinaigrette
By Chef Fred Mensinga
2 to 2 1/2 lb Salmon filet – skin on, fat trimmed off scales, bones removed
2 Large Roma tomatoes
4 Shiitake mushrooms – 3 inch cap
4 Baby bok choy
4 bunches Fresh spinach
4 oz Fresh basil
1 C Extra virgin olive oil
5 sprigs Lemon-thyme
2 T Villa Mandori extra virgin olive oil with red pepper
White pepper – freshly ground
Orange Blossom Vinaigrette
32 oz Orange juice
8 oz White wine (Chardonnay)
16 oz Orange blossom vinegar -available through Swiss Chalet
24 oz Fish stock
3 Shallots – finely sliced
1 Bay leaves
1 sprig Fresh thyme
1 sprig Fresh basil
15 White peppercorns – crushed
1 pinch Salt
1/2 lb Plugra butter – cut in small cubes
1 bottle Pumpkin seed oil – available in specialty stores
Salt to taste
Blanch tomatoes for about 10 seconds in boiling saltwater and then cool in salted ice water. Reserve the boiled saltwater. Peel skins, cut tomatoes lengthwise in halves and remove seeds. Line them up on an oiled sheet pan, brush tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and season with salt. Place them inside a 225 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 3-4 hours in order to dry them. This will strongly intensify their flavor. (This could be done a day ahead.) Meanwhile, remove stems from spinach and wash thoroughly. Blanch quickly in the reserved boiling saltwater and cool in salted ice water. When cold, pull spinach out of water and gently squeeze any excess water out. Proceed the same way with the whole Baby Bok Choy. Set aside. Cut 12 slices (2-2.5 oz.) from the filet of salmon (skin still on), starting from center.
The cut should be done while holding the knife at a flat angle so that you receive about half inch thick slices. Set aside in refrigerator.
Orange Blossom Vinaigrette
Combine orange juice, white wine, shallots, white peppercorns (crushed), bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce on medium heat to about half. Add orange blossom vinegar, white fish stock and the sprig of thyme and basil. Reduce again over medium heat to about half. Season to taste with salt. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, and keep vinaigrette hot in a bain marie until serving. Right before serving, slowly incorporate the butter with a hand blender or whisk. Reserve a little butter for sauteing the vegetables.
Plate set up
Saute blanched spinach and baby bok choy in butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. When hot, cut bok choy lengthwise in half. Set aside. Cut off stems of mushrooms, brush them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill them from both sides. Season salmon with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Brush with olive oil and grill from both sides until medium- this will go very quick. Set side.
Warm up tomato halves in oven.
Place a little sauteed spinach in middle of large dinner plate and put 1 slice of broiled salmon on top. Arrange a half of bok choy and one grilled Shiitake mushroom on top. Place another slice of salmon on top and the second half of bok choy. Put last slice of salmon and the remaining half of tomato on top. The idea is to build up a layered tower of salmon and vegetables in the center of the plate. Finish the dish by arranging the vinaigrette around and drizzling some roasted pumpkinseed oil. Garnish the top with the basil sprig. Sprinkle with the Red Pepper Extra Virgin Oil.