Chef Aurelio Sanchez

Chef de Cuisine
Aurelio Sanchez
Las Brisas
361 Cliff Dr
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

By: Robert Johnson
July/ August 2009
We all hear that hard work, dedication and perseverance will pay off in the end. We are told that if you keep working, despite the consequences, that one day you will get a shot to prove yourself and to “make it.” Do we really take full advantage of the opportunities given to us? Do we really believe that it will actually happen?I tell you we must believe it because, essentially, that is the American Dream. Someone who has put this theory into practice with a great deal of success is Aurelio Sanchez, Executive Chef.Ver la version espanola del arti­culo. of Las Brisas restaurant in Laguna Beach.Aurelio came to America when he was 16 years old from Queretaro, Mexico (which is close to Guadalajara) and knew very few people. Undeterred by his lack of connections he was able to land a position as a dishwasher at El Torito where he began his long journey upward within the culinary industry.His value in the kitchen was evident to the chef at El Torito when Aurelio asked to move from the dish station to become a bus-boy and the chef refused because he wanted, in fact, needed Aurelio in the kitchen. Instead of letting Aurelio out of the kitchen the chef moved him to the prep station. This allowed Chef Aurelio to begin to familiarize himself with life on the line. Upon meeting Pepe Lopez, Aurelio was hired as a cook and then given the opportunity to work in Copa De Oro when it opened.From there it was just a matter of dedication, time and hard work before he would be offered the position of Sous Chef in 1984 at Las Brisas.He worked for eighteen years as Sous Chef before given the opportunity to run the kitchen as Executive Chef, which he has done for the last six years.Chef Aurelio’s first days at Las Brisas were occupied by reinventing the menu. He felt the food needed a more ornate presentation and he hit upon the “Mexican Riviera Seafood” concept and drew upon his heritage in order to impart a Mexican style to the food which is demonstrated by the addition of beans to the pico de gallo found in some of his dishes. Aurelio says that he draws much of his inspiration from reading books as well as travelling to different parts of the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Frequently Chef Aurelio will visit other popular restaurants to get an idea for what makes them relevant and to see what turns customers into repeat customers and then incorporate what he can, in his own way, onto his own plates. He equates food to music in that it is constantly changing and evolving which keeps him insistent upon staying at the forefront of culinary trends. And food, like music, should inspire emotion and create a sense of comfort while challenging thresholds.

It seems that no matter where Chef Sanchez goes, food and dining have always played an integral part of his life. After having been in the United States for some time and while out to dinner with close friends, Chef Aurelio met his wife. He admits that his wife does most of the cooking at home and he only occasionally will fire up the burners himself. While relaxing at home (on the odd occasion he is not at the restaurant) Chef Aurelio enjoys swimming, tennis and reading. In step with his humble roots and fresh, light, costal attitude towards food, Chef Aurelio admits that his favorite food and guiltiest pleasure is a salad with perhaps chicken, mixed greens, fresh fruit and a nice vinaigrette. The couple have three sons ages 22, 18, and 12.The oldest just graduated from college and works in a restaurant as a waiter until he finds a job utilizing his degree and the middle son, still in college, works in another restaurant.When asked if he would want any of his children to follow in his footsteps and become a chef, he said that he would be supportive of their decision but admitted that a college education and a nine to five position would be far less strenuous than the long hours and many years required to make it as a chef.

Typical of the restaurant industry, Chef Sanchez spends the majority of his days in the kitchen reviewing schedules, scrutinizing the menu, checking all food orders for quality, and ensuring everything is prepared to his specifications. Chef’s day starts around 6:30 or 7:00 am and finishes usually around 8:00 pm when the last of the dinner rush has subsided and things begin to quiet down. He says the restaurant usually does about 800 to 900 covers a day and that breakfast brunches on the weekends started off with a single station with one cook and two burners but has now grown to multiple stations with multiple cooks.Ever the professional, he never takes time off or leaves the restaurant until he has personally checked and double checked and thoroughly inspected all aspects of his kitchen. His attention to detail can be both seen and tasted in the final product when it reaches the tableside.

Chef Sanchez’s Rivera Seafood concept and the atmosphere found at Las Brisas are a perfect marriage. The fresh, quality plates he produces mimic the vibrant colors found in the paintings which hang on the unassuming blanched walls of the establishment. The whiteness of the walls is the perfect canvas on which the soft, warm hues of the setting sun and ocean vista paint a natural and beautiful mural.It is a truly an experience which does not disappoint.

Executive Chef Aurelio Sanchez
FIRST HOSPITALITY JOB: Dishwasher at El Torito
CULINARY HERO: Gordon Ramsey
BIGGEST MYTH ABOUT THE KITCHEN: That it’s an easy job.

Las Brisas Restaurant
361 Cliff Dr
Laguna Beach, CA

Restaurant Hours:
Mon-Sat 8am -10:30 pm
Mon-Sat 11 am-3:30 pm
Sun-Thurs 5 pm-10 pm
Fri-Sat: 5 pm -11 pm
Sunday Brunch 9 am-3 pm

Average Cover Including Beverage:
Lunch: $18.50Dinner: $30

Surf & Turf
4 oz Australian Lamb Loin
2u/12 Mexican Shrimp
2 u/10 Dry Scallops
2 Baby Summer Squash
1 Cherry Tomato
1/2oz Papaya Vinaigrette:
2 oz Mexican Papaya – seeded
1 Twhite vinegar
1 tsoy sauce
2 TLime juice
3 fl ozOlive Oil
1/2 fl oz Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette
1/2 fl ozHoney Balsamic Chile Reduction

Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette
2 oz Ginger Root
1 fl oz Orange Juice
1 fl oz Fresh Lime juice
1 fl oz White Balsalmic
1 t Dijon Mustard
4 fl oz Olive Oil

Honey Balsamic Chile Reduction
2 oz Balsamic Vinegar
1 T Honey
1 t Chile Chipotle

Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
2 Yukon Potatoes – Peeled and diced
1 oz Sour Cream
1 oz Butter
1 T Horse Radish

Marinate Lamb four hours before cooking with salt, black pepper and fresh rosemary. Place shrimp and scallops into a bowl and add a pinch of fresh garlic, pepper, salt, and olive oil. Place lamb on broil for two minutes on each side, cooked medium temperature. Then place shrimp and scallops, mark both sides, don’t overcook. Place mashed potatoes on center of the plate slice lamb on mashed potatoes, Place shrimp on the right with papaya vinaigrette on top. Place scallops on the left with citrus vinaigrette

Honey Balsamic Chile Reduction:|
In sauce pan place vinegar, honey, Chile chipotle, then let reduce for two minutes.

Papaya Vinaigrette:
Place ingredients into a blender until incorporated.

Citrus Ginger Vinaigrette:
Place ingredients in a blender until incorporated. Strain through fine mash strainer.

Horse Radish Mash Potatoes:
Place diced Potatoes in a pot with water, cook until very soft. Drain remaining water and add rest of ingredients until incorporated over heat.

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