Jeffrey Weiss is a local-raised professional chef with more than 15 years of culinary experience. Before running the kitchen at jeninni kitchen + wine bar, Jeffrey has cooked in the kitchens of James Beard award-winning chefs José Andrés, April Bloomfield, and Spanish-based chefs Daní Garcia and Adolfo Muñoz.
Jeffrey is one of a select few Americans to earn the prestigious ICEX culinary scholarship - which allowed him to live in Spain, learn the regional cuisines, and cook in the kitchens of top Spanish chefs. His book Charcutería: The Soul of Spain, released in March 2014 from Agate Surrey Publishing, chronicles his time working in Spain and learning the various charcuterie styles of the Iberian Peninsula.
Chef Weiss's local perspective on Monterey County
- What does Monterey Inspiration mean to you?
Monterey inspiration, to me, means that we have the opportunity to take the things around us-be they the foods, places, people, or other aspects of our awe-inspiring corner of the world- and allow them to take root as a part or central theme for our creative process.
At our restaurant, jeninni kitchen + wine bar, that means translating the inspiration of local vegetables, meats, cheeses and other amazing products into menu items seen through the lens of the southern Mediterranean kitchen-with a special focus on southern Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, and the cuisines of numerous Middle Eastern cultures.
- Can you share a favorite moment of inspiration in Monterey that has translated into a dish or item on your menu?
We are so fortunate to live in an area literally surrounded by daily inspiration when it comes to working in the hospitality industry.
One of our most recent dishes is based on a locally caught, favorite fish with a history dating back over a century-the humble Monterey sardine. Since sardines play a very large part in the cuisines of the southern Mediterranean, and are also a fish with such a deep local history, we decided to play due homage to this unsung hero of the sea.
As many new dishes go at jeninni, we started with conversations about both the tradition of eating these fish in Mediterranean cultures and the potential for pairing the fish with wine. A few trial and error sessions later led us to one of our most popular menu items: local monterey sardines w/ meyer lemon-fennel acqua pazza + calabrian chile.
- Outside the kitchen, what do you do in Monterey County to draw from its inspiration?
It's hard not to travel to or from work without seeing something that inspires you-be that drives along the coastline or more inland like in Big Sur.
That said, for me days away from the kitchen mean taking in as much sunshine as possible on our incredible beaches or hiking any chance that I can get on our trails. Also, since days away from the kitchen for any cook almost always still involve food and wine of sorts, I still find a way on days off to go to one of our many wine tasting rooms or farms to visit with some of the best farmers anywhere.
- What's the one, must-do experience for someone outside the region you'd recommend they do while in Monterey County?
I'm a huge fan of Big Sur-there's so few places in the world like it, so I would say that if you are coming into the area then this is definitely a "bucket list" place to check out.
- What advice would you give to someone looking to incorporate your style into their cooking?
Right now, it seems like the foods of the southern Mediterranean are really popular. We are seeing foods like labne, za'atar, merguez and harissa popping up on menus from Long Island to Los Angeles; Detroit to Dallas.
I would say that if you are looking to incorporate the sort of cooking that we do at jeninni into your own kitchen, start with those ingredients and look at how they are used traditionally. From there, allow yourself to be inspired by what you find around you-that's what we do in Monterey.