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Chef John A. Baez

smseafood Featured Chefs 6 Comments

Growing up in Austin, Texas, Executive Chef John A. Baez from Tommy Bahama of Las Vegas had quite a few early childhood memories where lakes and rivers were quite plentiful.  “I remember going swimming at some of the local river holes as a kid and being terrified of the aquatic life present. I recall being afraid to initially dive in as I thought a fish would bite me, a crawfish would pinch me, or even a turtle snap at me. It’s actually quite hilarious now when I think back on it as well as ironic, that some of these creatures I was once terrified of are now the blank canvases that allow me to create some of my artistic culinary magic.”

Scallops are one of Chef Baez’s favorite seafood items to cook; both personally as well as professionally. He said, “They are such a versatile item that make for infinite flavor and texture combinations.”  The Scallop Sliders are one of Chef Baez personal favorite items on the menu at Tommy Bahama (click here to watch a cooking video of the Scallop Sliders).  “I feel this dish does a wonderful job of creating a harmony of flavors with the sweetness of the scallops, the smoky spiciness of the chipotle aioli and the tartness of the lime vinaigrette used with the slaw. The textural contrast is also nice. You get the softness of the brioche slider buns and the scallops, along with the crunchiness of the cabbage in the slaw, and the fried wonton strips and crispy tobacco onions.”

Swordfish is another versatile seafood that he enjoys preparing. “I like the fact that I can employ various cooking techniques, especially grilling, when using swordfish. I believe it pairs nicely with many seasonal produce I find readily available in the spring and summer when grilling becomes a much more popular cooking option.”

Though he said it may be a bit bias, the Truffle & Thyme Marinated Scottish Salmon is another favorite seafood item on the menu from Chef Baez at Tommy Bahama, as that is one of his own personal creations!  “I do think it’s a great dish as it does a good job of “toning down” the salmon taste which some people find a bit over-powering, including myself.  The marinade I use pairs well with the salmon’s natural flavor and makes a perfect kind of yin and yang.  The dish lacks a true starch such as rice or potatoes, but I created it with the spring and summer in mind so I wanted it to be a lighter style of dish.  In place of the traditional dose of heavy “filler” starch, I opted for a sweet yellow corn puree which goes hand in hand with the truffle accents as well as the other component of the dish which is sautéed wild mushrooms and spring vegetables.  I finish this dish off with a roasted scallion, lemon vinaigrette and a sprinkle of paprika.  The color arrangement of orange/pink salmon, bright yellow corn puree, deep green scallion vinaigrette and specks of red paprika dust, only enhance the overall visual aesthetic of this plate.”

At home, Chef Baez finds himself exploring new dishes with shrimp.  “I like to experiment with different marinades to figure out new flavor spectrums and profiles that work well with this item.  It gives me a chance to think outside of the box and do something different than what is out there already.”

Chef Baez first began working with Santa Monica Seafood when he moved to Las Vegas over 5 years ago.  “I can only look back on my career in Texas with regret that I never had the opportunity to use them there.  I always thought of myself as being privileged and fortunate for living in a state like Texas where there are myriad rivers and lakes as well as the Gulf Coast that provided me with ample quality product at good prices. While I was absolutely excited about finally making my way out to Vegas (which was a dream of mine when I began culinary school over a dozen years ago), I never thought I would see such good quality product at reasonable prices. I mean it’s a desert isn’t it???  Boy was I wrong!  Santa Monica Seafood showed me that a good quality product could be consistently obtained at fair and reasonable prices even in the desert!  But it wasn’t only the product they provided, as they have been an exceptional source of education and knowledge for myself as well as my staff. The commitment they have made to sustainability speaks volumes about their integrity. My Santa Monica Seafood Sales Representative, Todd White and I have developed a relationship that extends beyond the workplace and it delights me to see him in for lunch or dinner as it lets me know that we are doing something right with the product he provides us.”

Chef Baez expressed that Santa Monica Seafood has a far superior product to any seafood vendor that he’s used throughout his career. “Not only is their quality top-notch, but also consistent, which is a huge deal for me when it comes to seafood. They have proven to be reliable and fair and have always gone the extra mile for my restaurant. I really enjoy the honesty and integrity they display in their business dealings. I feel that they always treat me with respect and in a way that makes me feel like a friend more than just someone they do business with. With that said, when I am shopping for seafood with Santa Monica Seafood, I “look” as much with my nose and hands as I do with my eyes. I focus on firmness of the flesh of the product, pleasant ocean/lake/river scent, healthy flesh hues and a clean fresh taste. Santa Monica Seafood has yet to let me down on any of these.” “Not only is their quality top-notch, but also consistent, which is a huge deal for me when it comes to seafood.

Tommy Bahama
6635 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Phone: (702) 948-8006
www.tommybahama.com

Comments 6

  1. Chris Olivo

    John, it’s been a long time brother but I am glad to see all of your creativity and success. Keep up the good work!

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