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Chef Spotlight: Ian Wingate, executive chef at the Davenport Grand

Ian Wingate is executive chef at the Davenport Grand Hotel. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Ian Wingate is executive chef at the Davenport Grand Hotel. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

For chef Ian Wingate, everything is better with salt – unless it’s whipped cream.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review, Wingate, executive chef at the Davenport Grand, talks about runny yolks, leftovers, and kitchen lessons from his grandmother and mother.

What’s your favorite dish to cook at home? Pretty much anything with eggs! Breakfast, lunch and dinner, the runnier the yolk the better. I think I dream about eggs – especially with kimchi fried rice.

Where do you eat when you eat out? Not selective or picky when it comes to eating out. There are so many great restaurants, and it comes down to what I’m in the mood for. I really like to sneak over to the taco truck and indulge in tacos.

Who or what inspired you to become a chef, and how? I would have to say my grandmother and mother. They are both wonderful cooks and always taught me to use the freshest ingredients and they taught me how to cook from scratch. My mother never threw anything away – any food – and would utilize everything to its fullest potential. I discovered leftovers were not only better the next day but you could also transform it into a new beginning.

What are your go-to ingredients? I’d be lying if I didn’t say salt. Without it, no dish could reach its fullest potential. Also along that line, other ingredients would be yuzu, aged balsamic, bacon fat, ginger and, of course, the egg.

What was the first dish a customer ever sent back to you, and how did you handle it? Oh boy! That is the worst, and it happens to the best of us. I remember it was some sort of a dessert with whipped cream, and I think I replaced salt for sugar. I was dumbfounded as to why it was sent back. There was no explanation. They just didn’t like it, and then I scooped my fingertip into the whipped cream and tasted it. Yep, this is not right. I was hard on myself, but kept my cool, and yelled out 86 the dessert!

What’s a dish you’ve never made but would like to, and why? There are so many. I love a good craft root beer. Never made it. I think it’s something I could have endless possibilities with.

What dish or ingredient best represents you? Spicy taco. I have a little bark to my bite, and that’s what’s so intriguing about me. Just like a taco, I can be flexible with my ingredients, adapting to any situation well and always up for trying something new. I have a certain spunk about me that’s always pleasant to encounter.

Ribeye and Octopus Tacos

From Ian Wingate

For the octopus:

1 pound octopus tentacles

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 orange, halved

3 bay leaves

Sea salt

For the ribeye:

8 ounces ribeye steak, diced small

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 cup chipotle sauce

1/2 white onion, diced small

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

For the tacos:

2 dozen 4-inch corn tortillas

1 bunch fresh cilantro

1/4 cup Cotija cheese

1 lime cut, into 12 small wedges

Prepare the octopus: Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil with the orange, onion and bay leaves. Using tongs, carefully dip the octopus into the boiling water three times (this allows the octopus to stay straight), then leave it in the water. Cook the octopus over moderately low heat until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the heat and let the octopus stand in the water for 10 minutes; drain. Cut the octopus into 1/4-inch pieces and add to ribeye recipe.

Prepare the ribeye: Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, including octopus and mix well and refrigerate for one hour to marinate. Place a cast iron pan on the stove on medium high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil (I prefer to use bacon fat) to pan, once the pan begins to smoke, add marinated ribeye, octopus and quickly sear the meat for about 2 minutes, stirring often, until a beautiful charred coloring and set aside.

Prepare the tacos: Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to new pan over medium heat and begin to heat tortillas in pan a few at a time for about 10-15 seconds on each side and slightly crispy; reserve taco shells. Once tortillas are all warmed up, double the tortilla shells on top of each other so you have 12 taco shells with two tortillas on top of each, creating one taco. Divide octopus and steak among the 12 taco shells. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, Cotija cheese and fresh lime.

Yield: makes 12 tacos