Arts & Entertainment

Chef Spotlight: Meet Cody Geurin of Clover

Cody Geurin stands in front of Clover, located in a Craftsman-style home near the Gonzaga University campus. He recently took over as executive chef. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)

Cody Geurin is the new executive chef at Clover.

Tucked into a turn-of-the-century Craftsman-style bungalow near Gonzaga University, Clover is one of the region’s best for fine dining. It celebrated its sixth year in May.

Geurin, 37, took the top spot in the Clover kitchen when Travis Dickinson left late last year to launch his own restaurant with business partner Justin Curtis, the restaurant’s former front-of-the-house manager. Cochinito Taqueria opened in downtown Spokane in March.

Shortly after that, Clover debuted its new spring and summer menu, which owner Scott McCandles called “the most aggressive menu change we’ve had in six years.”

It’s the first full menu under Geurin’s direction. Geurin has been cooking professionally since 1997. Here, we learn about the inspiration behind his chilaquiles at Clover. And, Geurin shares his recipe for the corn fritters he serves with the Kurobuta pork tenderloin new on the menu for spring and summer.

What’s your favorite dish to cook at home? I don’t get to cook at home often anymore, so I treasure it when I do. I love grilling in the summer, lots of veggies, burgers, hot dogs. Whatever is on the grill, I enjoy being in the yard with my kids playing around me. I tend to go over the top with my home-cooked meals, testing new ideas and flavors. I like making soups and challenging myself when the cupboards are bare.

Where do you eat when you eat out? Between running Clover and having five kids, the wife and I don’t get out often. When we do go out, we most often find ourselves at Durkin’s, at the counter. I like to see what other chefs around town are doing as well to make sure Clover stays at the top. I really enjoy Wild Sage for their consistency in excellence. I also enjoy a nice greasy spoon for breakfast. Cottage Café and Knight’s Diner never disappoint me.

Who or what inspired you to become a chef, and how? I am inspired, again, by my kids. I realized a long time ago that I would not be able to do what I loved and support them financially unless I fought my way to the top. That drives me to keep working hard, learning and growing professionally. I’ve worked at dozens of restaurants over 20 years and picked up a little bit of the best of all of them. There are always lessons to be learned, even in the most undesirable jobs. I have always looked up to the chefs who are 100 percent committed to perfection and progress. There are always people who cut corners for the sake of faster service or out of laziness. I admire the guy who will stop everything to get one plate right.

What are your go-to ingredients? Cumin always finds its way into my food. I love working with as many different chiles (dry and fresh) as I can find.

What was the first dish a customer ever sent back to you, and how did you handle it? I used to be argumentative and defensive about people sending food back. I thought of it as a personal slight against me. I would argue with servers and demand an explanation before correcting the problem. I have learned, over the years, to just accept it. We made a dish, the guest didn’t like it. Fix it. This line of thinking has enabled me to fix the problem promptly as well as take preventative measures for the future. I have also learned that some people just can’t be made happy, we can move on to the next one.

What’s a dish you’ve never made but would like to, and why? I can’t think of a particular dish that I haven’t made that I want to. I’m really doing it right now. Anything that pops into my mind like that, I just order ingredients and make it. With seasonal menu changes, beer- and wine-tasting dinners, and competitive events, I have so many opportunities to try new things. I am always challenging myself and my staff to do things we are not comfortable with or have no experience. Sometimes we fail, but we try to make it a learning experience. With our last brewer’s dinner, with Elysian Brewing, I attempted to make an octopus terrine. It did not end up working as planned, for various reasons. We had to improvise quickly and ended up making octopus nachos instead. It ended up being one of the highlights of the evening. Sometimes, things just work out.

What dish or ingredient best represents you? My dad always made enchiladas when I was a kid. I still remember him frying tortillas in his cast iron pan and smell that filled the house. They were greasy, crispy and spicy with an egg on top. It is still one of my favorite things today and one of the inspirations for my chilaquiles at Clover.

Roasted Pasilla Chile Pepper and Corn Fritters

From Cody Geurin of Clover

Growing up, we got by on what we had, but we ate well. Nothing fancy, some old family recipes. Broccoli soup, beef or venison stews, chili, lots of Betty Crocker recipes. My parents weren’t great cooks, but I didn’t know that until later in life. The things they made still stand in my mind as favorite meals. Mom’s potato salad and apple pie, Dad’s jerky and french fries. These are the things I crave still, and sometimes try to emulate (although with a little more culinary flare). Dad used to make corn fritters, in retrospect, nothing more than pancakes and a can of corn. As simple as they seem now, I was amazed by the idea of corn pancakes as a kid. It was something to look forward to. On Clover’s new menu, I’ve paired this idea, but my version, with our grilled Kurobuta pork tenderloin. We also offer it by itself, with some cool and refreshing tzatziki sauce and a blistered pepper.

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

3/8 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

10 sprigs each parsley, cilantro and oregano leaves, finely chopped

1/2 cup milk

3 cups grilled corn

1 roasted pasilla chile pepper, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

Vegetable oil

In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, spices and herbs. Add milk and mix together with a wooden spoon until thick and thoroughly mixed through. Add the grilled corn and pepper mix well with the flour mixture until all the kernels are well-coated.

To cook, scoop corn mixture out and place onto a lightly oiled cast iron pan at medium to medium high heat, gently pressing the mound down so it’s flattened. A flat-top griddle at 350 would work, too. Cook for 5 minutes on one side, or until it’s browned, flip, and cook another 5 minutes.

Have a chef you’d like to see spotlighted? Nominate a chef for the Chef Spotlight by writing to Food editor Adriana Janovich at adrianaj@spokesman.com.