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Chef Spotlight: Seven questions and a recipe with Alec Tompkins of the Lodge at Carlin Bay

Alec Tompkins has helped the Lodge at Carlin Bay transform from a one-time dive bar and pub to an elevated lakeside restaurant. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Alec Tompkins has helped the Lodge at Carlin Bay transform from a one-time dive bar and pub to an elevated lakeside restaurant. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)

Alec Tompkins worked at Beverly’s at the Coeur d’Alene Resort as well as Satay Bistro in Coeur d’Alene before joining the kitchen at the Lodge at Carlin Bay.

New owners have transformed the old Carlin Bay Resort into the new Lodge at Carlin Bay, giving the longtime lake dive not only a new name but completely new menu. The old watering hole is now a casually elegant establishment where most diners boat in during summer.

The views are spectacular. So are the entrees, which include coconut shrimp with coconut sauce instead of breading, a pork chop brined for 24 hours and served with honey-garlic sweet-and-sour sauce, peppered steak with chimichurri, tuna poke with pickled watermelon rind, gourmet burgers and the Carlin Signature Salad with green grapes, roasted almonds, bacon, apple and grape vinaigrette.

Tompkins, 31, has been cooking professionally since 2003. Here, we learn about his love for butter and a cheese he really wants to try (but you might not want to).

What’s your favorite dish to cook at home? Love Mexican food. Generally, braised pork butt tacos with fresh pico de gallo and tomatillo salsa. Clean and fresh.

Where do you eat when you eat out? Depends on the occasion. Date night with the wife is typically Fleur de Sel in Post Falls. Casual is typically Toro Viejo in downtown Coeur d’ Alene. (Pro tip: request Castor as your server.)

Who or what inspired you to become a chef, and how? I could go on and on about this one. No. 1 is the people, and the sense of family that is attained when working side by side with passionate, crazy, charismatic and non-judgmental individuals day in and day out. No. 2 is the ability to express myself artistically through food. I have always been artistically inclined and have found that the creation of flavors and the presentation of food has been the most natural and inspiring medium for me. No. 3 is the rush of it all, the natural high of orchestrating a flawless service and controlling the chaos through organization and the ability to multi-task in fast-paced conditions. You reach a point where your mind just sort of goes into a daze and the muscle memory takes over.

What are your go-to ingredients? FAT IS FLAVOR. To a fault for me sometimes. If I can mount butter into it, I probably will.

What was the first dish a customer ever sent back to you, and how did you handle it? A 10-ounce filet mignon ordered medium rare. It was sent back for being over-cooked. My initial reaction was anger but I put my head down and fired a new one. Being impatient and lacking self confidence I grossly undercooked the second one. The guest was very upset by now and actually walked up to the open kitchen line where I was cooking with the undercooked steak on a fork and proceeded to yell at me, asking, “Does this look medium rare to you?” Thankfully, before my youthful temper and arrogance got me into trouble, a more experienced cook on the line stepped in and calmed the angry guest down. Lesson learned.

What’s a dish you’ve never made but would like to, and why? I am always striving to learn more. My definite weakness is pastry and desserts. I would love to make a perfect wedding-style cake with all the bells and whistles.

What dish or ingredient best represents you? My spirit food is definitely cheese. The more stinky, the better. I have always wanted to travel and try a cheese called casu marzu, complete with live maggots still crawling around on it. It’s from Sardinia. You can’t get it in the U.S.

Spicy Bacon Chutney

From Alec Tompkins

2 pounds raw bacon, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

4 jalapeño, diced (keep seeds)

1/2 cup pineapple, diced

1 tomato, rough chopped

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook bacon in a medium size sauce pot until fully cooked. Strain and save bacon fat.

Add onions and jalapeños to the pot and saute on medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add bacon back to pot and cook with onion and jalapeno on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and pineapple and cook on medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add red wine vinegar and bring to a boil. Add brown sugar, salt and pepper and reduce heat to a hard simmer. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve immediately or cool and store in refrigerator for up to 7 days.


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