Stepping into a renowned chef’s shoes wouldn’t be easy. If anyone can make a success of it, it is Jessica Roy. Chef Pascal Olhats recently retired from his long run as an Orange County restaurant owner. Roy, the talented chef de cuisine of two years at Café Jardin in Corona del Mar, has assumed ownership of the spot at Sherman Gardens and plans to open in July.
The new restaurant is dubbed Cultivar, a term used for plants selected for their desirable characteristics that are retained during propagation. The name reflects Roy’s appreciation of garden to table cuisine, dishes that showcase the tastes, textures, and appearances of just-picked edibles.
“It’s important that the menu is seasonal,” she says, adding that she was born and raised in California and has a deep appreciation for the state’s produce bounty. “I will be working closely with Sherman Gardens, deciding together on what will be planted.”
One menu example is a Garden Charcuterie Board that she has planned. It will feature vegetables from the garden along with artisanal cheeses and meats. A from-scratch, seasonal Cultivar jam will also be included.
Prior work experience includes stints in the kitchens of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in Newport Beach, as well as the prestigious Michelin-starred Alinea in Chicago with Grant Achatz.
In 2014 she was cast on “On the Menu,” a pilot series featuring Emeril Lagasse and Ty Pennington, appearing on an episode where she was tasked with creating an innovative and original pizza dish. The Korean BBQ pizza that she dubbed “California Seoul” took home the win and a $25,000 grand prize.
She is eager to show off her prize-winning talent at Cultivar, serving lunch Wednesday to Sunday, with plans eventually to open for seasonal dinners. Cultivar on the grounds of Sherman Library and Gardens at 2647 E. Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar.
Drink of Choice: I love a good gin and tonic because of its botanical notes. I plan to experiment with botanical infusions inspired by the garden—often using herbs and exotic components, some that I haven’t discovered yet.
Jamming: Making jams at home is one of my things. Recently I made a fabulous rhubarb jam and used it to top a cheesecake. And a strawberry-marigold flower jam; the marigold petals gave the strawberries extra interest. I used it to fill French macarons along with whipped chamomile buttercream.
Fido Food: A funny part of my day off is that I cook at home for my dog, Beau, a multipoo (Maltese and poodle mix). He often sits in the kitchen and watches the prep, a mix of grassfed beef, lamb, and organic vegetables, plus brown rice, quinoa, and super-green vitamins.
Restaurant Fave: The Pesce alla Siciliana at Mona Lisa restaurant in Huntington Beach is absolutely delicious. It’s a tender, white-fleshed fish, seared and served with orange beurre blanc and toasted almonds. I often take my grandmother Sara there.
Secret Talent: I love photography. There is so much beauty in the outdoors—flowers, plants, trees, as well as produce. And yes, my nieces and nephews. I see beauty everywhere, and I love to capture that.
Collector: Antique spoons, especially detailed ones from the Victorian era.
Cultivar’s Sweet Corn and Grilled Watermelon Salad
Yield: 4 servings
Vegetable oil or canola oil for brushing on grill grate
5 ears of fresh corn, shucked
4 to 6 (3/4-inch thick) slices of peeled watermelon
1 large orange bell pepper
1 watermelon radish, peeled with swivel-bladed peeler
2 cups ripe cherry tomatoes, halved if small, quartered if large
1/2 cup diced red onion
Dark green stalks of 1 green onion, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 English cucumber, partially peeled, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 jalapeno chili, seeded, finely diced
1 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Good splash of red-wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar, about 2 to 3 tablespoons
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Dilly Cream: 1 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup whole milk, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, 2 tablespoons minced shallot, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: 1 cup herbed croutons, coarsely crushed in plastic bag
Garnish: edible garden blooms, such as dill blossoms, chive blossoms, celery blossoms and nasturtiums flowers
Optional garnish: grilled small sweet peppers
- If using a barbecue to grill vegetables, Preheat grill, brush grate and lightly oil grate with vegetable or canola oil. If using a grill pan on stove, preheat it. Lightly grill corn to form light grill marks, turning to grill all sides. Grill both sides of watermelon slices. Remove kernels from corn cobs. Cut watermelon into 3/4-inch chunks. Place watermelon and corn kernels in large bowl.
- Cut bell pepper in top-to-bottom quarters and use a sharp knife to shave off a super-thin interior layer where the white membranes reside. Discard the thin interior slice. Cut remaining bell pepper into 1/2-inch dice. Add to large bowl. Cut watermelon radish into thin crosswise slices; cut each slice into quarters. Add to large bowl.
- Add cherry tomatoes, red onion, green onion stalk, cucumber, jalapeno and feta to large bowl; gently toss. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar; gently toss. Add salt and pepper; toss. Taste and correct seasoning if needed.
- Stir to combine all the Dilly Cream ingredients in medium-small bowl. Smear the mixture in a zig-zag pattern on 4 dinner plates. Top with salad. Scatter croutons on top. Garnish with edible garden blooms, and if using, grilled small sweet peppers.
Source: Executive Chef-Owner Jessica Roy, Cultivar, Corona del Mar