Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine, Spring 2018

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126 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 8 C hef Paul Corsentino once lived and worked inside the pressure cooker that is New York City, voraciously biting off chunks of the Big Apple as he went along. Before he turned 30, Corsentino found himself at the center of the gas- tronomic universe, running the kitchen at The National, midtown Manhattan's chic restaurant owned by celebrity Chef Geoffrey Zakarian. Along the way, he helped Zakarian win "Iron Chef America" battles on the Food Network. And the cherry on top? Eater placed him on a short list of "Sexiest New York Chefs." What a life. Then he steered his clattering subway into a sudden, inexplicable U- turn. He released the pressure and left the paved, sleepless city for quiet reflection and a vast landscape. Today you'll find Corsentino, 37, living in Seaside with his wife Amarisa and their rescue dog Sven. Each day, he makes a Zen-like commute into the wilds of Big Sur for his position as executive chef of The Sur House at Ventana Inn & Spa. The couple made a joint decision to move to the Central Coast in 2014 following a reflective honeymoon tour up and down Highway 1 months before. Corsentino wanted to cook with the seasons using local ingredients, forage off the land and spend winters not slogging through the snow. "I wanted to do something different," says Corsentino. "It was a culture shock, and it took some getting used to, but now I can't imagine working and living anywhere else." As for his commute, the man who didn't drive at all in New York now loves the 45-minute decompression time on his way to work, with nature and beauty inspiring him. Today he's a chef at peace, cooking with the same big-city level of pas- sion but enjoying more the act of feeding each guest—while nourishing his own soul. Q: What's your favorite child- hood food memory? A: Cooking on Saturday mornings for my siblings, not knowing what I was creating or doing but knowing they loved it anyway. Q: What was your first job? A: De-tasseling corn for a seed company in Peoria, Illinois. I was 12. Q: Who most influenced your decision to become a chef? A: My sister Theresa encouraged me to follow my true passion, and convinced my parents to send me to culinary school. Q: What do you cook at home on a day off? A: Dishes that my wife wants me to create and any new ideas that pop into my head. Q: What is your favorite thing to do in Big Sur? A: Being outdoors, hiking and visiting the Taphouse. Q: Biggest difference between working in New York and Big Sur? A: It's more personal here. I can be the face of the restaurant and engage with diners, doing things like the Friday wine and cheese social (he pours the wine and mingles with resort guests). Q: What is your food philosophy at Sur House? A: I want the food to seem thoughtful but not too contrived. Some City Chef Shines in Big Sur Paul Cor sentino Br ings His Skills to Ventana B Y L A R R Y H A R L A N D Corsentino wanted to cook with the seasons using local ingredients, forage off the land and spend winters not slogging through the snow.

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