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Catching up with Chef Jason Bowlin

Just a stones throw away from catching your own meal, Chef Bowlin offers a unique menu at Catch Restaurant and Wine

By Sannam Nourouzian

From its location literally steps away from the ocean, with views of the pier out its floor-to-ceiling windows, to its dishes featuring seasonal ingredients that are locally grown by our fellow California residents, Catch Restaurant and Wine Bar catches the vibe of the California Coast, embodying the spirit of Los Angeles as it is known and imagined around the world. 

Located in the blissfully beachy Hotel Casa Del Mar, Catch Restaurant in Santa Monica is home to the pure, comfortable, and fresh cooking style of Head Chef Jason Bowlin. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Chef Bowlin’s strong passion and extraordinary enthusiasm for cuisine was cultivated at an early age in his grandparents’ Oklahoma garden. Spending his childhood years embracing and discovering seasonal harvests, he acquired a familiarity with and an understanding of a multitude of ingredients in what is now popularly known as farm-to-table cuisine. This knowledge provided the fertile soil necessary for growing a love of food that led him to pursue a career as a chef.

In 1993, Chef Bowlin moved to Los Angeles, where he met and worked closely with the world-renowned Wolfgang Puck. Puck’s hands-on mentoring familiarized Chef Bowlin with the unique tactics and strategies Puck employs in the field, strengthening and expanding Bowlin’s growing knowledge of produce and his kitchen experience. Puck’s belief that “all you need to have a good meal in California is lemons, olive oil, and sea salt,” left a lasting impact on Chef Bowlin, evident in his light and fresh culinary creations.

Following Chef Bowlin’s intensive training with Wolfgang Puck, he was appointed the Regional Kitchen Manager of Puck’s Café California. From there he went on to hold positions at several notable restaurants, including Jiraffe, where he worked with Raphael Lunetta as Chef de Cuisine creating original culinary concepts. Before becoming Head Chef at Catch, Chef Bowlin was Chef de Cuisine for his close friends Amy and Neal Fraser at Grace Restaurant.

Through his diverse experiences coupled with an unbounded imagination, Chef Bowlin developed his own culinary approach that governs the kitchen at Catch today. Chef Bowlin’s main gastronomic goal is simplicity. For over a year now, Chef Bowlin has been serving up the delicious simplicity of seasonally inspired and delicately seasoned dishes, creating each and every dish with the comfort of his guests in mind. This notion enhances the splendors of seasonal ingredients and ensures that, from the first bite, those enjoying the food will understand what they are eating and not be intimidated by the ingredients. The dishes are designed to be so comfortable that anyone who knows their way around a kitchen can reproduce the recipes at home. In fact, Chef Bowlin makes sure to offer only dishes that he would sit down and enjoy in his own home.

Chef Bowlin’s creative acumen is evident in how the dishes at Catch are grouped into different menus catering to a variety of diets. The Gluten-Free menu was initiated soon after Chef Bowlin took Catch’s culinary reins as a result of an increasing demand for gluten-free dishes. This menu offers those with such restrictions a variety of choices, allowing patrons of Catch to confidently order a meal without meticulously tailoring it to their specific needs. Rather than using heavy sauces, dishes on the gluten-free menu are seasoned with rosemary, pink peppercorns, and fennel seeds (for added sweetness) and the aforementioned California essentials: lemons, olive oil, and sea salt. Dishes on this menu include Artichoke Soup with reggiano croutons and lemon oil; Roasted Beets with burrata, grapefruit, and pistachios; and the iconic Catch Bouillabaisse with mussels, clams, shrimp, rock cod, and garlic aioli.

Another example of Catch’s delectable diversity is the Live Well Again menu, which offers the health-conscious an opportunity to savor a meal without straying too far from the straight and skinny. Chef Bowlin stresses the importance of maintaining balance in the way you eat, saying you should “be comfortable with what you’re eating and its okay to indulge yourself once in a while.” Vegans will delight in fabulous breakfast fare such as the Tofu Scramble with market fresh vegetables, and the Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes with vanilla whipped tofu.

With the seasons as his muse, Chef Bowlin will design and redesign a menu using the inspiration of a trip through the Santa Monica Farmers Market every Wednesday. To ensure the freshest quality of ingredients in the kitchen at Catch, as well as in his own kitchen, he and his family make it a habit of visiting markets together. Why keep ingredients local? Chef Bowlin believes in the importance of meeting the people who grow the food in order to be confident that ingredients are minimally manipulated, if at all. Spring is Chef Bowlin’s favorite season for finding inspiration in the kitchen, saying that out of all the seasons it is by far “the most fun.” However, late summer in California, with its enticing variety of produce such as corn, tomatoes, apples, stone fruit, and persimmons, comes in as a close second. Some of the fresh ingredients featured in the dishes at Catch include the aforementioned summer produce as well as California olive oil, figs, avocados, artichokes, heirloom spinach, Brussels sprouts, black Tuscan kale, eye-roasted yams, and roasted cauliflower.

When Chef Bowlin isn’t perusing the colorful stalls of farmers markets with his family, or creating new seasonally inspired splendors at Catch, he enjoys cooking with his wife and getting in touch with his roots – so to speak – by working in his garden at home. Chef Bowlin calls himself a family man, who enjoys inspiring his wife to cook with him. Some of the vegetables tended in Chef Bowlin’s garden and prepared in his home kitchen are Swiss chard, roasted cauliflower and squash used in roasted curry squash.

Chef Bowlin Recipes:

Tuscan Kale with Golden Raisins and Marcona Almonds

-Golden Raisins 1/8 cup
-Marcona Almonds 1/8 cup
-Tuscan Kale 2 1/2 lbs
-California Extra Virgin Olive Oil 3 tablespooons
-Garlic Cloves, crushed, 2 each
-Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
-Aged Sherry Vinegar

In a small bowl, cover raisins with hot water, until soft. Drain water, reserve
Wash kale with cold water, remove spines, tear into thumb size pieces.
In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil over moderate high heat. Add garlic cloves and cook until lightly golden brown. Add kale, raisins, almonds while stirring to coat the leaves evenly with olive oil. Remove the lid and continue to stir to ensure that all the kale is cooked evenly.  Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with olive oil and a splash of sherry vinegar.  Enjoy!

Casa Del Mar Gluten-Free Cookie

Cream Together
-9 oz Sugar
-9 oz Brown Sugar
-14 oz Butter

Add Slowly
-4 Eggs
-½ oz Vanilla

Add
1 lb 7oz Gluten-Free Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder

Add Final
-10 oz Pecans, Chopped and Toasted
-1 lb White Chocolate Chips
-1 lb Dried Cranberries
Bake 300° for 7-10 minutes
Yield Approx 32 cookies

At home or in the restaurant, Chef Bowlin’s down-to-earth and locavore-friendly culinary commitment makes Catch Restaurant and Wine Bar an ideal location to enjoy an authentic Southern California meal in any season.

Dine With a View

1910 Ocean Way Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 581-5533
www.hotelcasadelmar.com/restaurant-santa-monica

Sannam Nourouzian is a Persian LA-based writer who finds her bliss eating her way through the diverse delights of LA’s dining scene, learning about new cultures one taste bud at a time.

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