Chef Jared Simons
“I was a fat kid,” says chef Jared Simons, “I just loved to eat.”
He still does, though it doesn’t show. The handsome 27-year-old chef transformed himself from chubby to buff as a high school wrestler. A native of San Diego, Simons might have taken another path if a sports injury hadn’t spoiled the likelihood of him going to college on a wrestling scholarship. But Simons has no regrets. The unexpected detour focused him on what would prove to be his first love: cooking.
For Simons, cooking and wrestling have always gone hand in hand. It was his high school wrestling coach who hooked him up with a local restaurateur, who gave him a job as a busboy. It might have been an ordinary high school job that led to nowhere in particular, if not for the fact that, on a whim, the ever-rebellious Simons dyed his hair shock- red. The owner gave him three choices: dye his hair back to something normal, quit, or do scullery work in the kitchen. Simons chose the latter. “I thought it might be kind of interesting to work back there,” he recalls. “Even though I started out mostly just doing dishes, I was always watching the cooks to see how they were doing things. Then I’d jump in and help with the cooking. It pretty much changed the direction of my life.”
As did that wrestling injury. Simons was uncertain of his career path anyway, and had found his passion in cooking. His parents were at first skeptical, thinking of a chef’s life in terms of a short order cook, but after a bit of investigation, realized that a young man of Jared’s talent and intelligence could do quite well. Simons enrolled in the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and subsequently apprenticed at the esteemed Milles Fleures, where he absorbed knowledge of cookery like a sponge under Chef Martin Woesle, applying the discipline he learned as a high school wrestler to learning both the culinary end and business end of the restaurant business.
Simons launched his first restaurant enterprise in Carlsbad at the age of 22. Dubbed “Le Passage,” it was a French-style bistro. Eventually, his initial partner in the venture succumbed to compulsive gambling and surrendered his share of the restaurant to Anthony Gangale, whom Simons credits as a mentor in both the culinary and financial arenas of the restaurant game. “Tony’s still a mentor,” says Simons, “and I was fortunate enough to learn from his past and experience. We still talk almost every day.”
In the kitchen, Simons combines the sensibility of an artist with the practicality of a businessman. “I like to keep things simple and clean,” he says, declining to label his style of cooking, other than to call it “eclectic.” “People don’t like to have to figure out what they’re eating. Also, keeping it simple affords him to keep prices down. I think Violet offers one of the best dining values in town.”
Still, though Simons has an unrelenting practical side, he acts on instinct. The move to Los Angeles from the San Diego area was a roll of the dice by anyone’s standards, and Simons signed for Violet’s Pico location knowing little about the neighborhood, after seeing it advertised in classified ads. But the gambit paid off. “I’ve been very fortunate,” he says.
In the restaurant, Simons cuts an unconventional figure. Attracting attention from near and far with his maverick style, the gym-buffed, tattooed Simons, sports a Mohawk haircut and a smile that can charm a room night after night. He eschews traditional chefs’ outfits for t-shirts and jeans. “Why bother messing up an expensive outfit?” he muses. Though shy by nature, he’s come to enjoy making the rounds and greeting guests during breaks from the kitchen. “I kind of decided to re-invent myself when I came to Los Angeles, and leaving that shyness behind was part of it.”
In what little spare time he has, Simons, like any good San Diego native, enjoys surfing. And fast cars. And fast women.
Although Simons is committed to Violet for the long haul, he intends to expand with more restaurants. “I’d like to try something along the lines of a brasserie next,” he says. “This is just the beginning, but I really think Violet will still be here another ten years from now, but I like to stay in motion.”
Multi-Colored Beets and Smoked Eel with Kumquats
Chef Jared Simons
1 Bunch Red Baby Beets
1 Bunch Yellow Baby Beets
1 Bunch Striped Baby Beets
4 oz. Smoked Eel (may substitute trout)
2 Kumquats Sliced
1 t Minced Ginger
1 t Minced Shallot
2 T Sherry Vinegar
1 oz. Peanut Oil
1 oz. Mixed Micro Greens
Remove beet tops and place in a large pot, cover with water. Add 1 t. salt and bring to a boil. When beets are tender and can be easily pierced with a knife, drain and cool in an ice bath. After beets are cool to touch, peel beets and slice into 1/8” slices. Set aside.
For the Vinaigrette: add minced shallot, ginger and vinegar in to a small bowl. Wisk in the peanut oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the Eel: simply warm the eel in 350 degree oven for approx. 2 minutes.
Assembly: place the multi- colored beets around the plate, add the kumquat segments to the center of the plate. Drizzle vinaigrette on top and place eel over the beets. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and garnish with micro greens.