California chef interview series: Chef Steve Anderson

To no one's surprise, California is a great food destination. Simply put, Californians love food, and people love California for its food. California, after all, accounts for more than one-third of America’s vegetables, while two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown here. But you needn’t look any further than California’s restaurant scene to see how much people love the food scene. San Francisco, for example, has more restaurants per capita than any other city in America, while San Jose and Orange County aren’t far behind.

So with California's love for food (and our own love for food), this winter we're coming to you to feature some of California’s top chefs. They’ll be sharing everything from their insider tips and recommendations to their top après-ski locales to their favorite recipes and more.

To kick off the series, this month we’re profiling Northstar California’s executive chef, Chef Steve Anderson. Formerly from the East Coast, Chef Steve now calls Lake Tahoe home, where he oversees Northstar’s many restaurants, menus, and great culinary events, like the Mountain Table Dinner. And with this weekend marking the first Mountain Table Dinner of this winter ski season, it's only fitting to profile Chef Steve. Read the full Q&A below.

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What inspired you to make a career in the culinary industry? Who were some of your culinary influences?

I was actually a math major in college in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was line cooking around town. I grew up a Deadhead in Pittsburgh, so I'd work in numerous local restaurants between tours. I opened a new Don Pablo's Mexican Kitchen in Pittsburgh, where they promoted me to a manager soon after we opened (mostly to get me off the hourly clock!). And then I worked from 1995 to 1999 for Avado Brands as a corporate Chef and Kitchen Trainer. But while I've had numerous influences over the years, California chefs like Chef Chris Banovich and Chef Romeo Schiavi had the most influence. I spent 4 seasons with them both doing tons of Italian and French cuisine.

What drew you to Lake Tahoe?

It was snowboarding originally. I came out to the West Coast initially to take a winter off from running high-volume restaurants, but ended up becoming the Banquet Chef for Northstar. My wife and I would winter in Lake Tahoe and then summer on the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest for its exceptional whitewater rafting and kayaking. I spent five years living between the two seasons in my converted 1950 Chevy school bus. The rest is history!

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What do you think makes Lake Tahoe standout as a ski destination?

Both the snow and weather is so incredible. Where else can you get 4 feet of snow overnight and then wake up to a 40-degree bluebird day. Not to mention the mountains and terrain are simply stunning. 

When you're not in the kitchen, how do you spend your time around Lake Tahoe?

Our family is a soccer family, so I coach and play with my daughters as much as I can. When not on the soccer field, we spend as much time as possible on nearby Donner Lake (pictured below).

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You're the man behind so many dishes around Northstar. Do you have a couple can't-miss dishes you recommend for visitors?

Biased as I may be, everything off the new Summit Smokehouse menu is fantastic. A personal favorite is the mesquite-smoked brisket sandwich with our house Kansas City barbecue sauce and a bowl of our house mac 'n cheese. I'd also recommend the applewood smoked pork St. Louis Ribs with Carolina-style mustard barbecue sauce and a bowl of Brussels sprouts.

 

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Can't-miss winter recs:

Mesquite-smoked tri-tip at Summit and ancho chile mahi tacos at Tavern 6330'.

Any insider tips for visitors to Lake Tahoe? Northstar California?

Come early and stay late. Northstar's groomed runs are the best first thing in the morning, plus if you arrive early enough, you can miss traffic. Additionally, there's no reason to sit in traffic at the end of the day either, so grab a beer and a charcuterie board at TC’s Pub and wait until the masses clear out.

Do you have a favorite apres-ski experience around Lake Tahoe?

The Tavern 6330' patio. I love the combination of the music cranking, fire pits crackling, and bar rocking. If I'd recommend one thing this winter, it's Tavern's ancho chile mahi tacos.

S'mores are such a central part of the apres-ski experience. Do you have a favorite, unique s'more?

I have to plug my cherrywood bacon-wrapped s'mores with Kahlua Caramel and white chocolate. It's a mouthful! You can see the recipe below, or better yet, catch it popping up at Northstar this winter at undisclosed locations!

Southern born and bred, Spencer was bitten by the travel bug at a young age, flying on a plane for the first time at age five and by himself for the first time at seven. While he continues to travel around the world in search for the best whiskey, Spencer now calls Reno home, where his search is for the best cocktail (and first tracks, naturally). He has written about travel, food, and drinks for a number of publications that have included the Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Outside Magazine, and Travel + Leisure, just to name a few. See a more candid version of Spencer on his website, whiskeytangoglobetrot.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.