Alumni Spotlight: Julian Medina, Class of 1999

Julian Medina, chef-owner of Toloache, Toloache 82, Toloache Thompson, both Yerba Buena and Yerba Buena Perry, Coppelia, and Tacuba Mexican Cantina locations in Astoria and Hell’s Kitchen, has been creating refined Latin cuisine for over twenty years.

Raised in Mexico City, Julian’s inspiration was the authentic home cooking of his father and grandfather. Training professionally in Mexico City, Julian was brought to New York City by Chef Richard Sandoval; later Julian was appointed as Chef de Cuisine of Sandoval’s Maya, which earned two stars from the New York Times under Julian’s leadership. Maintaining his position at Maya, Julian enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, graduating with recognition in 1999. Soon after, Julian became Executive Chef of SushiSamba, a New York City Japanese-South American restaurant, and helped to open SushiSamba 7 and South Beach’s SushiSamba Dromo.

In 2003, Julian was appointed Corporate Chef of Sandoval’s Mexican restaurants. Julian’s direction garnered Sandoval’s Pampono two stars from the New York Times. In 2004, Julian became the Executive Chef of Zocalo located in NYC’s Upper East Side.
chef-julian-medinaIn August 2007, Julian opened the theater-district gem, Toloache Mexican Bistro, the success of this first venture catalyzed the opening of seven more restaurants in nine years. He expanded the Toloache brand to include an ever popular Upper East Side Toloache 82 in 2012 and Toloache Thompson in 2013. Exploring all reaches of pan Latin cuisine, Julian opened the first Yerba Buena bistro in 2008 in the Lower East Side, and Yerba Buena Perry, West Village, in 2009. Both restaurants have been highly recognized. In 2011, Julian presented the concept of a 24/7 Cuban diner to New York City with the whimsical Coppelia, offering both day and late night foodies authentic Latin fare and dessert favorites. Most recently, the chef has returned to his Mexican roots with the ceviche, taco and fruit vessel cockteles boasting cantina, Tacuba, its two locations are Astoria and Hell’s Kitchen.

Chef Julian has been featured in many publications, including the Men’s Journal, The New Yorker and The New York Times. In 2010 Sam Sifton, famed New York Times food critic, gave Toloache one star along with an applauding review. In March 2011 Julian made his debut on Iron Chef America: Mexican Chocolate Battle, other television appearances include the Today Show, CBS “The Dish”, Beat Bobby Flay (guest judge), NY1, and Telemundo. His Mexican Hanukkah and Mexican Passover menus have become a delighted New York tradition and receive continual praise each year. Chef Julian continues to open new restaurants throughout New York City. He resides in Manhattan’s Upper East Side with his wife and daughter.

What ingredient is central to your cooking?
I love to cook with chiles as each kind is unique and their personality can be noted throughout the dish contributing to a beautiful flavor complexity.

How do you describe your food?
I believe my food is bold and full of flavor, one bite and you know all about my cooking. Presentation is also important to me so my dishes tend to be very colorful.

What would you do if you weren’t a chef? 
I would have pursued becoming an architect.

What’s on your cooking bucket list?  
Fugu (Blowfish), exploring flavor potentials of the Chilhuacle chile, publishing my own cookbook.

How do you find calm in your kitchen?
When the stress heats up in the kitchen I turn to finding fun to take the edge off, always by laughing and joking with my fellow chefs.

What cookbook is most important to you?
The Art of Peruvian Cuisine, by Tony Custer and The Lutece Cookbook, by Andre Soltner & Seymour Britchky.

Who inspires you?
Chef Daniel Boulud

What do you like to eat and drink on your night off? 
A Mezcal Negroni, a fusion cocktail with mezcal, vermouth rosso and Campari with orange peel garnish, and a good plate of tacos.

When did you realize that you loved food?
I was 15-years old and still in Mexico, and I cooked my first dish which was tamarind pork. I was hooked.

If you could stage at any restaurant in the world, where would you go and why?
Copenhagen or Spain to showcase Mexican cuisine.

 

How I Got the Job: Rachel Coe Shares Her Somm Story

After my graduation from the ICC in December 2014, I began looking for jobs in the area as a sommelier. Not sure exactly what I wanted to do with my certification, but having experience in both front and back of house in restaurants, I visited the ICC to get some guidance. Thanks to the career adviser, Nicole Harnett, I was pointed in the direction of Rosewood Sand Hill and Madera restaurant in Menlo Park, a five star resort and fine dining restaurant.  I began in February 2015 as the Lounge Sommelier, the more casual side of the operation. Thrown into the fire of having to learn a 98 page wine list with over 2,300 different labels (that also was a Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence winner), there was no other option except to pick it up – fast!  With three great mentors working above me (wine director Paul Mekis, and sommeliers John McDaniel and Julie Sundean), I learned my way around the cellar and wine list quickly. At Madera, our wine team is extremely fortunate to be able to taste a great number of wines on our list, sometimes even with the winemakers themselves. These tastings proved invaluable in moving forward with me career.

rachelcoe_hm-450x300Three months into my job at Madera I met chef Genaro Mendez, who was in the process of opening his own restaurant in East San Jose, The Creek Eatery. Wanting to expand my horizons and responsibility with a new restaurant, while still keeping my position at Madera, I agreed to be a consulting sommelier & beverage director.  My responsibility was to create a wine list to complement the menu consisting of wood fired pizza and various globally-influenced dishes. For 14 months I met with various vendors, tasted hundreds of selections, researched and ordered wine in anticipation of our summer 2016 opening. This was my first experience working as a wine buyer, where I was faced with the age old dilemma of selecting wine that the customers would recognize and enjoy, not necessarily my geeky somm selections. In June 2016 The Creek Eatery opened for business, featuring a wine list with over 60 selections from around the world.

In August 2015 I was promoted to a position at the Madera restaurant as one of the three full-time floor sommeliers.  Though my title is Madera sommelier, the Madera restaurant is just one outlet in a hotel that brings in over $4 million of profit from the resort wine program. I not only organize the cellar, staff training and tastings, I also help with wine selections in banquets, the lounge, in room dining and the pool bar & grill. Of course, at 5 PM every day my responsibility shifts to being present on the floor, guiding guests through our extensive wine list to select the perfect wine for their meal.

To learn more about the California Intensive Sommelier Training program, click here.

Turkey’s Didem Senol (Culinary 2002) in Food & Wine magazine

Didem Senol, Culinary 2002 featured in Food and Wine magazine:

A Star Chef’s Disciple

Lokanta Maya

“Customers always ask for my mücver recipe,” says Didem Senol of her herb-packed zucchini fritters. So she scrawled the recipe on a mirror decorating one of Lokanta Maya’s walls. A graduate of Manhattan’s French Culinary Institute and a student of Istanbul’s famous Mehmet Gürs, Senol says she fell for local Turkish ingredients, like sun-baked pekmez (grape molasses), while cooking at her father’s small resort on Turkey’s southern coast. Among her best dishes is a sea bass carpaccio, laced with grapefruit and dill and splashed with fruity olive oil made by her father. Next, Senol is launching a casual locavore place called Gram, serving healthy seasonal dishes. Kemankes Caddesi 35A, Karaköy; lokantamaya.com.