Current Position: Executive Chef at Hahn Family Wines (website)
Restaurantware Interviewer: As the Executive Chef at the renowned Hahn Estates, what makes you passionate about how you approach your wine and food pairings?
Chef Dyon: Being the chef at Hahn Estate is a unique and exciting position for me. In most restaurants, the chef creates the menu and the wine list is built around it, with certain wines selected to pair with the dishes. It’s a bit different at Hahn. I start with Hahn’s wines, and then focus on the flavors and notes that most appeal to me for the season. Once I’ve chosen a wine as the centerpiece, I draw inspiration for my dishes from our organic garden at the estate or locally-grown produce, wild-caught seafood, and grass-fed meats.
Restaurantware Interviewer: The Estates boast six separate vineyards, each producing a unique grape with a signature taste profile. Do you have a favorite vineyard?
Chef Dyon: I love Hahn’s Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Pinot Noir. Paul Clifton and Greg Freeman blend Pinot Noir from four of our S.I.P. (Sustainable in Practice) Certified vineyards—3 of these same vineyards are used to make Hahn’s single vineyard Lucienne label. Of those three single vineyard Lucienne wines, the Lucienne Smith Vineyard Pinot Noir is my current favorite for the 2011 vintage.
Restaurantware Interviewer: What is the number 1 question you receive from new vineyard guests looking for ways to demystify the world of wine and food?
Chef Dyon: “What do I pair this with?” is often followed up with questions about whether or not you can drink red wine with fish – to which the answer is “of course!” The Hahn SLH Estate Pinot Noir goes with wild caught salmon, cioppino, tuna and even halibut depending on sauces, sides and seasoning. Just thinking about reds with seafood makes me want to open a bottle of Hahn GSM—a red wine blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre—and make some paella. In fact, I think I know what’s for dinner tomorrow night!
Restaurantware Interviewer: As we head solidly into fall, what are your favorite seasonal flavor combinations of the moment?
Chef Dyon: I love kobocha, butternut, or German kürbis squash right now, especially with browned butter and sage. I also love parsnips and celery root in soups, stews or roasted alongside potatoes as a side.
Restaurantware Interviewer: The Hahn Family Wines website features a new recipe from you each month. How are you putting extra effort into November’s edition given audience interest in Thanksgiving preparation guidance?
Chef Dyon: I have a long standing dressing/stuffing recipe that has become a family favorite over the last decade that I finally decided to write down. In addition to that, we are going to do a holiday cooking class at our tasting room in Soledad where we will make a few other sides as well as teach the participants to roast a turkey and a perfect standing rib roast.
Restaurantware Interviewer: You enjoy working in your garden in your free time. How heavily do your dishes rely on locally sourced products?
Chef Dyon: Very heavily, both as ingredients and inspiration. I try to take my cues from the season and only use what is available from local sources.
Restaurantware Interviewer: The Hahn Estates are a SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certified Winery. How important is that to you as their Executive Chef and how do your culinary decisions contribute to those efforts?
Chef Dyon: The steps that Andy Mitchell (Hahn’s Director of Viticulture) and our vineyard management team are taking to ensure that Hahn can continue to produce wines of such high quality for generations to come are truly inspiring. As such, we in the culinary department are not only buying locally, we are building our Chef’s Garden program to sustain all of our regular produce needs. This summer was our first year of production and we are about to rotate to winter crops. By next summer, I hope to have enough in the garden that I can supply more than 80% of the produce we use here at the estate.
Restaurantware Interviewer: What sort of plating methods do you practice as you concept the dining experience for a large gathering?
Chef Dyon: It depends on the event. I like the small biodegradable plates for the little one or two-bite finger foods, as well as the shaved wood boats because their shape invites you to fold up whatever is in there and just go for it. When I can, I avoid utensils and picks. But if the dish needs to be a bit bigger, say four or five bites, I go for the compostable flatware.
Restaurantware Interviewer: As an eco-friendly purveyor of bamboo serving goods that naturally degrade, RestaurantWare believes that sustainable practices don’t end with the food sourcing. Are your plating resources selected with the environment in mind?
Chef Dyon: Absolutely. We do a fair amount of multi-course meals for our VIP guests and for those we use traditional plating methods. On larger parties, such as our Harvest Party at the beginning of each fall, I use a variety of biodegradable plastics, bamboo, and pine for all of our dishes that we serve. And yes, they are all from RestaurantWare!
Restaurantware Interviewer: What’s the best item you’ve eaten recently?
Chef Dyon: I recently visited friends and family in my wife’s hometown in northwestern Germany, and my mother-in-law ran out to the farmers’ market one morning while I was nursing my jetlag with some black coffee, and she returned with a flat of farm-fresh eggs. I enjoyed those eggs every morning either soft boiled or over medium. Nothing fancy in the preparation; just a perfect, fresh food, enjoyed the way it should be.