Culinary Feature of the Month – Meet the Chef
We are excited to feature the talented people behind the scenes – those who create and prepare the tasty treats that we all get to enjoy in our restaurants. Each month we will be introducing you to the gifted and passionate individuals who make up to our culinary team. Bon Appétit!
Meet Steve Cain, Executive Chef at AQUA by El Gaucho
When you think of the quintessential chef, what image comes to mind? Beyond the white uniform with chef’s toque, if you picture a- larger-than-life person with a gregarious nature, a man in love with life and the food he creates, then you have met Chef Steve Cain, Executive Chef at AQUA by El Gaucho.
Affectionately known simply as “Chef” or “Big Poppa,” Steve Cain came to the El Gaucho team in 2002 as a broiler cook, and quickly worked his way to Head Chef of AQUA (then known as the Waterfront). Transferred in 2008 to open El Gaucho Bellevue as Chef de Cuisine, he came “home” to AQUA in January of this year as Executive Chef.
Born in Tacoma, and living in many places across the state, he graduated from Walla Walla High School. Soon after graduating, he came to Seattle and found a job at Pizza Pete on Capitol Hill. “Henry’s Off Broadway” was a restaurant nearby, and he immediately wanted to work there, with the opulence, limos, and guests dressed to the nines. After four attempts, he was hired on as a dishwasher and to prep the chef, Bruce Bonholzer, who had graduated from Le Cordon Blue in France. Chef’s culinary journey since then includes 13 years at Schwartz Brothers (he opened Daniel’s Broiler and Chandler’s Crab House for them), Arnold Shain consulting (working with the talented chefs Leslie Dillon and Ted Furst), and a short stint at Entros on South Lake Union.
Cain credits his mother with instilling a love of cooking from an early age. Always experimenting with different foods, from curries to French to German to Asian cuisine, she amassed a heap of cookbooks along the way, including Pierre Franey, Craig Claiborne, and Julia Child. A voracious reader, Chef Cain read the cookbooks and, subconsciously, they directed him on his career path.
Chef lives with his wife Janis, step-daughter Olivia, a dog named Tank the Pug, and Trouble, a cat who brings far too many unwanted gifts at night (“he’s a real killer,” Chef explains). Amongst family and friends, Chef’s most requested dish is his Chili Verde. His personal favorite comfort food is his own chicken piccata – “simple but tasty,” he describes. The five items you’ll always find in his pantry are: great olive oil, Asian Chili paste, basmati and jasmine rice, “really good” canned tomato products, and a variety of Washington wines (to suit your needs).
Out of all the accomplishments Chef has obtained, one of his favorites is teaching Olivia to cook for herself and her friends, “so she doesn’t eat crappy fast food,” he explains. Besides being able to enjoy the beautiful sunsets, his favorite part of working at AQUA is the team: “Between the front and back of the house, we care a lot for each other and succeed together.” In addition, he loves being able to give back, and help build the fabric of the community, by involving himself in all of the events El Gaucho Hospitality has participated in over the years. Of the numerous events, his favorite is supporting AQUA’s commitment to supply and serve lunch at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission every month.
Want to learn more? Visit Chef himself and try one of the delectable items he and his culinary team will create for you every night, at AQUA by El Gaucho.