|Chef Justin Cogley, via Aubergine in Carmel|
- Official title: Executive chef at Aubergine, a 12-table restaurant at L'Auberge Carmel, a
Relais & Châteaux property.
- Upbringing: Spent his early years in Mescalero, New Mexico.
- First career: In his early 20s, Cogley traveled the world with “Disney on Ice.” Four years of touring throughout Asia, Australia and Europe exposed him to all sort of flavors and cuisines and eventually confirmed his interest and passion for cooking.
- Culinary training: Graduated from The Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon.
- Most notable mentor: Charlie Trotter. Cogely worked with the famously meticulous and demanding chef at his eponymous restaurant in Chicago for four years, the last two as chef de cuisine. He was also instrumental in opening Trotter’s kitchen at the Elysian Chicago Hotel.
- Best Charlie Trotter story. One night, during the height of a super busy Saturday night service, Trotter took Justin and chef Matthias Merges into the bathroom and asked what was wrong? The young chefs had no idea what he was talking about. Trotter pointed out that there was caulking missing around the sink.
- Philosophy of food: Although his artistically presented dishes look like whimsical tableaus plucked from nature, Cogley strives to balance innovation and unwavering deference for the finest ingredients he procures. “If I had to describe my food, I would say each plate has a purpose.” The goal is to inspire guests to enjoy a broad combination of flavors and textures. "I may present a diner with a vegetable prepared three ways on the plate, but each of the flavors will be unique and pure.”
- Favorite ingredients: Seaweed and abalone (editor's note: he also was a big fan of foie gras before the ban)
- Signature dish: Monterey Bay abalone with sea lettuce, umeboshi and sea grapes
- How he ended up in Carmel: Justin found his way to Monterey Peninsula to audition for the job opening at Aubergine after Christopher Grosjean left. He fell in love with the area and the closeness to the ocean.