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Food & Drink

Future Star Chefs Show-off at Texas Cooks' Co-Op

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

These behind-the-scenes dudes deliver forward-thinking cuisine with the Texas Cooks’ Co-Op

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

High-end plating and adventurous cuisine at TCCO’s dinners

“At the end of the day, we all know how a kitchen runs, and we expect that structure,” Colon said. “The food’s gotta come out on time. We still have to provide that service, that good experience.”

The Players

As the newest member, Linquist, who worked at The St. Regis Deer Valley Resort in Utah before moving to SA, gets several things out of the Co-Op, primarily a networking opportunity that also allows her to share a thing or two with the San Antonio scene.

“Being a banquet chef in the past, it’s almost harder to know how to prep for 40, 45 people because I’m so used to 300, 400,” said the New Jersey native. For her debut dinner, the Zocca chef created two main dishes, a star anise pork belly with cumin and tahini paired with peach chutney and veal sweetbreads with potatoes, beets, Swiss chard, hazelnuts, sherry and Parmesan.

“For me, the group is a way to get creative and think outside the box. We’re not here to be better than one another, but [to] learn and support each other and be proud of what we do as a group,” Linquist said. Since joining, she’s also extended a job offer to Montalvo, who had previous experience working at Sandbar, Il Sogno and most recently, Minnie’s Tavern.

“She’s an artist. It’s great to see someone making (food) sexy and take it to the next level,” Linquist gushed. “When Jackie makes a salad, you can tell she makes a salad.”

Montalvo, the creator of an intricate birds nest made of fried leeks with layered “eggs” made of cod and potato and topped with delicate avocado slices, also gained something she didn’t know she had previously: confidence.

“It’s a push. Every dinner is a challenge,” Montalvo said.

Perez also shares Montalvo’s precision, while adding speed. As a tasking non-commissioned officer for the Army and personal chef to a three-star commander at Fort Sam Houston, the St. Philip’s College-trained and Culinary Institute of America-certified chef brings years of military efficiency to the group. He’s done everything from feeding small companies near the Korean demilitarized zone to manning the omelet station during breakfasts with 2,500 hungry soldiers.

A part-time volleyball coach, keyboard player for a Top 40 cover band and father to four girls, Perez somehow finds time to participate in the dinners.

“They’ve taught me a lot. These guys teach themselves, they’re into molecular stuff, which is something I kind of want to get into, but not rely on,” Perez said, but insists one of the main reasons he’s involved is the camaraderie. “My wife likes eating my food, but doesn’t like talking about it. This way, I can have a couple of beers and hang out with cool people while talking about the industry.”

The cooks keep each other abreast of all the comings and goings in SA’s professional kitchen life. Fuentes, who will be joining the staff at Biga on the Banks this fall, joined the group after hosting a dinner at Tre Trattoria Downtown. The former sous chef, and maker of a smoked orange panna cotta, is working toward opening his own truck or brick-and-mortar restaurant in the future. In the meantime, he’s honing his skills and fighting boredom with the TCCO.

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