You can get Kevan King out of the restaurant business, but you can't keep him out of the kitchen.
King, 30, who spent about eight years either training or working as a cook in various county restaurants, now reserves his culinary expertise for family and friends and works for a large supermarket chain.
"Professional cooking is hard, demanding work," he said, "and unless you're at the top of the heap, there just isn't enough money in it, so two years ago I walked away from it."
That was shortly after he had been accepted at the Culinary Institute in San Francisco.
Regrets? "Not really. I'm able to support my family, and now I can cook for the sheer pleasure of it. And, if I'm not in the mood, I don't have to. It's a big difference."
It's also important to him to spend time with wife, Gina, and 5-month-old daughter, Lindsey.
King, a top athlete in high school who once worked as a ski instructor in Colorado, began his restaurant career as a dishwasher at the Monarch Beach Club, learned kitchen basics at the Plush Fox, then graduated to full-fledged cooking at popular spots such as Bobby McGee's, Cafe Vienna, Chauncey's and the Harbor Grill.
While he still occasionally likes to dazzle guests with something really fancy, he says he prefers some surprisingly simple dishes that are still elegant but don't demand a great deal of time.
A perfect example is the pork tenderloin schnitzel he shared with Guys & Galleys. "When served with fresh asparagus and Dijon sauce, it's beautiful," he said, "and people assume you've been hard at it for hours."
It is pork tenderloin that has been sliced and pounded thin, covered with bread crumbs and sauteed in butter. Each serving is topped with sliced fresh Granny Smith apples that have been lightly sauteed in butter with a little sugar and cinnamon.
"The only difficult part of the meal for a really inexperienced cook is making the sauce for the asparagus," King said. While he uses the tried and true chef's method of thickening the sauce in one pan while holding it over simmering water, he suggests that the uninitiated find a recipe for a blender-made hollandaise.
"If you don't know what you're doing, you can easily wind up with a separated gob," he said. That is something that hasn't happened to him in a long time.
PORK SCHNITZEL & DIJON SAUCE
2-3 pounds pork tenderloin
Bread crumbs, non-seasoned
3 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup clarified butter
Sugar and cinnamon to taste
Slice pork in 2-inch slices and butterfly. Place between sheets of wax paper. With kitchen mallet, pound thin (about thickness of thick flour tortilla). Beat eggs and dip pork, one slice at a time, into egg wash and bread crumbs. Heat butter over medium heat and cook pork until golden brown on each side. Place on cookie sheet in 200-degree oven to keep warm.
Peel and slice apples into 1/4-inch slices. Mix sugar and cinnamon into butter used to saute pork and gently saute apples a few minutes on each side. Spoon apples and sauce in pan and serve.
2 eggs, separated
8 ounces clarified butter
1 tablespoon warm water
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and white pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Heat butter. Beat egg yolks with whisk. Add warm water, salt and pepper and lemon juice. Holding pan over larger pan of simmering water, SLOWLY dribble in butter, constantly beating with whisk until thickened. Plop in mustard, mix well and serve over steamed fresh asparagus spears.