Fresh concepts are Chef Foshee’s forte

Trey Foshee, pictured July 4 in his Encinitas home, is executive chef at George’s at the Cove in La Jolla. (Photo by Carla Van Wagoner)

Carla Van Wagoner

Trey Foshee, pictured July 4 in his Encinitas home, is executive chef at George’s at the Cove in La Jolla. (Photo by Carla Van Wagoner)

Kelley Carlson

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Dining at George’s at the Cove never gets stale, with an ever-changing menu and fresh concepts regularly being introduced by its award-winning executive chef, Encinitas resident Trey Foshee.

“We’re constantly improving ourselves,” said Foshee, who is also a partner in the La Jolla establishment. “With a restaurant as old as ours, that’s pretty uncommon. We’re continuously working to stay on the front lines … and we try to figure out a better way to do things. When a lot of restaurants reach a certain level of success, they take their foot off the gas.”

For example, the 46-year-old is regularly concocting new dishes to reflect the items in season, with vegetables often at the core of the creative process.

“There are some great farms (here),” noted Foshee, who regularly makes stops at places such as Chino Farms in Rancho Santa Fe.

And he makes sure those ingredients shine so guests experience their full flavors. Some of his vegetable-centric items have included Chino Farms Minestrone, a seasonal soup with condiments, and Chino Farms Carrot Salad with Indian spiced yogurt, crushed almonds, tangerine, cilantro and Temecula honey.

Of course, he puts his special touch on seafood and meat selections, as well, such as smoked Maine lobster and Niman Ranch pork chop.

Foshee’s “California Modern” style is further obvious in his fish tacos, in which small slices of buttery raw yellowfin form a “tortilla.” They wrap around fried pieces of avocado with a cool crème sauce, and are dusted in corn nuts.

Occasionally, he will prepare percebes barnacles, boiling them in seawater.

“Some people appreciate them; some people don’t know what to do with them,” Foshee said.

George’s just went through a change in menu structure, and Foshee added a six-course tasting menu that is available every evening. For the past year, he has also offered TBL3, pronounced “Table Three,” which he said is a new concept to San Diego.

Generally, George’s is a “can-do” establishment in which anything can be prepared based on what’s available in the building. But after noting that restaurants at the highest level typically control the environment for their guests, the management at George’s decided to experiment.

Foshee was able to successfully introduce a special 12- to 14-course meal, for two to six people, that puts guests in his hands for the evening, with no choices or substitutions.

Culinary progression

Becoming involved in the culinary arts was a natural progression for the Hawaiian-born Foshee, who “fell into” his career. After moving to California at age 10 and graduating from high school in Ojai, he moved to Maui and began cooking to pay the bills.

But while he was working at the restaurant in Hawaii, he had an epiphany. Foshee said the manager of his apartment was also the lead line cook.

“I looked down the line and realized, that’s gonna be me in 20 years if I don’t do something,” Foshee said.

“I realized (cooking) was what I was good at,” he added.

So Foshee decided to attend school at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.

“As I worked at better restaurants, I fell in love with the creative aspect and the work,” he said. “… I decided it was the right career for me.”

Among the restaurants Foshee worked at were Bay Terrace, Five Diamond Mauna Lani Hotel & Bungalows in Hawaii; Sheraton Grande Los Angeles; Rockenwagner in Santa Monica; La Folie in San Francisco; L’Orangerie in Los Angeles; and Tree Room & Foundry Grill at Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort in Utah. He also racked up honors such as Cuisines of the Sun Host Chef and GQ Magazine’s Golden Dish Award, and he was named one of America’s Ten Best New Chefs by Food & Wine Magazine in 1998.

It was while Foshee was at Sundance when he was noticed by George’s at the Cove owner George Hauer.

Hauer was parting company with a chef who had been with him for 15 years, and he called a headhunter to find a replacement. The headhunter connected Hauer and Foshee, although initially, Foshee wasn’t interested in coming to San Diego, Hauer said.

But the restaurant owner wasn’t about to give up. He checked into a room at Sundance, and he and Foshee met surreptitiously, spending time talking and skiing. Hauer asked Foshee to come to San Diego to take a look at his establishment. Foshee agreed, and they met in La Jolla, where Hauer outlined his offer, which included a partnership.

According to Hauer, after Foshee returned to Sundance, Redford made a number of offers.

“He (Foshee) spent the next two weeks going back and forth,” Hauer said.

Sundance to San Diego

Although Foshee said he was happy at Sundance, he opted for the opportunity to serve as executive chef and a partner at George’s, and came to the La Jolla restaurant in spring 1999.

“George is a great guy to talk to and work with,” Foshee said.

“We since have become good friends, and we’ve learned a lot from each other,” Hauer said.

In the beginning, Foshee’s input was almost 100 percent food, Hauer said. But since then, through experience over time in the restaurant business, he has become a more strategic thinker.

Foshee said that with every other restaurant, he knew he would leave at some point, but when there’s ownership at stake, “you’re not leaving.”

“It gives me a longer-term outlook and approach to things that I did not have before,” he said.

Hauer is the leader of the decisionmaking at George’s, but Foshee and the other partner, April Johnson, have equal voices in deciding which direction to go with the restaurant. Together, they decide on the capital budget, marketing and PR budget, and management of staff. Foshee also oversees the “back of the house.”

“I enjoy the creative part and enjoy the fact that we’ve had some really great chefs come out of our kitchen,” Foshee said. “We train our people well.”

One of his successful trainees is Michelin-starred chef Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, in Napa Valley.

Since arriving at George’s, Foshee has earned additional accolades, including guest chef at the James Beard House 100th Anniversary in 2003, the California Travel Industry Association’s Chef of the Year in 2004, and selection into the San Diego Chefs Hall of Fame in 2010.

When Foshee took the job at George’s, he decided to settle in Encinitas.

“I’m a beach person, and Encinitas seemed like a natural fit,” he explained. “It’s casual, laid-back, beachy. You don’t have to get dressed up to go to the store, and it has a good school system.”

He currently resides there with his wife, Ximena, and their daughters, ages 8 and 12. When he’s not at George’s, Foshee enjoys surfing and paddleboarding. He is also beginning to play tennis to keep up with his youngest child, who he said is starting to “play seriously.”

Hauer describes Foshee as reserved, with a “wonderful sense of humor,” and is well-read, bright and a quick study. Additionally, he is a terrific family guy who is devoted to his wife and kids, Hauer said.

“He’s a good leader,” Hauer said of Foshee. “When things get tough in the kitchen, he maintains his cool.”

Kelley Carlson is a North County freelance writer

 

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