Davis, also a co-owner, spent years perfecting his craft, mostly on the east coast, as well as stints at Nobu Miami and Pacific Time in South Beach, Florida. Davis is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. His first gig post graduation was at the celebrity-frequented Nick and Toni’s in the East Hamptons. During the winter, Davis often returned to Miami to learn new techniques from top chefs. He also worked as a private chef but prefers the challenge and creativity of restaurant cooking.
“Something about the restaurant business is very stimulating,” says Davis. “It’s a very tough and peculiar business, but every day is different. We base our menu on the product (food) we get in each day. One day we might get tuna and the next day our vendor arrives with fresh halibut. Depending on the product, everything is different — the way you cut it, the way you treat it, the way you cook it. Working with seasonal products allows us to change our menu several times a year.”
The enthusiastic chef enjoys all aspects of the restaurant business. “You learn things every day, whether it’s from your dishwasher, your line cook, your busboy, whomever,” adds Davis. “I’m my biggest critic, so if I don’t get something right, I try again. It’s really a creative process.”
Catalan won The Desert Sun’s best new restaurant its first year in business — about which Davis was quite pleased. “Among others, we were up against an Iron Chef winner’s new restaurant, so that felt like a good accomplishment,” explains Davis.
Though well versed in cooking Asian and Asian fusion food, Davis loves the variety of Mediterranean options, particularly western Mediterranean — Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain. And for Davis, it all comes down to the product.
“Everything I use is fresh,” says Davis. “All my fish is line caught, my meat is prime and I use Jidori [cage-free] chicken. I use local, seasonal produce whenever it’s available. The product is always best when it’s seasonal. The only canned items I use are imported tomatoes and top-shelf, Spanish sardines.”
In addition to the dinner menu, Catalan features dozens of hot and cold tapas, small plates and salads. Tapas include goat cheese stuffed Piquillo peppers, garlic shrimp, Catalan fish cakes, empanadas of the day and sautéed Mediterranean mussels. Pasta dishes include black spaghetti and clams: shrimp, Fresno chilies, herbs, garlic and bread crumbs. Large plates include pan roasted Pacific snapper, grilled swordfish and cuttlefish Escabeche, pan seared eastern diver scallops, and smoked lamb shank. Desserts are made fresh daily.
“Ideally, I want people to order their food with the intention of sharing it, so everyone can try several things from the menu,” adds Davis. “That’s the idea behind tapas, to come and enjoy the food, relax, and take a taste from everyone’s plate.”
Three-course Chef’s tasting menus are available nightly in the dining room between 5 and 6 p.m. and all night in the bar.
In addition to serving fresh and creative Mediterranean cuisine, Davis is committed to “giving back” to his community. He is the host restaurateur for the American Cancer Society’s annual gala. He has also hosted fundraising dinners for various causes, including the Alzheimer’s Association.
By Deborah Liv Johnson
View the article on the Healthy Living website here