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Knives & Needles: Chef Andrew Santana

molly-profile-knives-and-needlesBy Molly Kitamura
I have had the amazing opportunity to interview a talented chef named Andrew Santana. He is from California and is a jack-of-all trades when it comes to cooking! He has done it all! He has a passion for tattoos and kindly shared some of them and their stories with me. Here is our interview along with a mouth-watering recipe courtesy of Andrew!  Read on and check it out!

Molly Kitamura: How long have you been a chef?

Andrew Santana: All my life I’ve been in kitchens. My family has owned restaurants since I was a child, but professionally about 14 years. In 1999 I decided to go to culinary school in San Francisco (best time of my life) then I made it to the big leagues. Right out the gate I landed a spot with Michael Mina… (Fuck me that was a blur! Shout out to Steven Fretz!) Then became his sous chef for a minute. Hung out with Chef Wade Hageman at Blanca, a French restaurant in Del Mar, was his opening sous…

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Also hung out at The Plumed Horse in Saratoga another French restaurant… (Chef Peter Armellino a beast of a chef, learned so much from that man!) Then I did everything from opening a food truck (shout out to the Mobowl crew Kevin and little Mijo aka the Willie) to a farm-to-table bistro and did private events! Man you name it, I did it… can’t even list it all.

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M: Where are you working now?

A: This industry has taking a toll on my family so now  I’m a culinary ronin. A knife for hire if you will. I keep in contact with everyone I’ve worked for in the past so I help when they need help. Sometimes a sous chef needs a couple of days or a chef will travel and I fill in for them. Chez Tj was the last place I worked. My good friend (Chef Jarod ) needed me to step in and I did. I’ll be traveling the European countryside with my wife and children this year and when I get back I’ll be opening up a spot. Stay tuned for that. @underwaterroads

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M: Any chefs you admire?

A: That’s a can of worms, here we go.  The French and UK greats would be Albert and Michel Roux, Pierre Koffman, Raymond Blanc, Nico Ladenis, Marco Pierre White. Californian greats would be, George Morrone, Jeremiah Towers, Michael Mina, Alice Waters, Thomas Keller and Traci des Jardins. The chefs I’ve worked for Micheal Mina, Wade Hageman, Peter Armellino, Steven Fretz, Joseph Humphrey, Robbie Lewis, Jarod Gallagher, Steven Hopcraft (weird to see him on Top Chef) and Joe Cirone.

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M: There are so many amazing chefs out there! So on to tattooing, when did you first start getting tattooed?

A: I was a 13-year-old vato. Some homie’s uncle was giving out tats in the garage. He looked at me and said, “You’re next.” I thought he was joking. He wasn’t.

M: What was it and do you still have it?

A: It was my last name of course, (Santana) left shoulder. Still have it. I’ll never get rid of that 3-inch blurred out, fat lined tattoo.

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M: What is your favorite piece and why?

A: Wow, that’s like asking who’s your favorite child. I like them all equally but for different reasons. The names of my family members are special. But if I had to pick one it would be my skull and roses. An ode to my rehabilitation! That was done by Cristo at Polished Tattoo in San Jose also, shout out to Big homie Paco Excel and Chronic Joe from Death Before Dishonor. They have schooled me on ink politics.

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M: What drew you tattoos initially? 

A: It’s always been part of my families DNA.  It started with my grandfather. He was getting inked up overseas while he was serving his country in WWII. Also, my gangster uncles who served their sentences in the Pen, I wanted to be like them.

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M: Why do you think the tattoo industry and the culinary industry are so intertwined?

A: I believe we are cut from the same cloth in this way. There is deep rich history in both our industry I love that. We provide a great service for the individual who walks through our doors; a spiritual healing of sorts and our reputation is everything. We work, love and play hard…

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M: Have you noticed this correlation (or lack thereof) in your travels in other countries?

A: Currently, I have taken some time off to pay homage to the culinary world on the other side of the planet. I wonder how people will react to my ink.

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M: I think they will be more curious than anything. Do you have a tattoo experience that stands out for any reason? Funny/sentimental?

A: Ha-ha-ha, yeah. My third tattoo was horrible (17 years of age). A best friend of mine was getting his mom’s name on his arm. He turned to me and said, “Your getting one too it’s on me, pick something.” So of course I pick something small original and different. It was a dual tattoo an evil face and half-moon and star, half-dollar in size. Now that I’m thinking back I’m not sure what it was or why I actually got it, aha-ha-ha-ha. But man the guy who did it, didn’t know what the fuck he was doing. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced and I’ve chopped a nail completely off, stabbed my wrist trying to shuck an oyster, oil and oven burns galore but nothing compared to my third tat. It bled for days and scarred like a bullet wound. Truthfully though, if I could go back and change it, I wouldn’t. My good friend died that year… So it’s a gift I’ll take with me ’til I’m six feet deep!

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M: Who do you admire as far as tattooers are concerned?

I admire any professional tattooer that takes his profession seriously! I like the up-and-comers like Cristo from Polish Tattoo, the veterans like Paco Excel from Death Before Dishonor and then there is Horiyoshi III. A man who is in a league of his own. Eddy Reyes from Secret Sidewalk is doing some crazy shit.

M: Any cooking advice for a novice?

A: Invest in a good knife and keep it sharp. Be clean and organized. Attack a recipe with great courage… It’s as easy as that.

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M: A good quality, sharp knife is SO important! Great advice! What recipe would you suggest for our readers?

A: Magical bahn mi sandwiches!!!  Combines all my favorite cuisines with Californian seasonal vegetables. Do the liver pate and pork the day before.

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Char Siu Pork

1 pork sirloin roast (1.5 pound)

1 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup H2O

1/2 cup chopped green onion

1/4 cup mince garlic

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cracked pepper

Splash of vinegar

1 jar of char siu sauce, Yee or Lee Kum Kee are good brands (or you could make your own)

Add all ingredients together except the jar of char- siu, mix well place in a heavy duty zip lock bag and marinate 6 hours.

Take the pork loin out of the marinade and put it on a sheet tray. Cover the loin with the char-siu and roast for 55min at 350-degree oven.

Take it out and let it rest.

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Chicken Liver Pate

1 pound air chilled, organic chicken livers, cleaned

1 cup almond milk

1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into pieces

1 cup chopped yellow onions

2 teaspoon mince garlic

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup aged whiskey or red wine

Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish

French bread croutons or toast, accompaniment

In a bowl, soak the livers in the almond milk for 2 hours. Drain well.

In a large sauté pan or skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken livers, the bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, until the livers are browned on the outside and still slightly pink on the inside, about 5 minutes. Add whiskey, cook until most of the liquid is evaporated and the livers are cooked through but still tender.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Discard the bay leaves.

In a food processor, puree the liver mixture. Add the remaining butter in pieces and pulse to blend and adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Pack the pate into a container Cover with plastic and refrigerate until firm, at least 6 hours.

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Quick Pickled Veg

1 cup water

1/2 cup rice wine

1/4 cup fish sauce

2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 mince garlic

1 cucumber

1 carrot

1 diakon radish or radish of choice

Mix all the ingredients and cut veg, long and thin slices. Place the veg in the solution. Use solution over and over.

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Garlic Aioli

1 egg yolk

1 cup of olive oil

2 garlic cloves minced

Juice of one lemon

1/2 tablespoon salt

Place the yolk, lemon juice and salt in a mixing bowl and mix till salt is dissolved. Slowly add the olive oil to create a mayo consistency.

Buy some French bread and go to town spread the pate on the bottom and the aioli on top. Add the slice pork then the pickle veg. Add in some fresh cilantro and Serrano Chile’s! Sit back and enjoy the ride!

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Sounds delicious, Andrew- Thank you!

Photos courtesy of Andrew Santana

Molly can be found at Knives and Needles: http://knivesandneedlesblog.com/.

Instagram: @knivesandneedles

For more K & N recipes visit this link: http://tattooartistmagazineblog.com/?s=knives+and+needles