In the Kitchen with Spencer Hunter of Hunters Home Kitchen
Spencer Hunter, brave soul, agreed to sit down and answer the norm and quirky questions. On cloud 9, since being awarded for his lumpias, yet remaining passionate and grounded , he's persistently busy traveling up and down the west coast and requested at many local festivals, showcasing the golden delectables! He puts his own urban swagger in authentic family recipes where all senses are elevated to its full potential. He's currently gearing up to open his own storefront, Lola's Lumpia, in 2018.
Nardcast: Favorite San Diego restaurant?
Spencer Hunter: Herb & Wood in Little Italy. I love this place especially because of Executive Pastry Chef Adrian Mendoza. His dessert menu is always amazing and inspiring. He has a passion for his craft and it shows in his work. I love the gelatos and sorbets.
What's something you would try and you would not try?
There's almost nothing I wouldn't try at least one time. I want to try a freshly caught live sweet shrimp. You eat them raw and the freshness is supposedly amazing. Something I most likely wouldn't try is “bulot,” a Filipino mature egg with the fetus developed inside. You cook it and eat the egg and fetus whole. It sounds nasty but has a great taste. I can't get past the texture of feathers in my mouth.
What is your go-to dish you can make blindfolded?
Fettuccini Alfredo or Chicken Adobo. I lived off this in college.
When did you have your light bulb moment?
In college when I switched majors from Architecture to Sustainable Tourism and I took a class on Sustainable Food Management, this is where I saw the impact the tourism and food and beverages industries came into play in terms of environmental protection and economic profit. The light bulb went off when I connected sustainability and tourism through food. Wherever you travel in the world, you are going to have to eat everyday. Business, personal, casual or professional; we all need food as a basic necessity. What makes for a restaurant sustainable?
Sustainability follows three main pillars which are social responsibility, environmental protection and economic profit. Under these three pillars lies five main principles which are trade offs, system dynamics, long term effects (consequences), social equity and transparency. Restaurants that understand the entire food cycle from agricultural growing, harvesting, packaging, distribution, cooking and waste management while being cognant of the five principles of sustainability. I plan to use my restaurant to model sustainable food management along with sustainable energy and water usage. How are you going to change the way people think sustainability? I want people to understand seasonal and local food systems which will incline them to eat and source products that are more fresh, healthier and less damaging to the environment. Local sourcing allows for less leakage which allows for a more sustainable local economic income for the community. I am using the culinary arts to show how we literally are eating our choices and eat meal affects how our lives are shaped in the long term. I want people to understand cultural traditions as entire cultures are portrayed in culinary dishes such as the region (type of produce), style of cooking (technology/natural resources) and traditions. Eventually I want to get into sustainable food management consulting and one day a sustainability consultant encompassing food management, energy and water usage. Spencer Hunter, five years, what does it look like? I will be running my company, Hunters Home Kitchen, and hopefully have a grab 'n go shop up and running. Eventually I'd like a restaurant that is limited reservations and open a few nights out of the week. By this time, I want to be working not only as a chef but as a sustainability consultant. Lumpias? Who taught you? Is there a secret?
Lumpia is a Filipino egg roll made of flour/water wrap. The fillings can differ but the classic is beef/pork with veggies. My mom and grandmother showed me how to make Lumpia.
They made them my whole life and my grandmother actually owned one for the first Filipino restaurants in San Diego. It was called SanLoy’s Lumpia off the Miles of Cars Ave. The secret to making the wrapper is holding the dough ball properly and the secret to rolling lumpia is keeping them nice and tight. What book are you currently reading? “The Professional Chef” by the Culinary Institute of America. I didn't go to culinary school but studied Tourism Development and Management (Sustainable Tourism). I am always looking to learn more about culinary arts and hone my craft. You are writing a cookbook, what’s the title? It's not for the public but I am building my cookbook arsenal of culinary dishes having cultural tradition influence but in modern presentation. A name I've been thinking about is “Mas Sarap,”which means “very good (yummy)” in Tagalog (Filipino language). Chef you admire and why? Chef Dan Barber from Blue Hill Farms in Blue Hill, New York. He has inspired me in sustainability and got me to fall in love with food from not only a flavor profile and presentation, but to the story of the produce and proteins. He is featured on Chef Table but I studied a lot of his works in Sustainability College. Teleport yourself to anywhere; where, why and what’s the cuisine? Italy would be my favorite destination because it's my favorite cuisine. I started my culinary career cooking Italian food and hand-tossed pizzas and would love to see the origins of it all. The Philippines falls very closely after. Would you date someone that does not cook? Yes I would. Everyone doesn't need to be able to cook at a professional level but it would give me the opportunity to spend more time teaching him skills in the kitchen.
Most memorable culinary experience?
When I worked an event In Panama. It was the bare essentials. No electricity or refrigeration; powered by propane and wood fire. That experience was both a challenge and a humbling reward.
Thoughts about the gastropub craft beer craze? Trend or here to stay? I think gastropubs are here to stay. People appreciate good quality crafted beer and hand-in-hand, good quality crafted food falls right into play. Good food and good drinks! What else do you want? Five things you do not leave home without? Cell phone, wallet, DxO camera, GoPro and watch Song or band you are listening to now? Bruno Mars, Future, Chance the Rapper and Childish Gambino Regards to San Diego, what is it missing, if anything?
I think San Diego is missing an Asian culinary scene that isn't a cafeteria-style service or Chinese delivery. There is a huge market for a fine dining or casual upscale dining Asian culinary scene. Mantra, fav quote? “I can accept failure, but cannot accept not trying.” - Michael Jordan “Adopt a child, not my style.” -LRG Favorite thing about the industry? The people you work with; the family-like bond when you are grinding out covers, especially when in the weeds. I love the rush and adrenaline of the pressure to produce. In catering, you only get one shot for a smooth service. Staying chill and calm is my advice and roll with the punches. Shit is always going to go wrong, small or big when dealing in the special events world. Proudest accomplishment so far? Being successful at CRSSD Fest 2016. We were the second highest vendor in sales for the two-day weekend festival. It was the first time my company was in a large attendance event totaling in 30,000 guests in two days. We did 1,300 covers. All prep was done by myself, my mother, my brother and a prep cook friend. Describe yourself in three words. Chill, ambitious and leader Tell me a BOH joke/jargon.
At searsucker, when someone was leaving the company we would make whipped cream pies with nasty things in them like anchovies, fish sauce, etc. after the end of shift staff would ambush pie the person leaving. On my last shift there, I thought I could sneak out or thought everyone forgot. They distracted me and out of nowhere I saw pies flying across the room at me. I tried cleaning up as much as I could out of my hair because I was going out to PB after work. In Pacific Beach, I was wondering why no one was talking to me much, and my brother came up and smelled my hair. It smelled like vomit because of the heavy cream. I instantly left the bar. Moral of the story: wash your hair thoroughly if ever whipped cream pie’d.
Hunters Home Kitchen / Lola's Lumpia
873 Palomar St., Chula Vista. 619-739-3541 or huntershomekitchen.com
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**All images courtesy of Hunters Home Kitchen**
Katie Lynnet is a charismatic polymath, born and raised in San Diego with affinities for libations and delicious eats, live music and authenticity. Always clocked in, whether she's selling Real Estate, slinging drinks, catering and event planning or relishing in the beautiful outdoors you can guarantee she's living by her trademarked slogan " Making the ordinary, EXTRAORDINARY"!