Sustainability is Possible
Trey Foshee’s first job in the restaurant industry was mainly a way to support his passion for surfing. Through a family connection he was hired as a busboy at The Ranch House in Ojai, CA. The restaurant’s extensive gardens provided the kitchen with citrus, herbs, and an abundance of vegetables. So, at an early age, Trey was exposed to the idea of gathering fresh ingredients straight from the earth. After a year, he transitioned to the kitchen. “I was always interested in working with my hands and was also a little reserved so the back of the house was more interesting to me than dealing with the patrons,” he says.
In the late ’80s Trey was living the life in Maui, surfing all day and working the line at Longhi’s Restaurant at night. “I did that for about two years,” Trey says. “One busy night I looked down the line at an older co-worker and thought if I don’t do something that’ll be me in 20 years. The next day I got on the phone with my mom and said I was thinking of going to culinary school. I’d been reading about various schools at the time, but The Culinary Institute of America was always at the forefront. I thought, if I’m going to do this I should go with the best.”
Arriving on the Hyde Park campus in New York Trey remembers, “I felt comfortable starting classes because of my past experience but I immediately began improving my skills and learning new techniques. The professors were tough and sometimes scary but I really got something out of every single class. Overall the CIA gave me confidence in myself and my skills.”
It was on his externship at L’Orangerie in Los Angeles, CA when Trey felt he had really crossed a bridge to another level of cooking. “I knew I wanted to get into better restaurants and my CIA education made that possible,” he says. Trey quickly moved up the ranks at L’Orangerie.
After graduating in 1990, Trey began building his résumé with stints at San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, La Folie in San Francisco, Rockenwagner in Santa Monica, Three-Thirty-Three at the Sheraton Grande Hotel in Los Angeles, and the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows in Hawaii, an AAA Five Diamond resort. In 1997, Trey got a call from the Sundance Resort in Utah. Robert Redford was looking for an executive chef for the resort’s on-site dining venues. The following year Trey was named one of America’s Ten Best New Chefs by Food & Wine magazine.
In 1999, a headhunter connected Trey with George Hauer who was looking for a new executive chef and partner for his restaurant, George’s at the Cove. “The opportunity to become a partner with one of the most successful restaurateurs in California was the big draw,” says Trey. Today Trey oversees the venue’s two distinct concepts: the fine dining California Modern and the casual Ocean Terrace. In 2012, Trey introduced TBL3 (pronounced Table 3), a 12-to-14-course tasting menu for two to six people. “TBL3 is an ongoing conversation about the lifestyle, ingredients, and sense of place that is San Diego,” he explains.
Sustainability plays a crucial role in Trey’s menus. “In southern California we’re blessed with a longer growing season so the majority of our produce is picked in the morning, brought to the restaurant, and used that day,” he says. “It’s important for chefs to understand where their products are coming from and how they are raised.” He has developed relationships with local farmers and purveyors including Chino Farms, Monterey Fish, Niman Ranch, and Specialty Produce who meet and often exceed his high standards. “Our buying power is enormous and it’s my responsibility to use that power in a positive way,” says Trey. “If you want to do business with us you have to follow some guidelines.”
Fast forward 15 years and Trey is still pushing himself and his team. “We’re continuously striving to be better and stay current. To make really good food, you have to be completely aware of what’s going on with the ingredients. It’s about combining them in ways that bring out the individual flavors yet allow them to bounce of each other. By getting quality, locally sourced ingredients, and treating them with respect, the flavors just shine,” he says.
The success of Trey’s commitment to sustainability is evident in the enduring popularity of George’s at the Cove and, with the ocean at his door step, he can still get out on the water and hang ten.