Kitchen Confidential: Chef Gerald Sombright
Ario's chef de cuisine, Gerald Sombright, shares his culinary inspiration, current food obsession, go-to ingredient, and more.
Chef Gerald Sombright
With roots in St. Louis barbecue followed by a 15-year culinary journey in fine dining, Gerald Sombright brings an intriguing fusion of flavor profiles and culinary techniques to his current role as chef de cuisine at Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort’s new fine-dining eatery Ario. Sombright’s career includes working with acclaimed chefs like James Beard Award winner Lou Rook III and helming the PB&G kitchen inside the Four Seasons Resort in Orlando. He expertly balances refinement—he takes 48 hours to create exquisite foie gras—with earthy prowess, such as dry-aging meat in-house to deliver a flavorful and moist Flintstone-sized grilled tomahawk steak. It’s all in keeping with a culinary approach that he calls “archaic flavors with a modern touch.”
Culinary style: Nostalgic edible. Every meal is evocative of a memory past, present, or future, and I’m cooking from that place of modernization of memory.
Sea scallops, chorizo hash, corn puree.
“Aha” moment: Fifteen-plus years ago, I was working as a prep cook and the chef had a photo of Auguste Escoffier on the wall of the kitchen. I had no clue who it was. I asked the chef, who said, “If you don’t know, it’s your responsibility to find out.” So I went around the kitchen and someone was kind enough to tell me who Escoffier was—the father of French cuisine. There was something that clicked in my brain at that moment: These people care so much about something they do now that they also care about its history. It was really cool that people cared beyond a paycheck.
Culinary trend that’s passé: Pork belly. Although I was in Miami last week and had pork belly that was cured like bacon and put on a BLT—it was really good.
Burrata, herb cracker, basil oil, baby tomato.
Inspiration for new dishes: I go to Korean BBQ at 4 a.m.; my grandmother’s kitchen; Rice Krispies treats; Vietnamese noodles … I go to all these places of bright, vibrant, meaningful, memorable flavors and use them with the flavors of the future, or things I’m really inspired by at the moment. I marry them with ingredients I’ve never used and techniques I’ve never done.
Go-to ingredient: I add star anise to braises and stocks, and make it a nuance instead of the star. I love it when it feels simultaneously savory and sweet, and the balance that it creates.
Chef de cuisine Sombright preparing salmon.
Ingredient he avoids: I hate truffle oil. Real white truffles don’t taste like perfume.
Current food obsession: Right now, it’s probably oysters. I’m so enamored of fresh oysters that I order them in every restaurant I go to.
Favorite chef: Heston Blumenthal, because of the book he wrote, In Search of Perfection (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006). He takes classic dishes and figures out ways and ingredients to make them perfect. Just a steak, just a roasted chicken, just a simple dessert … How do you dedicate the time and energy to do those things perfectly?
Jackman Ranch tomahawk ribeye.