Food & Wine ~ Sonoma Valley Sun


Sonoma Valley Chef files: Bryan Jones

Posted on December 16, 2016 by Sonoma Valley Sun
  • chef%20bryan%20jones%20-%20st-%20francis%20wineryExecutive chef of St. Francis Winery, voted “#1 Restaurant in America” by OpenTable diners in 2015 and named to OpenTable’s “100 Best Restaurants for Foodies in America” list in 2016.
  • A California Culinary Academy grad, has 16 years of experience in the industry, including two years as Banquet Sous Chef at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.
  • Joined St. Francis in 2014 after nine years as Chef and General Manager of the fig café and wine bar, downtown Sonoma.
  • Philosophy: “Rich, clean flavors and a variety of cultures.”


1) The Sun: How has working in the wine country influenced you professionally?

Bryan Jones: Working in wine country has influenced my understanding about the important relationship between wine and food. I can’t sit down for a meal or plan a menu without thinking about what wine to pair. It becomes a part of you.

2) Holidays in the Sonoma Valley… what does that mean to you?

I believe there is no better place to experience the spirit of the season than Sonoma Valley. All you have to do is make the trip to the Plaza at night to see what a magical place this is. The lights are amazing!

3) Home cooks are often intimidated by duck. Tell us again why we shouldn’t be.

The reason that home cooks are intimated by duck, especially the breast, is that they are afraid of overcooking it and being left with a dry, inedible breast. True, the breast does require a bit of technique to bring out the best flavor. This includes scoring and properly rendering the fat to achieve a crispy product, cooking the duck to mid-rare or medium to lock in the juices. Treat it like a steak: turning it over and using your touch test for doneness is key. The legs are actually my favorite part of the duck, as they are both flavorful and versatile and are best braised or confited.

4) What did you learn in 2016 that you can pass along?

Rogan Josh is a spiced dish of Persian origin with the coolest name ever. It’s very aromatic consisting of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and a few other ingredients. Traditional dishes usually contain lamb, but I used this spice blend in my duck dish, which includes lentils cooked with rogan josh. In our never-endeing quest for a great pairing at St. Francis, I selected one of our artisan Zinfandels to pair with the boldness of the rogan josh. The two matched beautifully, and I walked away having learned something new.

vinegars4905) What’s on your gotta-have-it list for the pantry?

Good quality vinegars and a huge assortment of hot sauces. A drizzle of a barrel-aged balsamic vinegar to finish a dish is something that my wife believes truly elevates our home dining experience. The hot sauces are just for me—my wife and two daughters are afraid of them all.

Turkey or ham? No way. This year, St. Francis Winery Executive Chef Bryan Jones offers something quite different from the usual holiday fare. More from Chef Jones.

Smoked Duck Breast with Beluga Lentils and Honey Ginger Eggplant

Duck Brine

1 quart water

2 tablespoons Kosher salt

3 whole allspice

2 inch piece of whole fresh ginger, halved and crushed

5 whole cardamom pods, crushed

1 star anise pod

¼ jalapeno, sliced

1 bay leaf

4 duck breasts

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients except the duck and olive oil and bring to a simmer. Let steep for a minimum of an hour and then chill to at least 40 degrees.
Place duck in a plastic container with a lid, then pour chilled brine over duck, cover and place in refrigerator for an hour and a half.
Remove duck from brine and pat dry with kitchen towels. Place the duck uncovered in the refrigerator to finish drying for another hour.
Prepare your outdoor gas grill with the smoking attachment and gas on only directly over the wood chips. Place duck on indirect heat, making sure wood chips have ignited. Close lid and try and maintain an internal chamber temperature of 170*F. Cook for one hour. If you notice a lack of smoke, replenish wood chips half way through. After an hour, remove duck.
Heat 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Make very light, narrow slices in the skin of duck breast then place in sauté pan and cook until the skin is dark brown, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to rest for a few minutes, then slice thinly when ready to plate.
Beluga Lentils

1½ cups Beluga lentils

1 yellow onion, small diced

1 tablespoon Rogan Josh (Persian Spice Blend) or curry powder

2 cloves Garlic, minced

3 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Sauté onions and garlic until translucent in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Stir in Rogan Josh, cooking for 15 seconds. Add lentils and stir to combine. Add chicken stock, bring to a simmer and cover over low heat for about 18-20 minutes, or until your desired lentil doneness.
Honey-Ginger Eggplant

2 Japanese eggplant

½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil


Slice eggplant into ½ inch coins. Heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in an sauté pan then cook for 3-5 minutes on each side, both sides should be well browned. Remove from pan.
Add honey and ginger to pan and cook for 1 minute, then return eggplant to pan. Season with salt to taste and toss to coat the eggplant with sauce.
To plate

Spoon lentils into 4 large, flat pasta bowls. Top lentils with 5-6 pieces of eggplant and 5-6 thin slices of duck breasts and serve.

Pair with: 2013 Old Vines Zinfandel, My Father’s Vineyard




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