San Jose native Ryan Shelton’s wide-ranging resume includes local institution Chez TJ, where he worked alongside chefs Christopher Kostow and Bruno Chemel. He followed Chemel when the chef opened Baume four years ago in Palo Alto—he was chef de cuisine when Baume received its second Michelin star in 2011. Shelton now serves as executive chef at the newly opened Mixx, a contemporary American restaurant in downtown Mountain View. He sat down with to talk about his past and current work.

Was Baume your introduction to modern cooking techniques such as molecular gastronomy?
Actually, I did a lot more molecular gastronomy at Chez TJ. [Bruno's] style is actually very, very traditional. He and I just kind of played with all the molecular techniques and the different modern stuff people were doing and sort of developed a style together at Chez TJ. It’s kind of weird, because there it’s contemporary French, that’s what it says on the door. And Baume was French cuisine moderne—we had never said molecular gastronomy. At Chez TJ, I would have dishes made of powders, and spheres and foams and stuff. At Baume we would use one technique and people would be like, ‘This is insane—wild!’ So, we actually had to tone it down at Baume.

What kind of menu have you put together at Mixx?
We’re not doing fusion. Everything we’re doing, we’re trying to maintain the integrity of all the individual dishes. For example, I have an Indian dish where, basically, all the techniques that I use to create the dish would be used in an Indian restaurant. It’s made in the style of a skewered tandoori chicken and we do it with curried kale, rice and grilled bread. Something popular has been our pork belly steamed buns. The pork belly is braised really slow and then we sear it crispy and it’s stuffed into a steamed bun. The most popular is the chicken and waffles. We do a cornmeal waffle, the chicken is sous vide before it is battered and fried, so it’s actually really juicy and tender—I think that’s kind of the surprise element to the dish.

On the surface the menu looks pretty casual American, but you’re doing a lot of modern cooking techniques from your background, such as sous vide?
Exactly! I heard one time, that the best technique is the one that you don’t see. So we use sous vide and we use a lot of that stuff in an attempt to create consistency and sort of ease for us in certain elements, so we can really focus on all those final touches. But we are not trying to do anything out of the ordinary—the wow factor is not the technique, it’s the quality of the ingredients, the deliciousness of the flavors.

Can you talk a bit about your blog, Will Work for Food, where you break down what you do in the kitchen?
With sleight of hand or magic and stuff like that—yeah, when you tell someone how you do it, it ruins it. It’s not magical anymore. With food, I can tell you about those ribs but when you eat it, you’ll still say, ‘Wow, those ribs are really tender and crispy.’ It’s still possible to share in the magic without spoiling it, I think that is why food is super cool. Eating, I do want it to be a bit of an intellectual experience, but I don’t want to put too much onto people at that time. So, that is why I use my blog to put that information out there—like this is all that crazy shit that went into that dish you had.

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