From the French Laundry to The Inn at Little Washington to The Fat Duck in England to The Goodstone Inn & Estate and Hilltoppers Restaurant in Middleburg, Virginia, Tarver King has been cooking up a storm! Since taking the reigns at Hilltoppers back in October, Chef King set the standard of cooking “approachable cuisine that involves the guest in bold, straight-forward and rounded flavors,” stimulating all five senses. “My food will always be extremely fresh- what is growing in kitchen gardens and what is in season locally. This is how I love to cook… fresh, aromatic and tender vegetables, herbs, fruits, fish and meats. I want to bring what’s growing outside on The Goodstone’s estate inside to Hilltoppers’ table, creating a seamless sensory experience for our guests.” We were able to snag a few minutes of his time for our usual questions.
What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
My favorite kitchen gadget has to be a pressure cooker. I have a couple of small six quarts, and a massive 42 quart cooker that some say looks like a space ship! Pressure cookers are quite unique in the way that they cook foods four times faster than normal, which in a professional environment can free time to focus on other things. In the small cookers we cook beets in fifteen minutes, chick peas in ten, and potatoes in about eight! In the big cooker we make stocks that are crystal clear and made in a quarter the amount of time. Stocks are great because at full pressure (about 15 pounds) the temperature inside reaches two hundred fifty degrees, forty eight degrees higher than normal, and at that temperature it pulls every bit of flavor and gelatin from the bones. The contents inside the cooker don’t move. No bubbles and no vibrations so particles from the bones, and meat don’t cloud the stock. the steam that usually escapes from a stock pot has allot of flavor trapped in moisture particles. if you’ve ever walked into a kitchen that has a stew cooking and said “wow it smells good in here!” actually the stew is loosing a lot of flavor in the steam but not in a pressure cooker because all the aroma is trapped inside. In a normal stock pot a good strong veal, or beef stock can take two days. In a pressure cooker it can be made in about four hours. I love these things!
What is the most overrated food/technique in restaurants today?
Searing meat to hold in juices, which is an old myth that is not true at all. If it was true you would never have a dry piece of meat no matter how long you cooked it. Cooking meat slowly retains much more juices; and has a much better texture. but the searing of a piece of meat does add a good roasty flavor. So to achieve both benefits in a nut shell so to speak. Cook meat slowly to the desired temperature, then rest the meat to temper the heat inside, then quickly searing to “color” the outside.
If you were to open a restaurant with a different type of cuisine than what you are cooking now, what would it be?
I’d probably do the same cuisine I’m doing right now. I’ve spent my life trying to define it and educate myself in certain techniques to benefit the food that we cook. I cook with a mild multi-cultural influence with the idea that all food prepared with love, care, and respect can be good.
What is your favorite local product or purveyor to work with?
Elaine from Fields of Athenry Farms is defiantly my favorite food purveyor. She takes care of all the lamb we have on property. She handles the slaughter, and butcher process of them as well as the cows, and the chickens that are all raised at Goodstone.
What is your biggest customer pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve has got to be the fear to try something new. Food and dinning is an adventure. It should be treated as such and let us take you on a trip. The menu and service is planned precisely to give an all around experience from the anticipating drive up to the satisfied drive back. I want people to let go of themselves to let go of all expectations, and to just let the wave of the restaurant wash over you. It is all a progression that each dish and drink follows in the footsteps of the first. All the way to the end.
What do you drink/eat after work?
After work I love a good light bubbly beer. It refreshes and helps the adrenaline of the night subside.
What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
At home my favorite thing to cook for Sheree, and myself is breakfast. Especially if she hasn’t gotten up yet so I can surprise her. There’s nothing more satisfying to wake up to than a cup of coffee with eggs and toast with a smile on the side (and a movie to watch if there’s no work for the day).