Cliff Wharton didn’t grow up thinking that one day he would become a chef. No, he wanted to be a rock star! But the road to rock and roll glory is a tough one. After several years in a band that made it to the top 10 in Kansas City, but didn’t quite place on Billboard’s hot list, Cliff decided that maybe he wasn’t destined for a life in the music limelight. When a financially rewarding outlet for his creative restlessness wasn’t apparent, he worked in kitchens to pay the bills. Little did he know this would be the opening act for a life as a culinary superstar! As the Executive Chef at TenPenh, Wharton cooks up traditional delicacies from the Philippines such as lumpia, a crispy rice flour roll filled with cabbage, beef or pork, water chestnuts and bean sprouts; an elegant version of Chicken Adobo, a flavorful chicken dish that’s slow-cooked with black peppercorns, bay leaf, soy sauce, and vinegar; and Pancit, a noodle dish containing vegetables, meat, and Longaniza (Philippine-made) sausage. Striving to prove his belief that “simplicity sells,” Wharton prepares beautifully simple food with complex tastes taken from his native country, the Philippines, as well as Vietnam, Thailand, China, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Here are his answers to the usual questions…
What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
Hand Held Burr Mixer
What is the most overrated food/technique in restaurants today?
If you were to open a restaurant with a different type of cuisine than what you are cooking now, what would it be?
What is your favorite local product or purveyor to work with?
What is your biggest customer pet peeve?
Not reading the menu completely.
What do you drink/eat after work?
Beer and Double Dip Wings
What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
Grilled anything…especially steak.
Keep reading for Chef Wharton’s recipe for Hamachi Sashimi, Ahi Tuna Tartare with Cherry Ponzu Vinaigrette, Seaweed Salad, and Black Sesame Tosazu!
Hamachi Sashimi, Ahi Tuna Tartare, Cherry Ponzu Vinaigrette, Seaweed Salad, Black Sesame Tosazu
Executive Chef Cliff Wharton
¼ teaspoon minced shallot
¼ teaspoon minced ginger
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon slivered cherries
1 tablespoon cherry purée
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon rice wine vinegar
½ tablespoon olive oil.
salt, to taste (if needed)
In a bowl, combine shallot, ginger, garlic, cherries, cherry purée, soy sauce, and vinegar. While whisking, add oil slowly to emulsify. Season with salt if needed.
Black Sesame Tosazu
1 cup sake
1 2-inch piece konbu (also spelled kombu)
¼ cup bonito flakes
½ cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¾ cup mirin
¼ cup chopped white onion
On the stove, bring sake to boil. Remove from heat, add konbu, and let steep for 15 minutes. Remove konbu and let sake cool. Transfer sake to blend and add other ingredients. Blend until emulsified.
Hamachi Sashimi, Ahi Tuna Tartare
2-3 slices hamachi sashimi
salt, to taste
4 ounces ahi tuna
½ cup seaweed salad
chives, for garnish
Sprinkle hamachi with soy sauce and salt.
Dice tuna. Mix with cherry ponzu vinaigrette. Form ahi tuna tartare into a ball. Wrap with hamachi slices, leaving the top open so the ahi tuna tartare is visible.
Place at least an ounce of seaweed salad in the middle of plate. Top with tuna and hamachi. Drizzle tosazu around plate and garnish with chives.
To begin slice hamachi, sprinkle soy sauce, and salt, then set aside. Dice ahi tuna, and mix with the cherry ponzu vinaigrette. Form tartar in a ball, wrap with hamachi slices leaving the top open to see the tartar. Take at least an ounce of seaweed salad and place in middle of plate. Top with tuna, and drizzle tosazu around plate, garnish with chives.