Interview: Chef Casey Shideler Of Taylor's Kitchen In Sacramento, California

Casey Shideler is a chef at Taylor's Kitchen in Sacramento, California. The lovely presentation of her meals is influenced by the 32-year-old's artistic talents. Casey is one of several female chefs in Sacramento, California where she takes advantage of the year 'round bounty provided by local farms. She and other women in the regional culinary arts and farming community support each other through sharing information, mentoring, and supporting each other's businesses. Casey has an inspired and positive outlook on life as a result of her journey to sobriety, and has recieved such awards as Sacramento 365's "Artist of the Month," and even cooked at the James Beard House in 2014. 

The Daily Meal: How did you get into cooking?

Chef Casey Shideler: I left art school and decided to pursue cooking as an after-thought. At the time, I had no idea how hard it was going to be. I got into cooking because I needed to do something, and I had no real plan in line. After I got sober, I viewed cooking differently and developed a real passion and intense drive for it.

I started cooking in Kansas in fine-dining restaurants, which are different than they are in California. When I moved to Sacramento, I joined the kitchen staff at Mulvaney's where honed my skills. I was there about two years and then stepped away from the industry for about 6 weeks after an alcohol relapse.  I needed that time to invest all my efforts into figuring out what was happening with me and how to deal with it. I joined Taylor's Kitchen in June of 2015 and took over as Executive Chef in June 2016.

Do you have a specialty dish?

My specialties are constantly changing. I am constantly experimenting, and I like to build complexity within simple dishes.  I include elements of crunch, acidity, sweetness, saltiness, creaminess, and heat to create dimension.  I am the kind of chef where something is my specialty until I have exhausted experimenting and creativity, and I move on to the next focus, whatever that might be.

Do you prefer a particular style of cooking?

I love cooking Mediterranean dishes. Mediterranean food has rich flavor affinities that shine with the local meat and produce we have available. For example, the Sacramento region produces excellent olive oil. I source my olive oil from SEKA HILLS when making salsa verde and a variety of other sauces and components.  We source local lamb from Superior Farms, and then dishes are created based on the local produce is in season. Our micro greens are grown locally indoors by Aldon's Leafy Greens.

What kind of atmosphere do you create in the kitchen?

My kitchen is organized and efficient. We all get along and are friendly with each other, but the focus is always on the food.  I strive for us to always put love and creativity into our food every step of the way, and to grow from our mistakes. I have worked in kitchens where there is some kind of divide among the staff. I don't want drama or a divided staff in my kitchen. I try to make sure we are always working together as a team and focusing on the big picture.

What do you look for when you hire other chefs to assist you in the kitchen?

I look for people who are passionate, and flexible, and willing to learn. Flexibility is the driving force behind making it in this industry. Things are never going to go as planned, you can only strive to keep giving it your all.  

What is your favorite spice?

I love cooking with curry, garlic, turmeric, paprika, Ras el Hanout, and Aleppo pepper; and using lemon juice and sherry vinegar to brighten them up.

What keeps you working as a chef? 

I am drawn to this industry. I always joke that I tried to get out and it sucked me back in, which it did. I love being challenged in all different ways and being able to nourish my creativity. It is very gratifying.