Jon’s Bear Club Celebrates 40 Years
Reedley, CA is where I grew up and I have many fond memories of the food and restaurants there, many of which are still around. One in particular, Jon’s Bear Club, just celebrated its 40th anniversary. How would a restaurant that’s been around for forty years with a history of serving great food go about celebrating? By creating a mouth-watering, menu created by 5 Valley chefs including the owner, Chef Jon Koobation.
I was granted the opportunity to go back in the kitchen at Jon’s Bear Club on this special night and watch as these five chefs each prepared their dish for the 100 guests in attendance.
First up was Chef David Vartanian of The Vintage Press Restaurant in Visalia. His creation was a tuna tartar tower that was both colorful and beautiful. The layers of roasted red pepper, avocado, tuna, and sprouts provided the color and the addition of two little crackers gave it wings – and a unique presentation. Roasted red pepper and avocado are two of my favorite things and they worked awesomely with the tuna and sesame vinaigrette dressing.
Next up was Chef Ryan Jackson of the School House Restaurant & Tavern in Sanger. The halibut sat beautifully on the salad with a pop of red from the oven roasted tomato. Although halibut isn’t my favorite fish, this had a delicious crust giving it great texture and the garlic vinaigrette was one of the best dressings I’ve had on a salad.
Chef Nathan Lewis Copeland brought the first of the two “main” courses. The pork loin was cooked medium, incredibly tender and melted in your mouth with a really good overall flavor. The sweet potatoes and morel mushroom sauce seemed like a unique take on a classic: mashed potatoes and gravy. The presentation was great, too, as the meat stood above the orange and yellow beneath it.
The night’s host, Chef Jon Koobation, was highly anticipated by the crowd and he certainly didn’t disappoint. The lamb was simply one of the best I’ve ever had and I loved the sauce that went with it, a perfect pairing. You can see what looks like a pastry next to it which had a mushroom duxelles filling. It was flaky and fantastic. This is definitely something I am going to have to experiment with and try in my kitchen.
For dessert, Chef Vatche Moukhtarian of Cracked Pepper Bistro prepared a Chocolate Mission Fig Terrine that was a chocolate lovers dreams. The cake-looking thing in the middle is actually a cocoa powder covered chocolate reduction. At first, I was expecting the consistency of a cookie or cake but it was a very soft (think: warm chocolate bar) and covered in cocoa powder. I happen to like chocolate and this was incredible. The cracker in the middle was a pistachio tuile and provided nice texture with the softness of the chocolate. Unique and satisfying after all of these great courses.
Overall, this was a fantastic event and I was fortunate to be in attendance. Jon was a great host all evening and it was quite a sight to watch as all these chefs – heads of their own kitchens – work together and prepare a complete menu for 100 people. It was a fun night for the guests but I’m sure the chefs had the most fun.
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