When Jackie Dentz needed new cooks for her restaurant in downtown Homer, she advertised on Craigslist and came up with mixed results.
According to Dentz, one chef wanted to change everything around and air freight expensive, highbrow fare into town.
“I found out I don’t want a chef,” Dentz said of her experience. “What I needed was a pair of cooks.”
Over the past eight years of owning the restaurant, Dentz has developed consistent recipes for seafood favorites like crab patties and fish and chips. And with a little more refining of her job expectations, Dentz found in two new hires the kind of experience and sensitivity that she needed for her Homer seafood restaurant.
Parker Staring and Jason Stilley — new chefs at Crabbies’ Restaurant — hail from opposite ends of the country. However, both young men delight in pleasing others with their cooking.
Staring was raised in Troy, NY, around grandparents whose devotion to cooking left a lingering impression on him. Stilley, on the other hand, specialized in seafood at Matt’s In Market and Cina Fresca from Seattle’s Pike Place Market district.
“My grandmother was 100 percent Italian. She did nothing but cook all day,” Staring said. His German grandfather was a butcher. He made Staring’s grandmother’s sausages and showed Staring how to process deer and beef.
As a sophomore in high school, Staring started cooking in restaurants. Seven years of college included culinary school at New Hampshire University and a hotel-restaurant management program at Northern Arizona University. Along the way, he said he always cooked at restaurants.
“The best thing I bring to cooking is to keep things different and unique,” Staring said. “I like to take old recipes and break them down and change them up. I like fresh, simple, slow cooking.”
Both Staring and Stilley are new to Homer. Stilley’s mother lives in Anchor Point, so his move was to be closer to her. Staring came most recently from Colorado, and rented a cabin by the beach. He said he’s getting used to the way Alaska is so different from the rest of the country.
For one thing, Alaska salmon just isn’t the same.
“The kind we get back east is pink or orange,” Staring explained. “The first time I saw this kind here I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s so red,’” he said.
Staring said the taste of fresh smoked salmon and crab — king, snow and Dungeness — also makes this a different work experience than other places.
Even in his off time, Stilley said he still finds himself cooking for the family. This weekend, he cooked halibut for his mother.
“I like cooking seafood because it’s what I like to eat,” he said.
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