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A Conversation with Chef Jacob Rodriguez

On a crisp March morning at The Barn in Sisters, palms warmed around mugs of hot drinks, fire glowed in the wood stove, and early light filtered through the east side stained glass.  We gathered around a table to chat with Jacob, the chef that runs The Barn Kitchen.  Jacob is the vision and artistry behind The Barn Kitchen, and we wanted to get to know him just a little bit better.  

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jacob moved to San Diego in his early 20’s where he attended culinary school.  It was in culinary school that he discovered his love for the classic French style of cooking.  French cuisine was the foundation of his cooking, as he was drawn to its technique, history and its tradition.  Jacob creates novel and fresh ideas from the roots of understanding and practicing these foundational techniques and traditions. 

During these years, Jacob admired chefs such as Fergus Henderson and Marco Pierre White, both English chefs.  Fergus Henderson founded the St John restaurant on St John Street in London which was known for its nose to tail whole animal cooking.  Fergus explains that, “it seems common sense and even polite to the animal to use all of it”.  Marco Pierre White was known for his almost extreme discipline and drive, and Jacob respected his deep knowledge of foundational technique.  

Jacob stayed in San Diego for the next 10 years working for restaurants that inspired him, honing his craft, and soaking in the experience.  He then moved back to Los Angeles in 2013 where he met his wife.  His wife’s family has lived in Sisters for a long time which is what brought Jacob and his wife to Sisters, Oregon.

St. James Salad made with chicories, currants, fennel, hazelnuts, herbs, & alpha tolman cheese tossed with a shallot vinaigrette

Orange Olive Oil Cake made with Cara Cara oranges, a cardamon creme fraiche, & Oregon hazelnuts.

While in Sisters, he learned quickly of Danny’s Boone Dog Pizza and became readily interested in working with Danny.  To Jacob, it was clear that Danny was making pizza of the highest quality, better than anything else around.  Danny’s approach to food fit in line with what was most important to Jacob as a chef.  Jacob knew that this was someone he wanted to work for in town, and he knew that The Barn was the place when an opportunity became available.  Jacob beamed, “it wasn’t a hard choice.”  

Green Goddess Salad made with crisp escarole, tomatoes, pickled red onion, dukka spiced bread crumbs, sheep's milk feta tossed with green goddess dressing. Cucumbers & Peaches Small Plate with citrus & herb greek yogurt tossed with pepitas, mint, & basil oil. The Barn Burger made with Pole Creek Ranch beef & house made organic buns.

At The Barn, Jacob cooks by the seasons based on what’s available from local farms.  His face brightens when he describes peak tomato season as “we just soak it all in”.  He explains tomatoes are at their best for only a short window of the year, so he uses them every way that he can.  He employs all his cooking skills to “coax all their wonderful flavors out”.  He might roast them or fry them or serve them raw, put them in salads, create sauces, make dressings, ferment them, or pickle them.  He says that when abundance hits, it’s time to use all your culinary techniques to prepare a food in a variety of ways to highlight its best qualities.  And then Jacob considers what can be paired with it, what goes well with it.  There also might be influences from chefs like Alain Ducasse, a French chef, or Andy Doubrava, Thomas Keller and Alice Waters, all California chefs, in the recipes and menus that Jacob creates. 

Jacob doesn’t leave his chef hat at work.  He brings it home where he loves to geek out on cooking for other people, hosting parties, creating community connection, feeding people, and sharing food.  These gatherings are accompanied by his extensive vinyl collection where he approaches listening to music as seasonally as the food that he prepares.  In the fall, he finds himself listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Joy Division, and in the winter it’s a little heavier while in the spring it’s a bit lighter.  Summertime, he hits up live music like Khruangbin, played in Bend, or Dolly Parton and Grace Jones, he saw them at the Hollywood Bowl.

Stuffed Eggplant with tomatoes, garlic, sumac, onions, oregano bread crumbs. Sweet potato, Chickpea, & Tahini Salad with little gem lettuce, herbs, pumpkin seeds, sheep feta.

Jacob also likes to geek out on the restaurant experience.  He relishes in sitting down and ordering with abandon, letting the restaurant take care of him.  He enjoys the experience of a beautiful space with good food where he can treat himself and the people that he’s with while letting it all go.  He delights in trying something new and really going for it when exploring a new menu.  He’s fond of taking time, relaxing, allowing the restaurant to shine, being gracious and thankful for the food prepared, sharing a bottle of wine with the table, and enjoying the company of those he’s dining with. 

To experience Jacob’s craft, explore The Barn Kitchen Dinner menu here or Boone Dog Pizza menu here.

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