Chef Billy Sotelo
A winner of the Nicholas & Co. Ultimate Chef Competition, Billy Sotelo is the executive chef for LaSalle Restaurant Group, and his passion for cooking with fresh, local ingredients is evident on the menus at Faustina and Oasis Café. Sotelo began his career in Tuscon, Ariz., at the Loews Ventana Canyon resort, and later moved to top-notch restaurants in Salt Lake City and Deer Valley.
What did you make?
I made a lobster-mushroom cheesy risotto and took the Morgan Valley Lamb and crusted it with the meal from the pancake batter seasoned with herbs, salt and pepper. I guess you could call it a batter—not batter, kind of a dry rub. And then I tried crusting it up in the pan with a butter-and-herb finish. I sautéed the onions in the olive oil with some peppers. I added a little bit of wine and reduced that down together with apple juice, onions and pears, mostly to thin it out and give better flavor to the jam and make it more syrupy. Then, I folded in the jalapeño relish to use as a topping for the lamb and bring everything together.
What was your thinking with the lobster mushrooms?
I figured lobster mushrooms would bring it all together, and I added a little bit of citrus—some zest from the orange juice. I was trying to figure out how to bring it back together and make one complete dish. That mushroom puree turned out to be my yin-yang to that dish. You have the sweet, and you have a little bit of sour. The lamb itself was very musky, so that was an easy pair with the mushrooms, as well.
What ingredient was most challenging for you?
I thought to myself: “Oh, my God. Am I making crepes today?” I had no idea what to do with the pancake mix originally, but I think it ended up working in my favor. I really liked how the lamb tasted, you know. It made a nice crust.
What was the best part about cooking in this challenge?
We always try to have a lot of fun with our food [at the restaurants]. I probably wouldn’t use all of these ingredients together again, but it was fun. What made it great, I guess, [was] getting over the fear of doing something you’re not so sure of. Taking a combination and trying to figure out how to make them pair up with each other.