The feature of the day at Octane InterLounge, Shrimp and Corn, came highly recommended by our server. One taste and I understood why. Succulent sautéed shrimp and crisp-tender yellow wax beans, combined with deep-fried sweet corn, created a harmony of taste on my tongue. Lemon beurre blanc sauce prepared with reduced white wine enhanced the dish to an orchestra of flavor. The Shrimp and Corn was the creation of head chef Patrick Alberto, who started out as a dishwasher at Octane.
Chef Patrick grew up in the Philippines. When he decided to stay in the U.S. after visiting relatives here, he started at the bottom rung of the Octane InterLounge ladder, washing dishes. The only thing he knew how to cook was Ramen noodles. However, after only six months, he was offered a position preparing food. It wasn’t long before another local chef, Paul Sletten, took then 20-year-old Patrick under his wing at a French restaurant. Patrick apprenticed under Chef Sletten for six years.
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Today Chef Patrick is grateful for the open reign that Octane owners, Daniel and Michelle Minick, allow him. Many of his dishes combine his French cuisine training with the cuisine of his homeland, a mix of Spanish and Malaysian influence. He works with locally sourced ingredients as often as possible, as long as the quality of the food is not compromised. The menu changes four times a year in order to highlight in-season produce. Patrick is as comfortable preparing a well thought out grilled cheese sandwich as he is at preparing fois gras. He is a recipe book fanatic and reads them for inspiration, taking recipes he finds interesting and putting his own spin on them.
Chef Patrick doesn’t take full credit for the dishes prepared at Octane. He says no one can do it alone, and it’s all about hiring the right people to develop a good team. He remembers his humble beginnings and wants to give others the same opportunity he was afforded. Chef Patrick has promoted three dishwashers to chef positions to date.
My meal at Octane ended with tastes of two desserts: Chocolate Nachos and Espresso Brulee, both highlighting Chef Patrick’s passion and creativity.
The Chocolate Nachos begin with rich chocolate mousse and brandied walnuts. The “nacho chips” are deep-fried crepes.
Chef Patrick created Espresso Brulee out of necessity when they had run out of a standard cheesecake. He uses a traditional custard recipe but incorporates Octane’s espresso and uses raw sugar for the topping.
If you go to Octane InterLounge
Octane InterLounge, one of the first five internet cafes in the country, is located in downtown Rockford’s River District at 124 N Main Street. The café opens at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Check the web site for lunch and dinner serving times. Octane is closed on Sunday.
Disclosure: My visit to Octane InterLounge was hosted by the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Octane. However, opinions expressed in this post are my own.
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