Sussex County Sensation
In coastal Delaware, chicken is a signature dish
Sussex County native Juan Hernandez knows a thing or two about poultry, one of the state’s most lucrative industries. His father has long worked in a chicken plant, and his mother worked at Georgia House in Millsboro, a down-home restaurant that serves buttermilk-fried chicken and chicken basted with barbecue sauce.
Hernandez grew up in the Long Neck area, and on Sundays the family often gathered for backyard barbecues. While the adults preferred grilled seafood, young Juan gravitated toward chicken and steak. “It’s one of the best memories that I have,” he says of those get-togethers. He couldn’t wait to grow up and be in charge of cooking the meat.
He’s achieved that goal many times over. Hernandez, who was 14 when he started washing dishes at Georgia House, has worked at the Summer House, Bethany Blues and The Pickled Pig Pub.
Currently, he’s the executive chef at Salt Air Restaurant & Bar in Rehoboth Beach. “We have a beach picnic theme,” he says. “It’s farm to table.”
Roast chicken, which you can eat hot or cold, has been a Salt Air staple since Jonathan Spivak opened the restaurant in 2009. That remained true after the Big Fish Restaurant Group purchased the business in 2012.
Hernandez brines the bird for 24 hours, a technique that makes the meat tender.
Salt Air serves this dish with grits. Follow the grits recipe of your choice, or serve the chicken with potatoes or fresh corn on the cob.
Getting a Taste of Spring
Mediterranean lamb dish showcases seasonal flavors and a mix of local and exotic ingredients
By May, chefs and foodies are celebrating the return of local vegetables, particularly asparagus, peas and tender lettuces. When it comes to meat, lamb is historically linked with the season. In Greece, for instance, lamb is the main attraction of the Easter feast. It’s also the star of the country’s cuisine.
The spring bounty delights Gary Papp, who with wife Lorraine owns Palate Bistro & Catering. “I embrace what my local growers are bringing to me,” he says.
Lately, he’s been experimenting with Middle Eastern spices and vegetarian dishes. Lamb meatballs with lemon-sumac yogurt — a Greek-inspired dish using fresh products — is a prime example.
At work or home, it helps to have two chefs in the kitchen. Lorraine is a celebrated pastry chef. The couple met when she hired Gary to be the sous chef at a restaurant in Bucks County, Pa. A friendship turned into a romance, and they catered their own wedding in 1990.
In 1994, friend John Donato and his partner, Twain Gonzales, were getting ready to open The Buttery and hired the Papps. The couple moved to the beach and both worked at the restaurant. In 2008, they left to open Essential Chef, which offered catering and consulting services. Gary also taught culinary classes. In 2016, they opened Palate in a Route 1 shopping center between Lewes and Rehoboth.
This recipe demonstrates that the Papps don’t skip steps. Home chefs can make all the components or just a few. You’ll find sumac, a spice common in Middle Eastern cuisine, at Jerusalem International Grocery in the Tenley Court shopping center on Route 1 near Midway. Pea shoots are often available in Asian markets, or you can substitute baby spinach.
Wild About Salmon
This chef gives an elegant twist to a favorite that’s never out of season
By Pam George
From the April 2018 issue
When Tom Deptula creates a new restaurant menu, at least one protein consistently makes it onto the page — and his choice might surprise you.
“You don’t always have to have a chicken on the menu, but you do have to have a salmon dish,” says Deptula, who has been the executive chef at The Clubhouse at Baywood in Millsboro for two years.
Partly that’s because salmon is so popular. The fish is loaded with healthy fats, it’s readily available and it has a velvety texture without a strong fishy flavor. For chefs, it’s also versatile: You can roast it, grill it, bake it, sear it and smoke it. It’s light enough for spring, particularly when paired with cheerful colors.
Deptula has featured pan-seared salmon with spaetzle at the restaurant, which overlooks the Baywood Greens Golf Course. It’s an elegant dish that reflects his time working at Victoria’s Restaurant and with Lion Gardner at the Blue Moon, both in Rehoboth Beach. Deptula is also an avid fisherman and hunter.