Executive Chef at Poseidon shares advice for getting the most out of meals.

Story by Robyn Passante + Photography by Lisa Staff

Local chef Chris Carge began his career as a teen toiling in the kitchen of his parents’ mom-and-pop restaurant in Lima, Ohio.

I did a little bit of everything. I was the cook, the sauté guy, I was the grill guy, the flat-top fryer guy and the dishwasher all combined,” says Carge, who today is executive chef at Poseidon Coastal Cuisine and a partner with SERG Restaurant Group. “I wasn’t a huge fan. I wanted to get out and hang out with my friends and do fun stuff — and not smell like the fryer.”

It’s no wonder, then, that Carge went off to college to pursue a career in occupational therapy. But he didn’t get far before the family passion surfaced, pulling him back into the business, this time into the kitchens of two chefs in Columbus, Ohio — one Italian, one German — who trained him in the classic European style of cooking.

“I started at the very bottom and fell in love with it, worked my way up and never looked back.”

Today Carge does more overseeing than cooking, but he enjoys the new challenges and skills the SERG partnership has brought to his career.

“I never really owned my own restaurant, so they’ve given me the opportunity to step up and do so (as a partner), and I’m enjoying learning more toward the business side, the paperwork, the marketing,” he says. He also likes using his cooking skills in new ways to enlighten rather than merely to delight.

“I’ll get some ingredients from the farm, stuff (my staff) has never heard of, and it’s my job to challenge them,” he says. “It’s nice to start giving back and teaching my staff and watching them evolve into chefs themselves.”

Local Food

Carge and his partners have made a commitment to use as many local producers of food as possible. “As a community of chefs and restaurants … all of us are pushing and pushing local and really opening people’s eyes up to the quality and health benefits of local, and the business aspects as well,” he says. “We’re proud of what we serve and we want to serve the community as well, so that’s what we’ve decided to do.”

Timing Is Everything

The biggest tip Carge has for fish lovers is to stop cooking all the flavor out of it. “I think a lot of people overcook fish, so all the moisture’s gone from the fish. If you’re looking for that juicy, nice piece of fish, you want a little pink in the middle, that’s perfect. The time depends on your fish and how it’s been cut. For mahi-mahi, depending on the size of the fish, maybe 2-3 minutes on each side. And then right at the end do a little dollop of butter in there, baste it and serve it.”

Gluten Free

“People with diet restrictions are a lot more intense now. Most of our fried food was dredged in flour, so we’ve come up with a cornmeal recipe, so all of our fried food is gluten-free. I take big pride in that. I have a little gluten allergy test kit, and we do random tests throughout the month.”

Break from Tradition

Carge urges amateur cooks to get out of their holiday ruts and try something different this year. “Even if it’s out of a Food Network magazine or whatever your favorite culinary magazine is, try something new when you have family and friends over, they really enjoy it. Once you do it, there’s a real ‘wow’ factor. Even taking your green bean casserole and jazzing it up a little bit. Do something different.”

And yes, he has taken his own advice. “Last year (my wife and I) got some lobsters, had our neighbors over and for Christmas dinner we did baked lobster with miso butter, different nontraditional things, and everybody loved it.”

Seeing Stars

In 2015, Carge cooked and chatted with celebrity chef Curtis Stone when Stone brought the Food Network show “Beach Eats” to Hilton Head Island’s Black Marlin Bayside Grill, where Carge was executive chef.

“Curtis was very cool, very intimidating at first. He’s a tall guy, I’m just a little short Romanian-Italian guy, so he towered over me. But we hit if off really well, and we went and played golf and talked shop for a little bit. He’s a really down-to-earth guy. His philosophy is the same as mine. As chefs get older, I think it’s more simplistic — let the ingredients shine. I think when you’re young you’re trying to be froufrou and fancy, make everything look cool instead of focusing on the taste.”

So who’s the better golfer? “Oh he is, for sure. He’s actually an excellent golfer. I’m atrocious. And I live in one of the golf capitals on the East Coast.”