Sleek and sophisticated, The Oceanaire in Hackensack provides the perfect setting to enjoy the freshest seafood flown in daily from around the world. As their veteran, award-winning chef Carlos Valdez reports, they only serve “top-of-the-catch” fish from the world’s most reputable suppliers.
We recently interviewed Chef Carlos to better understand the inspiration behind the award-winning dishes served to local foodies, gourmands and locavores alike.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
I knew I wanted to become a chef at a young age when I began trying to improve my mom’s cooking—it did not go over very well at first! Eventually, my mom gave me the choice of cooking an alternative dish or allowed me to be involved somehow in future meals. You can say she gave me my first gig.
What is your favorite food to eat?
My favorite food to eat is anything in “taco” form. I love tacos. They’re portable, which is perfect for a chef who sometimes has to eat while standing up against a metal fixture in the kitchen.
What dish do you recommend at The Oceanaire Seafood Room?
I recommend our Shrimp and Grits. We add an elevated take on an already hearty, feel-good Southern dish and the result is truly spectacular. If you don’t like it, you may need to go to the doctor and get your taste buds checked!
What is your favorite dish to cook and why?
I don’t have a specific dish that’s my favorite, but I do enjoy anything that involves the slow-cooking method. I love how flavors intensify over time. I especially enjoy seeing the transformation of something that most people might see as ordinary into one of the best dishes they could ever eat—all by simply giving it enough time to cook.
What is the inspiration behind the food you cook?
My inspiration is not always poetic. It comes in different forms. It can be based on what is available at a moment’s notice, what is available in season or depending on a surprise request. Don’t get me wrong, we plan seasonal specials methodically but there is no formula. Sometimes you look through the pantry and things stand out depending on weather, season, accompanying protein, etc. I like to keep it simple—a few ingredients that work well together but don’t mask the star on the dish.
What do you do to ensure the quality of the food going out to your customers?
It’s important to have a good system in place. We have a check list for different steps of operation to keep quality and presentation consistent. And of course, a well trained staff with a passion for the culinary arts is equally as important. We harvest people that care a great deal about perfecting their craft every day versus just showing up to do a job.
About Chef Carlos
Chef Carlos Valdez’s culinary career has taken him from coast to coast and around the globe—where he has worked under some of the world’s top chefs. A graduate of Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts, Carlos apprenticed in Europe under renowned Master Chef Graham Tinsley at Castle Hotel Conwy, a Michelin starred brasserie.
After returning to the United States, Carlos spent eight years with the acclaimed Hillstone Restaurant Group, working from New York City to Napa Valley. After a stint at Halcyon Seafood Brasserie in Montclair, New Jersey, Carlos opened his own restaurant The Red Hen Bistro, a French-American café in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey.
About The Oceanaire Seafood Room
At The Oceanaire Seafood Room, our commitment to freshness sets us apart from the rest. Our knowledgeable staff will delight you with exceptional service—guiding you through the wide variety of items on our menu and helping you select the perfect wine to complement your meal.
We are also known for our comfortable dining and award-winning service. The Oceanaire has a sleek ambiance with a modern feel, offering guests the ultimate upscale dining experience that The Oceanaire has become known for.
The Oceanaire is a great place for entertaining. We specialize in making all of your occasions — business lunches and dinners, company functions, special celebrations, holiday parties and more—unique and unforgettable with our exquisite menu and superior service. Join us today for lunch or dinner and find out why The Oceanaire has been voted one of the best seafood restaurants in the country. Visit www.theoceanaire.com or call (201) 343-8862 for more information.