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Chef Carlito Jocson Shares the Sauces He Keeps on Hand — & Ketchup Isn’t One of Them

Carlito Jocson was going to be a doctor. That’s what he was going to school for when he was working in restaurants and decided to change his career path entirely. Now, more than 20 years after cofounding the New American restaurant Yard House, a chain restaurant with 72 locations, we’re glad he decided to pursue delicious food.

As Yard House’s executive chef, Jocson is constantly coming up with unique flavors to put in his restaurant. But we wondered — what was in his fridge at home? Here’s what he told us.

SheKnows: Tell us a little bit about what’s in your fridge.

Carlito Jocson: I keep a variety of condiments stocked in my refrigerator, including crab paste, taberu rayu and soy sauce. Additionally, I keep crispy shallots from Thailand, fish sauce, farm-fresh eggs, lemons and a variety of cooking oils — including extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil and grape-seed oil.

SK: Are there any items that you always make sure to keep in stock?

CJ: I keep those condiments stocked because they’re the essentials for preparing a full, flavorful meal. When my family gathers around to decide on the evening’s protein, these items can be used in various combinations to enhance the flavor and pair with different vegetables. Fusing these condiments with protein, rice or vegetables allows us to create a unique culinary mashup at home, and oftentimes, inspires dishes guests can find on the Yard House menu.

SK: What’s in your freezer?  

CJ: Currently, I have a bag of Benton’s Bacon, which is made by an artisan bacon maker, as well as falafel and our family’s favorite flavors of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: Churro and Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks.

Our family enjoys smoothies, so I keep frozen mangos, berries and bananas on hand.

SK: What’s your go-to healthy snack?  

CJ: I like roasted sesame seaweed.

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SK: Can you give us an example of one of your favorite weeknight meals?  

CJ: I enjoy making Beyond Meat burgers or whipping up a quick pasta dish. To keep the pasta interesting, I’ve been switching up our sauces. Most recently, I’ve been making sauces with chilies, sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce and peanut butter.

SK: What would you consider the ultimate comfort food?

CJ: My wife’s fried chicken. There’s truly nothing better.

SK: We have to ask, red wine or white?

CJ: It depends on what I’m pairing it with, but you can’t go wrong with a chilled pinot noir.

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SK: Everyone has a signature dish that they can make really well. What’s yours?  

CJ: I make a delicious pasta with squid ink spaghetti, loaded with uni, or sea urchins and tender lump crab.

SK: Any foods you absolutely can’t stand?  

CJ: Raw liver. Hopefully, that’s enough said.

SK: Any dishes you’re excited to try this summer?  

CJ: I’m excited to try a true Georgia peach, straight from the Georgia farms and off of the truck from when they arrive in Nashville.

SK: What’s your favorite summer cocktail?

CJ: A refreshing mango or passion fruit margarita.

SK: If you could only use one small kitchen appliance (microwave, blender, slow cooker, etc.) for an entire month, which one would you choose?

CJ: As long as I have fire, I’m set!

SK: What’s the most stressful part of being a chef?  

CJ: As a chef, you never want people to leave hungry. I always make sure I have enough food for my friends, family and guests.

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SK: Do you have any tips for parents who want to get their kids involved with cooking for the family? Any easy recipes that are great for young chefs?

CJ: Start with something simple and delicious, like a grilled cheese. Just make sure you’re making it the right way — with real butter!  

SK: You originally planned to go to school to be a doctor. What made you realize you would rather be a chef?

CJ: A restaurant critic came into a restaurant I was working at early in my career and told me that I could make a lot more people happy by cooking for them and feeding them rather than by healing them. That stuck with me, and at that point, I realized I wanted to be a chef.

SK: What’s the most rewarding part of being a chef?

CJ: The most rewarding part of being a chef is bringing people together through food and encouraging them to try something new. At Yard House, we strive to deliver guests with dishes that are at the forefront of culinary trends, infusing global flavors and tastefully twisting cultural favorites for Our House. We call this “new American cuisine.”

I also appreciate using my talents as a chef to give back. My wife, Elizabeth, and I are very active in our church and volunteer each week to help feed people in our community. I have been blessed in my career and feel it’s my responsibility to utilize my culinary talents to help people.

SK: Did you teach your children to cook when they were young?

CJ: Our household always puts food at the center. Food brings us together, and everyone contributes. The Filipino culture encourages everyone to cook, so it’s always been a part of our family.

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