The word is out! Everyone is talking about one of the best-kept secrets on Long Island, Chachama Grill in East Patchogue, operated by the talented and congenial Executive Chef-Owner Elmer Rubio. The restaurant is named after the Spanish word for cornbread, but Chachama is a name people remember.
Elmer Rubio is in charge and he’s a perfectionist. This is exhibited in the impeccable service, welcoming décor and New American fusion cuisine with Spanish influences. There is a hint of cilantro, plantains and other Spanish flavors throughout the menu, but the food is American. Oysters Rubio and marinated pork chops are the most popular dishes. Elmer sits at a well-appointed table overlooking his domain, dressed in a bright red chef’s coat, relaxed and happy. He is definitely a man of detail, as demonstrated by the spotless kitchen, white crisp linens and attentive waiters in dark suits.
Life was adventurous for him from an early age. At 16, he moved from Santa Rosa, El Salvador to Los Angeles with his family. Soon after, he came to Oyster Bay at his cousin’s invitation and worked at the Mill River Inn as a dishwasher and line cook for Michael Meehan. Meehan, now of H2O, was his mentor and Elmer followed him to Clearwater in Massapequa and Tupelo Honey in Sea Cliff. He was sous chef at the Bookmark Café in Oyster Bay and chef de cuisine at Meritage in Bellport. Elmer and his wife Marie took a risk opening Chachama Grill eight years ago, shortly after their wedding, and it proved to be a good decision. They now live locally and he enjoys driving his boys, Elmer, Pablo and Gabriel, to and from school.
Chef Rubio is confident in his culinary skills and offers a suggestion. “I ask customers not to season the dish until they taste it, since it may not be necessary. People understand and appreciate the good quality of the food I serve. Good taste comes from good quality. A chef can take a recipe, but he must make it his own! My customers appreciate this and come from all over the island. One even called from San Francisco to make a reservation for his trip east.”
Loyal to those who work for him, he says, “I am friends with my staff. Most of them have been with me since I opened. We work as a team.” Elmer had a shoulder injury awhile back during which time he worked out front bartending and hosting. “Confident my kitchen staff could take over, I took the opportunity to get to know my customers better.”
When asked to describe his life in one word, Chef Rubio quickly said, “Balance! Trying to balance family, cooking and business is difficult. I love to cook and would recommend it as a career choice for my sons, only if they really loved it too.”
Chachama Grill is no longer a secret! Chef Rubio has let ambience, quality and talent spread the word.
Marinated Pork Chops with Sweet Potato and Plantain Purée : From the day Elmer Rubio opened Chachama Grill, this dish has been on the menu and is a favorite of many customers. It is a perfect fall to winter dish and is easy to prepare.
Chachama Marinated Pork Chops with Sweet Potato and Plantain Purée
4 pork chops
2 garlic cloves
1 Cup soy sauce
1 Tsp chopped Ginger
5 Cups of water
2 Tsp. honey
Place pork chops in pan; add one lemon cut in quarters, chopped garlic and ginger
Add 5 cups of water with honey and marinate for 6 hours or overnight.
Sweet potato-Plantain Purée:
4 sweet potatoes
½ Cup of brown sugar
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean
½ Cup heavy cream
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Take 4 sweet potatoes and oven roast for 45 minutes
Take 1 plantain and oven roast for 30 minutes
Peel sweet potatoes and plantain and place them into blender, add brown sugar, butter and cream. Cut vanilla bean half longwise and scrape into blender. Blend all until smooth.
When sufficiently marinated, grill or broil chops with a little oil, salt and pepper to taste for 8 minutes per side or longer if wanted well done.
Plate warm blended purée and place chops on top. Serves 4.