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Chef Confidential: Maria’s Cantina

(L-r) John Gamboni, Billie Jeffers, Tito
(l-r) Yolo Eats Executive Chef John Gamboni, Maria’s Head Chef Billy Jeffries & Maria’s Manager Tito Delatorre

It’s been a while since my last Chef Confidential post, but I must say it was worth the wait.  I sat with Maria’s Cantina Head Chef Billy Jeffries for a quick-fire Q&A.  He’s a man of few words, except when I asked for a three-word description of Maria’s…he gave me five words!  I spent all of 30 minutes with Chef Billy and I now know two things about him; He is proud to be a part of the Maria’s Cantina team and he is passionate about the food he creates and serves to his guests.  These two things make an already awesome restaurant even more amazing.

Another thing that makes Maria’s so cool…they gave us Yolo Eats Executive Chef, John Gamboni’s recipe for the Grilled Baja Ceasar Salad.  Maria’s Manager, Tito Delatorre suggests adding chicken to make it a meal.

Here is my conversation with Chef Billy:

What is your name and what do you do?
My name is William Charles Jeffries III and I am the Head Chef at Maria’s Cantina.

How long have you been with Maria’s?
I’ve been with Maria’s for five years and Head Chef for two years.

Maria's Cantina-2What was your first restaurant job?
It was with Maria’s.  We didn’t have as much equipment as we have now, so I did things like crumbling cheese by hand and all the prepping.  Putting in my dues!

What’s the worst kitchen nightmare you’ve ever experienced?
Sh*t.  One night our walk-in door was left open on a Sunday and we are closed on Monday.  So no one was here on Monday.  We found it on Tuesday morning.  That was my day off and I got a phone call saying all the meat and produce had to be thrown away. And it was Taco Tuesday.  I came into work and stayed in the kitchen while everyone went to our vendors to purchase product.  I would cook as stuff was brought back.

Maria's Cantina-13Was this your most stressful day here?
Well, we came together as a team so it felt really good.  But yeah, to start the day off like that was like, “Oh my God!”.

What’s your favorite curse word?
Horsesh*t.  Like, “What is this horsesh*t?”

Who is the cook at home and do you do the dishes?
Me and NO.

Maria's Cantina-12Three words to describe Maria’s Cantina?
We are who we are.

What dish do you suggest if it’s my first time here?
The Chile Verde or the Carnitas.

What do you want Woodland to know about Maria’s?
That we are here to serve Woodland.  We want to feed people and make people happy.


Grilled Baja Cesar Salad

Maria's Cantina-4Yield: One serving

1 head Romain lettuce
2 Tbls pepitas
2 Tbls Queso fresco crumbled
1 Red bell pepper
1/4 cup classic Caesar dressing
1 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls chopped garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut one head of romaine lettuce in half making sure to trim the  excess lettuce from the top and clean 1/8 inch off of the stem. Wash both halves in ice water, agitating to remove any dirt. Remove lettuce from ice bath and drain till dry. Roast pepita seeds in an oven (5 mins at 350 degrees) with olive oil and salt to taste.  Over an open flame char the red bell pepper and seal inside a zip lock bag to allow to steam. Once the bell pepper has steamed remove from bag and peel off the skin making sure to discard all seeds. Cut into 1/4 inch slices. Char each half of lettuce over the open flame with garlic, salt and pepper. Build all ingredients on top of lettuce open faced and dress with caesar dressing.

Maria’s Cantina
306 6th Street
Woodland, Ca
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