Jeff Rossman, Owner & Chef of Terra Hospitality Group

By TriMark R.W. Smith

Terra Hospitality Group, Chef Owner Jess Rossman

Being involved in San Diego’s foodservice industry since 1981, Jeff Rossman has made a number of positive impacts for the city. He is a proudly self-taught Chef from Boston who truly enjoys giving back to the community along with dedicating himself to creating perfect savory dishes. His passion is widely known by many industry professionals and is demonstrated within his own restaurant, Terra.

We had the privilege of interviewing Chef Rossman to discuss his culinary journey to becoming a chef, the locally-sourced foodservice trend, the motivation that inspired him to participate in the 365 initiative, and tips on how to pair alcoholic beverages with a dish.

TriMark R.W. Smith: Please share highlights of your culinary journey that has led you to becoming a talented chef.

Chef Jeff Rossman: As a self-taught Chef, I’ve had many challenging, yet beneficial times throughout my career. I think one of the best times I’ve had was writing my first cookbook, From Terra’s Table, Chef’s Press. We spent a ton of time visiting local farms and local school gardens to get stories to share alongside my recipes. There are no San Diego Chefs that have published cookbooks, so it humbles me and makes me incredibly proud that I could’ve accomplished that. Then writing a second cookbook: WOW! BYOB – build your own burger, Georgian Bay Books.

RWS: A popular movement today is the support of community farms and incorporating locally-sourced ingredients into restaurant cuisine. What important benefits do you believe dining establishments gain by bringing this trend onto their menu?

JR: Well, considering my first book was written to expose the more than 300 local farms at the time back in 2011, I am a firm believer in supporting our local farms and have been for a long time. First off, food that people consume that is grown in their environment has less pathogens that their bodies don’t recognize, so it’s much healthier. Secondly, supporting our local economy is much more beneficial for our economic well-being. Lastly, the food is fresher, travels less and is much tastier for the consumers. We’re in a drought in San Diego, so buying local does cost more, but savvy Chefs and restaurateurs will find ways to make it happen. It’s what people want today.

RWS: What motivated you to participate in the 365 initiative and how has it impacted your restaurant?

JR: My first cookbook was garnered with the 365 award; the first of its kind for a non-farm bureau member. I am always looking to help educate restaurateurs and Chefs about locally-sourced product. The 365 designation still isn’t widely recognized by even the Chef/Restaurant community let alone the general public. I think it will take a while for the San Diego County Farm Bureau to get this off the ground and utilizing its full marketing benefit.

RWS: Terra American Bistro has an excellent selection of delectable wines and spirits. What considerations should be made when pairing an alcoholic beverage with a dish?

JR: As any sommelier, wine steward, Chef or bar manager will tell you, it’s about the components of the dish and the sauces as a whole. Sometimes it’s beneficial to complement the flavors and others its opposing characteristics that will balance the overall experience.

RWS: The best dining experience that you’ve ever had – where were you and what made it so special?

JR: I first started my kitchen career staging at Café Louis in Boston under Chef Michael Schlow peeling potatoes, picking thyme leaves and shaving baby artichokes in the basement kitchen. I was there for just one week and was treated to the most delectable meal at the end of my time with him. Working in the kitchen and then getting to sit down and have him cook an 8-course meal was really special.


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