Team Espiritu -- A husband and wife team of sous chefs thrive at Charlie Palmer Steak Napa

Team Espiritu -- A husband and wife team of sous chefs thrive at Charlie Palmer Steak Napa

From the Napa Valley Wine Insider Digest: Feb. 14, 2020 series
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When one works as a sous chef, the hours, days, and weeks spent in the restaurant are long. One spends most of their life with their head chef and restaurant team, immersed in food selection and preparation, menu and recipe development, hospitality, and customer service.

The sweet spot is when all comes together, night after night. Can it get any better than this? Yes, it can, and it does at Napa’s Charlie Palmer Steak Napa where two sous chefs — they call themselves Team Espiritu — have found a way to combine their love of their work and of each other.

Sous chef Eduardo (Eddie) Espiritu was born in the Philippines. His interest in cooking came from observing his mother cook at a young age. Sous chef Elizabeth Espiritu, who hails from Palm Springs, grew up baking birthday cakes and holiday cakes with her aunt.

Little did they know that their love of all things culinary would eventually lead them on similar paths — a journey that would find them in the same place, but misconnecting -– until a fortuitous meeting that would propel them both to a future together in every way.

Both Eddie and Elizabeth graduated from the former California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, but one year apart, so they never met. Elizabeth graduated in 2002 and Eddie in 2003.

In 2012, both were hired at the same restaurant in Tiburon, but they did not meet until a year later. It was in this moment that the wheels were set in motion for Eddie and Elizabeth to discover a professional and personal sweet spot of their own. However, the road ahead was not easy for them.

They would find themselves working separately along the way for a few years, with opposite work schedules and long commutes, including at one point, a two-hour commute for Eddie and a 45-minute commute for Elizabeth. In spite of rarely seeing each other, Eddie and Elizabeth remained together and were married on October 7, 2017.

When Charlie Palmer Steak Napa began hiring for the new restaurant in 2017 and advertised the opening for sous chef, Elizabeth, who was then working at a winery in Rutherford, suggested to Eddie that he interview for the position “just to see what would come of it.”

When the restaurant opened in November 2017, Eddie assumed the role. Elizabeth would soon depart her winery job and need a new opportunity. A couple of months later, during Napa’s Restaurant Week in January 2018, Charlie Palmer Steak’s pastry chef, Jason Collins, needed extra help. Both Eddie and the restaurant knew of Elizabeth’s background in baking and pastry, so she was hired to assist. By the end of her first night, she was offered a full-time position as the assistant pastry chef. She worked in that role for three months, until she was tapped to supervise The Archer Hotel’s rooftop bar, Sky & Vine, in April 2018. Now, Elizabeth is also a sous chef and oversees banquets.

Being sous chefs for Charlie Palmer Steak, as well as a married couple, has proved to be more rewarding than either imagined, primarily because the restaurant provides what Eddie and Elizabeth describe as “a family atmosphere” – including a work environment that supports them as a couple as well as part of the restaurant team.

In fact, Elizabeth says that Charlie Palmer reminds her of her father. Both Eddie and Elizabeth, as well as other members of the team, contribute menu ideas to Charlie Palmer and Napa chef, Francisco (Frankie) Lopez, Jr.

The enthusiastic spirit of “taste collaboration and evolution” is evident upon speaking with Frankie, Eddie, and Elizabeth who said that this openness to change and innovation inspires and motivates everyone to be better at what they do and allows Charlie Palmer Steak to remain fresh and current with culinary trends.

When asked what some of the menu favorites are to prepare, Eddie recommends the duck breast with Brussels sprouts, yams, stewed kumquats, and garden herbs, and Elizabeth, the cioppino with saffron tomato, mussels, littleneck clams, scallops, and ciabatta. Both are on the restaurant’s winter menu.

At work and at home, Eddie and Elizabeth emphasize, “We are a team and we support each other in every way we can.” When they have the same days off, they enjoy exploring Napa. They make a day of it, including breakfast out at a favorite restaurant, walking through the local farmers market if open that day, going to a movie, getting manicures and pedicures together, and having dinner at a restaurant they have never tried. If they dine at home, Elizabeth loves to make her mom’s chile verde and Eddie, his dad’s spaghetti and clam sauce (recipe below).

Regarding work and life balance, Eddie and Elizabeth, who live only a couple of blocks away from Charlie Palmer Steak, now enjoy an easy walk to work on sunny, warm days — or a very short drive when the weather is inclement — and confirm that they always “make time for themselves, their kids, and each other.”

If they happen to be working the same day and hours, you will notice their matching aprons embroidered with Team Espiritu, which symbolizes their strong sense of team and their love for each other — and food.

Charlie Palmer Steak Napa is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with à la carte menus, a daily Surf & Turf menu for $25, daily happy hour, and private dining options.

Charlie Palmer Steak is also offering a six-course prix fixe menu with optional wine pairings for Valentine’s Day. For reservations and more information about Charlie Palmer Steak Napa, visit the restaurant’s website, charliepalmersteak.com/locations/napa.

Eddie’s Dad’s Spaghetti and Clam Sauce – serves 2

Ingredients

1 pound of little neck clams

1/2 cup white wine

1 tsp butter

16 oz of spaghetti

Chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Cook your spaghetti in boiling water until al dente.

In a sauté pan, add butter and clams and cook on high heat.

Add the white wine to clams and butter.

Once the clams open, add the cooked spaghetti, chopped parsley, and season with salt and pepper.

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