by Elisa Ludwig
Showcasing kitchen talent has always been vital to Frog’s success, which is why the company recently welcomed John Peralta as Executive Chef to work with Chef de Cuisine Chris Greway. John is a South Jersey native who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, and worked in catering for eight years at New York University. Most recently, he helmed the kitchen at the Barnes Foundation and helped Susanna Foo launch her restaurant SUGA, before opening his insta-hit Roast Cebu Lechon food truck in 2017.
John describes his style of cooking as “refining classics with seasonality and multiple techniques,” and he’s now in the process of working with Chris to revamp catering menus to highlight the French, Spanish and Italian and above all American influences of his training.
“I’m super excited to have John here—he’s got a solid catering background and a ton of experience and he’s a fellow CIA grad. We have a similar outlook on food in terms of ingredients, quality and seasonality,” Chris says.
With his Filipino background and his deep appreciation for its high-contrast flavors, John will be part of a rich tradition of chefs leaving their own culinary imprint on Frog food. When Steve Poses started out in the restaurant business, he had no native culinary heritage—his mother, a secular Jew, was a good cook but kept to standard American fare. What was seminal, however, was the influence of the Time Life series of international cookbooks, which gave Steve an overview of the flavors of the world. His first days in the industry, working at La Panettiere, introduced him to French and Thai food, the latter via his immigrant co-workers. In the early Frog days, Thai Chicken Curry was a hugely popular dish on the menu. With chefs like Kamol Phutlek in the kitchen, a standard was set for a multicultural, “cooking without borders” approach that was revolutionary in the 1980s. In the middle years, Iranian chef Mo Azizi brought a distinctly Middle Eastern set of dishes to the Frog idiom.
“Everyone brings their background, and that can be their training independent of their nationality,” Chris says. “I spent five years in a Japanese kitchen, and though I’ve never been to Japan, that experience is important to my cooking.”
When Chris came on board two years ago, he did a large-scale overhaul of the menu, modernizing the fare. In his new role, John will be tweaking it further. He wants to rethink the presentation of some items, de-emphasize starchy sides and introduce more local meat and fish purveyors.
“To me, it’s more about the ingredients than any one specific style,” John says. “But Filipino food has a lot of spicy, sweet and sour flavors. It’s a cuisine that even if people in America know about, they don’t truly understand it, so it needs to come to the forefront. It’s one way here at Frog that we can bring something new and different to the table.”
Citrus and Cumin Grilled Marble Potatoes, Roasted Shishito Peppers, Haricots Verts and Orange Salad
1 pound mixed marble potatoes, halved
½ pound shishito peppers
½ pound haricots verts
2 oranges, zested and segmented
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
3 ounces aged sherry vinegar
6 ounces Spanish olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seed, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan with a pinch of salt. Cover with cold water. Place on high heat. Once potatoes come to a boil, remove from heat and strain. Allow potatoes to cool to room temperature on a sheet pan. Reserve for grilling.
2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss shishito peppers with a coating of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet. Roast in oven for 12-15 minutes, until peppers blister. Allow to cool and reserve.
3. Trim haricots verts and cut on a bias as a long julienne. Place in ice water and reserve.
4. Preheat grill to high temperature. Toss potatoes with orange zest, cumin, salt, pepper and some olive oil. Grill flesh side down until grill marks occur. You may have to reduce temperature to medium high to fully cook potatoes. Once you can cleanly stick a fork or knife into potato, remove and place in a bowl.
5. Toss warm potatoes together with peppers, drained haricots verts and parsley leaves. Check seasoning. Place on serving platter and drizzle sherry vinegar and olive oil over salad. Garnish with orange segments.