Ventura County's Support-Local Program

Chef to Chef: Tim Kilcoyne of Scratch Food Truck

Chef to Chef, a new series by Chef Lynn Exe, looks at Totally Local VC’s upcoming Dinner at the Olive Orchard and talks with local Chef Tim Kilcoyne

Introducing a new Totally Local VC article series – Chef to Chef

We are so pleased to welcome Chef Lynn Exe as a contributor to our Totally Local VC website. Chef Lynn will be writing a new series of articles called Chef to Chef focusing on Ventura County’s culinary scene and the Chefs that create such wonderful food.


Come out of the kitchen and into the woods!

What is your dining fantasy? Savoring a meal scented by smoky meats and spices? Joyful toasts with friends and new acquaintances perfumed with luscious wines and beers that are all distinctly Californian and offered in the evening air, your feet on the earth amidst the rustle of leaves and setting sun? Experiencing the tongue-feel of appetizers cool and juicy, of slightly crisped olive oil-roasted baby carrots or tender, steamed and herbaceous sweet peas on beds of spring lettuce leaves, and then finally, to linger over a silken dessert…?

Dinner at the Olive Orchard is on May 21, 2015

Dinner at the Olive Orchard is on May 21, 2015

It may sound as if I’ve gone too far with this dream – until you consider this year’s first Totally Local VC Dinner at the… series event is right around the corner! Dinner at the Olive Orchard will be held on May 21, 2015 at Buon Gusto Farms. Renowned local Chef Tim Kilcoyne of Scratch Food Truck will prepare a wonderful farm-to-fork feast using local and in season ingredients for those lucky enough to attend.

Fresh and local

What’s ready for the dining table? From Ventura County’s growers and harvesters, ranchers, and food and beverage artists come olives and their oils, seasonal herbs and produce, grapes, grains and free-range meats. Add in Mediterranean spices to complement our similar climate’s yield that has been planted, nurtured and coaxed into a local harvest. Then bring this bounty to a gifted Chef’s hands. Nothing will taste the same next year or next month, its character and availability shaped by drought and warm winter temperatures.

C2C-Tim-dinnerWith all this in mind, the question then becomes, what’s on the menu for our special meal? When you can taste California’s minerals in the wine, air in the beer’s fermentation, grass in animals’ offerings and herbs and vegetables that struggle to thrive in unpredictable weather, you will know that the menu has been designed to bring all of these elements to life by someone who understands the interplay of nature’s forces.

All this is within your reach thanks to the efforts of local farmers and Chef Tim Kilcoyne’s unwavering commitment to the harvest, sacrifices made, the fire that gilds the flesh, and his regard for dedicated collaborators.

A Chef-to-Chef discussion with Executive Chef Tim Kilcoyne of Scratch Food Truck

I recently spoke with Chef Tim Kilcoyne, your chef for the Dinner at the Olive Orchard. I caught up with him when he was between Scratch Food Truck gigs and was on his way to the Verizon store to replace a dying phone charger. Here’s what Chef Tim had to say:

Chef Lynn Exe: Hello again and thank you for speaking with us, Chef! You have so much scheduled every week between catering and food truck events and your local chef’s perspective is special to all of us who support Ventura’s ventures. Chef Tim, you’ve been the featured chef at several of the Totally Local VC Dinner at the… events – the Pumpkin Patch, the San Buenaventura Mission, City Hall and the upcoming Dinner at the Olive Orchard. How do you find the time and energy to organize these fundraising dinners and what makes these events so interesting to you?


Since 2003, Executive Chef Tim Kilcoyne, fearlessly motivated by an entrepreneurial spirit and clear vision, has owned and operated several Ventura food venues. Included in the list of pursuits: the beloved Sidecar Restaurant, The Local Café, and now, Scratch Food Truck. Add to those successes, Chef Kilcoyne’s restaurant consulting work, catered events and Featured Chef endeavors at Totally Local VC’s Dinner at the… dinner series.

Tim Kilcoyne’s originating and singular vision to place Ventura on the food map has opened doors and initiated high regard for those who support eating local. Diners, food enthusiasts and food hobbyists have likely benefitted by Chef Kilcoyne’s creative talents.

In addition to operating his own businesses from the tender but unfettered age of 24 years-old, Tim’s community engagement has extended to include supporting Ventura County’s farmers and ranchers, food purveyors, wine-makers, craft beer brewers, coffee bean roasters, restaurateurs and community fundraising events. It’s the relationships between people, their products and services and their passions that fuel his vision and creative meals.

Chef Tim Kilcoyne: I have no idea what the energy is! It’s like being on the food truck as opposed to the restaurant – we have a change of scenery all the time with the truck; it’s not the same four walls we’re looking at. We get to do a dinner in the middle of somewhere historic or in the middle of a farm we actually buy from, or a farm we are just learning about so that we can develop a new farm relationship. Of course, being outdoors and cooking is always fun.

Chef LE: Outdoors and cooking would seem like a challenge to many people.

Chef TK: That’s true. But for us as chefs, it’s great as long as you’re organized and have fun with it. You know, we’re always indoors. And people look forward to the weekend so they can be outdoors and grill. Whether we’re inside and cooking for a 150 people or outside, as long as you’re organized it can be the same.

Chef LE: I can tell you’re so comfortable with that. I know these preparations can be fraught with the unexpected like pigs on fire, offended vegetarians, under-equipped facilities, unexpected spills and fainting volunteers!

Chef TK: That’s the whole thing with the restaurant industry, as it is! These challenges are just a little bit different and what we’re used to. As a really good chef, you work under pressure and can change things at the drop of a dime when something’s not working or someone’s not showing up. You just work through it and make sure the food’s up to your standards whether you’re short a person or missing a finger.

Chef LE: I hear you! When you began operating your own restaurant, what DIDN’T you expect? Do you want to talk about sacrifice or suffering?

Chef TK: Actually, the main thing that I don’t think I expected was that location, location, location doesn’t always mean that’s how people will find you. The food [12 years ago], when I thought I knew everything in the world, had to be about what people in that area wanted to buy and were used to. When we first opened, we put a braised short rib on the menu and, apparently, no one had heard of a braised short rib. It was hard to sell then but is now on lots of corporate menus.

C2C-Tim-logoWe cooked with a flat top and finished our steaks in the oven. We would hear, ‘that’s not how you cook a steak and you aren’t going to survive’. And we didn’t have baked potatoes on the menu. People said we wouldn’t make it without baked potatoes on the menu.

We were also committed to selling local microbrews and were warned that without “lite” beers on the menu, we wouldn’t last three months. I insisted upon craft beers – there was only one, maybe two available and that’s all we offered.

Things have changed since then and now you’re crazy if you don’t have craft beer on the menu. There are seven or eight in the county and two or three more slated to open in the next six months. Guess we were slightly ahead of the trend!

Chef LE: Did you expect to be a trendsetter?

Chef TK: [laughs] Being young, I remember that I had a meeting with the entire wait staff and I told them that I wanted to come to Ventura County and that most of the produce we bought in LA County came from here in VC. So I wanted be in the middle of everything and I remember saying that my goal was to put the food scene on the map in Ventura.

Chef LE: Isn’t that the vision that’s so critical and isn’t it incredible that everything is falling into alignment with your vision? How did diners make the transition into appreciating farm to table? It had to be more expensive.

Chef TK: Yeah, it was more expensive and, from my end, more work. It’s still more work. It was tough – people would tell me they had something they loved and, when they came back three weeks later and English peas weren’t in season or tomatoes weren’t in season anymore, they were disappointed. Local and in season was the point I wanted to portray to people. Granted, we’re programmed in our minds with all the corporate restaurants and how easily accessible everything is with the internet. People want what they want NOW. Grocery stores have everything year round. People look at us like we’re crazy when we don’t use tomatoes on our burger because they’re not in season. But in summer, when a tomato is on a BLT and it tastes amazing, it will be a let-down in winter.


Chef LE: For the Dinner at the Orchard on May 21st, what’s in season?

Chef TK: It’s changing slightly because of the way the weather has been recently. Generally, there would be cold crops like broccoli and cauliflower – the aphids are eating them, so there isn’t as much. I probably drive dinner organizers nuts because if it were up to me, I would make the menu the day before. But everybody needs to organize and plan in advance.

Chef LE: Do you have any favorites in mind?

Chef TK: Right now baby carrots, English peas and fava beans are going strong. Houweling’s Tomatoes has a good hothouse tomato and we’re working with Michael at The Ventura Meat Company and he works with a Casitas Valley cattle ranch so we’re narrowing that down.

Chef LE: No pork at the dinner? Are you saying there’s infidelity to the pig? And what IS it about, your thing with the pig, Tim?

Chef TK: There probably will be! I don’t know why but everyone associates me with the pig. It is delicious! And with a pig, with any animal, you respect and want to use all the ingredients because it gave its life – every little part, including the skin, which is more difficult with cows. Not as many people want to try tongue. You know bacon tastes good, and if it has the word pig in it, most likely people will eat it!

C2C-Tim-peachesChef LE: Do you have any secrets to offer to people who want to prepare better tasting meals at home? Is there anything you’d say to people who love to grill but don’t really know how to get the results they want?

Chef TK: Make sure your fire is hot and that the grates are hot before you put anything on it. Season everything. Generally we just use salt and pepper because we want the flavor of the food to shine through. I’ll tell you what makes me cringe – using a spatula to press down the burger! All the juice squishes out. No reason to do that. It’s not unsafe to eat medium-rare beef if you know where it’s coming from. Cook it longer if it’s frozen and packaged at a grocery store, but if you buy your meat from somewhere that cares about the meat they’re selling to you, you can eat it raw!

Chef LE: Anything else you’d like to say about the Totally Local VC Dinner at the Olive Orchard?

Chef TK: Come and eat! We’ll be offering a fun Mediterranean menu!

Chef LE: Thank you for feeding the community soul and our curiosity!

So, who’s coming to dinner?

If you live in or love in Ventura County, Totally Local VC has arranged with local businesses Four Brix Winery, Surf Brewery, Beacon Coffee, Channel Islands Distillery, Buon Gusto Farms, caring food purveyors, Executive Chef Tim Kilcoyne of Scratch Food Truck and a large team of volunteers to serve a fantastical dining experience, realized. Join us on Thursday, May 21, 2015, at the Olive Orchard.

Engage in something that’s a happening, a fantastical meal that derives from the forces and people that generate the food as well as the care and attention that brings it to life! From what Executive Chef Tim Kilcoyne has in mind, you have the chance to realize your own food fantasy!

Info on the Totally Local VC Dinner at the Olive Orchard

Date: Thursday, May 21, 2015
Starting Time: 5:30 pm
Cost: $135 per person

Click here for information on the 2015 Dinner at the… dinner series.

Image credits: Denise Dewire and Scratch Food Truck

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Learn more about author Chef Lynn Exe

Chef Lynn Exe

About the author

Chef Lynn Exe evolved from Minnesota Norwegian dairy farmer family roots. Since the age of 12, Lynn has loved the stories behind recipes, the cultures from which they became beloved and preserved, and the people who tend the soil, working every day to raise and prepare food. Along the way, she homesteaded on a Montana cattle ranch, completed several years of academic study while hand-tying bagels, grinding wheat, shaping pastry at a natural foods bakery and managing a northern California Food Cooperative. She is happiest when growing food, researching food histories, cooking, baking and feeding her children and the wonderful people she’s encountered. In 2012, she took her passion to the next level by pursuing her dream – she received a professional culinary diploma from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. Since then, Lynn has worked with several well-known chefs including celebrity Chef Curtis Stone, French Pastry Chef Herve Guillard, Executive Chef Ray Risho and Ventura County’s own Chef Tim Kilcoyne. Today she writes, cooks, creates, lives and breathes food for the soul. With a spirit of fun and dedication she is happy to offer Totally Local VC the Chef to Chef article series!


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