Coast Monthly sits down for a chat with local cooks and food lovers.
John Stokes is a server at The Sunflower Bakery & Cafe in Galveston’s East End. He’s also a certified Master Gardener, a skill he used in his previous job installing the landscaping for The Bryan Museum on the island.
Originally from Friendswood, Stokes moved to Galveston six years ago after what he considered a lackluster high school career and some time as a Starbucks barista in Pearland and Baybrook Mall. Along with his job, he’s working on a degree in Public Service Leadership from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, which he hopes will set him on a career path.
Lately, Stokes has become interested in improving his diet and lifestyle, he said. He has studied different foods and the culture behind them, began cooking outside his previous comfort zone and is enjoying the journey, he said.
Who is an inspiration or mentor in your quest for food knowledge?
Michael Pollan, the author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma;” “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto;” and “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.” I love that he combines culture, philosophy, nutrition and a love of food and its preparation, while not being a professional chef. It’s how I want to integrate food into my life.
What is your first food memory?
My Mom frying okra. It almost never made it to the table. I’d start snacking on it as soon as she made it.
What is your biggest food-related pet peeve?
Places that don’t give you a choice of mustard or mayo. I’m a mayo guy and I hate it if my burger comes with mustard on it.
If you could cook one meal for anyone in the world, who would that be, and what would you serve them?
I would love to make a meal for Pope Francis, have a conversation over a nice meal of fried snapper, sweet potato home fries, cocktail sauce and homemade lemonade. I’d do a blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
Chocolate milk and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I will go to the store just to buy a quart of chocolate milk and drink the whole thing.
From John Stoke’s kitchen:
Cast Iron Curry Chicken
1½ pounds boneless chicken breast
½ teaspoon each, salt, pepper, curry
¼ teaspoon each cayenne, turmeric, coriander
Mix spices and sprinkle liberally over the chicken, coating both sides, cover and chill overnight.
Sear chicken in a lightly oiled cast iron skillet for 3 minutes on each side on medium high heat.
Place into a preheated 375 F oven for 20 minutes, or until done.
Chicken can be shredded and combined with choice of sautéed vegetables and served over rice or with a cold pasta salad.