By Nora Heston Tarte
At Centrale Kitchen & Bar—a laidback eatery in Stockton boasting an eclectic menu of modern-classic American cuisine—Head Chef Lupie Trejo is at the helm. Her seasonal selections are inspired by both San Joaquin County and the food she learned to make with her mother. And an ever-rotating menu plays to Lupie’s creative culinary prowess.
Every few months the menu at Centrale gets overhauled to make room for dishes that take advantage of the locally grown ingredients the restaurant covets. “That’s the great thing about living in San Joaquin County, you have everything around you,” Lupie says of the food and wine that make up this area. More than that, the mission to use local amplifies taste with fresh ingredients that aren’t shipped cross-country, while also being cost-effective, which benefits the business. “It’s a well balanced circle.”
With springtime produce as her muse (March-May), Lupie created a mouthwatering menu filled with plates of pork chops served next to spring vegetable risotto; New York steak paired with sweet peas sautéed in butter, bacon, and mint; and a thyme-marinated asparagus salad topped with red onions, bacon, and house-cured egg yolks. Her appetizers go old school with a Lupie-twist, many reminiscent of the fare her mother used to make (think salmon mousse served with a cucumber dill sauce and ciabatta toast). Perhaps most popular is the artichoke appetizer, which always receives rave reviews. The restaurant stocks up when it’s in season. “We work with local items around us,” Lupie says.
Lupie’s elevated cuisine is fuss-free, and she can honestly say she’d devour anything on the menu (one of her favorites is a rare filet served with seafood risotto). “I like to just try and use my imagination and be inventive,” the chef confesses on crafting the ever-rotating offerings. “I just want to keep it simple. As long as it looks nice and it tastes good, you don’t have to get crazy with it.”
Simplicity, however, takes on new meaning at the date-night favorite. While Lupie prefers not to overwork the food, her creations are nothing short of inspired.
“I remember cooking with my mom when I was a kid,” Lupie recalls. “It was a comforting thing I guess.” Her other inspiration comes from art. With the belief that people eat first with their nose and eyes, she works to create meals that are visually appealing (as well as tasty). A lot of planning goes into creating dishes with an array of textures, an expert mix of crunchy and soft. Regardless of what you order at Centrale, it will always look as good as it tastes.
“It combines the things I love most,” Lupie says of her position as Head Chef. “Art and food.”
If you wish to enjoy an adult beverage with your meal the bar staff at Centrale has you covered. Lupie works closely with the bar manager, Alissa Phillips, on every new menu to ensure the cocktails compliment the fare. This way wait staff can make personalized recommendations for drink pairings. “She’s like her own little chef in the bartending world,” Lupie says.
And of course the wine and beer list is stout. It all comes back to the offerings of San Joaquin County—that “full circle,” as Lupie refers to it. In addition to widespread brands, Centrale carries wines from the Lodi appellation and pushes to support local business. Not to mention, the beers on tap rotate so there’s always something new to try.
Perhaps the best news for patrons is how diverse the revolving menu is. If you like seafood, order the salmon with couscous, a fan of sausage? Opt for the venison sausage. If you find a favorite, come back before it’s gone, because if we haven’t made it apparent already, the delectable menu here is just as fickle as the passing seasons.
Tonight’s Dinner Awaits At:
Centrale Kitchen & Bar
1825 Pacific Ave #2., Stockton