“It’s just two dudes playing with food,” says Barley and Boar’s Head Chef Sean Deniz of his collaboration with Sous Chef Cordell Pheasant.
The two have been working side by side for two years as of August this year and have been the head chefs behind Barley and Boar’s delectable eats since May 1. It’s a two-chef-mix that has brought amazing, unique food to Entrada Avenue in Atascadero.
“I originally interviewed him (Cordell) for a Sous Chef position over at Cielo [in La Plaza], one of our sister restaurants. I liked him right away. First week working with him, I knew the dude was a banger. This project was already an idea. As soon as I saw this guy work I knew I was gonna keep him,” added Sean. “Once we started to talk to each other, know each other, inside and outside of work, we had so much in common and it just, it played out perfectly.”
Barley and Boar is the newest addition to the North County Restaurant Group. Before he became head chef of Barley and Boar, Sean was executive chef for the group as a whole. But Sean knew Barley and Boar was going to be something special as the restaurant was an idea that had been bouncing around for years, and he wanted to be on board when it came to fruition.
“Myself and Eric Peterson, the owner, kind of always talked about doing a farm-to-table, more upper class, not even upper class, just solid, good food. Something a little nicer, bring something a little different to the area of Atascadero,” stated Sean. “But more so, it’s a passion project. I’ve always wanted to work at an open-air kitchen. I’ve had a million ideas for a kitchen spot like this and kind of took what we’ve been talking about for the past five years I’ve worked with him [Eric] and put it into play.”
The food has been fully left in the hands of Sean and Cordell. And they’re constantly coming up with new ideas where their dishes are concerned.
“As far as new stuff goes, we’re really kind of on the whim,” Sean said of creating Barley and Boar’s menu. “We just walk through farmers and bounce ideas off each other and try them out here in the kitchen. If they work, let’s do it, let’s run specials, let’s get feedback on it. But really it’s just what we’re feeling.”
Because of the open air kitchen they are also able to collaborate directly with their customers and get instant feedback about their dishes.
“At the kitchen bar. we’ll do little bites and get some feedback,” added Cordell.
He added that when people enjoy those bites that they usually turn it into a dish or an appetizer for the menu. The menu itself changes based on what’s fresh and available in the county, and it officially changes once a month, while keeping a few staples on deck at all times. Weather also plays a factor in their menu as they use all local produce.
“A lot of our purveyors and farmers are from the area and have never experienced anything like this. So for them to team up with us and be part of this and us giving them shoutouts, I think it’s good for both parties. I think everyone’s really excited that a spot like this has opened up in Atascadero.” Sean stated.
With its open-air kitchen, Barley and Boar drops the fourth wall that usually separates chefs from their guests. Giving the restaurant a collaborative feel all around.
“You develop these relationships with the guests. All these people that come in work super hard for their money,” Sean said. “It’s my job to prepare the best experience that they could possibly have for their money. I don’t want anything less for them. It’s very important that they know that their word is being heard as well.”
Sean and Cordell have built such a tight relationship with the local community since Barley and Boar opened just a few months ago that it’s gotten to the point where when certain guests come in and know exactly what extras they will want on their table. The whole experience blends small-town Atascadero vibes with big-city sensibilities, which makes sense as Sean grew up in Sacramento and Cordell grew up in Morro Bay. Both chefs have a history with big-city kitchens and have worked all over the country before landing on Entrada.
“It’s super nice to get to see people eat your food and interact with them,” said Cordell.
“I’m a big believer in using all your senses and I think with us being able to see and hear our customers. We’re able to get direct feedback, we’re able to execute to our full potential,” added Sean.
Both chefs fell in love with kitchen life at a young age. They stated that the camaraderie, culture, business side, and the family aspect of working in restaurants was something they both were drawn to. Along the way, they both fell in love with food and being able to make and share things that they’re excited about with their food-loving audience.
Sean also mentioned that the kitchen life didn’t necessarily help his addiction as he was able to continue his lifestyle while working. Four years ago, Sean went to rehab and has been clean ever since. He added that his passion for food has grown even more now, and he’s now putting 100 percent of his focus into giving people the food they want.
“This guy’s a beast. He just handles it,” Cordell said proudly of Sean.
The team would like to thank Barley and Boar’s owner for funding the building, which has had a complete overhaul aside from the brew tanks, hood vent, and original floors. Everything else has been custom built to their vision and makes it feel like a warm hug from a sophisticated stranger inside.
They’d also like to thank the North County Restaurant Group’s maintenance crew, the farmers they work with to put fresh food on their guest’s tables, and their co-workers at the restaurant.
“And the guests. I really want to give a shoutout to them for really welcoming us and accepting our concept. Accepting us into the community,” said Sean. “We’re artists deep down and we have to be very transparent and very vulnerable about what we’re putting out. It’s nerve wracking. To get feedback and for it to be as positive as it has been, it’s motivating.”
If fine dining and food that is brought straight from a local farm directly to your table is your thing, Barley and Boar has it in aces. Stop on by and say hi to Sean, Cordell, and the rest of the team!
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