Joane Garcia Colson took a few detours en route to the work that she says she’ll do for the rest of her life. The owner/chef at Dish Creative Cuisine in Cathedral City earned her law degree in Denver, practiced with a top firm in New York City, and moved to the desert in 1991 to work for Best Best & Krieger. After other careers as executive director of a nonprofit organization and as a self-employed trial consultant, she enrolled in culinary school. In October 2012, she opened Dish.
Statistically, odds are against new restaurants surviving beyond the first year. Why did you give up a lucrative law career for such a risk?
I’ve been cooking since I was a little girl, and after so many years in law, it was time to take a chance and do something I have always been passionate about. I like sharing delicious things with people, seeing their faces light up, and seeing them delighted with this food. And I love interacting with the guests.
How do you juggle being both the owner/manager and the chef?
It is a physically and mentally demanding endeavor: creating menus, managing employees, buying, even making repairs and cleaning at times. I’m self-financed and that’s another stress. Still, all of it is very rewarding. I get to have my own ideas and vision and carry these out with the food and the experience. By and large, every day I’m having fun.
What type of cuisine can we expect at Dish?
It’s what I call “contemporary, modern American.” I use traditional French techniques with a lighter touch and creative flavor combinations. Sauces are reduced rather than thickened. We make our chicken stock and everything else from scratch. I get the best available raw products and source natural ingredients. I go to the farmers market on Saturday to find good, fresh produce. The beef is from Brawley, raised with no hormones or antibiotics, so it’s incredibly flavorful and tender. I’d rather take something off the menu if we can’t get a good-quality product.
Do you have a signature dish?
We actually have three. The first is coq au vin, done not as a stew, but as a “deconstruction” with a red-wine sauce that’s a reduction. It has no gluten and a rich, very clean taste. Our signature soup is smoked tomato bisque, using heirloom tomatoes smoked with mesquite chips and spiced with a little jalapeño. And, we always have scallops with a grapefruit shallot reduction, vanilla couscous, and avocado mousse.
Not on the menu, but always present, are the amuse-bouche. What are they?
These are complimentary, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres served throughout your meal. They are intensely flavored, so no matter what your entrée is, they are memorable. It’s all part of the experience, a time to relax with your friends, converse, and enjoy the evening. It’s part of the “slow dining” that is so common in Europe, but not common enough in this country.