Mussels and clams may seem intimidating, but chef Kevin Templeton, the Chopped champ who helms the kitchen at Barleymash, assures us that this showstopper seafood with a twist from the Gaslamp mainstay’s pre-pandemic menu is much more manageable than it looks.
“It's actually a dish you can do at home. You can overcomplicate it, or keep things very, very simple,” he says.
It all starts with quality shellfish. Freshness and sustainability are nonnegotiable to the veteran chef with more than 20 years’ experience in local restaurants, so he sources his from a family-owned business in National City that works with local fishers and also sends out their scraps to make organic cat food.
Growing up on an East County ranch fostered both Templeton’s creative drive and his farm-to-table mindset. As a teen he honed his skills in his parents’ kitchen, often serving meals to his punk rock pals before heading out for the night. After culinary school, he worked the kitchen in some big-name restaurants, such as Top of the Cove and Azul, but he considers recipes like this—and his other innovative takes on comfort classics at Barleymash—to be the culmination of his career.
“This is my passion, my love in life,” he says. “My favorite part about cooking is definitely the creativity.”
Templeton has an unconventional side—he’s a motorcycle enthusiast and death metal musician—so it’s fitting that his dishes go a little off-script. Instead of a traditional white wine broth, the innovative chef gets creative with Stella Artois, a classic Belgian lager that combines the sweetness of malt with crisp hop bitterness and a soft, dry finish.
“I grew up professionally in fine dining French restaurants, and the classic wine and all that is fantastic,” Templeton says. “But, since we're more of a bar, I wanted to use a beer instead, and you just get a really good full-body flavor. Stella is a great one because it's a Belgian beer and mussels are a huge staple dish of Belgium, so it just really fits.”
He was kind enough to share with us the recipe for this mouthwatering mix of seafood, Stella, butter, garlic, and fresh herbs.
“I just love this dish. It's light, it's refreshing, it doesn't weigh you down, and you can eat it in all seasons. It's great for the summertime and great to warm your body during the wintertime. I'm really, really happy and proud of this dish.”