Local Chefs Share Their Favorite Dishes for Fall

Visit any of your favorite restaurants, and chances are one dish really stands out. It’s your go-to meal that you love to eat.

Chefs are the same way. We asked several local chefs about their favorite dish they love to create, and more importantly, love to eat. From seafood to stuffed peppers, our chefs have their own meal of choice they enjoy, and they think you should too!

Chef Jason Bustamante, Rococo Northpark

Born in New London, Connecticut, Jason Bustamante has been Rococo founder Bruce Rinehart’s right-hand man since day one. In fact, the two were born (in different years) at the same hospital, and both have the same passion for seafood.

“I’ve been with Bruce for 25 years. I started with him at Mahogany Sun Casino, and then we went to Boston to Legal Seafood,” Jason says. “Then we got on board with celebrity chef Jasper White, who opened his place at the Mahogany Sun Casino. When we did our first location at the casino, there was this guy from Oklahoma. He found us and said he had some opportunities in Oklahoma City, and here we are.”

Jason learned his chef skills through on-the-job training, picking up the creativity and the business side of culinary creations along the way. Although he recognizes the advantage of culinary schools, he says his growth in the industry led him to his place at Rococo Northpark today.

Jason’s favorite dish to eat at Rococo Northpark is the traditional Rhode Island Fisherman Stew, a hearty, tomato-broth stew filled with lobster, scallops, shrimp, fish, Andouille sausage, mussels and clams—all the things he loves.

“Bruce is coined with describing it as ‘all the wonderful things we do with seafood in one dish,'” Jason says. “We add all the seafood and the Andouille in a saffron tomato broth and homemade fish stock. It’s everything I love to eat. It hails from the traditional stews the Portuguese sailors would make on the dock in Rhode Island.”

What does Jason like to eat when not at the restaurant?

“I’m simple. I like meat, seafood and potatoes,” Jason says. 

Although The Ranch Steakhouse is a go-to eatery for Jason, he doesn’t go out to eat that often, he says. But he does have a few guilty pleasures.

“My guilty pleasure food is homemade macaroni and cheese,” he says. “Sometimes I dice up a hot dog in it. I like cereal too. But if I had to survive on only one type of food, it would be seafood.”

12252 N. May Ave., Oklahoma City, OK, 405.212.4577, Rococo-Restaurant.com/rococo-northpark

Chef Brad Johnson, Redrock Canyon Grill

Brad Johnson’s stuffed poblano pepper at Redrock Canyon Grill set the standard for the Hal Smith Restaurant Group’s Hefner Lake location. Sized roughly like a Coke can, the cornmeal-encrusted pepper is flash fried and stuffed with rotisserie chicken, smoked cheddar, regular cheddar and vegetables and served with a chipotle and adobo sauce. 

The final breading is what makes the dish so special, though. It’s a mix of Jiffy cornbread and flour.

“I wanted it slightly sweet,” Brad says. “The dish is served with a roasted tomatillo salsa verde and a black bean salad. This is the first dish I created in 1998 when I started with the Hal Smith group. This dish is really what the whole menu was built around.”

The stuffed poblano pepper is Brad’s favorite dish because it is what “started it all,” he says. It’s the most requested recipe at Redrock Canyon Grill and it’s “uniquely Redrock.”

“What makes it special to me is that is has such great flavor,” he says. “You get the sweet and salty, the bite and the heat. That dish led to the Mohagany Prime Steakhouse, which carried the dish for its first five years. Anyone who sees this dish knows it’s Redrock.”

Growing up on a farm near Asher, Brad says his comfort food away from the restaurant is reminiscent of the meals he ate growing up. 

“My grandmother and mother were the best cooks around. My grandmother was a short-order cook at Slim’s Truck Stop,” he says. “If you told me I had only one meal left, I would have cottage cheese, sliced tomatoes, fresh bread, fresh vegetables and a good hamburger steak cooked in a cast-iron skillet. That’s what I grew up eating.”

9221 Lake Hefner Parkway, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 405.749.1995, RedrockCanyonGrill.com

Chef Melissa Aust, Stella Modern Italian Cuisine

Head chef Melissa Aust was perfecting risottos before she even became a chef, so it’s no surprise that her favorite dish to create and eat at Stella Modern Italian Cuisine in Midtown is the ever-evolving chicken and corn risotto. 

The risotto is full brick-oven roasted chicken, locally sourced and house-roasted corn, but the ghost pepper mascarpone cheese really gives the dish a fiery pop. Add in the fresh local cherry tomatoes, and the dish is as colorful as it is flavorful.

“Mainly, I just love to cook risottos. It’s a labor of love. It’s not hard, but it is time-consuming,” Melissa says. “Every season, we offer a risotto of some sort, and this one is constantly evolving. I was making risottos a long time before I even got into cooking. I mastered risottos a long time ago.”

The Southern California native began cooking after her mother passed away when Melissa was 22. She discovered a love of cuisine, left her family business to attend culinary school and eventually worked as a chef at Martha’s Vineyard. A cross-country trip back to California brought her through Oklahoma City to see a friend who worked at Stella, and she was hooked.

When not cooking or eating the Stella Modern Italian risotto and other offerings, Melissa says she likes a good burger and anything spicy or ethnic. But, like a true Italian chef, her guilty pleasure is still pasta.

“Honestly, my guilty pleasure is chili spaghetti,” she says. “I always have pasta at the house and a couple of cans of chili. It’s good comfort food. I also always have the stuff to make quesadillas.”

1201 N. Walker Ave., Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 405.235.2200, Stella-OKC.com