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Katsuya Fukushima Jumps to the Catering Side

The longtime Café Atlántico chef will handle boss José Andrés’s new venture with Ridgewells. And we’ve got his recipe for a dramatic, party-friendly salt-baked snapper.

In his final semester at the University of Maryland, Katsuya Fukushima picked up a weeklong stint as a prep cook at Ridgewells Catering to make extra money. Even though the then 24-year-old didn’t know how to use a knife, he quickly realized that cooking was his passion: “It was like the heavens opened up and said ‘this is your calling.’ “ Fukushima went on to work in such kitchens as Vidalia, Cashion’s Eat Place, and Kaz Sushi Bistro before landing at Jaleo 12 years ago, where he met the chef/restaurateur José Andrés.

Since then, Fukushima has run the kitchen at Café Atlántico and helped Andrés open Zaytinya, Oyamel, the hyper-modern Minibar, and the Bazaar in Los Angeles. Now he’s executive chef for Andrés’s latest project: José Andrés Catering With Ridgewells.

Fukushima says he wants to change the way people think about catered food. “I’m really bringing fine dining and a restaurant mentality into it.” See for yourself in our video of Fukushima making a salt-baked red snapper, which is on his new menu. “It’s simple, and at the same time it’s dramatic.” Plus, you can make it ahead of the party.

Salt-Baked Red Snapper

Serves 4

3 pounds sea or kosher salt
3 tablespoons water
4 bay leaves
6 rosemary sprigs
10 thyme sprigs
1 2½-pound whole red snapper, gutted but not scaled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the salt with the water, stirring until the salt is slightly damp. Add 2 of the bay leaves, 3 rosemary sprigs, and 5 thyme sprigs and mix well. Spread half of the salt mixture on a baking sheet and lay the remaining herbs on top. Place the red snapper on top of the herbs and cover the fish completely with the remaining salt mixture, making sure to pack it firmly around the fish. Bake the fish on the middle rack for 30 minutes, then let it rest for 5 minutes. Using a fork and spoon, crack open the side of the salt crust. The upper half of the salt should now be a hard shell that lifts off easily.

Using a fork, gently peel away the snapper’s skin and discard it. Using a knife, cut below the fish’s head through the bone. Cut along the spine and carefully lift the meat off the bone, setting each piece aside. Turn the fish over and repeat on the other side. Season the fish with salt and olive oil, then serve.

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  • Many caterers in New York have similar stories. They never thought they would choose their career path. Good for us that they did!

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