For Damoriae Graham, few things are better than stepping out of the kitchen and walking into a dining room that’s buzzing with talk.
“Really the food is the vessel that helps generate the conversation,” he says. “For me that’s second most important. Food is more than just sustenance; it’s there to breed conversations. We really want to take the guests on an adventure with the food.”
Graham was recently brought on as executive chef of 3030 Ocean, the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort’s flagship restaurant, as well as the entire resort’s senior sous chef under newly promoted executive chef Jesse Demmers. In addition to 3030 Ocean, Marriott Harbor Beach’s food offers include Sea Level Restaurant and Ocean Bar, Riva and Loggerhead Sand Bar.
For Graham, the diverse options available at one place is part of the long-term appeal.
“With my main focus being on 3030, it’s exciting to know that once I master this, I have options beyond the restaurant at hand,” he says. “It’s an exciting adventure.”
For now though, Graham’s mind is primarily focused on what comes out of the 3030 kitchen. 3030’s Mediterranean-influenced seafood menu jibes well with the sort of kitchen and dining room he likes to create.
“My cooking style is very interpersonal,” he says. “It’s supposed to create a dance at the table with people talking back and forth, flavors that are different but compliment each other. My ultimate goal is to have everyone pause and go, ‘Wow, did you try the octopus?’”
When Graham walks into a dining room and it’s buzzing with conversation and food-sharing, he knows things are working.
Another thing he wants is for a large portion of those voices to be local.
“My heavier focus is going to be with the local crowd,” he says. “I’ve always been a fan of walking into a dining room and seeing familiar faces.”
For Graham, food, friendship and community have always been linked. The Los Angeles native remembers learning to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen as a young boy. “Being so young and given the responsibility of cooking, it quickly translated into almost my love language.”
Through his life, that feeling has remained.
“In history, the most genuine form of love is to sit down and break bread with someone,” he says. “If we’ve at some point in my life sat down and broke bread, that’s something I carry with me for years.”
The Dish: Spanish Octopus
(Serves 2 to 4)
For the octopus
- 1 octopus, tentacles
- 1 c red wine
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbls paprika, pimenton picante
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 1 tbls kosher salt
- 1 tsp pink ground pepper
For the smoky pork puttanesca
- ½ bacon
- ¼ c minced garlic
- 1 c julienned shallots
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- ½ tbls red pepper flakes
- ½ c red cooking wine
- 2 tbls paprika
- 1 whole San Marzano canned tomatoes
- ½ c chiffonade basil
- 5 chopped anchovies
- 5 sprigs thyme leaves
- ¼ c chopped capers
- ½ c chopped kalamata olives
- Kosher salt to taste
For the octopus
Set up a water bath with an immersion circulator set to 77C. Portion octopus tentacles in a vacuum bag with the remaining ingredients. Seal bags in preparation for cooking. Place bags in water, making sure that all are submerged during the cooking process.
Cook for 5 hours. Once finished, shock in an ice bath and store in a cooler until ready. (Note: If the immersion circulator is unavailable, the octopus can be boiled, whole, in hot water for 10 minutes and cooked, with the head removed, in a Dutch oven at 200°F for 3 to 4 hours or until tender.)
For the puttanesca
In a large saucepan, render bacon until browned. Remove bacon and set aside. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan. Saute garlic, shallots and bay leaves until softened and fragrant. Deglaze with red wine. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the mixture reduces by a quarter (about 10 to 20 minutes). Using tongs, discard bay leaves and crush any large tomatoes. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Grill the octopus over high heat until lightly charred. Serve the octopus nestled in the sauce and enjoy with crispy prosciutto, grilled citrus and crusty bread.