Chef Ken’s Story
For Chef Ken Salmon, cooking is an art form. Driven by creativity and a lifelong passion for the craft, Salmon has an insatiable appetite for applying both traditional and contemporary techniques to his culinary creations. He’s spent decades learning and understanding the nuances of exemplary cooking, resulting in dishes that expertly blend texture, flavor, and presentation.
Of course, Salmon wouldn’t be the chef he is today without the education and experience afforded to him while studying in some of the world’s best in cuisine-rich cultures. Having spent time living and working in places such as Italy, New Orleans, and New York City, Salmon was given the opportunity to not only apprentice under world renowned chefs, but to also experience first hand how culture plays an integral role in cooking. From selecting the freshest ingredients to implementing the kitchen skills of the masters, Salmon’s deep experience in the world of food and drink has allowed him to flourish as a culinary artist.
These experiences are on full display with Salmon’s menu at the Upstream Grille. There are the creole and cajun dishes such as his “Crawfish Etouffe” and “Upstream Gumbo,” which were directly inspired by his time spent working in New Orleans at the famous Commander’s Palace and under Chef Larkin Selmon at Jason’s–both Crescent City staples. It was during his time in New Orleans when Salmon discovered the hand-in-hand relationship between music culture and food, and to this day the music of The Big Easy directly inspires Salmon both in and out of the kitchen.
The Italian meals found on the menu are made with the very best ingredients and prepared with the techniques he picked up while living and working in Italy. During his time in Italy, Salmon learned local trades passed down through generations, including discovering how to pick fresh vegetables from the mountainsides of Montepertuso to experiencing the delight of cooking fish caught straight from the Mediterranean Sea. The practice of selecting hyper-local ingredients and preparing them with patience taught Chef Salmon the importance of utilizing each item in its purest form to expertly bring out the natural flavors of the dish–a practice he now applies to every item on his own menu.
Chef Salmon also spent time working in New York City at some of the Big Apple’s most noteworthy restaurants including Gigino’s in Tribeca, Match in SoHo, and Granville on Park Ave. Considered one of the most eclectic melting pots in the world, New York’s kitchens share the same myriad of cultures as the city itself–and Salmon drew invaluable experience from these culinary haunts, utilizing the trades of the world to help build his love for “fusion dishes.” Spending time with food aficionados from France, Italy, Ireland, New Zealand and many, many more gave Salmon the chance to live and breathe cooking as it’s done all over the world, but also to gain the professionalism to begin a career on his own.
With years of world travel and culinary expertise under his belt, Salmon returned to his home state of New Jersey and spent the next 15 years lending his talents to various restaurants in the area. He spent time working as a sous chef at Cortina in West Paterson, where he further honed his techniques working with fish caught fresh from the oceans of the world. Later, he became the Executive Chef at Cafe Cucina, and shortly after, Maize–both located in Newark. He headed the kitchen at Trio in Martinsville, which garnered a three star review in the Star Ledger within the first three months of opening. Salmon also helped streamline the kitchen efficiency and created exciting new dishes for The Vine in Basking Ridge. Again, soon after giving their menu a “lift,” The Vine earned four stars in the Star Ledger.
Salmon also spent over two years as the head chef of Mohawk House in Sparta, NJ. Because of Chef Salmon’s unparalleled expertise in the kitchen, he gained a huge following amongst local foodies. When he decided to move on to other culinary endeavors, customers eagerly anticipated his next jaunt, and there was a collective sigh of relief when Salmon announced he was opening his own restaurant, the Upstream Grille, in nearby Lake Hopatcong.
Awards are not hard to come by when talking about a chef with Salmon’s background. The Upstream Grille was recently named one of the Best New Restaurants in New Jersey Monthly magazine. It’s accolades like these that have led Salmon on a fascinating adventure within the culinary world. One look at his extensive and ever-evolving menu at Upstream is testament to his passion for cuisine.
Much like the fish he shares a last name with, as well as the name of his restaurant, Chef Salmon chooses to sacrifice shortcuts in the name of tradition and technique–both old and new–so his customers enjoy the very best. For Chef Salmon, swimming “upstream” is the only way to see and experience it all–from the farm to the table and everything in between.
When he’s not in the kitchen, scouring local farmer’s markets, or spending time with his wife and daughter, Chef Salmon somehow finds time to lend his expertise and talents to those in search of private catering or restaurant consulting. Some areas of expertise include: Cocktail Parties, Cooking Classes, In-Home Private Dining, Personal Chef Services (including celebrity and other high profile events), Customized Menu Planning, Corporate Catering, Restaurant Consulting, Themed Cooking Parties, Weddings and more.