Executive Chef Francsisco Cocova
In the culinary crossroads of Carmel-Monterey, where the exotic nationality of every chef and maitre d is renowned, Chef Francisco Cocova has the unique distinction of being a native. I was born in Watsonville, California, he states simply and proudly, and I was named for my grandfather Francisco Mendes. He also lets you know, Francisco is a beautiful name, and I prefer being called Francisco to Frank. After one meeting, its obvious that the more lyrical Francisco suits him, and his cooking style, perfectly.
Yet in spite of his romantic name, Chef Cocova adds a refreshing dose of solid unpretentiousness to a culinary scene in which flourish has become a cliché. Indeed, after decades of watching hundreds of chefs come and go in this area, one can envision this native son as the plainspoken elder statesman of his trade.
Chef Cocova came to Flahertys 20 years ago, only 8 years after Carmels only seafood operation started business. He studied under four chefs, but says, My main mentor was Chef Joe Zoellin, who was Monterey Bay Area Chef of the Year in 2001. He taught me the most. And then as a softly spoken afterthought, Chef Cocova reveals his true estimation in a whisper: He was a very good man.
You hear that same reverence for his namesake, his grandfather the farmer, the first of his clan to come to California in 1930. Two generations later, Chef Cocova is a large, gentle man with the shoulders of a linebacker and soft, warm hands that let you feel a bit of his grandfather in his handshake. He delicately arranges giant Monterey Bay prawns in teepee fashion, like a house of cards on a plate, with each prawn depending on the other for support. Then he cleans up after himself in the thorough, honest manner of a man who would not leave work for another person to do.
Chef Francisco Cocova is more than a local boy made good. He was one of six kids raised by a single mom, and he learned to cook as a necessity. Francisco wears his success modestly and with quiet dignity, and is a tribute to California-born chefs.