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Chef Candice Custodio launches supper club, cookbook, and more

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If you're a local foodie, chances are you know Candice Custodio. She's the founder of Latin dining experience Club SupSup, resident chef at Kindred Oak Farm in Paso Robles, independent chef and instructor for countless public and private events throughout Southern California, and has even appeared on the Food Network's Chopped series.

Adding to her extensive list of accomplishments and accolades is her recent appointment to the James Beard Foundation Legacy Network, representing only 30 individuals of color country-wide. Custodio joins Michelle Barrera, founder of EnjoySLO and At Her Table, and Alexandra Pellot, co-owner of the Alchemists' Garden in Paso, in the esteemed seven-month program that fosters diversity in the culinary industry.

Custodio is also partnering with Kindred Oak Farm's Lisa Peach to launch a series of three-day culinary retreats, all while finalizing her cookbook, The Versatile Chef, which will be unveiled in December at her Club SupSup event at Hearst Ranch Winery in Paso.

FAMILY FIRST Candice Custodio of Creston juggles her work and volunteer schedule—Club SupSup, Kindred Oak Farm, private chef functions, SLO Children's Museum board director, James Beard Foundation advisee, author, etc.—with raising 1-year-old Celeste alongside her husband, Ruben. - COURTESY PHOTO BY SARAH KATHLEEN PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Courtesy Photo By Sarah Kathleen Photography
  • FAMILY FIRST Candice Custodio of Creston juggles her work and volunteer schedule—Club SupSup, Kindred Oak Farm, private chef functions, SLO Children's Museum board director, James Beard Foundation advisee, author, etc.—with raising 1-year-old Celeste alongside her husband, Ruben.

Custodio's ambitious workload is a labor of love and an ode to her heritage.

"My cooking bug comes from my grandmother and my cultural experiences growing up," she said. "My grandmother is an exceptional and self-taught cook who really makes the best Puerto Rican food around.

"Also, at every event growing up, whether it be around my Puerto Rican family, my Mexican family, or Costa Rican family, all events and moments really focused around food. It made me associate food with emotion, memory, and joy.

"I wanted to pursue cooking earlier in life, but my mother encouraged me to go to college first, and I am the first person in my family to graduate college."

After obtaining a degree in political science from Cal Poly, Custodio spent "several years bouncing around in the tech and office life, while cooking at home," she said.

After being laid off and receiving a severance package, "my husband encouraged me to look at this as a sign from the universe," she continued.

She used the money to attend the New School of Cooking in her hometown of Culver City, became head cook at The Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, then launched her own business, Chef Candice LLC, providing private-chef services in the greater Los Angeles area.

ISLAND TWIST Chef Candice Custodio's cookbook The Versatile Chef—launching electronically in December, followed by a hard copy in March—aims to elevate simple recipes and jazz up leftovers. For example, sticky pork belly, hard-boiled egg, and microgreens transform her Hawaiian macaroni salad. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHEF CANDICE LLC
  • Photo Courtesy Of Chef Candice LLC
  • ISLAND TWIST Chef Candice Custodio's cookbook The Versatile Chef—launching electronically in December, followed by a hard copy in March—aims to elevate simple recipes and jazz up leftovers. For example, sticky pork belly, hard-boiled egg, and microgreens transform her Hawaiian macaroni salad.

Then COVID-19 struck, and she reassessed her goals and priorities once again.

Though she was born and raised in Los Angeles and values the city's food, energy, and culture, the Central Coast was beckoning.

"I decided to go to Cal Poly on a whim," she said. "I had never seen it until I was accepted. I always say I love this area so much I even married someone from here—Ruben, a fellow Cal Poly alum from Atascadero.

"We even tried to stay here after we graduated, but limited job availability pushed us to LA.

"When the pandemic happened, the standstill really made us turn inward on what we wanted and how we wanted to spend the next years of our life. We also were tired of renting and constantly moving. We wanted to find somewhere we could put down roots. My husband and I each made lists of where we wanted to live, and those lists overlapped on SLO County.

"LA has a lot to offer career-wise, but there is something about this area that is just magical. The people are genuine, friendships made are long lasting, it's gorgeous, and there is a sense of community that we just didn't have in LA.

"We also were able to purchase a property that allowed me to pursue my objective of sustainable living. I knew I would be successful wherever I was, but coming back here was about how I wanted to fill in the space in my life that wasn't about career."

Custodio moved to Creston in 2020, relaunched Chef Candice in 2021 after a brief stint as executive chef at Paso's Calcareous Vineyard, and welcomed a new family member, Celeste, in 2022.

Around the same time she also connected with Peach, who co-owns an upscale four-bedroom bed and breakfast and off-site three-bedroom Creekside Retreat with with husband Robert.

MEXICO MEETS ITALY Chef Candice Custodio specializes in Latin cuisine, drawing on her diverse roots. For her Tagliata Sope, she fills a handmade corn shell, or Mexican sope, with Italian tagliata-style black pepper beef, rosemary tomatillo salsa, Parmesan crema, balsamic reduction, and a charred tomatillo. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHEF CANDICE LLC
  • Photo Courtesy Of Chef Candice LLC
  • MEXICO MEETS ITALY Chef Candice Custodio specializes in Latin cuisine, drawing on her diverse roots. For her Tagliata Sope, she fills a handmade corn shell, or Mexican sope, with Italian tagliata-style black pepper beef, rosemary tomatillo salsa, Parmesan crema, balsamic reduction, and a charred tomatillo.

"I first met Candice when she came to Kindred Oak Farm for an industry roundtable meetup with local chefs," Peach said. "A few short months later, I was looking for a chef to help us with our brunch service.

"She then became our resident chef ... right around the time her Chopped episode aired and has been working her creative magic in our kitchen ever since.

"One of the things I love about Candice's cuisine is how creative she is with ingredients. She often thinks outside the box and executes a meal that is unusual yet really, really good.

SWEET SENSATION From winemakers' dinners to corporate events and private affairs, chef Candice Custodio is a wizard with novel ingredients. Her bittersweet chocolate pot de crème is topped by charcoal whipped cream and candied naval orange peel for a creamy, textured taste experience. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHEF CANDICE LLC
  • Photo Courtesy Of Chef Candice LLC
  • SWEET SENSATION From winemakers' dinners to corporate events and private affairs, chef Candice Custodio is a wizard with novel ingredients. Her bittersweet chocolate pot de crème is topped by charcoal whipped cream and candied naval orange peel for a creamy, textured taste experience.

"She draws off so many types of cuisines for inspiration. With her family's heritage being Latin-based, she does have a tasty arsenal of ideas (from the Americas), but then, she also studied in Japan and can easily surprise our guests with a Japanese-style breakfast. I can honestly say her Thai cuisine was among the best Thai I have ever had."

Oftentimes she pulls random ingredients from Kindred's organic garden, and the result is always a crowd-pleaser, Peach continued. On one occasion she transformed peppers, corn, watermelon, and green tomatoes into a watermelon curry that had guests begging for the recipe.

Added Custodio: "The thought of doing a cookbook has been something I have always had on my mind. It became something I wanted to actualize after having so many guests at Kindred Oak coming into the kitchen after brunch or private dinners and asking for the recipes.

"Originally, I was only going to do recipes that I made at Kindred Oak, but some of those dishes you can imagine are pretty complicated and not approachable for the average home cook. ... I wanted my cookbook to be something that people felt comfortable keeping on their counter for quick reference or inspiration on food they can actually make at home."

The cookbook aims to inspire readers to use their own creativity and available ingredients to adapt the recipes as needed, she continued.

"It will also [provide] guidance on how to transform leftovers into something new and delicious," she said. "I really value sustainability, seasonal ingredients, and budget consciousness when I cook, and it is something that will really permeate every page of the book."

Fans can cook alongside Custodio at a full-day, Puerto Rican culinary workshop at Kindred's Creekside Retreat on Dec. 9 or join her recently launched Club SupSup pop-up dinners at Club Car Bar in Templeton every second Tuesday and at rotating venues the last Wednesday of every month.

On Dec. 13, Club SupSup will present a special Hollywood glam-style dinner with a Peruvian twist, capped by the release of Custodio's e-cookbook, at Hearst Ranch Winery.

Due to increased popularity and rapid sellouts, Custodio is considering expanding Club SupSup to additional bookings, perhaps even at her own home.

"My long-term goals revolve around opening a space where I can present my food to the community in a permanent setting," she said. "I want my food and reputation to really be about and infused by our amazing community, and I would love to have a place that can become a pillar on the Central Coast with affordable and delicious food."

Chef Candice's cream cheese and jam pastelitos

COURTESY PHOTO BY ARIETTE ARMELLA
  • Courtesy Photo By Ariette Armella

Servings: 6

• 1 package puff pastry sheets, defrosted

• jar of tart jam

• 8 ounces cream cheese

• egg wash (beaten egg with dash of water)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Unroll one sheet of puff pastry and, using the back of a butter knife, gently outline six even squares on the sheet. In the middle of each square, place one ounce of cream cheese and three to five tablespoons of jam. Unroll the other sheet of puff pastry and lay it on top of the previous sheet with the cream cheese and jam. Using your fingers, seal around the filling, pressing the two sheets together. Use a knife to cut out the previously outlined six squares.

Place each square on a prepared baking sheet (lined with a baking pad or greased with butter), allowing space around each square. Using a pastry brush, glaze each square with the egg wash and then place the baking sheet in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the puff pastry to chill.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and you can see jam oozing slightly out of the sides of each pastry. If you have hot spots in your oven, ensure that you turn the baking sheet every 10 minutes or so to allow for an even bake.

Chef's tip: "Typically I use guava paste, but when that is not readily available, any jam will do, particularly those with a tangy or tart flavor. The pictured version features fig. You can also substitute the filling for seasoned beef." Δ

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte can't wait for The Versatile Chef to drop. She's on rolling pins and needles at [email protected].

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