“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
Savnik’s Food – Catering & Consulting
I first ran into Charley Savnik at an event in Pollock Pines where he was cooking prime rib for a Christmas party. I had a friend with me who only ate meat that was well done. Prime rib is usually served a bit rare, the way I like it, but they also had one that was well done. She loved it so I tried it and it was delicious and moist. Savnik was cooking that evening and I congratulated him on the prime rib.
I have run into Savnik many times since then and every time the food he prepared was excellent, and often different. Not only does he cook what we would call regular food, but he also specializes in “Old World Traditional Dishes.”
Right now Savnik is cooking at the Rusty Nail in Pollock Pines on Sunday afternoons, but shortly he will be extending his hours and adding to the menu things like a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and more.
Last Sunday I just happened to catch him at the benefit dinner for the Pollock Pines Library at the Pollock Pines – Camino Community Center where he was donating his time, something he does a lot. The menu for this event included: tri-tip, oven roasted lemon-garlic chicken, hot potato salad, salad, garlic-bread and fresh made apple-strudel for dessert.
Between cooking and serving, Savnik told me how he had come to American from his native Croatia in 1969, gone back and then come back the next year. “From 1971-73 I drove a taxi in New York and then got a job at the Waldorf Astoria, cooking breakfast,” said Savnik. “I have been cooking since I was a young child and had no trouble doing that job. The only problem was the commute, so in 1976 I moved to California where I went to work at D. O. Mills, starting in inventory management and ending up in their kitchen. In 1994 I moved to Pollock Pines.
I worked in Pleasant Valley for a while and in 1998 just happened to ask the Pollock Pines – Camino Community Center if they needed a cook, and they did.
“I can cook most anything,” he added, “but I love to cook traditional European dishes, like goulash, stuffed beets, stews, soups, sausages and more. In those dishes the meats are cured differently and different spices are used. Once you learn how to do it and where to get supplies you need, you can cook dishes from all over the world.”
I took the opportunity to try what he was cooking for the event and as he was slicing the tri-tip he gave me a piece. “I put my own rub on it, sear it on the grill and then steam it,” he said. It was excellent, and very moist, something that a lot of grilled tri-tip isn’t. I then sampled the hot potato salad. I like it with a bit more vinegar, but was then told that when you serve it to people who may never have tried it before, you tone it down. The best dish, as far as I am concerned, was the chicken.
“If you want to taste chicken,” my friend Henry says, “go for the dark meat.” So I tried a drumstick. It was delicious and moist – fall-off-the-bone good. That was the best chicken I have had in a while – quite a while. Finally I tried the apple strudel that I had watched him make. I thought it might be better with a bit of cream on it, but it was still good, and much better than store bought.
Charley Savnik, as his business card says, does catering and consulting, besides working at restaurants around Pollock Pines. If I was looking for a unique food with an European flair for a dinner or celebration, I would sure give him a call. His phone/fax number is (530) 647-0327 and his email is [email protected]. By the way, among others he speaks the five languages and six dialects of the region where he was born and reads Cyrillic.