Sergei Nicholas Simonov/ San Francisco

Executive Chef Sergei Nicholas Simonov of Loquita, Santa Barbara, CA 2023

Photo Credit: Loquita

Spanish Sorbete

Sangria goes with Spanish food like summer and sunshine. The red-hot Spanish restaurant Loquita has tall pitchers of Roja and Rojita sangria at the bar and a sangria sorbet for dessert.

Executive Chef Sergei Simonov, a contestant in Netflix’s Pressure Cooker, impresses with his Sangria Sorbete. Using The Perfect Purée Red Sangria, he blends Sweet Hibiscus, red wine, orange zest, sugar, and corn starch for a delightful mix inspired by the traditional punch of Spain and Portugal.

Bright, seasonal fruit sorbets are a mainstay of Sergei’s postres (dessert) menu. As a base for sauces, glazes and reductions, The Perfect Purée adds depth and complexity to multiple applications. Pomegranate is another one of Sergei’s favorite seasonal flavors.

“In the case of sorbet, the purées provide a smooth and consistent texture and vibrant fruit flavor, making them a great choice for this dessert,” he says.

Sergei suggests experimenting with different flavor combinations and percentages to find the perfect balance of flavor.

“The high quality and consistent texture of the purées allow me to add bright and bold fruit flavors to our sorbetes without having to worry about the variability that can come with using fresh fruit,” he says.

A Mediterranean State of Mind

Loquita’s atmosphere evokes a Mediterranean vibe. Spanish tapas, charcuterie boards and seasonal paellas anchor its authentic Spanish food menu. Its website explains, “The Mediterranean climate and terroir of Santa Barbara County mirror that of Spain, making the translation of locally sourced produce, meats and seafood an ideal match.”

Drawing inspiration from local flavors and freshness, Loquita excels in Spanish wine, vermouth, gin tonics, and craft cocktails. The restaurant showcases its mastery by combining Spanish influences with ingredients. Channel Islands yellowtail, wild jumbo prawns prepared on a wood-fired grill, California-grown strawberries, and asparagus.

“We want to offer a unique California product that still has the Spanish influences,” Sergei told the Santa Barbara Independent. “The future of Spanish cuisine is to elevate these humble ingredients and dishes into something greater.”

Rising Star Chef

Sergei brings extensive kitchen experience, a passion for food, and a diverse culinary background to Loquita’s sought-after Spanish food menu. He attended culinary school at Santa Barbara City College. Then worked as a sous chef at The Lark under Chef Jason Paluska. He later worked with Chef Brian Malarkey at his flagship restaurant, Herb & Wood, in San Diego.

Malarkey, a finalist on Top Chef All Stars, mentored Simonov to the dessert round on Chopped Next Gen, a Discovery+ show for rising young chefs. In 2023, Sergei starred in Pressure Cooker, where he and 10 other contestants competed for a  $100,000 prize.

Sergei’s time with Malarkey inspired a cooking style that emphasizes bright, bold flavors. He’d previously used The Perfect Purée in sweet and savory applications and discovered it anew while searching for high-quality fruit and vegetable purées to use in Loquita’s Spanish food menu.

“I was looking for a solution that would allow me to create dishes with consistent, vibrant fruit flavors, and I was impressed with the range of flavors and the quality of the purées offered by The Perfect Purée,” Sergei says.