DAVEY JONES. — The making of a Chef.

INTRODUCTION.

The Davey Jones Deli is a unique sandwich shop inside the New Bait Shop Market in Sausalito, California, under the creative and gastronomic direction of Captain Chef Davey Jones. A self-taught chef and maverick, his colorful background, extensive sailing, and world travel play into the imaginative and creative flavors of the soups, sandwiches, salads, and wraps coming out of his kitchen.

Eight full sandwich boards only give a hint of the magical combinations that are possible.

With one convection oven, the deli roasts hormone-free whole turkey, pork, and beef daily. No deli meats are allowed in his kitchen or food made with preservatives, nitrates, and dyes. Among other things, it is this fresh approach to food where no preservatives cross the threshold that separates this sandwich shop from many others,

Bite into one of Davey Jones sandwiches and the difference is noticeable. Only the best, freshest local ingredients make the cut — no gimmicks.

According to Davey Jones:  “Good food starts with good ingredients,” and to this end they use only fresh and local, choosing companies that can jump through the hoops set forth by Davey Jones himself. The results are ingredients sourced through local markets and local growers.

Bread, the foundation of a good sandwich comes from  Bordenave Bakery, a 100-year-old establishment in San Rafael, twenty minutes away from Sausalito that still uses the original sourdough starter brought from France by the owners in the 1940s.

While this is a sandwich shop and one may expect to find gallon-sized bottles of condiments and seasonings bought from the box stores, you won’t here! All condiments are made in-house, grinding and mixing the ingredients from scratch, by hand. They’re all sugar and chemical-free, as is the hummus that is blended by pulsing the chickpeas until they are velvety smooth and then adding the tahini and spices.

Cheese, one of the most oft-used ingredients in sandwiches, is humane and hormone-free and comes from Petaluma Creamery, a century-old dairy, about  30 miles north of the Deli. Here the Jersey cows roam free on the verdant hills of the countryside surrounding Petaluma and produce the finest cream.

Care is taken to use organic vegetables and fruit, avoiding those that are most likely to be laden with pesticides — Davey purchases most of his produce from local markets and local growers. Sprouts, those peppery, tasty little bits of green, that are added as a final feature, and finish are grown by a local farmer and tested twice a week for impurities. You can be sure everything s carefully screened to make it the safest and most delicious it can be.

CHEF DAVEY JONES BACKGROUND

Davey Jones hailed from Iowa City, Iowa, a charming college town known for the arts. He began working at John’s Grocery, a store with a long history that had occupied the same building since 1848 when it was built. Here, he did everything from bagging groceries to working behind the food counter. This became his permanent position, where he was expected to transform whatever was handed to him, usually unsold produce from the previous day, into some form of edible food that would bring in revenue.

To advance his skill in the kitchen, he studied “The Joy of Cooking”, a generational cookbook that was originally self-published in 1931, and went on to become an international bestseller.  He knew the recipes so well, that he was able to memorize them. Aware of the relationship between good food and good health, he incorporated the benefits of Ayurvedic, macrobiotic and vegan food principles into his recipes from “The Joy of Cooking” and applied them on a daily basis to whatever he was preparing.

Though charmed by Iowa, with its gently rolling hills and flat plains, Davey Jones had always wanted to travel. In 2000, he got a degree in Environmental Science and managed to find employment on tall ships that sailed up and down the East Coast, Canada, and the Caribbean. During that time, he lived and worked out of Boston, Manhattan, and Milwaukee, and spent time sailing around Maine and Nova Scotia. A couple of times, he sailed all the way through the St Lawrence River to Duluth, the most inland ocean port in the USA.

The Tall Ships that he sailed were doing educational tours for students: a niche business, where groups of students are taken on short voyages to do a particular study or an academic project.

With his extensive sailing experience, Davey had aspirations to be the Captain, but instead, by default, he became the Chef, a position that was better paying and required fewer hours. It was predestined: on one of their educational cruises, the ship had an incompetent Chef, and everyone on the ship became extremely ill from the food. When they came into port in Key West, Florida, the Chef’s employment was terminated and she was asked to leave —  and suddenly Davey Jones became Chef Davey Jones.

Harnessing his background in food and health, Davey immediately put the crew and passengers on a two-day diet of brown rice, flavored with honey and tamari.  Then he added cashews, followed by broccoli and spices, and finally a small amount of chicken until everyone was recovered. After that, his fame spread among the tall ships and he began to be offered other jobs. Despite his success, Davey is humble about his status at the time, calling himself a “Sea Chef.”

He continued working the tall ships for four years,  while he sailed up and down both of the US coasts, then to the Caribbean, and finally to South Africa, where he landed in Port Saint Johns in the Transkei region in 2004. He said “it felt right” for him to disembark here and he and his girlfriend of the time found a place to live, in the African jungle, right on the ocean.

With $600 in his pocket, he needed income. Securing a campsite, he bought a bag of flour and a bag of beans and began making tortillas for bean burritos. When other travelers would ask if they could buy the tortillas, he suggested they could also buy him cheese and meat, which allowed him to sell his burritos and begin to make a small living.

Still looking for a more remunerative way to earn a living, he started buying fish from the local fisherman and making fish and chips on the open fire. Surrounded by tourists and the local population, he was able to sell his “homecooked” meal for the equivalent of $3.50 a portion.

Unfortunately, South Africa is renowned for having one of the highest crime rates and is known as the murder and carjacking capital of the world.  Nothing to be proud of! Living in the community, among the local African population, Davey Jones observed how it functioned and saw firsthand how crime-ridden it was, and wanted to do something to turn this around. He thus planned a fish and chips business that would benefit a local church and orphanage and create employment for the community.

The outdoor restaurant was built,  using handmade brick, local bamboo, and tin, cobbled together, and was called “Fishnana.” Living in the community, he learned to speak the local Xhosa language, which helped him communicate more clearly with the locals.

As part of the plan, he undertook to buy the entire catch each day from the local fishermen, guaranteeing them a secure income. The “Moms” and girlfriends were also included in the project, cleaning and preparing the fish. Offering this plan to the community, he made a provision that for it to be successful, crime had to stop. Everyone would be employed and everyone would be earning a living wage.

It took a while for the local fishermen to trust him, a foreigner and an outsider, but it worked and because everyone was employed in a shared project, they all benefitted and local crime decreased. In fact, this “business” continued to operate until the beginning of the pandemic, when like the rest of the world, the tourists stopped traveling.

But after four years in Port Saint Johns, it was time for Davey Jones to move on. The relationship with the girlfriend had run its course and she wanted to remain in South Africa. He got back onto a ship and this time his compass steered him to Sausalito. He knew very little about Sausalito and had no idea it was a sailing town — although he knew it was in an affluent area with lots of good food and he could probably make a living in the food industry.

Arriving in Sausalito, he found a cheap houseboat and rented it immediately, eventually managing to buy it, where he now lives with his wife Kristine, whom he managed to connect with on Facebook before returning to the US.

Living among the Houseboat Community of Sausalito, and once again needing to earn a living, he began to make homemade soups, using organic ingredients that he would sell to residents of the harbor’s famous houseboats. The soups found a ready market and he added sandwiches to the menu as the demand increased, growing his business organically while he was becoming  known within the houseboat community

DAVEY JONES DELI.

One day, the owner of the Bait Shop Market in the Harbor Shopping Centre in Sausalito approached Davey to take over the sandwich counter in his market. Looking at the “disaster” of a sandwich counter he decided it was too daunting and wondered if he could make a go of it.  It was stocked with bagels, processed American cheese, cold cuts full of nitrates, and packaged foods from the big box stores. But even so, he took it over on Memorial Day in 2010, deciding to give it his all for three years — three years that have now been extended to twelve!

He and the owner of the Bait Shop Market came to a verbal agreement: Davey Jones would overhaul the sandwich shop and take over the sandwich business.

Both sides of the business, the market and the deli,  attract customers. Sandwiches bring the most customers into the market and all sales are rung up on the same cash machine. According to an arrangement between them, the two sides have a way of settling the profits — plus, Chef Davey Jones pays no rent, so there is never a rent increase. This is how they have worked for the last twelve years. Each side trusts the other and there has never been an argument.

 

MEETING DAVEY JONES.

The deli is located close to the Marin City/Sausalito exit of the 101 Freeway. I met Davey Jones after he closed his sandwich shop on a Wednesday afternoon where we sat on open wooden crates in a quiet spot, at the backdoor of the deli, with an uninterrupted view of the Houseboats gently rocking on Richardson Bay.

The now refurbished sandwich shop is creating some staggeringly delicious sandwiches and wraps and has developed a large following in Sausalito and among passing motorists, traveling to and from the city, even some on their way to San Francisco Airport who order sandwiches for their flights.

With a magnificent setting on the water, a harbor filled with yachts, and a multitude of trails and cycling paths in the surrounding hills, it is a magnet for boaters, cyclists, and hikers, especially over the weekends. The sandwiches are generously sized and can easily equal two meals for those who stay out all day.

The sandwich deli is the cornerstone of the business, but this maverick chef has developed a second business that does catering where he is known as “Chef Dr.” Davey Jones, and he is able to do 2 – 4 catering events a month —  most of these happen in the summertime when one glorious day of sunshine follows another.

The catered events take place in the open air at the Sausalito waterfront or at wineries or farms in the nearby wine country —  the Chef chooses his clients carefully, and not anyone will qualify. They may be large events serving tacos and other Mexican food, or paella dinners where he uses four enormous pans that cook over open burners that can serve 400 people. Another menu option: a whole roasted pig or goat over an open flame.

His recipes and food combinations are sophisticated, but his style is rustic and the events may be for weddings, birthdays, family celebrations, or business team building.

The ingredients for each event are delivered by bicycle by Chef Dr.Davey Jones, and the Chef can cater for 25o people single-handed — and understandably,  has one assistant for a party of 400 people. In this picture, he is delivering chili for a modest 250 hungry folks.

THE MAKING OF A CHEF.

I asked Davey Jones why he became a chef. His reply was simple: “I was hungry when I was at college, so I worked in the kitchens because that’s where the food was, and I could always find something to eat!”

Following his own compass, and by his own admission, Davey Jones says he became a Chef by accident. Unbelievably, when he applied for a Chef’s position at more traditional restaurants, no one would take his resume from the tall ships seriously, or they would tell him that he was not qualified for a “real job.”

What he is doing now is bonafide culinary excellence, though: focusing on the best possible ingredients, fresh and local, using seasonal products. Whether it is in the Sandwich Deli or his catering company, he is still all about fresh and local, humane and hormone-free, and choosing the best ingredients. Settled in Sausalito, well assimilated into the community with two successful businesses, Chef Davey Jones has finally arrived at his “destination”.

With a love of wooden boats and wooden acoustic guitars, this picture sums up Chef Dr. Davey Jones — during the little time he has to enjoy his music.

POSTSCRIPT.

“A great Chef doesn’t just happen – he evolves, like the layers of taste in a dish — so they have layers of experience.” This is a quote, but I do not know who said it originally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “DAVEY JONES. — The making of a Chef.”

  1. Phyl, what an exceptionally interesting article! Bring a new resident to Sausalito I know where I’ll be buying my sandwiches and salads! You’ve again written so descriptively that I imagine myself sitting and visiting with Chef Davey and learning all about his colorful past and how he developed his insight and priorities around healthy, good food! Thank you!!!

  2. Carol,

    Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed “meeting” your neighbor in Sausalito, Chef Davey Jones! He is a delightful person and his food is everything I said it is in the article – very fresh, delicious, and the best quality. He is a valuable asset to the Sausalito Food scene.

    Phyl.

  3. What a beautiful and thoughtful article about Daveyjones. I’ve always known of his creativity, charm and intelligence. You have given me new insights into his life. Thank you.
    Liz Johnson

  4. Liz,

    That was a lovely comment — thank you! I have lived in Marin County for a few years and had never been into Davey Jones Deli until I wrote a post on Brunch places in Sausalito. Yes, Davey Jones has led a very different life and is a uniquely interesting person. I am glad you found it insightful.

    Phyl.

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