The Great Mike Ward’s Papas Bravas

“I’M WHAT YOU would call a ‘working chef’ — I believe that chefs should work side by side with their team in the kitchen to teach and maintain the high standards that they hold,” says El Paseo’s Mike Ward of the style he has developed during more than 15 years in the culinary world. “You’re only as good as the team you work with.” Ward migrated from Sacramento — where he was formerly executive chef at Slocum House (Closed) and sous chef at The Kitchen — to the Bay Area in 2013, after El Paseo owners Sammy Hagar and Tyler Florence invited him to head up their recently revamped kitchen. Since then, the chef has been working to build the best possible team and to create an atmosphere where staffers can continue to cultivate their passion for food. Ward believes that becoming a chef is an unending pursuit; he is a continual student of his craft. Prior to settling in Sactown, he worked for some of the nation’s top restaurants and chefs in Boston and Manhattan (including the acclaimed Chef Tony Maws) and since putting down roots at El Paseo has developed strong relationships with local vendors — you can find him hunting down ingredients at the Marin farmers’ market in San Rafael on the weekends. Here he shares the recipe for a crowd-pleasing El Paseo starter: papas bravas.

Papas Bravas



  • ½ bunch rosemary
  • ½ bunch thyme
  • ½ bunch parsley
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 head garlic root, end cut off
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1½ cups salt
  • 1 pound baby Yukon gold potatoes
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • Canola oil
  • 5 large red bell peppers, roasted
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon
  • Espelette (or ¼ tablespoon cayenne pepper)
  • ¾ cup Don Bruno sherry vinegar (or any good Spanish sherry vinegar)

To Prepare

For Potatoes

  1. Place all aromatics in a sachet d’épice (cheesecloth tied with butcher twine).
  2. Pour about one gallon of water into a large pot and add the sachet d’épice and salt.
  3. Lightly simmer potatoes in the water until fork tender.
  4. Let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate (this will help set the starch).

For Sauce

  1. Char onions in canola oil on stove top.
  2. Add roasted and cleaned peppers to the pan. (To roast: place whole peppers on a sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes — until skins are wrinkled and peppers charred — turning twice during cooking.)
  3. Add water, olive oil, Espelette and Don Bruno.
  4. Lightly simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Place in a drink blender and blend on high until smooth.

To Finish

  1. Smash the potatoes lightly with fork.
  2. Pan- or deep-fry potatoes until deep golden brown.
  3. Toss the crispy Yukons in the pepper sauce and serve with mayo or aioli.

his article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Working Together“.