Bopping into the room with a smile and a bottle of fresh green juice in his hand, Executive Chef Rafael Molina does not immediately read as a “French Chef.” For one thing, he’s lean. He attributes it to the intermittent fasting he uses to balance his voracious love of good food.
“I love baking; I can BAKE,” Molina said with dramatic awe. “I love all types of bread. The baguette is the best because I can do it from start to finish in two hours. Sourdough is so good and sour; I have had a sourdough starter for 23 years. People eat sourdough, and they don’t know what’s behind it. You have to let it ferment. Then the day you’re making it, it’s four to five hours of folding, folding, folding. And then you shape it how you want it for the next day.”
He’s a man who loves cooking and creating exquisite dishes, evidenced as he continued to rhapsodize over his love of baking. “I have another French dessert I love; it’s an iconic cherry custard. Cherries, cream, milk, a little flour, and vanilla extract. You bake it, and it’s like heaven.”
His love of food firmly established, Molina explained what it’s like working for Boisset Collection proprietor and native Frenchman Jean-Charles Boisset.
“Usually, before events, people tell chefs the wines they are using and ask to see a menu [to approve], and then they’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t want that.’ Jean-Charles trusts and believes in me. He says, ‘I’m having a dinner at my house—what are we making, Rafael, so I can pick out the wines?’”
Chef Molina has been able to win over Boisset, a refined man known for having specific tastes, even though French cooking is said to be one of the most difficult to perfect, and the Mexico native is not formally trained in French cuisine. “He always wants to impress [his guests], and I learned by doing it. What I make depends on the season; it could be Vichyssoise, or in the winter, we can do Boeuf Bourguignon or Coq au Vin.” He picks ingredients from the biodynamic gardens at Raymond Estate.
Over the decade he’s honed his skills with Boisset, Molina’s dishes have delighted many, including celebrities like American singer-songwriter John Legend. With his keen food and wine knowledge and endless sources of creativity, Molina’s dishes are known for being innovative and providing an unforgettable dining experience.
During the pandemic, Molina and Boisset created a YouTube cooking program, “JCB Live,” a virtual happy hour with the two charming and engaging hosts that brought Molina more deserved notoriety.
In addition to his gourmet cooking, Molina enhances culinary offerings at many of the fast-moving Boisset’s ventures. He creates beautiful menus and meals for events at wineries and private dinners at Boisset’s home. He contributes to the culinary programs at the Calistoga Depot, Oakville Grocery, and Oakville mobile food trucks. He also develops culinary concepts for new endeavors for The Boisset Collection’s continued growth.
His synergy with Boisset is a recurring theme. “He’s one of the most amazing people I ever worked for. He has respect for me, and I respect him. He’s so grateful, at the end of the night, he says, ‘It was amazing, Rafael. Thank you so much.’ Always, always. ‘Thank you.’”
Recipe by Executive Chef Rafael Molina
• 2 cups fresh sweet cherries, pitted
•2 tablespoons blanched slivered almonds
• 3 large eggs
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar (can reduce to 1/4 cup)
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup whole or 2% milk
• 3/4 teaspoon almond extract (can sub 2 teaspoons of amaretto)
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Prepare the dish: Butter and lightly flour a 9×9-inch or 10×7-inch baking dish. Scatter the cherries and slivered almonds over the bottom of the dish.
Make the batter: Whisk the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together until combined. Whisk in the salt and flour until smooth. Then whisk in the milk, almond extract, and vanilla extract.
Pour the batter into the baking dish over the cherries and slivered almonds.
Bake at 350°F for 35 to 45 minutes or until lightly browned and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Check about halfway through the baking, and if the top is getting well browned, tent it loosely with aluminum foil.
Remove from the oven to cool.
When cool, dust the clafoutis with powdered sugar. Serve.