WAVELAND -- As the smell of blueberries and white wine filled the kitchen at the McCubbin home, the grill outside was smoking hot. Chad McCubbin was preparing fresh snapper -- he'd caught it himself -- to go on a cedar plank over the coals.
The indie band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros was playing on the speaker, and McCubbin seemed to be doing four things at once. He was making a reduction for his mango-cherry risotto, stirring organic blueberries for a compote, chopping fresh garlic and preparing to throw more snapper -- this time pecan-crusted -- into the oven.
The menu for Thursday was complex. In two hours, McCubbin, with prep help from two friends, made three snapper dishes: a pecan-crusted snapper with blueberry compote topping paired with Thai purple long beans (from his backyard garden), a blackened snapper on top of mango-cherry risotto, and an herb-rubbed cedar-grilled snapper with a smoky kale salad made with apples, onions and bacon drippings.
He made everything himself, including the blackening seasoning.
"I just made all this up yesterday," he said as he was stirring the risotto, adding pinot grigio to the skillet.
He's got a year of culinary school under his belt, and he trained for a year and a half at Cochon Butcher in downtown New Orleans.
But McCubbin doesn't work as a chef in a restaurant -- he said he'd work in a restaurant only if it were one he owned. He takes pride in creating dishes and serving them to friends and family.
"I don't want to cook someone else's food," he said. "It might sound selfish, but I wouldn't be happy doing it."
Instead, he works as produce manager for the Claiborne Hill grocery store in Waveland.
So it's his social circle and close family who reap the rewards of his inventive menus and culinary masterpieces.
And for him, presentation isn't exactly key. He serves all of his creations on paper plates.
While watching a television cooking show one day, he noticed chefs often plated food on fine china and added outlandish garnishes. He said the meal should be about the food's taste and presentation, not the accessories.
"I thought it would be funny to put all this fancy food on paper plates," he said. "No white table cloth. No china. It's about the food, not the plates or silverware."
And that's how he markets his dishes on Facebook -- with the hashtag #fancyfoodonpaperplates.
When his father, Dave McCubbin, walked into their home, he noticed his son had bought a nicer-quality paper plate to hold his food.
"Oh, you got fancy paper plates?" he joked. "What's wrong with the Styrofoam plates we use all the time?"
Chad McCubbin said he made all three snapper meals for $70.