Jon Koobatian’s Cucumber and Kalamata Appetizer

In the Kitchen with Jon Koobation: Cucumber and Kalamata Appetizer


FRESNO — Throwing a party any time soon? Chef Jon Koobation has just the right appetizer recipe. “I recently created this recipe for one of my wife’s get-togethers with her friends, and it was a complete hit. It’s easy to make and assemble, and is perfect as an appetizer on a mezze table for special events, buffets, or to serve at the holidays…”

Jon was the owner and head chef at the acclaimed Jon’s Bear Club in Reedley, California for several decades before he retired. Born in Dinuba, a small farming town in the San Joaquin Valley, Jon’s history with The Bear Club started many years earlier. He learned his trade on the job, working first as a prep cook and sous chef at major Lake Tahoe-area restaurants before returning to the Reedley area. He then worked at the celebrated Vallis’ Restaurant in Kingsburg, the Redwood Inn of Sultana, Dinuba Ranch, and the Swedish Mill, and became The Bear Club’s executive chef in 1973. And the rest is history.

Through the 1970s and mid-1980s, Jon’s restaurant established itself as a fine steakhouse featuring exceptional food and friendly customer service. “Using the freshest local ingredients available each season was always appreciated by our guests,” says Jon, “and one of the top reasons they chose to return again and again.” Under his direction, the restaurant became a treasured part of the local community and home to countless family meals and  special celebrations that welcomed generation after generation of San Joaquin Valley residents.

“We had infants brought into the restaurant by their parents, who grew up and came back and worked for us,” Jon says. “After having been there 40 plus years, you see generations come and go.”

His must-read cookbook, Cooking with Jon, is a legacy of Jon’s vast culinary experiences, his many years in the local restaurant business, family traditions, fond memories, and personal recollections. Also included are brilliant photos to go with the recipes – photos that make you feel like you could just reach down and pick up the delicious food. Some of the recipes included are: Charred Asparagus Roll-Ups, New York Steak, Lobster Bisque, Tortilla Crusted Salmon, Cabbage Dolma with Beef and Lamb, Chicken George, Jon’s Grandma Bazarian’s famous Armenian Shish Kebab, and how to make your own kettle corn at home.

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Cucumber and Kalamata Appetizer


1 medium English cucumber, washed and diced

1/2 cup chopped Kalamata olives, or a little more

1/2 cup minced yellow or green onions, or a little more

Chopped flat-leaf parsley

Topics: appetizers

Lemon juice, olive oil, fresh lemon zest, to taste

Kosher salt and coarse black pepper

Flat bread, crackers, crostini, lahvosh or pita chips

Fresh vegetables

1 cup dried diced figs

1-2 cups store-bought hummus, or a little more

1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled


For the Kalamata olive tapenade: Jon combines the chopped Kalamata olives with the onions, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt and pepper. Check seasonings, cover, and chill for 1-2 hours (or overnight) before using.

For the sherry-honey figs: Jon dices dried figs and rehydrates them in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of cream sherry and honey, then lets them sit on the counter for a couple of hours. The figs will absorb all the moisture.

For whipped Feta cheese: Jon adds a few tablespoons of heavy cream and cream cheese to 1 cup of crumbled Feta cheese, and whisks them together for a minute until they are light and fluffy.


To serve, spread the hummus as the base on a platter, and top with the cucumbers and Kalamata olive tapenade.

Place the sherry-honey figs on the top, and finish with the whipped Feta cheese mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper and more lemon zest, if desired. Serve with fresh chilled vegetables, flat bread, crackers, crostini, lahvosh or pita chips.

Contact Jon at: to order his book and for a personally signed copy. His book is available for sale at The Market Grocery Store and at Sam’s Deli & Cucina in Fresno, California.

Jon Koobation was the recipient of the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award in the California Restaurant Association’s “Best of the Valley” awards. The Lifetime Achievement Award is one part of a much larger event: year after year, the Best of the Valley Restaurant Awards recognize the Fresno area’s restaurants for excellence in each of dozens of categories, highlighting the large variety of available food and culinary arts in this region. The nominees are chosen by the most discriminating audience: their fellow restaurateurs. “Cooking has been my passion in life. It has filled my entire life with joy,” shares Jon in the cookbook.

Chef Jon Koobation in the kitchen at his Fresno home

References: est-of-the-valley-restaurant-awards-to-recognize-a-part-of-reedley-community -history-lifetime-achievement-award-jon-koobation

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