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Chef Javier Jimenez and pastry chef Heather Jimenez, who happen to be high school sweethearts, joined the Eagle Mountain Casino team in April 2010.

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Heather Jimenez is the pastry chef at Eagle Mountain.

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Javier Jimenez is a chef at The River Steakhouse at Eagle Mountain Casino.

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Berry cheesecake by Eagle Mountain Casino pastry chef Heather Jimenez

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Venison Medallions by The River Steakhouse chef Javier Jimenez at Eagle Mountain Casino.

On your next visit to Eagle Mountain Casino, which is just outside of Porterville, be sure to take a break from the blackjack tables and slot machines to unwind and feast at The River Steakhouse.

Chef Javier Jimenez and pastry chef Heather Jimenez, who happen to be high school sweethearts, attended ITT Technical Institute's School of Culinary Arts to pursue their mutual passion for food. Together, they joined the Eagle Mountain team in April 2010.

This talented married couple took some time to share a couple of their favorite recipes with Bakersfield Life Magazine, and a little about themselves and their work.

What first got you interested in the culinary arts?

Javier Jimenez: Although I have a formal education in the culinary arts, it was my mother and father, both of whom were excellent chefs, who embedded my first interest in the culinary world. I grew up with both parents being professional chefs in many local restaurant kitchens. It was always a favorite pastime to help in the kitchen, and has now transpired into a career that I love, which gives me the ability to share many family recipes passed from generation to generation.

Heather Jimenez: Since I was about 10, I have always been in the kitchen. I loved helping my mother and grandmother bake, especially during the holidays. They taught me age-old recipes that are still some of my favorites to this day. Coming from a family of bakers, it was no real surprise that this is where I found my passion.

How is cooking for a casino restaurant different than cooking in a restaurant?

JJ: The pace is very different. At a normal restaurant, it's about getting things done. Here, at The River Steakhouse, it's about perfection, persistence and offering that succulent meal that provides more value than you can find anywhere else.

HJ: For the buffet, we make delicious desserts en masse. We make home-style goodies that you would normally see out of your grandma's kitchen. For the steakhouse, we serve more decadent desserts that guests savor. Everything is homemade, from the piecrusts, fruit filling, vanilla flavoring, to the whipped cream. We have definitely become known for having some of the best desserts.

What is your favorite dish to prepare?

JJ: I would have to say that the homemade marinara sauce with spaghetti squash would be my favorite dish to make. It is an old family favorite that has quickly become a favorite for many vegetarians here at The River Steakhouse.

What are the restaurant's most frequently ordered dishes?

JJ: The stuffed mushrooms are an all-time favorite, likely from their consistent taste and good reputation. We hear all the time, "We were told we have to try your famous stuffed mushrooms." The same goes for the steak-wrapped asparagus. For entrees, that would have to be our rib-eye. Again, the value for what you are getting is just incomparable. A steak that size (18 ounces), with that flavor, is very hard to find for the price.

HJ:Our most popular dessert in The River Steakhouse is our crème brulee. It is special due to the time we take to prepare it and, more importantly, for the fresh ingredients. As for the Forest Buffet, our cheesecake is an all-time favorite. We put a lot of time into making our cheesecakes, so they will be just right. Desserts are prepared for both restaurants fresh daily.

What are the challenges in cooking for patrons of a casino, and what are the payoffs?

JJ: Once they try the steakhouse, our guests often find their favorites on the menu, and come back for the same dish. Adding new items to the menu can be difficult. The payoff is that we get to see people more than once and get feedback on what they like or what they would like to see on the menu again. We really listen to our guests to ensure their experience is as positive and personal as possible.