When was the moment you knew you wanted to become a chef?
I knew I wanted to cook for a living after high school. I was working locally in a fine dining restaurant, and I had heard of this culinary school in Pittsburgh doing an open house locally, so I went.
What’s your favorite dish to cook at the moment?
That’s difficult. Anything local I can find that is in season, items that are sort of off the beaten path. Things most people in my area are not quite using. I’ve been researching several different varieties of the vegetables we get and comparing flavors, textures.
Who is a chef you really admire and why?
Currently, Dan Barber. I’ve always had a respect for him, but the more I read about him, the more I appreciate what he is trying to do for the industry. Sustainability is paramount. Not using a farm’s main crop. Using things they usually put to the wayside. I also appreciate his “quality over quantity” approach. Breeding and growing vegetables for flavor, not yield.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your career thus far?
Most recently I was asked to cook a course at the James Beard House in NYC for the “Wild About Game Dinner” held by Fossil Farms, a local wild game company I use out of New Jersey. I decided on doing the dessert course, which was very challenging.
What is the biggest challenge of your career?
The biggest challenge of my career is trying to maintain some balance between work and being a father to both my sons. It’s very difficult at times.
You’re on a desert island. What chef’s tool do you bring with you?
If I were stuck on an island I’d bring a serrated knife. Might need to build a shelter or saw through a coconut!
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure food?
Store bought ramen, but with lemongrass paste, curry and vegetables.
What’s the greatest lengths you have traveled to produce a dish or find an ingredient?
I have sourced ingredients from several parts of the United States just for one dish. It took a lot of planning, timing and organization.
What advice would you give up-and-coming chefs?
My advice to upcoming Chef’s would be to travel and to read. Work in a different country. Different cities. Do it while you are young. Absorb as much knowledge as you can, and always have several books by your side. Philosophy, books about nature. Cookbooks.
How would you describe your cooking philosophy in five words or less?
Fundamental. Abstract. Whimsical. Ironic. Fresh.
If you could have one chef superpower, what would it be?
A complete understanding of every cooking technique ever used in the history of Culinary Arts.
What’s your favorite food city and what’s your favorite dish there?
One of my favorite food cities is Philadelphia. I love going down to the noodle houses for a steaming bowl of pho.
What’s an ingredient that you’ve changed your mind about over your career?
Offal. Early in my career I did not have a true understanding of it. Over time, I was taught how to work with every part of the animal. Wasting none. It takes a certain amount of skill and knowledge to make say, tripe pleasing to the palate.
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