Chef at The Chopping Block since: 2021
Favorite class to teach: French Bistro
Training/education: California Culinary Academy; San Francisco restaurants
Cooking since: Professionally since 1992, but dabbling well before then.
Favorite childhood food experience: Having pesto for the first time and trying fried mozzarella sticks (what kind of alchemy is this?!) - if you can imagine a day these things weren’t ubiquitous. And every deep dish meal I ate back then. And digging up carrots from a friend’s garden. And, and…
What made you want to become a chef? I love to eat SO MUCH. And I like to share good food with others.
What is your signature dish? Brisket with red wine, and Cioppino (I like braises.)
What are the 5 ingredients you can't live without? Olive oil, salt, cheese, butter, lemon. I guess I like fat.
What do you love about cooking? I love nudging food to play with the taste buds. I love the tactile craft. I love passing time in a room, the kitchen, that smells great. I love the toys.
When you're creating a new recipe, what influences and inspires you? I look for influence in all of the meals I’ve had and the books and articles I’ve read and the shows I’ve watched. But far and away the greatest influences are the ingredients I start with.,
What advice would you give a new cook? Just because your result is not what you intended doesn’t mean it’s not valid and good. Enjoy what you’ve made! It might take 3 or 4 tries before it looks the way you want it. Find the pleasure in the process.
What are you doing when you're not cooking? Goofing with the kids. And eating. Maybe watching a movie.
Describe your perfect evening. A long drawn-out dinner with my family. An assortment of tastes, solid and liquid. Great conversation.
If you had friends in from out of town, where would you take them to eat? Parachute. I love the variety of flavors and size of portions to allow lots of sampling.
Where are you from? Highland Park, IL
What was your favorite vacation? Over time my objective for a vacation has shifted from adventure to relaxation. Oaxaca, where my wife and I honeymooned in 2005, has both in spades. And eating there is a full-time activity.
What are your hobbies? I love to draw and paint, play tennis, ski (cross country and downhill), and listen to music, live or otherwise.
What is your favorite band? Pavement
What is your favorite sports team? Cubs
If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be? Tom Waits
What are your guilty pleasures? Twix, Cheetos, staying in bed late, People Magazine, air conditioning. Ugh, I’m awful.
Who is your favorite celebrity chef? Thomas Keller—the man’s got class. Anthony Bourdain, though I think of him more as a sociologist than a chef.
What 5 tools should every new cook have in the kitchen? Tongs. One sharp chef knife. Your “spirit” wooden spoon - it will call to you. A large cutting board. An apron: putting it on tells you you’re cooking - it’s transformative.
What resources would you suggest for Chopping Block clients? The TCB staff! There’s a lot of knowledge in that group, and they’re an email away, excited to give their thoughts.
List three of your favorite tips or techniques you use in the kitchen. Before you add more salt, consider adding an acid. Clean as you go. Re-write the recipe to learn it better and make it clearer to follow.