Chef at The Chopping Block since: 2009
Favorite class to teach: Ramen Workshop, Whole Hog and Meat Butchery (and I still love teaching Sushi).
Training/education: University of Illinois, Landscape Architecture; Art Institute of Colorado, Culinary Arts
Cooking since: Childhood/Professionally since 2001
Favorite childhood food experience: Having dinner at Gramma and Grampa's every week. Every Christmas Eve dinner since I was born. Slices of fresh, giant tomatoes from the garden with just a little salt. Summer pig roasts for my sister's birthday. Eating polenta with our hands off of a board in the middle of Gramma's table. Spending time with my mother in the kitchen. Spending time with my father in the garden and in the field, on the hunt. Spending two days in the kitchen with my Gramma before I went off to school. Having pizzele and ice cream sandwiches in the middle of the night with Grampa.
What made you want to become a chef? See above… no, seriously.
What is your signature dish? Hamachi Sashimi with Chile Ginger Soy, Daikon, Fried Garlic and Sea Salt. I also make a mean Osso Buco with Risotto.
What are the 5 ingredients you can't live without? Salt, pork, good stock, garlic, vinegars, and of course… butter. Can I stick brown sugar in there too?
What do you love about cooking? Making something that other people enjoy and that brings them together. It is also one of the few things that really utilizes all of our senses. What is better then that?
When you're creating a new recipe, what influences and inspires you? Ingredients, shopping, seeing what's out there, finding what's new.
What advice would you give a new cook? Don't be afraid to get messy; get your hands into your food. It creates a connection to your food unlike anything else. The first line of James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking is, and I quote, "Cooking starts with your hands, the most important and basic of all implements." Also, treat recipes like guidelines, not absolutes, be creative.
What are you doing when you're not cooking? Building knives and woodworking projects in my garage workshop. Enjoying life with my wife and our dog, Remington.
Describe your perfect evening. A hot dog and a baseball game with the love of my life. ‘nuff said.
If you had friends in from out of town, where would you take them to eat? My kitchen! I absolutely love both the Publican and Avec.
Where are you from? Genoa, IL, but I lived in Denver for 8 years.
What was your favorite vacation? For our first anniversary, my wife and I spent three weeks in Italy, travelling through Rome, Abruzzo, and Campania. It was amazing to see the places that my family is from and the local foods that are there.
What are your hobbies? Woodworking, Fishing, Hunting, Shooting.
What is your favorite band? Toss up between Led Zeppelin and the Black Crowes, but I have had a serious Black Keys addiction for the last few years.
What is your favorite sports team? Cubbies… duh.
If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be? Anthony Bourdain. Talk about total food debauchery!
What are your guilty pleasures? ICE CREAM, I would love to meet the person who "invented" it so I can shake their hand and say "Thank You" and then curse them at the same time. Man, I would be 20 lbs lighter if it was not for that stuff.
Who is your favorite celebrity chef? Masaharu Morimoto
What 5 tools should every new cook have in the kitchen?
What resources would you suggest for Chopping Block students? Traditions, the brains of people that are older then you, The Food Lovers Companion, James Beard's Theory and Practice of Good Cooking, your local Library
List your favorite tips or techniques you use in the kitchen. I am typically not a “tips and tricks” kind of guy, so my favorite techniques are braising and slow roasting/grilling. Anyone can crank up their stove and “sear” the heck out of something, but it takes some time, low heat, and love to make a beautifully braised dish out of a piece of meat that was tough and less desirable.
My favorite piece of equipment is the Le Creuset Braiser. I find it to be one of the most versatile pans.
Not only can you braise in it (one of my favorite techniques) but it works well to saute or brown just about anything.
Its size allows you to get the right amount in the pan and the cast iron really holds the heat well and evenly.