Chef at The Chopping Block since: 2006
Favorite class to teach: That's a toss-up between "Everything's Better with Bacon" or "Knife Skills". One has amazing knives and the other has bacon wrapped pork. Once again, BACON WRAPPED PORK.
Training/education: I graduated from The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago.
Cooking since: I was knee high to a squirrel, I reckon. Which I guess would put me somewhere around 8 or 9 years old.
Favorite childhood food experience: Spending summers with my grandmother and eating her Chocolate Cream Pie as well as her Caramel Cake
What made you want to become a chef? During the middle of a dinner party in my home, my best friend said to me, "This is what you love to do, so quit your corporate job and go to cooking school".
What is your signature dish? Linguine di' Mare with Shrimp and Scallops, flamed with a little Pernod. It's what I prepared for my interview with The Chopping Block.
What are the 5 ingredients you can't live without? Chihuahua cheese, cilantro, sweet cream butter, eggs and really good canned tomatoes.
What do you love about cooking? I love the sheer art of cooking. A number of my friends are artists, and I've always admired their ability as artists. After sometime I began to realize that all chefs and cooks are artists as well, this gave me an enormous sense of pride.
When you're creating a new recipe, what influences and inspires you? Some of my favorite chefs are a great influence. Definitely the ingredients that are at hand and my late grandmother looking over me from above saying "Boy I taught you better than that, keep your eyes fixed on that roux".
What advice would you give a new cook? Always listen to your gut; believe in it and yourself.
What are you doing when you're not cooking? Traveling, having dinner with friends, going to movies.
Describe your perfect evening. Any evening I'm having dinner with any of my friends or the love of my life is a perfect evening.
If you had friends in from out of town, where would you take them to eat? To my new favorite Ethiopian restaurant called Lalibela in my neighborhood. Best Ethiopian food in Chicago! But don't tell too many people, I'm trying to keep it a secret.
Where are you from? I'm a Chicago boy, born and raised here in Chitown.
What was your favorite vacation? Hoping not to sound cliché, but it was in Paris, France.
What are your hobbies? Watching movies, collecting cookbooks, collecting vintage watches and old vinyl LP's. Just recently I began a new hobby and that is playing with my new iPhone and all its new apps. I really do need a 12 step program for that.
What is your favorite band? Steeley Dan or if I really want to go old school I would have to say The Jackson Five. They're more of a group than a band, though.
What is your favorite sports team? Although I was raised on the south side, I still consider the Chicago Cubs my favorite sports team.
If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be? The late Paul Newman, who not only was an amazing actor but was also a great humanitarian. He insisted on donating all the proceeds from his food products to charitable organizations.
What are your guilty pleasures? Twizzlers, Peanut M&M's, cheese of any kind, Fernando's mother's mole sauce and cookies with milk before heading off to bed.
Who is your favorite celebrity chef? It would have to be Julia Child. Her cookbook, "The French Chef", was one of the first cookbooks I ever purchased as well as the first cooking show I watched growing up.
What 5 tools should every new cook have in the kitchen? I believe that a new cook should have a really good chef's knife, microplane grater, food processor, quality sauté pan and measuring cups/spoons.
What resources would you suggest for Chopping Block clients? I really like "Cooks Illustrated.com" as a website resource.
List three of your favorite tips or techniques you use in the kitchen.
I believe home cooks should use any tool that they feel makes their job easier in the kitchen. One of those tools is the Rosle Garlic Press.
This tool has several tiny holes in the sieve compartment which allows peeled (or even unpeeled!) garlic to be squeezed and processed perfectly. It makes for really easy clean up because the sieve compartment swings out so you can rinse it off. Plus, it's dishwasher safe like all Rosle products.There's very little effort required to squeeze out the garlic and it because it's a Rosle product, it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
This is something I tell my students all of the time: fresh garlic beats the taste of store-bought, processed minced garlic anytime. Using a press also helps prevent the garlic taste that can be left behind when you mince garlic on your cutting board.