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Chef Ricky Simpson, Jr.

Chef at The Chopping Block since: 2014

Favorite class to teach: Seafood 101 & DIY Steakhouse

Training/education: Ilinois Institute of Art - Chicago

Cooking since: 11 years old

Favorite childhood food experience: My mom's homemade red velvet cake

What made you want to become a chef? I couldn't continue to run from my passion for cooking.

What is your signature dish? Sweet & Spicy Glazed Salmon with Pesto Corn

What are the 5 ingredients you can't live without? Salt, Butter, White Wine, Good Chicken Stock & Salmon

What do you love about cooking? I love that it's the center of entertaining.

When you're creating a new recipe, what influences and inspires you? The opportunity to make something even better than before and putting my twist to it.

What advice would you give a new cook? Relax and listen to your food; it will speak to you.

What are you doing when you're not cooking? Spending time with my wife and kids, unless the Bears are playing.

Describe your perfect evening. A day off with a babysitter at home and my wife on my arm to hit the city.

If you had friends in from out of town, where would you take them to eat? It depends on who it is, but possibly DMK County BBQ or VIE in Western Springs.

Where are you from? South Side of Chicago.

What was your favorite vacation? Miami vacation with my girlfriend who is now my wife.

What are your hobbies? Fruit carving, listening to music, basketball, bowling and shooting pool.

What is your favorite band? The Roots

What is your favorite sports team? Chicago Bears & Chicago Bulls!

If you could have dinner with one person, who would it be? My brother

What are your guilty pleasures? I can't stop eating Oreo cookies.

Who is your favorite celebrity chef? Bobby Flay & Alton Brown

What 5 tools should every new cook have in the kitchen?

  • Good chef's knife
  • Good saute pan
  • Nice cutting board
  • Tongs
  • A real sauce pot

What resources would you suggest for Chopping Block students? Northwest Cutlery for knife sharpening and The Chopping Block for knowledge and good wine.Utilize the chefs; we are willing to share our expertise.

List your favorite tips or techniques you use in the kitchen.

  • Keep your knife sharp.
  • If you are cooking fish, use a nice sturdy pan like cast iron and get it hot before adding your oil and fish to it.
  • Your pinch of salt is not a chef's pinch. Add enough to draw the flavor from your food.
Ricky's Favorite Product

FlameDutchOvenMy favorite product that we offer here at The Chopping Block is the Le Creuset Dutch Oven. This is a very sturdy and high quality piece of equipment that will last a very long time and gets the job done time and time again.

It's weight is one of its many attractions to me. If you want to cook a nice slow-roasted pulled pork in it with the lid on, no problem. On the flip side, shallow frying shrimp is a breeze. It holds temperatures perfectly and the clean up is decent as long as you don't burn the food in it.

Cast iron is one my favorites and one of the best conductors of heat and Le Creuset brings that to the table with a twist, by coating it with enamel. Genius!