Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking. Sunday dinners at my Italian Grandmother's house were a seemingly endless feast of great food, love and laughter, all orchestrated and executed by my tireless Nana. I have very fond memories of watching her at work, and occasionally being recruited to her side to help. These days I find I'm happiest when the house is full of family and friends, all milling about and having fun, while I'm up to my ears in it, just like she used to be. What's your least favorite food? I was about to say "fishy" fish, but I think I have to go with Andouillette sausage. Andouillette, not to be confused with Andouille (which was the mistake I made in ordering one in the first place), is a French sausage stuffed with tripe, or pig chitterlings (intestine and colon). A Brit I know likes to call it "arse sausage", and that moniker pretty well captures the horrific smell and taste of the stuff.
What is the best thing you've made so far this year? I recently made two quiches for a friend's 50th birthday brunch that were really outstanding. They were Thomas Keller's Florentine and Lorraine quiches from the "Bouchon" cookbook, and I must say that they were among the best things I've ever put in my mouth.
Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster. Years ago, when I first started to cook "seriously" I made a shrimp and pasta dish for a visiting friend who I knew to be a gourmand. I had pulled the recipe from a popular cooking magazine, and there was a typo in it which called for 1 cup of flour (as opposed to 1 teaspoon, or tablespoon which I suspect is what was really required) to thicken the sauce. It seemed odd to me at the time, but I didn't yet have the kitchen confidence to trust my instinct and question the recipe, so I added the full cup of flour to the dish. Ugh....I can still see the look on my friends' face as he graciously choked down that truly inedible meal.
What is your idea of comfort food? Almost anything that is cooked low and slow qualifies for me, whether it be a confit or cassoulet, braised short ribs or osso bucco, or a delicious tagine.
Apron or no apron? Generally no apron.
What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie? The prep and consumption of the final meal in "Big Night".
If you could make a show-stopping dinner for one person, living or dead, who would it be? I can't decide on just one, it would have to be both Amanda and Merrill.
You prefer to cook: a. alone, b. with others, c. it depends on your mood There are somedays when I like the peace of cooking alone, but I'm usually in the mood for company.
When it comes to tidying up, you usually: a. clean as you cook, b. do all the dishes once you've finished cooking, c. leave the kitchen a shambles for your spouse/roommate/kids to clean. My wife will almost certainly raise an eyebrow of disbelief if she gets to read this, but I am a clean as I cook kind of guy. It was one of the first lessons drilled into me when I studied at LCB, and one that I am most thankful for. It is hard for me to cook well, or efficiently, if my "station" is not clean and organized.
Oui, Chef with his two daughters (left) and three sons