Chef Ask a Chef | Flip the Script
We’ve interviewed chefs from all over the place. We find out more about their menu, plans for the future and their culinary backgrounds. This time we thought it would be interesting the turn the interview on its head and create a chef ask a chef series. We asked the first question to get the ball rolling and then each chef asked another chef a question to help us get to know them. Find out what these culinary geniuses came up with when we put the reporting into their hands.
Chef Craig Strong, Montage Laguna Beach
Q: How do you learn to say No?
CS: By coming up with creative solutions. You don’t really say no. You give an alternative. You learn to say no over time when you are trying to balance lots of things in life. What you need to do is, you need to prioritize. Things go down on your priority list based on what’s the most important. It’s not that you are saying no, but you are putting it off for a while.
Chef Marc Johnson, Oak Grill
Craig Strong: How do you win over someone’s heart and who would it be?
MJ: I already won over my wife’s heart. I made that happen by making her a breakfast sandwich during the first time we met, and I think she was taken away by my thoughtfulness. I was 20 years old, working at the Studio. My pantry was full of maybe two eggs, some mustard, baking soda – not much in there. It was a real simple egg sandwich. It was the thought that counted. The gesture. I knew I wanted to marry her within the first week of courting her. She has been a part of this restaurant culinary world with me since the past 12 years. So that says a lot about a woman considering the hours we have.
Chef Grant Lawson, Crow Bar and Kitchen
Marc Johnson: If you get stuck on a deserted island, you can only bring three things, what would they be?
GL: Wife and Kids. I want my family to be deserted with me. So that’s two! Plus, plenty of food. I would be bored without food. I have been doing this for a while now. If I don’t have anything to do, I would start doing something with food. It keeps my mind busy and occupied. It calms me down. If I had nothing to do on a deserted island, I would circle the island. But now, I have family and food. So I have plenty of things to do.
Chef Lee Smith, Montage Laguna Beach
Grant Lawson: What would be your last meal and why?
LS: Of course, it would be chocolate and as many calories as possible! It would be as much chocolate as I could eat. Chocolate buffet. Any kind of Valrhona is going to be perfect. Everything chocolate – I am going to eat ice cream, chocolate cake, everything. I am going to die, so might as well go out sweet. I always loved chocolate; I grew up around chocolate. Becoming a Pastry Chef, you get exposed to fine chocolate. Chocolate is like coffee. The better quality you eat or drink, the better quality you have to have! It keeps climbing like that.
Chef Bruno Massuger, Back Bay Bistro
Lee Smith: What does the word Chef mean to you today?
BM: Today, the word Chef means to be a teacher and be able to take somebody whose has graduated from cooking school and teach them how to use the best ingredient you can purchase in the world and transform it into the best food you can eat in the world. Somewhere along the line people forgot what cooking was about. It’s about getting the culture from around the world and making the best food out of it. And today with the internet, it’s easier than ever before. It’s an art form.
Chef Chris Tzorin, Tortilla Republic
Bruno Massuger: If you had a magic wand, what restaurant would you want to put your name on or start in the future?
CT: I am all about giving back. I would love to do this restaurant where teenagers can come in and cook. They all get paid. I will probably name it Magic Wand. Say high school and culinary students, entrepreneurs, people who want to be in the industry, can come in and cook – and cook whatever they want. Everyday, the menu would be exclusive. One day you will be the server, one day a chef, the next day a manager. It’s all about learning how the restaurant industry works and how to do it. Profits from the Magic Wand would give back to the kids, teenagers, foster homes, homeless, and any other charities out there – a different charity every month. It’s about changing people’s lives. We are in the spotlight now. If I can raise awareness through my talent, I would love to give back.
Chef Pascal Olhats, Café Jardin
Chris Tzorin: If you weren’t a Chef, what would you be?
PO: If I weren’t a Chef, I would probably be in the horticulture field, working with plants and flowers. That was my second choice in life – either working in the kitchen or outdoors with plants and flowers. I picked being a Chef because I like to eat and spend time with people and make them happy with my cuisine. I would make food from my own gardening. When I was a Boy’s Scout, they loved my food.
Chef Emily Corliss, Pizzeria Mozza
Pascal Olhats: If you were on a boat and going off to sea, knowing you won’t be coming back to land; what or who are going to miss the most?
EC: I actually have two answers. First answer would be peanut butter because my feeling is that it is the world’s most perfect food. You can eat it in the morning for breakfast. You can eat it for dessert. You can have a snack with it before you work out. You can put it on toast for lunch. Or you can just eat it straight out of the jar. It’s the most versatile food you can find. Second would be Prosecco – for the same reasons.
Chef Joseph “Jo-Jo” Doyle, Executive Chef for Honda Center
Emily Corliss: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you personally and in your professional career?
JD: Personally, having a wonderful wife and four kids (all under the age of 13) is the craziest thing that has happened to me. My family is wild. Plus I am chef, and I work 100 hours a week. My family life is probably the craziest thing. Professionally, it all started out at the Kentucky Derby. I had fed over half a million people in less than a week. It taught me a lot of planning. Opening the Honda Center and taking all food and beverages in-house is the craziest thing I have done. It’s a year to plan the Derby. The Honda Center was turned onto us on July 1, and we had a NKOTB concert on July 9. We had seven days to flip the building, load in all the products, clean out the mess, and fire all the food for all the guests. And in ten days after that, we were open! So we had ticket sales for 10, 000 people – just for the soft launch. That’s crazy! We are in an arena that treats everything as a restaurant. We think like a 50 seat restaurant. There are 28 different menus that roll out daily. We feed the press, the players, the visitors, the umpires, the visiting teams, all the concession workers, and everyone else.
Chef Rick Moonen, Rick Moonen’s Seafood and RX Boiler Room
Joseph Doyle: What is your greatest failure and how did you make it into a success?
RM: I don’t know if it was a failure, but it was a challenge brought upon me. I just purchased a large amount of Yellowtail snapper when I was in Key West, Florida. And all of a sudden, we had a hurricane. So I was stuck with this perfectly fresh seafood. What was I going to do with it? So I filet it all up, sautéed and marinated it with onions, jalapenos, oregano, and some vinegar; and made an escabeche out of it. It was a huge challenge that was a failure, because you would lose all of your stock because there is no one in your restaurant due to hurricane. When we finally opened with all that marinated fish, it was one of the biggest successes we had that became the number one selling item in our menu. Out of necessity comes success! You never know what’s going to happen in life. Walk through it with passion and love, and out of it comes great rewards. It’s about the journey. Keep your eyes open for those life-changing opportunities.
Chef Rainer Schwarz, Driftwood Kitchen
Rick Moonen: Food security – what are we supposed to do to feed the increasing population of our planet?
RS: We have six billion people on Earth. Obviously, a few nations are completely overeating and wasting a lot. And other nations are clearly under eating. So if we find the right balance between all the nations then we are on the right track. We have enough food growing to feed Earth’s population ten times over. But, unfortunately, it’s a distribution problem. We have to figure out a way to properly distribute food efficiently without wasting.
Chef Scott Brandon, Fireside Tavern
Rainer Schwarz: If money were no object, what would you do with it? Would you still be in the food business?
SB: I would probably pack all my things and move to St. Sebastian, Spain. Then I would open up a little shop that seats a dozen people and cook whatever that came to my mind every day. Small amounts. Great quality product. As soon as the food runs out, we would close the door and start drinking. Keep it simple. Enjoy the cooking. Keep it small and intimate. Get to know the people. When you cook on such a small scale, you get to know your guests’ likes and dislikes. It’s fun and an intimate experience that I get to enjoy.
Chef Casey Overton, Montage Laguna Beach
Scott Brandon: Stones or Beatles? Why?
CO: Definitely, Stones because I’m cool! Beatles are for you juniors. To me, Stones really have the guts. That’s what I like about them. They have a lot more personality and a lot more guts. You got to have that in the kitchen. It translates into the food you make. You have to be able to take risks and step outside the box. And do something that’s edgy, but also timeless. The Stones are timeless and much more exciting to me. I have a much better time listening to their music while cooking. It provokes the memories of chasing after the dream and getting after them. Just going for it! Taking risks and being the best chef you can be.
Chef Tony Nguyen, Anqi
Casey Overton: What is your most memorable philanthropic moment?
TN: We are developing something called Cause for Cuisine. It’s a prix fixe menu very similar to restaurant week where its three courses. Each portion goes to one charity. That’s my memorable moment. We also donate to the Boys and Girls Club. Personally, I love feeding people and introducing them to new types of food. What drives me is I love to create moments for people and opening their minds to new ideas. Giving them new experiences through food and connecting various cultures. That’s what makes it memorable for me.
Chef Steve Kling, Five Crowns
Tony Nguyen: Love or food? And why?
SK: Love. I find myself very involved with emotions. And I think good food is derived from love in a lot of ways. Not just love, but also other strong emotions like anger and jealousy for example. You dig deep when you create something. Emotions are a very strong part of the artistic process. In order to create good food, you need to have love for what you do. Love for food, if you will. Always cook with love. It’s always evident on the plate when you have cooked from the heart.
Chef Dante Ascenzi, Wildfish Seafood Grille
Steve Kling: How much do you spend on liquor every week? Which and why?
DA: $160 a week. I have an eclectic pallet. I drink in trends. So one week I will drinks Mules. That’s what I like and so I will buy a bunch of different alcohol and I will make different mules. Then one week it would be wine. My wife and I would buy a bunch of wine and then we would drink wine that week. One week we will go back to my roots and just drink Jim Beams with a couple of ice cubes. I really like Jager too. Just whatever we are feeling like that week. We will switch it up by week. It’s just about not being stuck on one cuisine. It’s about being open-minded and trying new things. Being eclectic. Playing around with food and coming up with new things. That’s what it is about.
Chef Ashley Santo Domingo, 24 Carrots
Dante Ascenzi: Where do you get your inspiration from to do what you are doing today?
AD: I get my inspiration not only from amazing Chefs that I have worked with in the past but also from all of the amazing upcoming Chefs that are around me. It’s very important to know what everyone is doing and being a part of what they are doing. I try to actively go and eat at their restaurants. Definitely a lot of my inspiration does come from Seattle, Washington, which is where I am from. I moved here two years ago, and it’s been a little hard to move away from the Pacific Northwest. So I do like to use a lot of seafood and fish. A ton of inspiration comes from there.
Chef Joshua Severson, Selanne Steak Tavern
Ashley Santo Domingo: What’s the next trend?
JS: Let’s get rid of gasoline! I am tired of pumping so much gas into my car every month. The next trend is to look into the future for more renewable sources of energy that are sustainable. We should try getting away from the fossil fuels. I see that the oil business is running the world, and I don’t like that.