1. What drove you to pursue your career as a chef?
My dad used to run a chili parlor in downtown Dallas. He’s a legendarily terrible cook, but I grew up with great memories of the times we had there. I always had a Dr. Pepper and donkey tails, and a farkleberry sundae for dessert.
2. Where did you study to become a chef?
I graduated from CIA in ’06, but really learned to cook at L’Espalier.
3. Is there a particular part of cooking that you most enjoy?
I love the process, whether that comes from the actual cooking or in training staff. Even cleaning.
4. The menus change very often at the restaurants. Where do you find inspiration for new recipes?
The best advice I’ve gotten is to get the best products in that we can, then try not to screw them up. “Inspiration” is an overused term for this. Last week at Apple Street Farm I picked some beautiful delicata squash, summer squash, eggplants, peppers, and the few tomatoes Chef had left. If anybody gets those ingredients together and doesn’t make ratatouille then they’re over-thinking their job.
5. What cuisines have inspired the food you create as a chef?
I think that most people really cling to the food they grew up with. I’m lucky that my Mom was a pretty eclectic cook, so I got a good amount of exposure. She was never afraid to try out new ingredients or techniques, but my favorites were always (and still are) the Tex-Mex and southern influences that I grew up around.
6. As a chef, what challenges do you most commonly face?
It definitely different for the sous chef than for the big boss. The biggest challenge, and most rewarding experience, is working with the staff. We are always pushing ourselves and each other to be constantly improving.
7. When you go out to eat, what do you enjoy ordering the most?
Whopper. Fries. Dr Pepper. I’m trying to cut back.
8. Can you name a few favorite restaurants in Boston you visit on your nights off?
Sunset Grill in Allston is one, but I rarely eat there. Hungry Mother and Franklin Café are a couple that I don’t visit nearly as much as I’d like to. Lately my favorites have been the Allston Farmer’s Market and Apple Street Farm, especially when Chef provides the lunch.
9. Do you have any favorite TV chefs or food shows?
The only one I really watch is Good Eats with Alton Brown, but that’s pretty rare.
10. Are there any Chefs you look up too or that have challenged you?
This could be a long list. The first chef that really inspired me to make a career in the kitchen was Stephanie Maldonado in Lubbock. She made cooking fun, and not just a job. Chef Eisenhauer at CIA had a big impact on how I think of what our job is. But the biggest influences were easily Frank McClelland, James Hackney, and Alex Crabb. Not only that they’re so fanatical about perfection, but that they are that way every day. Just being around them – their attitude is infectious.
11. Is there a favorite cookbook in your collection that you refer to often?
On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.
12. If you had one piece of advice to give to cooking novices, what would it be?
That this job isn’t for everyone. The people who make it in the kitchen are the ones that really love it, but if you just want to make some money there are better options. Go to school. Get a real job and make some money. If you’re still not happy with that, try crime. If that doesn’t work out, you might have a place in the kitchen.