We put six of the area’s brightest culinary lights on the spot, peppering them with an array of penetrating (and not-so-penetrating) questions. Who says chefs don’t have a
sense of humor?
Five ingredients she can’t live without: Coffee, cheese, chocolate, shredded wheat and bran cereals, tequenos (Venezuelan finger food). For work purposes: chocolate, vanilla, butter, cream and eggs.
Food most people fear: Anything that’s unknown.
Worst cooking disaster: I made a cheesecake recipe baked in different batches that never came out, threw away the rest of the mix and did it again. Later I realized I’d doubled the amount of sugar.
Signature dish: At the places I’ve worked, I was recognized for my gelatos and sorbets.
Culinary trend she could live without: Oversized portions.
Favorite culinary resource: I love to read. Every time I can, I sit down in a bookstore with a cup of coffee and a pile of books. The cookbooks that have traditional, old recipes are the best ones so I can deconstruct them and recreate them my way.
What she’d eat if no one were watching: A whole jar of Nutella with a fresh-baked French baguette.
Biggest mistake amateurs make in the kitchen: Because baking is an exact science, people are always afraid to do it from scratch. If you have a good recipe and the right tools, go ahead and prepare anything you want. Just remember to enjoy yourself while doing it. If it doesn’t come out as expected, it doesn’t matter. You can always do it again.
Fantasy restaurant: I’d like to own a two-story building with a gourmet pastry retail store on the first floor and a small baking school for adults on the second floor.
What she’d make for an impromptu dinner: If I was at home, a succulent dark chocolate mocha mousse. If I was at work, a vanilla marscapone pot de crème with fresh seasonal fruits and a chocolate crisp.
Greatest culinary feat: As a sous chef at Le Cirque, cooking a menu for Paul Bocuse, who responded, “It was great.” The most fun feat was while cooking in Paris. I had to come up with a new dessert for the menu. Cheese cake sounds better as fromage torte, I guess. The ironic thing is that I had to import Philadelphia cream cheese from the U.S.
Five ingredients he can’t live without: Sea salt, olive oil, black pepper, lemon and parsley.
Most prized culinary tool: Surgical tongs.
Favorite line of cookware and knives: Lyon frying pan (carbon steel with cast iron handle); Japanese knives by Glestain.
Food most people fear: Unfamiliar raw food; uni or sea urchin.
Worst cooking disaster: While serving as a consultant at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, I spent some time preparing a meal with members of the U.S. Culinary Olympic Team. I was reducing heavy cream, doing two things at once, and let the cream overflow on to the flattop stove. Very messy and smoky; more embarrassing than a disaster.
Favorite meal to make at home: In the winter, my wife Tina and I love white truffles, scrabbled eggs, fresh baked potato bread and a cool bottle of Chardonnay. In the summer, that first warm tomato out of our garden on fresh bread, with sea salt and lots of mayonnaise.
Culinary trend he could live without: Baseball hats in the kitchen.
Person he’d like to cook for most: The Dalai Lama. He seems to have a great sense of humor.
What he’d eat if no one were watching: A hot dog.
Biggest mistake amateurs make in the kitchen: Not getting a pan hot enough for searing.
Greatest culinary feat: Opening Majolica.
Five ingredients he can’t live without: Bottled water, sea salt, oysters, raw butter, farm-fresh eggs.
Food most people fear: “Undercooked” fish.
Worst cooking disaster: Wasting professional time in mediocre restaurants.
Favorite meal to make at home: Homemade pizza, smoked chicken and salad.
Signature dishes: Mussels with Pernod and thyme; rosemary ice cream; cucumber sorbet; veal sweetbreads in a variety of preparations.
Culinary trend he could live without: Eating competitions.
Favorite culinary resources: Reading Terminal Market, Hendricks Farm, Phoenixville Farmers’ Market.
What he’d eat if no one were watching: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—but they are watching.
Biggest mistake amateurs make in the kitchen: Overcooking and over-seasoning.
Five ingredients he can’t live without: Eggs from chickens on pasture, quality extra-virgin olive oil, arugula, aged balsamic vinegar, quality parmesan cheese.
Favorite line of cookware and knives: Wusthof, all clad.
Signature dish: Antipasto. It changes every day and has five components, that are contemporary spins on traditional Mediterranean tapas.
Culinary trend you could live without: Dysfunctional plate garnishing, like citrus wheels or adding color just to add color.
What he’d eat if no one were watching: Veggie burgers (my wife doesn’t eat meat).
Fantasy restaurant: A country inn with a small restaurant that has it’s own dairy and vegetable and herb gardens.
Greatest culinary feat: Creating a 15-course, stand-up plated tasting menu for two hundred guests, along with four gastronomic stations.
Five ingredients he can’t live without: Tomatoes, olive oil, artichokes, clams and garlic.
Food most people fear: Any organ meat.
Worst cooking disaster: Cooking a six-course wine dinner for 100 guests in the restaurant without any electricity.
Favorite meal to make at home: I enjoy cooking with my two children, Kalie and Jake; beef Stroganoff and chicken noodle soup are two of our favorite dishes.
Signature dish: I think most of our guests would say the Dover sole, which is a delicately flavored fish from the Mediterranean that has a fine, firm texture.
Culinary trend he could live without: Using calcium chloride and sodium alginate to make different flavored imitation caviars.
Person he’d like to cook for most: My late grandfather John Brown. He was a passionate cook and would appreciate what I’m doing.
Favorite culinary resource: My vast supply of local and international purveyors.
What he’d eat if no one were watching: Grass clippings. I love to eat all the wild greens that come through the door.
Most valuable piece of cooking advice he gives his staff: Taste everything. Then taste it again.
Biggest mistake amateurs make in the kitchen: Over-processing fresh ingredients.
Fantasy restaurant: Savona beachfront.
Greatest culinary feat: Opening a restaurant in less than a month.
Five ingredients he can’t live without: salt, pepper, butter, olive oil, my awesome staff.
Food most people fear: Veal brains.
Favorite meal to make at home: Blackened dolphin I catch in summer.
Culinary trend he could live without: Chefs with big egos.
Person he’d like to cook for most: Spider Man.
What he’d eat if no one were watching: Burger King, with extra pickles.
Most valuable piece of cooking advice he gives his staff: Cook for yourself, not for me.
Fantasy restaurant: I’d have a 52-foot Buddy Davis fishing boat with a galley for four people only. We’d prepare what we caught.