An Interview with
The Old Town Crier
#1 – When did you first become interested in cooking? Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career?
Like most people can't recall learning to speak, I don’t remember learning to cook... (and I hate how self-important that sounds). My mother loves to tell the story about me making her a surprise mother's day breakfast-in-bed when I was four years old. Food has always been my primary means of creative expression, as well as my greatest comfort.
I don't know when I first heard the Confucius quote about doing what you love and not working a day in your life. I do, however, know that I am lucky enough to be able to live by that principle. I wake up every morning and remember how fortunate I am that I get to make food for a living; and that my passion, avocation, and vocation are all wrapped up in one delicious package (pun intended).
In short, I am a chef because nothing else in the world gives me so much pleasure and people pay me to do that which I would (almost) do for free.
#2 – Who have been the biggest inspirations for your career?
Martin Saylor was the chef at the first fine dining restaurant that was kind enough to employ me. More importantly, he was the first great culinary mind who let me know it is was OK to eschew standard routes on the path towards culinary growth. Not only did he teach me it was fine to blend styles, but he encouraged my creativity in that regard.
Another major influence is a restauranteur, who shall not be named, who once told me that my vision would never work. Few things will ever motivate me as much as telling me that I cannot do something to which I have set my mind.
#3 – Dish on the menu you're curious to see how it’s received?
As a personal chef, I am unusually fortunate, as I get to see and hear the reaction to every dish I make, as I am usually serving and clearing them myself. I would, however, really love to do some experimental dining... something like a dinner in the dark where guests experience the food without being able to see it. That would be both culinary adventure and social experiment. That style of food adventure fascinates me.
#4 – What do you do to ensure the quality of the food going out to customers?
One of the things I like most about being a personal chef is that there is not a single step in the process, from procurement to plating, that happens without my intimate involvement. I do all of the purchasing, the 3+ days of prep, and 95% of all the cooking. (Control freak? Perhaps. But it works.)
#5 – If any chef in the world could prepare you a meal, who would it, be?
Such a deceivingly complicated question... of the chefs I know personally or whose food I know well, it would have to be the highly lauded yet still supremely underrated Tom Power of Corduroy. I have such great regard for his passion, skill, and his ability to teach (the second most important skill a chef must have; after the actual cooking, of course).
Of the chefs I know only by reputation, it would have to be Iron Chef Michael Simon. From what I have seen of his many television exploits, he cooks in a style that is particularly appealing to me. Additionally, friends who have worked for him have nothing but effusive praise for his style and skill.
#6 - What’s your guilty food pleasure?
I am not too proud to confess to my love for the occasional half-smoke. Besides being an indigenous DC food creation, there is something about street food (of every culture) that will always appeal to me.