The day before he traveled to this year's festival, Rook outlined his plans. "We'll fly in [Tuesday, May 18], take a day of travel to get there and get organized. Then Wednesday we get up and harvest all the vegetables ourselves [at Windrose Farms] for the dinner, then we finish writing the menu.
"On Thursday we cook for twelve hours and Friday's the dinner." (It takes place in the vineyard and features multiple courses and hors d'oeuvres.)
"Saturday's the day of the actual festival, so we go taste wine, then Sunday we do the barbecue." (That'd be a barbecue in the vineyard for roughly 1,000 people.)
"It's kind of a crazy deal but fun. It's what it's all about. It's hard work, and you're tired, and you come back beat up, but it's what we're here for."
Rook didn't have time to answer Gut Check's questions till after his San Robles whirlwind.
Did your family cook when you were a child? If so, what meals stand out? My family cooked a lot. I think one of my favorite memories, and which I still enjoy today, is my mother's spaghetti and meatballs.
How old were you when you started cooking? I started my cooking evolution at nine.
What was your first kitchen job? At my family's old-fashioned root beer stand [King Louie's in Wood River, Illinois].
Did you attend culinary school or college? I received a B.A. in food service and lodging management from the University of Missouri, and an associate's degree (AOS) from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park.
What do you eat? Very simple comfort foods: roasted chicken, grilled steaks, anything pork, basic starches and vegetables.
We'd be most surprised that you eat ______. ramen noodles.
What do you cook at home? We keep it somewhat simple but fresh and good. With all of the activities, it has to be quick.
Local chef who most impresses you? Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Café. I think he has incredible passion and can really bring it!
Favorite restaurants elsewhere? I have been very fortunate to have dined out quite a bit and I have quite a few favorites: Artisan in Paso Robles, Cyrus in Sonoma, Greystone Napa Valley, Nomi in Chicago, Balthazar New York, Booches in Columbia, Bluestem Kansas City and Lou Mitchell's Chicago, just to name a few.
Your favorite food city? Has to be Chicago.
Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Thyme.
Favorite local ingredient and where you get it? We have so many sources for local products. Tomatoes, greens, beets, summer squashes, local fruits and fresh proteins.
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