Did your family cook when you were a child? Yes, but not well. I'm not doggin' my mom here -- she cooked good casseroles and meat loaf, but nothing "outside of the box." When I was a kid, I thought I didn't like vegetables, because all of ours came out of a can. I didn't know vegetables could be green and crunchy.
How old were you when you started cooking? Thirteen or fourteen. I remember helping my grandma make dinners.
First cooking job? Sam and Louie's New York Style Pizza in Omaha, Nebraska. I started as a dishwasher, worked my way up to hoagies and pasta and then pizza. We did everything in-house. Cut our own mushrooms, made our own sauce -- everything.
Did you attend culinary school or college? I attended the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago, now a Le Cordon Bleu.
What do you eat? Oh, I I don't eat "good food." It's like the cobblers' kids don't have shoes, lawyers don't have wills, well, I don't eat good food. I'm here every day at eleven, I go home at midnight. I just don't have a lot of time to cook. I love Chicago-style hot dogs. Man, they're the best. There's something magical that happens when you drag 'em through the garden and they become a masterpiece. Frozen Totino's Party Pizzas. When I'm at work, I eat pasta. We make it super-fresh and simple and easy. Garlic, chile flakes, Pecorino Romano -- it's delicious.
What do you cook at home? Meat, potatoes, vegetables. I'm still a regular guy. Nothing too crazy.
What are your three favorite restaurants in St. Louis (besides your own!)? Oh, God. I don't really eat anywhere that should be written down. No, seriously, though, I love Blues City Deli. Crown Candy has the best BLT on the planet. I like City Diner too; it's really close to my house. Pho Grand is really good and fast and cheap. And, of course, the Crossing.
The local chef who most impresses you? Kevin Nashan is awesome. Gerard Craft, Nick at Harvest always does a really great job, Steve Caravelli at Araka, chefs who love what they do, use local ingredients and want to better the local palette. Everyone I work with. Ian, Brad, Nick. And, of course, Jim Fiala.
Your favorite restaurant elsewhere? La Taverna di Vagliagli in Tuscany and Villa Maiella in Abruzzo. I went to both of those places in Italy with Jimmy, and they were awesome. At Villa Maiella I had the best piece of chicken I ever had in my life. I'll always remember that. The setting was incredible. The restaurant sits on a hill, and on a clear day you can see the ocean. They showed us their wine cellar. The staff was incredible even though there was a language barrier. Even their silverware was cool. At La Taverna we had snails wrapped in guanciale in a simple green sauce. It was awesome. So simple, but so good!
Your favorite food city? Chicago. It's all I know. They're the home of the hot dog!
Favorite recent food find? Barbera and porcini salumi from Salumeria Biellese [in New York City], 'cause it's wicked bad awesome!
Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Love. Gotta have love. If it doesnt have love it's gonna suck. Oh, and salt. Love and salt. Your pasta water has to have salt.
Favorite local food find, and where do you get it? It's more of a favorite local deli. LeGrand's deli on Donovan. Really good sandwiches.
Five words to describe your food. Rustic, local, rich, slow -- ya know, slow food movement: pasture raised, grass fed, all that sort of good stuff.
One food you dislike. Pudding. If I try something and I don't like it, 'll try it again and again. Everything except pudding. It's gross. It should not be around. I like a custard, like a crème brûlée, but not pudding. I don't know if it was the cafeteria's snack pack or whatever, but I really don't like pudding.
A food you can't live without. Pizza. I could not survive without pizza. I ate it three times a day for years. Oh, and sandwiches. I'll turn anything into a sandwich. I ate mashed-potato sandwiches when I worked at the Crossing. It's part of my low-carb diet. Chefs need sandwiches cause they're portable. You can walk and eat.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.