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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chef Chris Bork of the Mud House, Part 2

Posted By on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 at 9:00 AM

This is part two of Holly Fann's Chef's Choice profile of Chris Bork of the Mud House in south St. Louis. Part one can be found here. Part three, a recipe from Bork, is here.

Chris Bork, chef at the Mud House (2101 Cherokee Street; 314-776-6599) - HOLLY FANN
  • Holly Fann
  • Chris Bork, chef at the Mud House (2101 Cherokee Street; 314-776-6599)

Did your family cook when you were a child? Yes. My mom was a stay-at-home mom for most of my youth. She cooked every night. It was spaghetti and meatballs, meatloaf, pork chops with apple sauce. Nothing crazy with vegetables, but they were always fresh.

Both my parents are from New Orleans, so sometimes we would have gumbo and red beans and rice. You always had to eat what was on the table. Nowadays you see a lot of "my child wants this," but that wasn't the way it was when I was a kid. I think that helps as an adult -- helps you from being a picky eater.

How old were you when you started cooking? Professionally, seventeen. But when I was a kid, I helped out making things like ice cream, cinnamon rolls. I remember being interested but really more because I wanted to use my hands and help out. The process didn't really matter to me.

First cooking job? I cooked at Fricks, which is now closed. They really fell victim to the smoking ban. That place was smoky. Really smoky.

Did you go to culinary school or college? I attended Westminster Kingsway College in London.

What do you eat? When I'm at work, I nibble all day long. It would be strange to make a meal there and sit down and eat it. Everyone says things like, "You must eat the most amazing things at work," but it doesn't really work out that way. I like to go out a lot on my days off.

We'd be most surprised that you eat... Lamb brains, maybe? I was just in LA, and I had some things I had never had before. I'd never had monkfish liver before, and that was amazing.

What do you cook at home? I'm a sandwich guy at home. If I'm cooking at home, it's not for me; it's for my girlfriend. I don't sit at home and make myself a feast. Part of the pleasure of cooking is for other people. I love making quick things like pasta.

What are your three favorite restaurants in St. Louis (besides your own)? Five Bistro, the Good Pie, Mi Tierra [on the east side].

A local chef who most impresses you? Josh Galliano, because I'm very jealous of his talent. I think he's the most talented chef in St. Louis. I admire Anthony Devoti from Five. Anthony is a total food nerd, and his work ethic is amazing and his enthusiasm is just awesome.

Chris Bork showing off a loaf of Alex Carlson (of Five Bistro)'s supremely good bread. - HOLLY FANN
  • Holly Fann
  • Chris Bork showing off a loaf of Alex Carlson (of Five Bistro)'s supremely good bread.

Your favorite restaurant elsewhere? I'm going to base this off of recent experience. Animal in Los Angeles. I've never been to a place where they're, like, "We're chefs, we're going to do what the fuck we want to and you're going to eat it." They're really cooking for other chefs.

It's amazing. I mean, we walked in there and it was packed. It wasn't just young people; it was all kinds of people and they're playing Notorious B.I.G. and they're playing it loud. There are no substitutions to their menu. They're like: We work hard at what we do, and we will not change it. You can come here and support us, and if you do, this is how it is. It inspired me a lot.

Your favorite food city? New York. LA right behind it.

Favorite recent food find? Ham fat. I'm getting whole hams from Greenwood Farms. They are the real deal. I trim off some of the fat from them and render it. It's like liquid gold when it's rendered and strained. I used it with truffle oil to flavor the poached egg I did for the last Chef Night. You don't have to fry anything in it; you can just add it as a flavoring agent. I'm kind of going crazy on ham fat right now.

Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Isn't that obvious? Salt.

Favorite local food find, and where do you get it? It depends on the time of year. I mean, there's a lady who lives down the street who grows heirloom okra, and she'll bring a bus tub of it down and want to trade for it. I'd have to say, recently though, it's the bread from Alex Carlson of Five.

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