Tell us about the first culinary technique you mastered and where were you when it happened?
The technique I first mastered as an apprentice was the quenelle. I’m still critical about it today. It was a frustrating experience because I was under constant pressure to do it quickly. But I just couldn’t get it right, always dropping the spoon. This went on for six weeks. Then I went on holiday for two weeks, and on my first day back, I nailed it. It just happened naturally. It taught me that some things can’t be rushed or forced, especially when it comes to food. And that’s the philosophy I use in my kitchen today.
What dish in your culinary repertoire is closest to your heart?
This is a tough question. I’m pretty lucky because at Fearrington Village, we offer three different distinct food styles, between our fine dining restaurant, Fearrington House, and our casual eateries, The Granary and The Goat. I’d have to say that a grilled cheese and bacon jam sandwich, an in-house ground burger and a bowl of potato purée, crushed hazelnuts and shaved white truffle would be at the top of my list.
What ingredient could you not live without and why?
I think that any ingredient, if it’s around long enough, inspires heirloom and hybrid varieties, created by artisanal craftsmen. For me, vinegar falls into this category. There are so many varieties, and it’s something we use a lot of at Fearrington. It echoes our vision of the importance of flavor, and its robustness and acidity play a major role in enhancing our dishes.
Who or what is the greatest inspiration for your culinary creations?
The biggest driving force for the culinary creations at Fearrington is the change of seasons and anticipating the next batch of ingredients that we’ll be using. We also challenge ourselves not to repeat previous dishes, but rather to have a comfortable, natural evolution of our menu.
If you could take a plane ride to anywhere in the world, for just one meal, where would it be and why?
Hopefully that flight would also include a time machine, because I’d go to back to Harvey’s in London, one of Marco Pierre White's restaurants in the 80's and early 90's, where I’d also do a kitchen tour. The cookbook he published during his time there, “White Heat,” was one of the defining moments for me in choosing this as a career path, because of how the book portrayed the kitchen and the dynamic of the staff.