What’s your earliest memory of being interested in food?
Like many chefs, family heavily influenced my interest in food. One of the earliest and fondest memories that I have is helping my grandfather in his vegetable garden, picking tomatoes, then eating them right there among the rows of plants. The smell of tomatoes just picked from the vine and tasting them, still warm from the sun, is still one of my favourite sensory experiences.
What inspires your cooking the most?
Inspiration can come in many forms. Nature, travel, my colleagues and peers or my family may be great influences, but it is the challenge of creating an experience that our guests will remember for the rest of their lives that inspires my cooking the most.
What’s been the proudest moment in your career so far?
I am very proud when young cooks that have gone through our kitchen go on to do great things in other kitchens and credit theirexperience with us as a major part of their success.
And the toughest?
The sacrifices that all dedicated professional culinarians give to their careers as they climb their way up the ladder of success can be really tough. But if you love what you do, it is all worth it.
Describe your culinary philosophy in a few words…
I work with our team to create seasonally inspired modern American cuisine that touches all the senses of our diners. We want to create an experience that is memorable and as they leave us we want them wanting more.
What are three of your most indispensable ingredients?
Our most indispensable ingredients may be the most basic, but without them, other ingredients are boring and lifeless. Salt is the most important ingredient in our kitchen. We use it in so many ways to increase flavour. Next is fat in its many forms. Butter and very good olive oil are my favourites but we may use nut oils, rendered duck fat, pork fat or bone marrow to add flavour and texture to dishes. Finally acid, whether it is citrus juice, wine or vinegar, we use acid to create balance.
Describe the menu at The Wauwinet and how often in changes…
We offer a three-course prix fixe menu; a seven-course tasting menu as well as a seven-course vegetarian tasting menu. All menus change with what is available from the season.
If you could take a plane ride to anywhere in the world, just for one meal, where would you go and why?
Azurmendi in Biscay, Spain. It is a three Michelin star restaurant and an excellent example of how a restaurant can be successful as well as eco-friendly and self-sustainable. It’s made from environmentally friendly materials, they recycle their own waste, harvest rainfall, heat and cool the restaurant using geothermal energy and they grow native vegetables in their own internal greenhouse. I think it would be very interesting to see a unique operation like that.
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