Where did you grow up? Wauconda forever! I grew up in Wauconda, IL, a small town about 50 miles NW of Chicago, not too far from the border with WI… and yeah, it’s probably not the place you’re thinking of.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef? After college, I moved from Chicago to a small mountain town in Colorado, and when I couldn’t find decent Thai food, falafel, hummus, or pizza, I realized that I needed to take matters into my own hands. I had always liked to cook, and I realized that professional cooking was my ideal combination of physical labor and creative intellectual work.
Where did you study? I went to the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (CHIC).
Tell me about your favorite wine. I love Meursault, but can’t afford to drink it very often!
What is your favorite food memory? My favorite food memories usually involve ordinary food heightened by context. For example: one night in June after my sophomore year of college, I spent an entire night bicycling around the north side of Chicago with a friend. Before we set off, we bought rolls, a variety of sausages, and a few bottles of beer from a German deli called Gene’s Sausage Shop in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. Over the course of the night, we’d ride around for an hour or so, then take picnic breaks on swings in parks all around the north side, until we ran out of steam around sunrise. We concluded our tour with diner coffee-and because we were 20 and invincible, cigarettes (which definitely wouldn’t be a feature of this adventure now!)
What is your best cooking tip for a novice? Learn knife skills and never buy pot and pan or utensil sets. Choose each piece individually based on your needs.
What do you like to eat when you’re at home? Cacio e pepe made with bucatini, and dry Italian red wine, like Chianti or a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
What do you think is the most challenging food to cook with? Eggplant. It’s a disaster unless I’m just roasting it to make baba ghanooj.
Final question, what would be your “last supper” meal? A bottle of Meursault and a shaved asparagus Neapolitan-style white pizza.