MONTHLY INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
Hear from industry leaders about their guilty pleasures, the oddest thing in their refrigerator, their inspirations and take on new trends. Learn more about the people behind the foods and dishes you know and love - and others you SHOULD know and love. We've asked all of questions and have the answers for you here.
October 2019 Edition
You have a lot on your plate with the Puffer Malarkey Restaurants, appearing regularly on the Today Show and Good Morning America, and even judging a variety of television cooking programs. With the restaurant business being extremely competitive, how do you juggle it all while still keeping your restaurants at the top of their game?
I’m very fortunate to work with some of the leading people in the industry in Southern California. I surround myself with a team of like minded, enthusiastic, dedicated, and wonderful people, and make our key players partners in the restaurants; as partners and co-owners they each care about the restaurants so much, and that passion is really what keeps us at the top of the game.
When did you know you wanted to be a Chef? Was there an ‘aha’ moment in your life where you knew this was your destiny?
Way back in the early days I was working at Restaurant Citrus on Melrose Avenue in LA, under a great team (Michel Richard, Alain Giraud, and Patric Kuh,) in an amazing kitchen. All the celebrities would come in and peek into the kitchen to see what was going on, because we were making art with the dishes, blending French and Mexican flavors, and creating something truly incredible. That experience cemented my passion for the industry.
What is the newest culinary trend you see emerging that you’re using yourself?
It’s certainly not a new trend, but an ever growing trend that I’m very conscious of is that we’re all seemingly turning into pseudo-vegetarians. To appeal to a vegetable driven experience, we’re making protein portions smaller, and instead placing more of an emphasis on vegetables. This ties into the sustainability movement, and being able to maintain consistent quality while keeping our children and the future in mind.
If you could share one surprising thing about yourself, what would it be?
I was the state champion rodeo cowboy in Bend, Oregon as a teenager.
What’s the greatest fear you’ve had to overcome to get where you are today?
One of the best things about our industry is that the people that have fear don’t make it far. Fearlessness, above intelligence, is what propels people in this industry. You’ve got to be slightly off the mark, and just a little insane, to succeed.
Is there a Chef who you admire the most? Who and why?
I’m lucky enough to work with one of the chefs I admire most, Chef Joe Magnanelli, the Executive Chef of one of our concepts, Animae. He is a joy to work with, has top notch organization, incredible consistency, produces great flavors, and beyond his prowess in the kitchen, is a family man and competes in triathlons, half marathons, and spartan races in his spare time.
Beyond chefs, I’ve really come to admire restaurateurs; Sam Fox and Danny Meyer are two of the best.
What advice would you give to young aspiring chefs or who are just starting out in the restaurant industry?
I would advise anyone starting out in the industry to really understand what you’re getting yourself into. It’s not what it looks like on TV, you’re signing up for long hours, stress, hard days, and a lot of work. It’s really a passion industry, but if that passion is there, and you take your time to gain the knowledge and tools you need before advancing, instead of rushing to be the chef, you’ll succeed.
Name one meal that you couldn’t live without?
My go to answer was always seafood ―dungeness and king crab, lobster, and oysters. Now, I’m hooked on umami. Fun, progressive Asian flavors, and what they’re doing at MTN in LA, have become flavors I can’t live without.
What can attendees expect from your demonstration at the 2019 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo?
My demonstration will guarantee laughs, a lot of fun, good stories, the demystifying of potato gnocchi, which is always a crowd pleaser, and advice on the industry.
You support dozens of organizations and nonprofits, including Rady Children’s Hospital, the Berry Good Food Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and more. Is there something that specifically draws you to these organizations?
At the end of the day it’s all about our children. I have young children, and each of these organizations support their generation, Radys Children’s Hospital and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in an obvious way, but the Berry Good Food Foundation teaches kids how to garden, how and where they get their food, and provides general food education that they can carry into life. Anything we can do to help children navigate this difficult world is something I can support. As they say, “teach the children well and let them lead the way.”
Bonus Question: If you had to ride any insect into battle, what would it be and why?
It would have to be a dragonfly. They fly fast, they’re fierce, they have great names, and cool wings ―the people I am battling would run in fear immediately.