What the average person doesn't understand about chefs is: We're not artists. If an artist doesn't want to get up and work, he or she doesn't have to. A chef has a staff waiting and customers to be served.
If your cooking were a genre of music, what would it be: French pop.
Favorite thing to eat growing up: Bacon on buttered toast.
Favorite thing to eat now: Bacon on buttered toast.
What does Phoenix need more of?: Independents.
What do we need less of?: Chains.
Describe a meal you'll never forget and why it's so memorable: It was Restaurant Alain Chapel. I was working just outside of Lyons, France, in a pastry shop and I went to dinner with the pastry chef and his wife and another chef who had worked for both of them. He was a very good friend of Chef Chapel so we got a lot of attention, and it was one of the greatest restaurants in France. We were all asked what we were going to have for dinner, and to each person the chef would say, "If you're starting with this, you can't have the next dish you've chosen, you need to order this." When he got to me, I ordered langoustines followed by pigeon, and he said, "Good choice." I felt ordained in some way.
Which chef do you most admire and why?: Michel Richard, for his intensity, creativity, humor, and generosity about sharing his knowledge.
Describe the qualities a great chef must have: A love of food and wine. They go together. A great chef is willing to work hard and always keeps an open mind. There's so much to learn.
Describe the qualities a chef-owner must have: All the above plus knowing the business side. You can't serve two ounces of white truffles for a $10 up-charge.
What's your pet peeve with restaurant critics?: No pet peeves. I like professional writers. It's the blogs and the non-pros I'm not so sure about. Even Zagat Survey is funny. Chains like PF Chang's get higher ratings than some of the great restaurants in New York. What's your pet peeve in the kitchen?: People who don't taste the food. How can someone develop their palate and learn without tasting?
Name someone you've cooked for that will impress us and tell us about that experience: Oliver Stone. He was pretty funny. I made roasted chicken, and we drank a lot.
Name someone you'd be nervous to cook for: It already happened. My most nerve-wracking dinner was cooking for Michel Richard, Guy Savoy, Jean Banchet, Michel Rostang, and Michel Blanchet. They were in town for a special event and came to the original Christopher's.
Last meal on Earth -- what would it be: A very, very long one with my girlfriend. She can't really cook, so I would have her keep making it 'til it was perfect, and that could take years.
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Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: Chris Gross of Christopher's Restaurant and Crush Lounge Chris Curtiss of NoRTH Arcadia Payton Curry of Brat Haus Mark Tarbell of Tarbell's Josh Hebert of Posh Kevin Binkley of Binkley's Restaurant Lori Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery Larry White, Jr. Lo-Lo's Fried Chicken & Waffles