The great thing about being a chef is: I get to throw a party every night!
The tough thing about being a chef is: It consumes your life completely.
Favorite cookbook: Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs. It's not as much a cookbook as it is a guide to escaping following recipes. I've always encouraged people to be creative in the kitchen, and the response I often get is, "I don't know what goes with what!" This book shows you how.
Buzzword you wish would go away: Circulator -- maybe just because I don't have one. I do have a birthday coming up. Just sayin' . . .
If you could jump on a plane tomorrow to try a new restaurant, which one would it be and why?: It's tough to narrow it down to one, but I would like to take a month and eat my way through Spain.
Your favorite restaurant town and why: New York! My sisters are there, and you can get anything your mind can possibly think of at any time of the day!
Pet peeve in the kitchen: It actually just happened this morning -- an empty paper towel dispenser.
If your cooking were a genre of music, what would it be?: Freak folk. I use familiar products and methods but present them in a little bit of an odd fashion or peculiar combination sometimes.
Name two giants in the American food scene and explain why you admire them: Danny Meyer because he has an amazing eye for detail from all sides of the restaurant. He does several completely different concepts and does them all almost flawlessly. Anthony Bourdain for showing people such a broad expanse of options! I honestly don't think a lot of us would have the opportunity to serve fun delicious things like pig's cheeks if it weren't for shows like his. As much as I feel Food Network makes your average person think they can open a restaurant, Bourdain's show has made my job easier and more fun!
Name a local chef you admire and explain why: Josh Hebert. He's a genuinely good guy and to be honest, he saved me from a corporate life. He's probably not aware of it, but I was about to give up on opening a restaurant and I went into Posh for dinner with Tracy Dempsey. It was actually the first time I met Josh and I'm a little sad I can't remember what exactly he said to me, but truly, I went from being pretty much done with this business to wanting nothing more than to have a place and do it the way I wanted to do it with the people I believed in. So Josh, if you're reading this, thank you. I owe ya! What's your guiding principle about cooking?: Don't over-think things.
Who would you most like to cook for?: My dad, my grandmother and grandfather, who have all passed away.
Last meal on earth -- what would it be?: Stuffed cabbage and chicken paprikash from my grandmother.
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Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House James Porter of Petite Maison Johnny Chu of SoChu House Neo Asian + Martini Bar Stephen Jones of Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails 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