Forest Hamrick of La Hacienda at the Fairmont Princess, Part Two

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Yesterday we heard from Chef Forest Hamrick of La Hacienda at the Fairmont Princess. Today the conversation continues.

Chef Forest Hamrick, a nursing school dropout, abandoned the infirm when he was tired of school and has been feeding the healthy flavorful modern Mexican at La Hacienda at the Fairmont for seven years (well, five minus the two-year hiatus).

"I couldn't handle school anymore," Hamrick says. "[Cooking] is the only thing that I really enjoy doing and really love to do. I don't see myself doing anything else. It's my love, my passion."

Hamrick says his favorite part of culinary school was learning new techniques and new cuisines. His latest addiction: Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe and Japanese food in general.

Today, Hamrick tells us about his favorite tools, most embarrassing wipeout and the flavor combination he couldn't cook without.

Favorite tool? My hands. Definitely my hands. You use your hands for everything: touch, feel. That and your mouth to taste.

Most embarrassing kitchen moment? I was blanching vegetables, and I had the water going to fill up my pan to shock them. I forgot about it, and basically kind of flooded the kitchen. And when I came in to stop the water, to add onto it, I slipped and fell down. So that was pretty embarrassing. And then on top of it you have to mop everything up. That was about ten years ago. I try not to do anything embarrassing in the kitchen anymore.

Proudest accomplishment as a chef? My first sous chef job was my start and probably my biggest accomplishment. Also, getting [AAA] four-diamond status here, that was huge too. It's a great feeling, especially because, during that time, we were one of two in the U.S.

Biggest pet peeve? God, I've got so many. People standing around not doing anything - not staying busy, not event pretending like you're busy. I really hate it if people sit down and are not being productive. It just drives me crazy. And cleanliness. That drives me up a wall. I hate people who work somewhere and leave a mess. Those two are probably my biggest pet peeves.

Best recipe experiment? Probably a lot of times when we do family meal, because you just kind of invent stuff. I don't know about the best, but yesterday I did for the guys a Mexican BLT, which was pretty damn good. It was basically leftover filet with chorizo, bacon, double marinated tomatoes, avocado, a flavored chipotle mayonnaise, shredded lettuce. It was pretty good.

Favorite flavor combination you couldn't live without? I'm really into sweet and salty, that's probably one of my favorite combinations. It kind of just balances each other. Sweet salty, spicy. You know, it just goes together. If you take a piece of watermelon and salt it, it just tastes so much better. Just try it. It's delicious.

(This is part two of our Chef Chat with Hamrick. Check out part one and check back for a recipe from Hamrick tomorrow.)

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