Whether he's gardening, working on his bike or in the kitchen, Chef Jared Porter of The Parlor takes a Zen like approach to everything he gets his hands on, including the pizzas, salads, sandwiches and other items on his salon-turned-restaurant's menu. This guy is deep -- and boy can he talk. Porter has high ideals about how to live life. Being a chef is not just a profession for him, it plays into a philosophy he has about being intrinsically connected to what he does as a person. This may sound like a sort of new-age arrogance, but Porter manages to stay down to earth. We chatted him up at The Parlor as it was still bustling from a busy Friday lunch.
Motorcycle Maintenance: I am an avid motorcycle rider. I love gardening at my house. It's kind of like the renaissance scenario, the tattooed biker who likes to garden. It's very abstract, but I feel like in everything I do there's always a little bit of Zen; there's a little bit of clarity; there's a little bit of therapy in what I do outside of work. It sounds stupid and cliché. If I'm getting a tattoo...it's not so much a hobby of mine, it's a lifestyle I chose when I was 17. When I'm getting tattooed, it's an art form for me. I can sit there and rap with my tattoo artist - he's a family friend. It's kind of like a spa session as opposed to a tattoo session, and then you get a great piece of art out of it. With the motorcycle riding there's so much freedom. I've done a lot of long runs. It's always a good release. With the gardening, I can put my hands in the ground and feel living things and touch food I'm going to eat. Anything I'm doing that's outside the profession, there needs to be some kind of mental release in it.
Find out what Porter thinks about molecular gastronomy after the jump.
If it ain't broke... I really play a lot with the weather and the availability of product. The peasantry and the simplicity of food is really what I love. It's all about the ingredients. It's not about how much foam you can put on something or how much liquid nitrogen you can use. It's not about manipulation - it's about understanding what you're using and doing it justice. That's the way I eat at home.
New season, new creations: We were kind of waiting for all the spring vegetables and good produce to come in. We really watch our cost here. We don't want to transfer our food cost to the guest - that's really a big mantra for what my food is. As far as spring is concerned, the Primavera Misti is a really great antipasti we're doing. It's basically a showcase of spring vegetables: grilled asparagus and artichokes, roasted sun chokes, a little bit of cheese and a sweet and spicy jam with bread, very simple, very rustic.
Painting yourself into a perfect gastronomical corner: I've eaten at wd~50 (Wylie Dufresne's cutting-edge haven of molecular gastronomy). Not to blow them out of the water or anything, but I left hungry after $150, and that wasn't even with a ton of drinks. That what also a different time, a different financial time, when people were charging a lot more for things. There's a couple guys out here doing it (molecular gastronomy) - they're definitely painting themselves into a corner when it comes to their demographic. I don't bag on the whole molecular gastronomy, but I feel like there are certain techniques within molecular gastronomy that have a place, like sous vide. There are certain brining techniques; there are certain natural thickeners you can use to get a certain characteristic, but as far as really changing the whole identity of the ingredient, I'm totally against it.
Let us count the ways you can use a spoon: I don't think I could live without a spoon. It sounds a little crazy, but I can do a lot of things with just a cooking spoon. You can flip fish with it; you can baste with it.
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Sustenance is serious: Being able to say that you're providing a certain part of someone's necessity of life, sustaining people - I take that responsibility very seriously. That people are willing to come into an establishment that I'm working in, whether I'm the chef or not - take the whole hierarchy of the thing out. I take the responsibility of someone's diet and health very seriously. One, they come to spend their hard-earned money at your establishment, and two, they're trusting you to give them something good.
A nod to Jack-in-the-Box: A gun to my head choosing fast food? Maybe Jack-in-the-Box. That was where I ate the last thing that really made me happy at a fast food joint.
Windy City A place that I like to travel and I could say that I would want to move to is Chicago. I just feel like the vibe there is different. My family is from the Midwest and my wife's family is from the Midwest - that's our kind of people. I feel like we gravitate toward them more. The hospitality is different. I would love to travel more, but when you have a busy restaurant...
Get a culinary education tomorrow when Porter fills us in on some of the more obscure chefs he admires.