Describe a meal you'll never forget and why: In France, Erin and I walked in on a family meal (the French eat stupid late) and immediately realized the restaurant wasn't open. We apologized in a broken, bad American-French language and the chef/owner instantly stopped our rambling and seated us. He followed up with a pigeon terrine and menus.
Most over-rated ingredient: "Belly"
Most under-rated ingredient: hydrocolloids [obscure starches and proteins that chefs such as Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 use to create new ways of cooking].
Weirdest (or worst) thing you ever ate: A live goldfish from a muddy fish tank for $5 - the worst sushi ever!
Something always found in your kitchen: Whippers, N2O (nitrous oxide) cartridges and scales.
Something always found in your fridge: Simple syrup, fresh-squeezed citrus and eggs (Eye of the Tiger theme song playing in my head right now). And gin in the freezer.
Pet peeve in the kitchen: Small talk, messiness, tardiness, and fear.
Why crepes?: So many things haven't been done with them; they give me the most range of exploration. Where did you get your crepe recipe?: It started from a workshop I took in Portsmouth NH. I improved upon it based on scientific data from McGhee's and Hervé and made it my own with a lot of trial and error.
Phoenix needs more: Southern-style cooking.
Name a culinary mentor and explain what you learned from that person: The Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show. I learned actions speak louder than words and that passion is greater than grammar.
Name a chef/restaurateur you admire and explain why: I appreciate Eliot Wexler at Noca and Josh Hebert at Posh because of the amount of heart they put into creating a 'flavor' that is genuinely theirs.
Last meal on earth: Chips & dip, steak frites and an espresso ice cream with Nutella. Drinks from a gin mix master serving an array of cocktails.
How would you like to be remembered?: As someone who inspired others to find themselves and their calling; for being a creator, entertainer, and provider and for being the leader of the pack. "Get your motor running, head out on the highway . . . . " (Rural and Elliot!).
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Enjoy this Chef Salad? Check out Nikki's previous interviews with: Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar 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