Why are so many of our most lasting memories of food?
Because the passion that goes into food is so powerful. When I lived in Poland I saw how much attention to detail went into the food and beautifully appointed tables. That’s really true for most of Europe. I tried to share that with everybody and amplify it after I came back to the United States.
What are some of your fondest memories?
I was awarded the Gold Medal for Excellence by the American Culinary Federation in 1990 for putting on a function at the New Orleans Hilton. Two thousand chefs came for a six-course meal. It was flawless. That’s when I knew I was going somewhere in my career.
When I moved to New Orleans from San Francisco, my hometown, I was part of a group of chefs like Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse and Susan Spicer. That was wonderful.
My last accomplishment in New Orleans was as opening chef of Harrod’s Casino. I designed the kitchen, developed the menu, hired the staff. I didn’t sleep for six months.
You’ve invited friends to your house for dinner. Give us a hint of what will be on the menu.
Anything on the grill – meats, vegetables, potatoes and pizza flatbreads. I also smoke nuts, but I also do that at The Brown. They’re almost like candy and are so easy to make. Just put some applewood in a pan on the grill, top it with nuts in a perforated pan, and start smoking.
You and Emeril were buddies?
He was my next door neighbor in New Orleans and we did a lot of food shows together. A great guy, very down to earth. He was always curious about what I was doing. I hope he comes to The Brown one day. I’d serve him something with sorghum and bourbon, probably lamb chops. Or maybe a center-cut pork chop. And, of course, the old number one, a Hot Brown.