1. What are the top 5 spices every home chef should have? One good sea salt for finishing (Sel Gris, Fleur de Sel, Hawaiian Red, or my favorite and not easy to acquire locally is Portuguese Flor de Sol), cayenne pepper, cumin, cinnamon and herbs de Provence.
2. What is your favorite and least favorite thing to make? Favorite is anything braised, especially pork belly. Least is skate.
3. What is your favorite thing about Cleveland and what drives you nuts? The new food movement. We have some great chefs and quality restaurants in town and the number continues to grow every year. Least favorite is the overhanging ‘mistake by the lake’ attitude so many Clevelanders continue to hang onto. Oh yeah, and no sports championships since ’64.
4. If you could cook for one person, real or dead, who would it be? Escoffier or Thomas Keller both have had profound effects on my culinary life. From the age of 15 to 21, I lived in kitchens governed by Escoffier’s Law. The French Laundry book found me at a time when I was finding myself as a chef and made me look inside.
5. You’re having a dinner party, top 5 songs on your play list? Jamiroquai / Virtual Insanity, Beetles / Blackbird, John Lennon / Imagine, Sarah Vaughn Summertime / UFO remix and Sneaker Pimps / Post Modern Sleaze.
6. Favorite restaurant in Cleveland? Nuevo Acapulco (cop out answer).
7. What restaurant do you miss? Lou and Hyes deli in Akron.
9. What’s your last meal on Earth? Ruffles potato chips with Lawson’s French onion dip, braised pork belly and chile rellenos .
10. Most unusual food you have ever tried? Chitterlings, braised cow stomach and braised chicken feet in a spicy black bean sauce. And the winner is – chicken feet! They taste like little chicken wings but a little harder to eat.
11. Most famous person you have cooked for? Madonna – the singer – not the well, you know. And King Abdulla from Saudi Arabia.
12. Why do you feel so passionately about supporting local farms/farmers? There are too many reasons to list. When you support local farms you are supporting actual families who care about the way their crops and animals are treated. Food tastes best when it is in season and you can’t beat the flavor of a local heirloom tomato in September. The produce is fresh picked and brought to us immediately instead of being picked then sitting in a warehouse waiting to be shipped – then once it’s shipped sitting on a truck for a week. By the time you get that stuff it is just ready to sit in the cooler for two days and rot. The truck that brings the produce from Mexico or California uses copious amounts of Petro polluting the air along the way. Like I said, too many reasons to list. Short answer: Quality control, freshness, flavor and supporting our local economy.
13. What local farms do you visit regularly? Not enough anymore with the restaurant and the new addition of my son, Aiden. But, I see Killbuck Valley Mushrooms, Veggie Valley, KJ Greens, Country Gristmill (a co-op headed by James Falb) and Oasis Acres on a weekly basis.
14. If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing? Not really sure, it’s all I’ve done since I was 12 (my parents were in the business so it is really the only thing I have ever known). But if I had to choose one job, I’d probably be the President or leader of the free world in some fashion. Seems like a fun job, right?
15. What differentiates Light Bistro from other area restaurants? Light bistro is opening peoples eyes to the way diners around the world have eaten for decades and in major cities for years, combining multiple small plates to make a meal, sharing with others and creating a community at your table. The courses are meant to leave you satisfied and not overly full. We also have the option of having your typical meal with an appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert. Combine that with the local produce and meats that we use and the love we put into the food and you have a very cool atmosphere and a great dining experience.