From McDonald’s to L’Albatros (with a lot of time in Charleston in between at some wonderful restaurants). The latest Q&A is with chef David Uecke.
1. What five things should be in everyone’s pantry? Kosher salt, rice wine vinegar, white pepper, coriander (either fresh or dried), red pepper flakes. I generally prefer everything to be a little spicy.
2. What is your favorite spice to work with? Coriander because of its versatility.
3. First job? McDonald’s
4. Why did you become a chef? Became I love food and I hate paperwork.
5. What’s it like working for Zack Bruell? How much liberty do you have with the menu? Zack is great to work for. He trusts me to execute his concept and expand upon it. We see eye to eye in terms of flavor profiles, so it is a very good relationship.
6. Favorite restaurant in Cleveland and which one do you miss? My favorite restaurant in Cleveland would have to be Bar Cento. The combination of the perfect French fry and great pizza is hard to beat. They also have amazing salads and I cannot wait until it is ramp pizza time.
7. Where did you grow up? Favorite meal from your childhood? Akron. Swenson’s hamburgers, creamed chicken.
8. You’re having a dinner party, top five songs on your playlist? I have no top five because I’m not really into set playlists. I prefer something more like Pandora because you never know what will come on. It would be some combination of Wilco, Erykah Badu, My Morning Jacket, Hall and Oates, and Calexico.
9. What book are you currently reading? What show do you never miss? Since my girlfriend, Colleen, is getting ready to have our first child any day, there has been a lot of baby books. Other than that, I read a lot of cookbooks, currently it’s Momofuku and Real Cajun by Donald Link. Right now we are watching Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck on Netflix.
10. If you could be any other person for a day, who would it be? Somebody with a boat, someplace warm and doesn’t have to work.
11. If you had 2 minutes with LeBron, what would you tell him? Remember that you are just a basketball player – a great basketball player, but just a basketball player nonetheless.
12 What’s your favorite thing about Cleveland and what drives you nuts? I love the selection of ethnic restaurants and markets. What drives me nuts is the lack of quality fried chicken and barbeque.
13. What is one dish at L’Albatros everyone needs to try? Escargot for an appetizer and the 1/2 roasted chicken for an entree. Both are classic brasserie dishes. We use the same snails that they do at Charlie Trotters, Daniel, and Le Bernardin, so you could say that they are good quality. For the chicken, we use a red wine and tarragon brine that makes it incredibly moist with great crispy skin.
14. Favorite cooking trick we could use at home? Making different pickled vegetables is a great trick for home cooks because they are easy and affordable to make, and they add an exciting layer of flavor to dishes.