How he got into the food business. Working at a bakery, illegally, when he was 13. "That's how I caught the bug. I knew I wanted to go to culinary school, but my mother is an educator, so I promised her I'd get a degree. I went to the College of Wooster in Ohio and during spring break, summer break, I'd go home and work with a caterer. I even catered at college—fraternity events and parents'-day weekends. I'd just do crudités, meat platters, dips, Nothing too crazy. But I've wanted to be a Best New Chef since I was 15 years old."
Career turning point. "As soon as I got to San Francisco, food took on shape. You'd see where products came from—I went to oyster farms and dug in the beds, I foraged for mushrooms in the woods. And just the love of food out there was awesome. Young America: Instead of going out and getting wasted, they'd go out and have a dinner party. Fun revolved around food and wine. I loved that."
Most memorable experience. "One time I was messing around with Chef Alex Lee and we made a foie gras flan. Chef Daniel Boulud put it on a plate and brought it out to a VIP guest."