On his first job in Japan. "Fuyu-Rin was a tiny soba house, only 12 seats. The chef, Akio Hosaga told me how to make things, but he wouldn't let me touch anything. He barely let me wash the dishes, they were so fragile. Finally after four months, he gave me a rolling pin, took me out to dinner and said, 'I've taught you everything I know.' Which was a polite Japanese way of firing me. I'd just bought a really expensive knife, too."
Why he became a chef. "I was terrible at desk jobs. After college [at Trinity, in Hartford, Connecticut], I had a financial job—very briefly. Growing up, my dad owned a restaurant in Washington, DC, and food was something I was passionate about. But when I finally got into it, I felt like it was so late in the game; that's why I worked seven days a week at Craft and Mercer Kitchen. I wanted to see how far I could take it."
Career turning point. "I went to the French Culinary Institute [in New York City] for six months. I graduated, but I liked working more than school. I learned so much more prepping vegetables than I ever did in cooking school."